Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

December 6, 2012

Column: Of wine, whiskey and Andover winter

Perhaps not as puritanical a place as many imagined, Andover licensed its first wine shop in 1648, two years after the town’s incorporation, and in 1654 granted a license to sell strong liquors to John Frye, a deacon of the church. Whiskey was a medicinal aid and pain killer, and, no doubt, helped early settlers cope with Andover’s harsh winters.

Rowley, which today is a beautiful town of 6,000 inhabitants abutting North Andover, is older than Andover and, during the early years, had a much bigger population than Andover (Andover and North Andover were originally one town). Rowley men began encroaching on land that was to become the official town of Andover.

This caused other men, who had an eye on Andover’s fertile soil, to guard their interests by incorporation Andover, which included a definition of its borders that protected it from encroachment. For a brief time Andover was called named “Cochichawicke” - spelled numerous ways, but the name was changed because it was difficult for outsiders to pronounce it, and it was the usual practice in the colony to name towns after English towns.

The original rule for legal settlements (as determined by the General Court) was that houses had to be built within a half mile of a church. The rule was intended to guarantee that settlements couldn’t begin without a church, and it served to keep settlers at close proximity in order to provide increased safety from Indians. Nothing prevented a person from using outlands for crops and pasture. Common lands were used for the grazing of animals and the training of militia. The Commons in North Andover is as good an example as exists of a town commons.

According to the earliest record, Andover had 23 settlers. The list includes only men and does not include indentured servants or slaves. Anne Bradstreet, America’s first published poet, was married to Simon Bradstreet, one of the first settlers and the settlements’ recognized leader.

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