A History of the Name “Amesbury” (1637 – 2013)

  • In 1637, the first English settler in the region was John Bayley who crossed the Merrimack River from Newbury, built a log cabin, and began to clear the land for cultivation.
  • On September 6, 1638, the General Court of Massachusetts created a plantation on the left bank of the Merrimack, north to Hampton, on behalf of several petitioners from Newbury. They called this region Merrimac.
  • In the early spring of 1639 about 60 farmers took up residence on land cleared by the native Indians. In May, an elected planning committee of five laid out the green spaces, the initial streets, the burial ground, and the first division of the region into lots — apportioning the size of a lot to the wealth of the settler.  On September 4, the General Court named the town Colchester, but in October changed the name to Salisbury (probably at the instigation of Christopher Batt, from Salisbury, England).
  • On October 7, 1640, the General Court incorporated Salisbury; granted legal recognition by the colony to a township of that name, with its own government, empowered by citizens populating a territory of legally defined boundaries.
  • In 1642 the town government of Salisbury asked 30 families to take up residence west of the Powwow River and form a “New Town.”
  • In1666, Salisbury granted the “liberty of a township” to New Town. The town was unofficially incorporated; a government was constituted and officers elected. On June 15, it was named New Salisbury, but in 1667 the name was changed to Amesbury on the analogy of Amesbury, England.
  • Amesbury was officially granted incorporation under that name on April 29, 1668.
  • In 1876 Merrimac was created out of Western Amesbury.
  • In 1886 West Salisbury was annexed to Amesbury, unifying the mill areas on both banks  of the Powwow River.  The area along the river in this region was soon referred to as  Amesbury’s Point Shore.
  • In 1996, the town changed its status to a city, and adopted the mayor and municipal  council form of government.  Voters approved this charter amendment in November 2011.

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