Essex County Massachusetts, 1890

Essex County forms the extreme northeastern portion of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; extending from Revere on the south to the New Hampshire line, from Cape Ann on the east to Lowell on the west. It is bound on the north and northwest by New Hampshire; on the northeast, east and southeast by the Atlantic ocean; at the southern angle by county of Suffolk; and on the west and southwest by Middlesex County. Its area is about 500 square miles, or 300,000 acres. Of this, about 18,000 acres are water surfaces, and about 10,000 are occupied by the roads.

The county has six cities and twenty-nine towns; the first being Gloucester, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lynn, Newburyport and Salem; and the towns, Amesbury, Andover, Beverly, Boxford, Bradford, Danvers, Essex, Georgetown, Groveland, Hamilton, Ipswich, Lynnfield, Manchester, Marblehead, Merrimac, Methuen, Middleton, Nahant, Newbury, North Andover, Peabody, Rockport, Rowley, Salisbury, Saugus, Swampscott, Topsfield, Wenham and West Newbury. Salem, Lawrence and Newburyport are the shire towns. The county constitutes the seventh and part of the eighth Congressional Districts, the fifth and part of the sixth Councillor Districts, and has 22 Representative Districts with 34 representatives.

The population in 1870 was 200,843; in 1880, 244,535; in 1885, 263,727. The gain has been principally in the cities and larger towns. The families numbered, in 1885, 59,263; and the dwelling-houses, 44,914. The Normal School and other public school buildings numbered 664. There were six incorporated academies; and five of the numerous unincorporated schools owned valuable buildings. Within the county were 299 libraries (including those of Sunday schools) conditionally open to the public, and containing 601,223 books. The farms numbered 3,609, and the manufacturing establishments 3,899. The working capital invested in vessels and other appliances for the fisheries by this county, in 1885, was $4,239,493; and the aggregate value of the products was $3,076,907. The valuation in 1888 was $205,749,203.

The sea-shore of this county is very irregular, having numerous creeks, inlets and harbors, separated by many jagged capes and headlands. The geological formation is sienite, calcareous gneiss, Merrimack schists, drift and alluvium. The surface of the county is uneven, and in many parts, rocky; but by the energy and skill of the people, good crops of the usual New England varieties are generally obtained. The principal rivers are the majestic Merrimack, which enters the county between Andover and Methuen, furnishing vast hydraulic power at Lawrence, and meeting the ocean at Newburyport; the beautiful Shoeshine, which unites with the Merrimack at South Lawrence; the Parker River, on which was established the first woollen-mill of the country; the Ipswich River, navigable to Ipswich; and the Bass River, navigable to Danvers Port. The most conspicuous eminences are Powwow Hill in Salisbury, Ayer's Hill in Haverhill, Hall's Hill in Andover, Turkey Hill in Ipswich, Bald Pate in Georgetown, and Prospect Hill in Rowley. The flora of the county is unusually varied. The Boston and Maine Railroad, with its subordinate systems, the Eastern and the Lowell railroads, and by numerous branches, and the Boston, Revere and Lynn Railroad, with the street railroad adjacent, connecting towns and cities, afford excellent transportation facilities.

This region was discovered by Europeans in 1692; the first who are known to have set foot in the county were Edward Harlie and Nicholas Hobson, who landed at Ipswieh in 1611. The earliest settlers were the Cape Ann colonists, led by Roger Conant, in 1624. Endicott's colony arrived September 6, 1628. On May10, 1643, eight towns Salem, Lynn, Wenham, Ipswich, Rowley, Newbury, Gloucester, and Andover were set apart and incorporated as Essex County.

Indian disturbances affected the inhabitants but little until the breaking out of King Philip's War; in which brave soldiers and good leaders from Essex County distinguished themselves at various points. Theirs were the troops so mercilessly slaughtered at "Bloody Brook," in Deerfield, a body of ninety picked, well-disciplined, courageous soldiers known as "the Flower of Essex," under Captain Lothrop, where they were surprised by a large body of Philip's savage warriors.

The history of this county is disfigured by the woful delusion of witchcraft which raged here in the latter part of the 17th century; and which, originating in that part of Salem which is now included in Danvers, extended to neighboring towns, until not less than 20 persons had actually been executed, while 8 more had been condemned, 150 were in prison awaiting trial, and 200 others had been accused. It is acknowledged that most of those who suffered and many others of the accused were persons of excellent character. In consequence of the trials and the expenses, the rapacious confiscations, and the universal alarm, business was utterly prostrated, and hundreds impoverished. Long years of toil and sorrow elapsed before the county recovered fully from this terrible blow. During the Revolution Essex County effectively sustained her part on the side of freedom and nationality.

Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890, pp. 70-72