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.
Stories from Newbury
Gathering salt marsh hay - Salt marsh hay is still gathered on the North Shore today. The grass was stacked on staddles to raise it above the high tides, and was hauled away on sleds over the frozen marsh in mid-winter. 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. John Eales, Beehive Maker - The inhabitants of Newbury perceived bee-keeping as a new and profitable industry, but needed someone with experience. John Eales, an elderly pauper who had been sent away to Ipswich, was returned by the Court to Newbury to assist them in their efforts. The Town was instructed how much to charge him for his upkeep.
Stories from Newburyport
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. 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. 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. The Newburyport Tea Party - When Parliament laid a tax on tea, the British locked all the tea that had arrived in Newburyport into the powder house. Eleazer Johnson led a group of men who shattered the door and burned the tea in Market Square. 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 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.
Documenting the Architecture of Newburyport in the Historic American Buildings Survey