History of the Somerset Police Department

The Somerset Police Department can trace its beginnings back to July 11, 1683, when the governor of Plymouth Colony approved the appointment of our first law enforcement officer. His name was Zachariah Eddy and he was named to the post of constable. In the settlement of Shawomet, Zachariah Eddy was second only to the selectmen in terms of importance and influence.

It was Zachariah's responsibility to "lawfully warn" town meetings, levy fines, collect taxes, supervise the roads, and, as stipulated by law, to " attend funerals of any that die with the smallpox and walk before the corpse to give notice to any, who might be in danger of infection."

It was, perhaps, because of this latter part of the job description that few aspired to be constables. Sometimes, colonial authorities were even forced to compel acceptance of the post under penalty of stiff fines. But there is no evidence that this was the case with Zachariah Eddy. His indenture documents reveal that because his father had been "forced to do so by reason of his...many wants", Zachariah had been apprenticed at the age of seven to John Brown of Swansea.

When he became Somerset's first police officer, he was a forty-four year old Swansea farmer, and he must have received his parcels of Shawomet land along Lee's River in return for his innumerable services.

Zachariah soon had his hands full chasing the lumber thieves who trespassed on Shawomet and helped themselves to large quantities of valuable oak and pine. The residents expressed grave concern.

The town's earliest economy was based on the sale of lumber, it is true, but that was only part of the story. One of the first public measures enacted in Shawomet was a provision to establish schools, and the profit derived from the sale of timber cut from the "school lot" was designated to finance the project. This lot extended easterly to the Taunton River from County Street and was bounded on the south by the property upon which the Pottersville School is located. Unfortunately, in 1683, it was a field of many stumps.

The possibility that Shawomet's children might be denied an education was an issue brought to the attention of William Bradford, Jr., the deputy governor of Plymouth Colony. In response, Bradford, "in his Majesty's name" summoned Constable Eddy and other Shawomet men to a meeting in Plymouth "...to act on such matters." There on December 5th, 1683, certain penalties were devised to deter future lumber thieves. The record is silent as to what methods were chosen. But it does state that Constable Eddy was sanctioned to "act in every respect as a constable might." Thievery at the "school lot " came to an end, and plans to educate the children of Shawomet could go forward.


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