06 July 2008
Marblehead Massachusetts is what I would describe as quintessential coastal New England. I had never been there until this past Friday, and it's quite lovely. Avoiding gross commercialization, the town has made a concerted effort to retain its authentic historical setting. Here's a bit of history:
Marblehead was first settled as a plantation of Salem in 1629 by John Peach Sr., then set off and incorporated in 1639. Originally called Massebequash after the river which ran between it and Salem, the land was inhabited by the Naumkeag Indians under the sachem, Nanepashemet. At times called Marvell Head, Marble Harbour (by Captain John Smith) and Foy (by immigrants from Fowey, Cornwall), the town would be named Marblehead by settlers who mistook its granite ledges for marble. It began as a fishing village with narrow, crooked streets, and grew inland from the harbor. The shoreline smelled of drying fish, typically cod, which were exported abroad and to Salem. The town peaked economically just prior to the Revolution, as locally financed privateering vessels pirated the seas for bounty from large European ships. Much early architecture survives from the era. A large percentage of residents became involved early in the fight for American freedom, and the sailors of Marblehead, under General John Glover, are generally recognized by scholars as forerunners of the American Navy. The town tradition holds that Marblehead men ferried George Washington across the Delaware River for his attack on Trenton. Many who set out for war, however, did not return. Indeed, the community lost a substantial portion of its population and economy. Additionally a gale or hurricane at the Grand Banks of Newfoundland on September 19, 1846 sank 11 vessels and damaged others. With 65 men and boys lost in the storm, the town's fishing industry began a decline.
After World War II, the town enjoyed a population boom, as a bedroom community for Boston, Lynn and Salem. This boom ended around 1970 when the town became built out.
Another fun fact about the day... my mother and I enjoy visiting cemeteries, not only for the stones, but for the flora and names of past times (we get a kick out of how strange the idea is too). I love to research the different kinds of symbols that are found in the older sections. I came across a link of three chains. I had NEVER seen this. After some research, I discovered it's the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Whaaaaa??? If you want to learn a bit about them, follow this link. It's pretty interesting. I think I need to find out more about these odd fellows. All in all, I highly recommend a drive through this "North Shore" area.