Brief History of Newbury, Massachusetts
In 1634, the ship “Mary and John” left the Thames River in England carrying John Parker, James Noyes, and other men, women and children bound for a better life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They wintered in Agawan (today Ipswich) and in the Spring of 1635 they moved up the Quascacunquen (today the Parker River) and landed east of the present day Parker River Bridge on Route 1A. At the end of the present day Cottage Road is a Memorial Bolder designating this spot, marking Newbury’s beginnings. The people were farmers depending upon the land and themselves for survival.
The settlers built their settlement and prospered and, as the population increased, Newbury’s boundaries extended from the Parker River outward to the Merrimac River and Artichoke. In 1654 the first navigable bridge, called “Thorlay’s Bridge”, was built over the Parker River by Richard Thorley. Thorley’s Bridge opened the road for travel from Boston, Ipswich and Salem. Richard Thorley charged a toll, not for humans but for animals. Today, Thurlow’s Bridge is still in existence.
On the upper Parker River, near the falls, industry was started such as the Byfield Woolen Mills on the Falls, Old Tappan Grist Mill on Main Street, Sawmill on River Street and the Larkin-Morrill Mill, which later became the Pearson’s Snuff Mill on Larkin Road. By 1932 the only industrial business remaining was the Pearson’s Snuff Mill and that closed down in the 1990’S.
In 1807 the first Female Seminary in America was founded in Byfield. Today the building is privately owned after a few years of being a Military School. Also, Governor Dummer Academy, now called the Governor’s Academy, the oldest boarding school in America, was founded in 1763 and is still an integral part of Newbury.
In 1878 silver was discovered in a large field off Scotland Road. This discovery made money for those who sold their land and those who became involved in what was known as the “Chipman Silver Mine”. The mine produced $500,000.00 worth of silver and $100,000.00 in dividends. The mine closed in 1925.
The “Waterside” group built their homes, churches, businesses and municipal buildings along the Merrimac River. This “Waterside” group, having acquired the title of merchant, shipbuilder, or sea captain, decided that they had nothing in common with the farmers of “Old Town.” These “Waterside” people petitioned the General Court to become a separate community. In 1764 the Town of Newburyport became incorporated. In 1819, the residents of West Parish petitioned the General Court to become a separate community, and they became the Town of West Newbury.
Newbury is presently divided into three villages, Old Town, Byfield and Plum Island. Each village functions individually under the umbrella of the local government. Yet, each village extends to one another a unique dependency such as that of the government center and schools located in the Old Town, the library in Byfield and ocean recreation on Plum Island.
Today, Newbury is considered a Residential/Agricultural community with farming. Clams and Salt Marsh Haying continue to provide income for local residents.