a Pawtucket Village Focus Point 4

Three Indian Landscapes
Historical Evidence in Native American Deeds Collection
Indian vs. English Views Regarding Rights to the Land
Settlement Patterns in Essex County - Three periods of Development
Indian Raids in New England & Essex County & Colonial Militia in Indian Wars
Three Periods of Development

The Massachusetts Bay Colony thought about making land grants to individual settlers but opted to grant lands to groups of settlers acting together as “parishes” with a resident minister or as “towns” governed by freemen, late seven “Select” men or Prudential Men.  The founding proprietors, initially holding the land in common were typically granted approximately six miles square and from then on were free to dispose of (subdivide) the land as they saw fit.  They would grant lots on the basis as to what the new settlers could be expected to (i.e. have sufficient resources to) “subdue” and make productive. A person with many servants and cattle could “improve” more land than one with only a few. Thus, the English social hierarchy was reproduced in a somewhat modified form. Passage of land from town commons to individual property was intended to create permanent private rights to it.

 The English defended their position of “taking vacant land” with an argument that asserted that Indians, known (as a matter of convenience) as wild “sauvages” at the time, did not act according to English standards to qualify as landlords. Because the Native People were a mobile society, that hunted, fished and gathered food where it was most plentiful, they could not meet the requirement of English “occupancy”.  To meet the occupancy requirement meant that owner/grantee had to “fence and improve” the land that one had a right to. The first settlers maybe did not understand the Native American view of rights to property (or perhaps chose not to accept) and their necessity of seasonal mobility for sustenance. Whatever the reason, it is clear that the sovereignty of the King’s Patent was placed above any Native rights to the land.

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The purpose of this Focus Point is to place into perspective the settlement of Essex County in three different time sequences, especially the earliest periods, with emphasis before 1700. The first period (1624-1643) chronicles those town formations or parishes or plantations before Mass. Bay Colony’s original four Counties were incorporated in May 1643. The second period (1644-1700) would include towns, parishes and plantations incorporated after 1643 through 1700.  The third period (1700-1876) finalizes the settlement of Essex County’s thirty-four constituent communities. One of the second period towns, Bradford, existed only for 175 years  and was abolished with the founding of Groveland in 1850. 

It is not commonly known that in the first and second period, three of our larger  communities belonged to another County, called "Old" Norfolk County (1643-1679).  A second Norfolk County was incorporated, south of Boston, about Quincy in 1793. Because these three towns were located on the north side of the Merrimack River, they were grouped with New Hampshire towns.  Since Norfolk County functioned similar to her sister counties in Mass. Bay Colony, the same rules and functions applied…that is to have shire towns, to hold quarterly court session, and to record property rights at the Court. Norfolk County Deeds were transferred to Essex County jurisdiction when New Hampshire towns came under the new royal Province of New Hampshire in 1679.

Seller's Map -1675

It is also interesting to note here that one town, which incorporated in the second period, existed for two hundred years before being abolished. This was the Town of Bradford (1668 - 1875)

The physical settlements initially occurred along the coastline and then up the Merrimack River.  Later, towns were set off from large towns and finally the interior was settled. 

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The Merrimack River Survey 1638-70

While conducting research for this project an ancient plan of the Merrimack River was discovered in the Engineering Department records at the Registry of Deeds. It is an undated 17th Century “original” plan or survey of the Merrimack River from its source to its mouth at the Sea, and it is signed by John Gardner of Salem. It is believed to be one of a few renditions of this survey between 1638 and 1670, per order of Governor Winthrop and the General Court of the Mass.Bay Colony.

The project was started in 1638 with a sense of urgency and was upgraded over time.   A Commission was appointed to engage appropriated artists and Indian, familiar with the River, to accomplish the survey and report back at next Court Session. The initial mission was to determine the upper most limits of the Merrimack River and then to determine a point, three miles north of that, to establish the upper most limits of the Mass. Bay Colony boundary, according to its royal Patent.

A secondary objective, attributed to Governor Winthrop, was to ascertain a new route to Boston from central New Hampshire, down the Merrimack to Chelmsford (Lowell) to the Concord River, to the Charles River for the fur trade. This shorter route would eliminate the sail down River to Ipswich Bay and around Cape Ann into Mass. Bay and Boston. It also would divert fur trade from the French who were settled in Maine and had very aggressive traders. For discourse, see the ancient Merrimack River Survey..

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Settlement in the First Period (1624-1643)

Cape Ann 1623 – This area was first settled by a group from Plymouth Colony called the “Dorchester Men”.  The intent was to establish a fishing station for drying (and salting) their catch of cod from the Grand Banks and shipping it to England. Rev. John White, a Pilgrim, was the leader of this company and Roger Conant was a member. See graphics.

Cape Anne Side- 1624 – This is the first name given to the territory opposite the north part of Salem, now called Beverly. Roger Conant settled here from Cape Ann. The area also was referred to as Bass River and in the river complex an area was known after 1630 as Ryal Side, where John Winthrop, Jr. was given permission to establish a saltworks there. See Beverly Planter's Map.

Naumkeag 1626 – This area was settled around 1626 by Roger Conant and three others from the Cape Ann company.

Salem - 1628 - It later became the destination of the Mass. Bay Colony, under a Royal Patent and led by John Endicott, a Puritan.  Original Salem included  The territory now occupied by Danvers, Peabody, Middleton, Beverly, Wenham, Marblehead, Topsfield and Manchester. Salem was incorporated as a town on Jun 24, 1629. In 1630, John Winthrop arrived in Salem and became governor and moved the Mass. Bay Colony capital to Boston.

