This history of Jeffreys Neck is from the Agawam Manual and Directory by M.V.B. Perley, published in 1888.
The business of fur-trading and fishing along the New England coast received a new impetus about the beginning of the seventeenth century. In 1604 Agawam was the center of Arcadia, so-called in the French patent of November 8, 1603. For a century or more, no attempt at settlement had been successful in this section, but traffic and barter with the Indians and the fisheries had been remunerative.
In 1606 King James I was prevailed upon to divide Virginia into North and South by patent, and granted them respectively to the Plymouth and the London companies, each with a government of thirteen members. A Council was established at Plymouth, in the County of Devon, “for the planting, ruling, ordering and governing of New England in America.’ This patent covered the territory lying between 40° and 48° of north latitude and extended from ocean to ocean, and was the basis of all subsequent grants of land in New England. The company retained the power vested in them by the Crown till 1635, when they resigned their charter, about the time that John Winthrop the younger came to Ipswich.
Jeffreys Neck is surrounded on three sides by the Eagle Hill River, the Ipswich River, and Plum Island Sound. There were scattered settlements by European “adventurers” before the arrival of the Massachusetts Bay Company with its charter. William Jeffreys, a native of Chiddingly, Sussex, England, established a successful hunting and fishing operation near the mouth of the river in 1623, but was instructed to leave by the Puritan colonists. Colony records for 1630 note that “a warrant shall presently be sent to Agawam to command those that are planted there forthwith to come away.”
John Winthrop Jr. arrived in Agawam with the first dozen settlers in 1633, and in 1634 the town was incorporated as Ipswich. Jeffreys reluctantly departed, but left his name at Jeffreys Neck and Jeffreys Ledge, a shoal that extends from Cape Ann north into the Gulf of Maine.
At the same time, William Jeffries (Jeffreys) had a right which he obtained of the Indians, covering the tract now known as Jeffries’ Neck. Jeffries was derived from good stock from Chittingly, and he had a brother Robert, who settled in Newport, Rhode Island. Jeffries was an agent of the Plymouth company and is believed to have been here in 1614 when Captain John Smith found here twenty-seven fisheries and trading posts. Winthrop called Jeffries “an old planter,” Jeffries occupied and improved, and by 1625 he owned the territory of the present town.
Jeffries’ right seems to have been derived from the Indians, and presumably from Masconomet. It was also said that he had derived a title to land here in 1622 from John Mason, who spent £20,- 000 in attempts for settlements, but found it advisable to give up the effort and accept a the loss.
Jeffries was an Episcopalian, and so fared hard in the hands of the Puritans.The court in 1630 made “a final issue of all claims by virtue of any grant heretofore made by any Indians whatsoever, commanding those “planted at Agawam forthwith to come away.” Mr. Jeffries, however, remained till about May 1638, when the magistrates had power to remove him. Ipswich thus became free to the Puritan settlers.
Jeffries removed to Newport, RI by 1638, and by 1655 had became a prominent official. The settlement of his claim to Jeffreys Neck is recorded*:
“‘In answer to the petition of Willjam Jefferay, making claim to Jefferay’s Neck, near Ipswich, it is ordered, that the petitioner shall have liberty to make good his plea before the whole Court, at such time as the Court shall see meet.”
The case was settled on October 16, 1660:
“In answer to the petition of Mr. W[illiam Jefferys, the Court judgeth it meet to grant him five hundred acres of land, to be laid out in such place as he shall find it, on the south side of our patent, & that to be a final issue of all claims by virtue of any grant heretofore made by any Indian whatsoever.”
William Jeffries died in Newport, January 2, 1675 at the good age of 84 years. The location of his grave is unknown.
- The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633. Vol. 1-3. Boston, MA, USA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995.
- The Agawam Manual and Directory by M.V.B. Perley, published in 1888.
A presentation by Thomas Franklin Waters to the Ipswich Historical Society, 1912.