Featured image: Marblehead, by Arthur Wesley Dow, circa 1900
In May 1635 the General Court ordered “that there shall be a plantation at Marble Head” and gave the inhabitants the right to do whatever they pleased with the land, even though it was part of Salem. The move was meant to punish Salem for allowing Roger Williams to express his “dangerous opinions.” On November 2, 1635, the General Court banished Williams. The Salem church members promptly apologized, “acknowledging their fault in joining with Mr. Williams,” and in March 1636, the Court affirmed that Marblehead belonged to Salem after all.
Marbleheaders proved even more defiant than Roger Williams, refusing to conform to Puritan norms, drinking, fighting, rarely attending church. In 1648 when Marblehead petitioned for separation, the men of Salem were more than willing to let them go their own way. In March 1649 the General Court decreed that Marble Head “shall be a town.” Danvers, Peabody, Beverly, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Wenham, and a section of Topsfield were all once part of Salem. One by one, smaller new towns were formed out of one large old one.