Due to many twists and turns in its early history, the county of Bristol doesn’t contain the city of Bristol – that is actually located in the neighboring state of Rhode Island. But when Bristol County was formed by the Plymouth Colony back in 1685, the city of Bristol was the county’s namesake and the county seat.
In 1746, after a long dispute, Bristol (along with Barrington and Warren) were given to Rhode Island. With its county seat no longer even in the state of Massachusetts, Bristol County named a new county seat – Taunton.
Taunton is located roughly 10 miles north of Fall River and 25 miles west of Plymouth. Boston is about 40 miles north. Dating back to 1637, Taunton is one of the country’s oldest towns. The Taunton Green Historic District contains 20 buildings. It was laid out in 1830. The city’s annual holiday light display has been held here since 1914 and is a major area attraction.
New Bedford is Bristol County’s largest city. New Bedford, Taunton, and Fall River are the three cities on the south coast of Massachusetts, and New Bedford’s claim to fame during the 19th century was whaling. Visitors can learn about New Bedford’s whaling past at the New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park and its main attraction, the New Bedford Whaling Museum. New Bedford was settled in 1640 and has a charming historic downtown – one of the nine historic districts in New Bedford listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Other communities in Bristol County include Acushnet, Berkley, Dartmouth (home to the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth), Easton, Fairhaven, Freetown, Dighton, Easton, Mansfield, Somerset, Norton, Swansea, Raynham, and Westport.