Saugus -1629. Part of Lynn, first called Saugus after the Native Americans living there was settled shortly after Salem. It was incorporated in 1631 and the territory included areas now occupied by the towns of Saugus, Lynn, Lynnfield, Nahant, Swampscott, Stoneham, Reading, North Reading, Wilmington and Wakefield. Saugus name was changed to Linn in 1637, later again to Lynn.

Nahant -1630 Black Will, Poaquannum, Sachem of Nahant, sold the territory often referred to as the two Nahants to Thomas Dexter for a suit of clothes.

Marble Harbor - 1632 – The first name of Marblehead, which was set off from Salem and incorporated in 1649.

Agawam - 1633 - The Indian name of Ipswich, after the tribe who resided in the area. John Winthrop, Jr. founding father of Ipswich settled here in 1633.

Ipswich - 1634 -Town renamed and incorporated in 1634. Area included towns to the southeast Wenham, Hamilton, Essex, Gloucester and Rockport plus the northern territory to the Merrimack River. See Ipswich Deeds where Masconomet sells his rights to John Winthrop, Jr.

Jeffrey's Creek - 1635 – This is what is now Manchester. A fisherman named William Jeffrey from the  “Dorchester Enterprise” settled here from Plymouth and may have bought land from Masconomet. No record survives.

Salem Village - 1635 - The territory now occupied by the towns of Danvers, Middleton, Peabody and parts of Topsfield and Beverly  was given a town grant as what was called the Second and Middle Parishes of Salem.

Quascacuquen - 1635 - In May 1635, a plantation along the Parker River (Quascacuquen) was settled. The area, named by the Native Americans, was referred to as Wessacucon, and later named by the English as Newbury. Besides its present territory, Newbury included towns of West Newbury, Newburyport, and parts of Rowley and Ipswich (including Byfield.)

Gloucester - 1636 what was known as Cape Ann included “Squam” (Gloucester), Rockport and “Chebacco” plantation (Essex) became incorporated as Gloucester in 1636. Essex incorporated in 1819. Rockport incorporated 1840.

Linn Village - 1639 The General Court allowed a new plantation on the frontier and called it Linn Village. This became “Redding” in 1644 and included the North Parish, which became incorporated in 1853 as North Reading. Another parish to the south part of town became incorporated in 1812 called South Reading, later in 1868 became Wakefield.  Stoneham was set off in 1734 and Wilmington on the northwest part of Reading joined with north part of Woburn incorporated in 1730.

Colchester Plantation - 1639  The Colchester plantation beyond the Merrimack to be called Salisbury in 1640 It included Salisbury, Amesbury, Merrimac and a considerable area in New Hampshire.

Rogers Plantation - 1639 Mr. Ezechial Rogers plantation to be called Rowley. It included lands westerly to North Andover what was called the Town of Bradford for 200 years and now the towns of Georgetown, Groveled and Boxford.

Pentucket Plantation  - 1641 A plantation was authorized at Pentucket  (Haverhill) to Rev. Ward of Ipswich and Newberry Men. They purchased lands from Pentucket Sagamores Passa Quo and Sagga Hue in 1642 with the consent of the Great Pawtucket/Pennacook Sachem Passaconnaway.

Cochichawick Plantation - 1643  The Andovers were first settled in 1643 after a purchase was made by “Newbury Men” John Woodridge and Edmund Faulkner from Sagamore Cuchamakin and incorporated in 1646.

Enon - 1643 This plantation was the Indian name of the territory and was changed to its present name of Wenham.

Manchester - 1645 Manchester was incorporated in this year as a town.

Marblehead - 1649 Marblehead was incorporated in this year as a town.

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Settlement in the Second Period (1644-1700)

Village at the New Meadows of Ipswich- 1648 This plantation was first named “Toppesfield” and two years later 1650, the court granted that Topsfield henceforth be a town.

New Salisbury- 1666 the inhabitants of Salisbury, west of the Pow Wow River, were incorporated as the town of New Salisbury. 1668 the town was called “Emesbury”

Beverly- 1668 This the year that Beverly was incorporated as a town.

Bradford – 1675 Bradford, the town for over 175 years, at the western edge of Rowley and south of Haverhill at the Merrimack River was mentioned in a tax act in 1675.  Groveland was incorporated in 1850 from eastern part of Bradford.

Boxford- 1685 Boxford incorporated August 12, 1685

Settlement in the Third Period (1701-1876)

Methuen - 1725 Methuen was set off from Haverhill

Middleton - 1728 Middleton was set off from Andover, Topsfield, Boxford and Salem Village

Danvers – 1757 Danvers was incorporated in this year

Newburyport – 1764 Newburyport was set off from Newbury Jan. 28,1764

Hamilton - 1793 the parish of Ipswich Hamlet was incorporated as the Town of Hamilton this year.

Saugus – 1815 The Second Parish of Lynn was set off as Saugus this year.

Parsons – 1819 the town as incorporated this year. In 1820 the name was changed to West Newbury.

Essex – 1819 The Second Parish was set off as the town of Essex

Georgetown – 1838 The northwestern portion of Rowley was incorporated Feb.21, 1838

Lawrence – 1847 the town of Lawrence was established as a mill town by Boston investors incorporated as a town in 1847, as a city in 1852.

Groveland – 1852 the eastern part of Rowley was incorporated as a town of Groveland on March 8, 1850

Swampscott –1852 Swampscott was set off from Lynn, May 21,1852

Nahant – 1853 The peninsula was set off from Lynn this year

Peabody – 1855 The Town of South Danvers was incorporated as Peabody Mach. 18, 1855

Merrimac - 1876 the western portion of Amesbury was set off as a town this year.

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