Stories from Newbury and Newburyport

Newbury Plantation was settled in 1635. The Rev. Thomas Parker and cousin Rev. James Noyes, along with the latter’s brother Nicholas, led a group of about 100 pioneers from Wiltshire, England, first landing in Agawam (now Ipswich) in 1634. They next spring they sailed to the Quascacunquen River, now the Parker River. A commemorative stone marks the spot where Nicholas Noyes was the first of the new settlers to leap ashore. Newbury originally included Newburyport, set off in 1764, and West Newbury, set off in 1819.

Byfield is a small community within Newbury, and is where in 1763 the nation’s first preparatory school, Dummer Academy, now The Governor’s Academy was founded. Byfield developed into a mill village, and once had six water powered mills.

On January 28, 1764, the General Court of Massachusetts passed “An act for erecting part of the town of Newbury into a new town by the name of Newburyport.” The act  reads, ” Whereas the town of Newbury is very large, and the inhabitants of that part of it who dwell by the water-side there, as it is commonly called, are mostly merchants, traders and artificers, and the inhabitants of the other parts of the town are chiefly husbandmen; by means whereof many difficulties and disputes have arisen in managing their public affairs – Be it enacted … That that part of the said town of Newbury … be and hereby are constituted and made a separate and distinct town.”   Newburyport became a city in 1851. Situated at the Merrimack River, Newburyport became an active port for privateering during the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. One of its most important industries was the construction of whaling and clipper ships.newburyport_shipyards

Stories from Newbury

Hay straddle Ipswich MA Gathering Salt Marsh Hay - Salt marsh hay is still gathered on the North Shore today. The grass that grows between the upland and the marsh is cut. Traditionally the hay was stacked on staddles to raise it above the high tides.
A romantic tale from the Great Snow of Feb. 21-24, 1717 - Snowstorms on the 20th and 24th of February 1717 covered the earth up to 20 ft. deep. In some places houses were completely buried, and paths were dug from house to house under the snow. A widow in Medford burned her furniture to keep the children warm.
Hanging of a Puritan for abuse of a child William Franklin of Newbury, hanged for the death of an indentured child in 1644 - Children in the 17th and 18th Century New England colonies generally arrived with their families, but hundreds of English children were taken from the streets and unwillingly taken without their parents to be indentured as servants. Although the practice was more common in the Southern colonies, Joshua Coffin […]
Old Roads and Bridges of Newbury and Newburyport - Text by James B. Stone, from Images from the Past, published by the Newbury 350th anniversary Committee. Featured image: Bridge over the Parker River in Newbury, on today’s Rt. 1A, 1898. When the first settlers arrived in Newbury in May of 1635, there were only Indian trails which wound through […]
Historic New England house Newbury MA Colonial houses of old Newbury, Massachusetts - This page displays the First Period, Georgian, and early Federal houses of Newbury, Massachusetts. The following images, and text were provided by the Newbury Historical Society in 1989, and are online through the Massachusetts Historical Commission site (MACRIS). Photos are displayed alphabetically in order of street name. House numbers may have changed. Click on […]
Elizabeth Morse Witch of Newbury The Witchcraft Trial of Elizabeth Morse of Newbury, 1680 - Elizabeth Morse of Newbury was accused and found guilty of being a witch. She was initially sentenced to be hanged, but after spending a year in the Boston jail, she was sent home

Stories from Newburyport

The Great Storm of 1815 Jane Hooper, the fortune-teller - Jane Hooper was in 1760 a Newburyport "school dame" but after she lost that job she found fame as a fortune-teller. When the Madame made her yearly visit to Ipswich, the young and the old called on her to learn of their fates.
The Newburyport Turnpike in Topsfield, early in the 20th Century Newburyport Turnpike opens, February 11, 1805: “Over every hill and missing every town” - In 1803, a group of Newburyport investors incorporated as the Newburyport Turnpike Corporation in a commercial venture to build a straight toll road from Boston to Newburyport (the highway we call Rt. 1).
Rebecca Rawson The tragic story of Rebecca Rawson, 1679 - Rebecca Rawson of Newbury became one of the most popular young ladies in Boston society. She married a charming but cunning young man who left her desolate in London. On her return to America, the ship was swallowed by a tsunami.
November 5: Guy Fawkes Day (“Pope Night,” “Gunpowder Day,” “Bonfire Night”) - Guy Hawkes, a Catholic, attempted to blow up the king and members of Parliament. Effigies of Guy Fawkes were burned every year on Nov. 5, accompanied by a day of odd activities. The tradition was continued by English settlers in America.
Newburyport colonial houses Newburyport Colonial homes - The HABS and the HABs NOTS Documenting the Architecture of Newburyport in the Historic American Buildings Survey Newburyport, MA was settled in 1635 as part of the town of Newbury. In 1764, the General Court of Massachusetts passed “An act for erecting part of the town of Newbury […]
Postcards from Newburyport - (Click on any image to begin a slideshow. Press the X in the top left corner or the Esc button to leave the slide show).
Bombshell from Louisbourg - Mounted securely to a stone post at the corner of Middle and Independent Streets in Newburyport, there was for many years a large cast-iron bombshell, thrown from a mortar at the Second Siege of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia in 1758. It was brought to Newbury by Nathaniel Knapp, who served as […]
The Great Newburyport fire, May 31, 1811 - A fire commenced about nine o’clock in a stable in Mechanic Row in Newburyport on the evening of May 31st, 1811. (The description below is from The Fireman’s Own Book by George P. Little, 1918.)
Joppa Flats, Newburyport - In the late 19th Century, clam shacks proliferated along a stretch of the Merrimack River in Newburyport known as Joppa Flats, providing clams to the Boston area. Photos in this slideshow were provided by Laurie Jarvis Short. Visit her Joppa Flats page on Facebook.
Newburyport and its Neighborhoods, 1874, by Harriet Prescott Spofford - Excerpt from “Newburyport and its Neighborhood” by Harriet Prescott Spofford, July 1875, the New Harper’s Monthly Magazine. “The history of Newburyport, and of her mother Newbury, much of which has become incorporated with herself, is replete with striking facts and marvels. She had not only the first of […]
“A Good Heat,” a short tale from Newburyport - From Reminiscences of a Nonagenarian, by Sarah Anna Emery
Lord Timothy Dexter's house in Newburyport Lord Timothy Dexter - Lord Timothy Dexter of Newburyport was insane but profited from everything he undertook, He declared himself to be "the greatest philosopher in the known world." His book "A Pickle for the Knowing Ones" is a collection of whatever entered his head at the moment, spelling as he wished, and devoid of punctuation.


The HABS and the HABs NOTS

Documenting the Architecture of Newburyport in the Historic American Buildings Survey

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