This material originally was published in the Oct. 25, 2002 Merrimack River Current. It is reprinted here with permission of Community Newspaper Company.
Down by the Waterside

By Current Staff

Friday, October 25, 2002

The following information about the history of Waterside is taken from John J. Currier's, "History of Newbury 1635-1902," and was provided by Ken and Dominique Dear's Web site, (Updates in italics.)

"The territory laid out and incorporated as the town of Newbury was included in the grant made to Captain John Mason, March 9, 1621 and again assigned to him February 3, 1634. [In the interim however, the 1629 patent for the Massachusetts Bay Company --- with its bounds three British miles to the south of the Charles River and three British miles to the north of the Merrimack River --- included the territory (most of what is now Essex County) originally granted to Mason. A title litigation brought by Mason and party to repeal the Massachusetts Bay Charter was not resolved until the 1690's, leaving Mason's assignes little recompense in the end.]

To secure proprietary rights over the disputed lands, Most of the passengers who had come to the Massachusetts Bay colony in the ship, 'Mary and John,' were persuaded to move to Newbury in early 1635. Arriving from Ipswich (then called Agawam) by water, landing on the shores of what is now called the Parker River, the first settlers constructed primitive houses near the Lower Green. In the summer months of 1635, they were soon joined by freeholders arriving in two vessels that had landed in the port of Boston in June.

"At a meeting held January 10, 1643, the proprietors of that First Parish (thereafter called Olde Towne) voted to remove some inhabitants of that tiny Parker River settlement into outlying reaches of Newbury. This petition was granted by the General Court on June 11, 1644 and New Towne was established and land, including that along the Merrimack River, was partitioned to freeholders in four-acre lots. Settlement expanded and what was the west end of town petitioned for a separate meeting house and in 1694 a separate Second Parish was established. The Byfield parish was first set off in 1710.

"In 1725, the Third Parish was formed. Its meeting house built in what is now Market Square with its doors facing the river. Dedicated on June 25, 1725, the Third Parish was often called 'ye Waterside Parish' and its inhabitants were called the 'Waterside people'. In 1763, parishioners of the Waterside Third Parish petitioned the General Court for separation from Newbury. The petition granted, the act was passed on January 28, 1764 and officially approved by the provincial governor on February 4, 1764 - thereby establishing the town of Newburyport Waterside with its bounds the former Third Parish of Newbury.

"In 'A Pickle for the Knowing Ones,' Lord Dexter laments the separation, claiming it diminished the communities' position of strength in the Commonwealth, merely to satisfy the lust for power of a few. The Knowing Ones acknowledge that 'human nature' was and is a natural factor in any dissent between the parties. However, on the matter of separation, a common viewpoint was widely shared by the Waterside people. As for the manner of separation, as articulated in their remonstrance, their complaints ran much deeper and their aspirations soared much higher than Dexter's remarks imply."