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Newburyport, Massachusetts Town Records

Newburyport, Massachusetts Town Records

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Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Newburyport, Massachusetts
Title:Newburyport, Massachusetts Town Records
Quantity:18.5 linear feet (28 boxes)
Abstract:This collection contains papers relating to town business and daily life in Newburyport and includes documents dating from 1670 to 1913.
Collection Number:EC 23

Series List

SERIES I. Town and County Records
A. Court Documents
B. Militia Records
C. Overseers of the Poor
D. Newburyport Town Records
E. Notes on History
F. Taxes
SERIES II. Fire Department Records
SERIES III. School Records
A. School Records
B. Student Work
SERIES IV. Church Records
SERIES V. Other Records
A. Corporations
B. Societies
C. Miscellaneous

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains papers relating to town business and daily life in Newburyport and includes documents dating from 1670 to 1913. The series were organized chronologically or alphabetically depending on contents.

Series I. Town Records is comprised of six subseries: Court Documents, Militia Records, Overseers of the Poor; Town Records, Notes on History and Taxes. The bulk of the collection is comprised of tax records which include Polls and Estate for personal returns, warrants issued by the Commonwealth to individual collectors, and shareholder lists submitted to the Assessors of Newburyport in response to "An act requiring corporations to make returns to the assessors of cities and towns" approved by the state Legislature on April 29, 1863. The Town Records subseries also includes a record book dating from 1791 of "People Warned Out of Town."

Series II. Fire Department includes records of tax abatements for firemen and engineers, record and account books for various fire societies and a history of the Newburyport Fire Department from 1761 to 1900 by former Chief S. C. Reed.

Series III. Schools is organized into two subseries. Subseries A. School Records includes attendance registers, school record books and reports, and a bound volume of The Putnam Experiment, the weekly school newspaper, from the 1850s and including volumes V to IX. Subseries B. Student Work includes a large number of penmanship books, mainly belonging to members of the Short family, sketch books and an oversized companion exercise (including original poems) entitled "Lady Harriet" from 1834.

Series IV. Church Records includes original and transcribed records from St. Paul's Church, records from the First Religious Society in Newburyport, records from the Christian Church, and an organ tax list. This series also includes transcriptions from gravestones located in Newburyport.

Series V. Other Records consists of Corporations, Societies and Miscellaneous Papers of Newburyport. Subseries A. Corporations contains four volumes of Transfer Books for the Essex-Merrimack Bridge Corporation, records pertaining to the bankruptcy of the Essex Hat Manufacturing Company, a record book tracking employee time sheets and various local bank records. Subseries B. Societies includes records of the Adelphi Society, Declaiming and Debate Club, Knights of Honor, Old Town Farmer's Club and correspondence of the Merrimack Humane Society. Subseries C. Miscellaneous includes local shipping records, the log book for the magnetic telegraph for 1848, the religious notebook of Elizabeth Gerrish, a petition to oppose the reelection of General Butler, and letters to Reverend Fiske from his daughter while performing mission work in Hawaii.

Historical Sketch

The Town of Newburyport, located in Essex County Massachusetts, was a part of an area originally called Quascacunquen, referring specifically to the falls on the Parker River by the Native Americans of the Pawtucket Nation. The area was initially settled in 1635 as part of "Newberry Plantation," now Newbury. After several petitions, the "water side" of Newbury was incorporated by an act of the General Court of Massachusetts as the separate town of Newburyport on January 28, 1764. The act was approved by Governor Francis Bernard seven days later. Located on the southern bank of the Merrimack River, the town was comprised mostly of merchants, traders, mariners and craftsmen, and flourished as a fishing, shipbuilding, and shipping center. During the Revolutionary War, Newburyport imported clothing and military stores for use by the Continental Army. The town also supported large numbers of privateers during both the Revolution and the War of 1812.

On May 31, 1811 a fire began in an unoccupied stable and burned for five hours, destroying most of the downtown. Nearly 250 shops and homes were destroyed totaling approximately one million dollars' worth of property. Donations amounting to nearly $130,000 were received from the surrounding towns, and from as far away as Boston and Philadelphia.

The Putnam Free School, founded by the estate of Oliver Putnam (1777-1826) opened its doors in 1848. It was united with Brown High and the Female High in 1868. The city of Newburyport took the building by eminent domain in 1902 when the name was changed to Newburyport High School.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Burnham, Elizabeth
Caldwell, Alexander
Colman, Harriet W.
Knapp, Charles Hart
Knapp, George Washington
Moody, Sarah
Short, Isaac
Short, Paul
Short, George
Short, Hannah
Short, Joseph
Short, Stephen
Towle, Nathan
Towle, Thomas
Adelphi Society
Essex-Merrimack Bridge
Female Benevolent Society (Newburyport, Mass.)
First Religious Society (Newburyport, Mass.)
Free Evening School
Knights of Honor (Newburyport, Mass.)
Leonidas Fire Society
Merrimack Humane Society
Neptune Fire Association
Newburyport Academy
Newburyport Turnpike Corporation
Newburyport Union Band
Newburyport Women's Club
Newburyport Wrecking Company
Ocean Mills Company
Relief Fire Society
Sons of Temperance (Newburyport, Mass.)
St. Paul's Church (Newburyport, Mass.)
Temperance Aid Society (Newburyport)
Whitefield Circle Industry
Church records and registers
Ships' papers
Newburyport (Mass.)
Newburyport (Mass.)--Fire Dept.
Account books


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Request for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Newburyport, Massachusetts Town Records, EC 23, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material was donated to the library by the estate of Charles H. Hudson in 1912; Miss Emma H. Short in 1914; The Newburyport Public Library in 1916; the Martha G. Wheatland bequest in 1924; S. C. Reed in 1925; H. W. Belknap in 1941; Sons and Daughters of the First Settlers of the Town of Newbury in 1946; Letitia Linsley in 1948 and the estate of J. J. Currier.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Jennifer Hornsby, August 2011.

Related Material

Coffin, Joshua. A Sketch of the History of Newbury, Newburyport, and West Newbury. Hampton, New Hampshire: Peter E. Randall, 1977. Print

Currier, John J. The History of Newburyport Massachusetts, 1764-1905. Somersworth, New Hampshire: New Hampshire Publishing Company, 1977. Print.

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