The Charles River was given this
in honor of Charles I of England, the reigning monarch, by
John Smith in the 1600s. Subsequent European settlers harnessed
the river for industrialization, and by 1640 entrepreneurs
on the Neponset River had diverted its water to power their
|The first factory in America, Waltham
Waltham was the site of the first factory in America, built
by Francis Cabot Lowell in 1814, and by the 19th century,
the Charles River was one of the most industrialized areas
in the United States. Its hydropower soon fueled many mills
and factories. By the century's end, 20 dams had been built
across the river, mostly to generate power for industry.
An 1875 government report listed 43 mills along the 9.5-mile
(15 km) tidal estuary from Watertown Dam to Boston Harbor.
In portions of its length, the Charles drops slowly in elevation
and has relatively little current. Despite this, early settlers
in Dedham, Massachusetts, found a way to use the Charles to
power mills. In 1639, the town dug a canal from the Charles
to a nearby brook that drained to the Neponset River. By
this action, a portion of the Charles's flow was diverted,
providing enough current for several mills. The new canal
and the brook together are now called Mother Brook. The canal
is regarded as the first industrial canal in North America.
Today it remains in use for flood control.
The Upper Charles River Reservation has been transformed
over the past twenty-five years. more …
in the late 1980s land was acquired that now forms the New
Charles River Basin. more…