Home > Culture

Marblehead, MA (1873)

Marblehead History, 1873 — "Marblehead is a picturesque and enterprising seaboard town of 7,703 inhabitants, situated on a neck of land in the south-west part of Essex County, having Salem Harbor on the north, the ocean on the east and south-east, Swampscott on the south, with Salem and Salem Harbor on the north-west. It lies 20 miles north-east of Boston, with which it has communication by the Eastern and Marblehead Branch Railroad. A railroad has just been opened from Swampscott to this place, by which much valuable land is brought into the market. The harbor, which is deep and well protected, is formed by what is called "Great Neck," — a beautiful peninsula, extending eastward from the mainland, and having a lighthouse on its northern point. Fort Sewall, built in or about 1742, commands the entrance to the harbor. The beach upon the south is very beautiful; and this, together with Tinker's Island, Marblehead Rock, Lowell Island (on which there is a public-house), renders the place a favorite resort for those who love to see the ocean in its glory, and recreate themselves along the shore. The geological basis is sienite and porphyry, huge masses of which crop out, and give a peculiar wild and rugged aspect to the scenery.

The highest point of land is Coddon's Hill, in the northern angle, which rises 118 feet above the sea, and gives a very splendid view of the city of Salem, the headlands of Beverly and Manchester, and the islands and vessels off the shore. From this rocky and broken appearance of the town, it was originally named Marmaracia, or “Marble Harbor;“ and the exclamation of Whitefield, when coming into it late in autumn, was, “Pray, where do they bury their dead?“ There is, however, some good land in the place; and many of the farms; of which there are 55, are as remunerative as any of the same size in the county. The raising of [edible] vegetables engrosses much attention, and is made very profitable. As many as 3,830 bushels of turnips, 23,990 bushels of onions, 5,769 bushels of carrots, and 1,800 bushels of beets, have been raised here in a year. The gardens are kept in excellent order; and the garden-seed establishment of Mr. James J. H. Gregory is one of the best in this section of the country.

Marblehead was anciently very much engaged in the fisheries and in commerce, and held a prominent rank among the towns in the colony. 
Its seamen were noted for their enterprise and daring, and its vessels were known in almost every harbor; but war and other circumstances seriously checked its progress. By the last Report on the Industry of the State, it had 2 vessels of 396 tonnage, and 13 hands, engaged in the coastwise trade; and 23 vessels of 1,792 tonnage, with 184 men, in the mackerel and cod fisheries; taking in all 420 barrels of mackerel, and 19,514 quintals of codfish, during the year.

Of late, new vigor has been imparted to this fine old town by the introduction of manufactures, in which the making of children's boots and shoes takes the lead. This place has one steam saw and planing mill, one post-office, one savings-bank, two national banks, a good high school, a custom-house, a Post of the G. A. R., a Masonic Lodge, a well-filled public journal ”The Marblehead Messenger“, and eight churches, with the following pastors, — the Revs. John W. Leek, Episcopalian; John H. Williams, C. T. (First Congregational Church); Benjamin H. Bailey, Unitarian; William D. Bridge, Methodist; George W. Patch, Baptist; Harrison Closson, Universalist; and Charles Rainoni, Roman Catholic. The South Church, C. T., has no pastor. The town furnished 1,048 men for the late war, of whom 110 were lost. The valuation is $4,002,100. The sum of $75,000 has been given to the town for the erection of a town-house, and about $3,000 have been raised for the building of a soldiers' monument.

Marblehead was taken from Salem, and incorporated May 2, 1649. At this time it contained 44 families. The First Church, having the Rev. Ezekiel Cheever for its minister, was organized Aug. 13, 1684. He was followed by the Rev. John Barnard, ordained as colleague July 18, 1716, and died Jan. 24, 1770. The Episcopal church was established as early as 1715; and the ensuing year the Second Congregational Church, now Unitarian, was organized. The Rev. Edward Holyoke, afterwards president of Harvard University, was the first pastor.

In 1775 an entire regiment of 1,000 men from Marblehead, commanded by Col. Glover, joined the army at Cambridge, of whom a very large proportion, before the struggle was over, lost their lives in the service of their country. At that critical period, when men's souls were tried, her hardy sons were confessedly distinguished for patriotism, skill, and valor, both by sea and land. Many signalized themselves upon the ocean by deeds of noble daring, and either died like heroes, fighting for freedom, or languished in loathsome prisons. Capt. James Mugford of this town, whose name appears on a column in Faneuil Hall, rendered essential service to the army by heroically capturing, at a critical juncture (Jan. 12, 1776), a British ship just arrived in the vicinity of Boston, richly laden with arms, ammunition, and other warlike stores. The prize-ship contained 1,500 barrels of powder, 1,000 carbines, a number of traveling-carriages for cannon, and a complete assortment of artillery instruments and pioneer tools. It was, indeed, a providential occurrence; and while it afforded the means, at that time so greatly needed, of maintaining the contest, it enrolled the name of Mugford among the benefactors of his country. On the same day of the capture, as he was defending his little vessel from the attack of some boats sent from the English men-of-war that were riding in Nantasket Roads, he was killed.

Eminent men: Capt. James Mugford (1725-1776), a gallant naval officer; Edward Augustus Holtoke, M.D., LL.D. (1728-1829), a learned physician, founder of the Massachusetts Medical Society, and a centenarian; Azor Orste (1732-1796), a successful merchant and patriot; Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814), signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Vice-President United States of America; Isaac Story (1774-1803), a poet and lawyer; Rev. Samuel Sewall (1785-1868), clergyman, and author of History of Woburn; Daniel Oliver, M.D., LL.D. (1787-1842), a chemist and author; John Gallison (1788-1820), an able lawyer and philanthropist; William Elliot (1803), a lawyer and scholar; Samuel Hooper (1808), merchant, author, and member of Congress from 1861 to 1871."

Copyright © 2020 CelebrateBoston.com