Glossary of Relevant Terms
This is a glossary of terms specific to the history of the region, and to genealogy generally. It will be updated regularly. When I add to it, I'll try to announce the new entries in a blog post.
American Woolen Company: A large industrial concern that consolidated the woolen textile mills of New England in 1899. At its height in the mid-1920s, the company had over fifty mills in seven states. Financed by the sale of preferred stock on the New York Stock Exchange, it was controlled by Frederick Ayer, who made his fortune selling patent medicines and Ayer's son-in-law, William Wood, who served as President. The company's finances took a sharp dive in 1926 as consumer tastes changed drastically away from worsted woolens toward new synthetics. Wood committed suicide in 1926. The company never greatly altered its product line and continued to produce mainly worsted wool. It limped along through the Korean War, helped by military orders for woolen blankets, then collapsed in 1954. Its biggest factories were in Lawrence, the Wood mill and Ayer mill, each built in 1906. These buildings are partially intact today.
Essex Company: A legal entity controlled by a group of Boston businessmen known as the Boston Associates, that in 1845 bought up the land and water rights along the Merrimack River at Bodwell's Falls between Methuen and Andover. This land became the City of Lawrence. The Essex Company constructed the infrastructure for an industrial city and then sold lots for mills. Its chief projects were the construction of the Great Stone Dam, the largest dam in the world at the time, in 1848, and the canals and associated hydropower works, and the state-of-the art public water and sewerage system. They also constructed some of the early mills in Lawrence and guaranteed specific amounts of water power, setting the precedent for how future mills would be designed and built. Its profits largely came from the sale of water power.
Essex County: The northeastern-most county in Massachusetts, dating from the establishment of counties in 1643. It essentially has two zones. The first is the coastal zone, also called the North Shore of Boston, featuring towns like Salem and Gloucester and the city of Lynn, Essex County’s largest city (which my mother likes to call Lawrence-by-the-Sea because of its post-industrial character and large immigrant population). The second zone of Essex County is the Merrimack Valley zone, centered around Lawrence, Methuen, Andover and North Andover. For the first forty years of its existence, Essex County’s northern border was the Merrimack River. See “Old Norfolk” below. Lawrence and Salem served as the twin county seats. Since about the year 2000 county government has been abolished.
Great Migration refers to the large influx of settlers from England who came to Massachusetts Bay Colony and certain peripheral areas, such as coastal New Hampshire and very southern Maine, between 1630 and 1640. Between 20,000 and 30,000 people migrated, most of them in families. Most migrants were staunch believers in the organization of the new society around local congregations with Calvinist beliefs.
Indian Wars (or French and Indian Wars): A series of violent conflicts along the frontier between the English colonies and French claims in Quebec and Arcadia. These lasted from 1675 until 1763, with the French defeat at Montreal and the expulsion of the Arcadians to Louisiana, where they became known as Cajuns. The various wars that directly impacted the lower Merrimack Valley were:
- King Philip's War (1675-1678): Not really a "French and Indian" war because it did not involve the French, except in the relatively minor northern theater in Arcadia/Maine, this was the most devastating war for Massachusetts. The destruction was particularly great south of Boston, with nearly half of English villages attacked. Southern New England never suffered an Indian attack again, whereas the villages north of Boston faced significant threat for the next fifty years. Andover and Chelmsford suffered attacks in King Philips War.
- King William's War (1688-1697*): This was directly part of a larger struggle between imperial England and its allies, versus imperial France and its allies. It was part of the so-called Nine Years War, arguably the first "world war" in that it raged over continental Europe, Ireland and New England north of Boston. Abenakis and their French allies attacked English settlements far down the Maine coast, such as Kennebunk in September of 1688, Salmon Falls – now Berwick Maine – in March 1690 (in which about 90 English villagers were killed or imprisoned for ransom), Wells in June 1691, and York in January 1692 (in which 200 English villagers were killed or imprisoned for ransom). Andover suffered a small attack in 1689 and a larger attack in 1698. Haverhill was attacked in 1697 in the raid made famous by Hannah Dustin. This war was an English victory in that Arcadia (now northern Maine, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) was taken from the French, although parts were returned as part of a treaty that ended hostility. In my post on the Salem Witch Trials, I suggest that the strain caused by refugees fleeing King William's War in Maine contributed to the witch hysteria in places where they resettled, such as Andover.
- Queen Anne's War (1702-1708): This war ostensibly was over the succession to the Spanish crown, and involved three European empires, Spain, England and France. English raiding parties were sent up into French Arcadia and French and Indian raiders came south.
In spring 1706, the whole area between the Merrimack and the Piscataqua came under sporadic attack, with English killed at Durham, N.H., Dunstable, N.H., Haverhill, Mass., Exeter, N.H. and Hampton, N.H. Dunstable has since been divided into the towns of Nashua, Hollis, Hudson, Litchfield and Merrimack. On August 27, 1708 (or August 29 according to some accounts), Haverhill, then a compact village of about thirty houses, was attacked and almost entirely destroyed by Algonquin, St. Francois and Penobscot Indians.
Lower Merrimack Valley: The terms “lower” and “upper” are not used by anyone that I know of to indicate sections of the Merrimack Valley. I use the term to refer to the Merrimack Valley in Massachusetts (including adjacent New Hampshire border towns). So from Tyngsboro to the Atlantic Ocean at Newburyport, with a particular emphasis on the stretch Lawrence to Newburyport i.e. the section of the Merrimack Valley that lies in Essex County. For the entire Essex County stretch, where the river flows east, the New Hampshire state line runs three miles north of the river, explaining the peculiar shape of the state line.
Mill power units: As explained in a 2010 report affiliated with MIT, "mill powers" are the right to draw water so as to give a power equal to 30 cubic feet of water per second when the head and fall is 25 feet. It is not clear to me whether this was a standard unit of power for the region, or specific to Lawrence. There are 133 mill power units created by the Great Stone Dam, assuming ideal water conditions. The Great Stone Dam produces about 16 Megawatt-Hours (MwH) of power.
Old Norfolk: The county of Massachusetts Bay Colony extending from the Merrimack River to the Piscataqua River, comprised of Salisbury, Haverhill, Hampton (NH), Exeter, Dover and Strawberry Banke (Portsmouth). It existed from 1643 to 1680. After it was abolished, Haverhill and Salisbury (including the lands that now comprise Amesbury, Merrimack, Methuen and north Lawrence) became part of Essex County. Until the border between New Hampshire and Massachusetts was settled in 1741, Haverhill also included the present day New Hampshire towns of Salem, Atkinson, Hampstead and Plaistow, and Salisbury included the present day New Hampshire towns of Newton and South Hampton. Thus, the land of these towns effectively was in Essex County from about 1680 to 1741.
Parish: Until disestablishment (ending of state-supported religion) in 1833 (1819 for New Hampshire), a parish was a geographic unit served by a meetinghouse/church, whose residents paid a tax to support the church unless they were personally exempt. In most cases, parish borders were coterminous with town borders, or were subdivisions of towns. Occasionally however, a parish straddled two towns, e.g. Byfield Parish (then in the towns of Rowley and Newbury) and Linebrook Parish (then in the towns of Ipswich and Rowley). After the established (Congregationalist) church period, it can refer to any organizational unit of a church, although the term is most prominently used today by the Catholic Church as the smallest unit, usually consisting of one church. The term "parochial" means of a parish.
Setting off: The process of separating a section of a parish or town into a separate, new parish or town.
Settling a minister: The process in puritan New England of choosing a minister for the parish church, whose salary would be paid from taxes levied on all the residents of the parish. The multiple connotations of “settling” are intriguing- that the parish is unsettled until it has a minister in place; that the process of hiring a minister involves negotiation among various factions, who might have to settle for someone other than their first choice; that the land is wild until a minister is in place, at which time it becomes settled. The process broke down after disestablishment in 1833.
Shanty or Shantytown: The term for squatters' homes and a collection of squatters homes, respectively, usually inhabited by recent Irish immigrants. Lawrence had its shantytown south of the dam, along an inlet called the Shanty Pond, on unused land owned by the Essex Company. This land was eventually graded and streets were laid out, starting in the 1860s. Kingston Street became the main thoroughfare for the former shantytown area. The last shanty was torn down in 1898. According to a housing study published in 1912 following the Bread and Roses textile strike,
"When the dam was being built, many of the laborers on it lived in South Lawrence in the fields not far from the work. Their small shacks or huts were built hurriedly of slabs and rough lumber, with roofs of over-lapping boards, with sod piled high around the walls, and with stove pipe chimneys. These cabins stood for a good many years, but gradually their occupants left, or bought the right to the locations; and the last two of the shacks, occupied to the end, were torn down, one in 1894 and the other in 1898."
Other larger industrial towns also had shantytowns: Lowell (near St. Patrick's parish), Holyoke (the "Patch"), Worcester. Sometimes shantytowns were dominated by immigrants other than Irish, for example New Bedford's shantytown (the "Navy Yard") was largely Portuguese.
Unitarian Controversy: Unitarian refers to New England ministers and their flocks who rejected the Christian theological concept of the Trinity, as well as various beliefs which followed from the Trinity concept. They eventually seemed to have wanted to make religion more rational and liberal. It was a movement within the establishment Congregationalist church and led to many congregations splitting into Unitarian and “Trinitarian” (also called orthodox) churches, with one or the other faction getting the legacy church and its properties. These schisms at the parish level seem to have occurred mainly in the 1830s. The “controversy” part occurred in 1805 when, relatively early in the movement, Harvard (which at that time basically trained every minister in Massachusetts) got a Unitarian president and started to favor Unitarian theology. In response, a group of orthodox Congregationalists founded the Andover Theological Seminary to train men for the ministry in the traditional Calvinist manner. For a hundred years, the Andover Theological Seminary and Phillips Academy, Andover shared the same board of trustees and same campus.
Yankee: A New Englander descended from the original English settlers of the region, and supposedly possessed of a few typical traits, such as being plainspoken and frugal. Within New England, probably most likely to be found in rural areas like up in Vermont. Stereotypically talks like Robert Frost (go listen to a recording), or maybe those Bert and I comedians from 1970s Maine. If he or she attends church, stereotypically Congregationalist or Unitarian Universalist, the two Yankee religions historically.