Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

December 6, 2012

Column: Of wine, whiskey and Andover winter

Bill Dalton
The Andover Townsman

---- — 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.

To provide incentives for settlements, the Massachusetts Bay Colony allotted settlers from three to ten acres, the number of acres determined by a man’s social status. The criteria as to how social status was ascertained are not recorded, although the earliest settlers were from class-conscious England so most determinations would have been clear. No doubt, however, there were some disgruntled families.

It was against the rules in the colony’s earliest days to dress above one’s status in church or to sit in pews reserved for a person of higher social status.

This rule was enforced by church deacons. Four of the original Andover settlers were recorded as having the honorable title “Mr.” before their name; the rest were called “Goodman.” According to Claude M. Fuess in his book, “Andover, Symbol of New England ( Andover and North Andover Historical Societies, 1959) “Goodman” was the equivalent of “citizen.”

In 1647, the General Court authorized the laying out of a road from Andover to Reading and another road from Andover to Haverhill. Within 25 years of its beginning, Andover had grown to more than 300 people.

It wasn’t easy to settle in town, as it welcomed only “respectable people.” The selectmen would look into the respectability of a potential inhabitant. Building a home without permission could result in a heavy fine. Tramps, of course, were unwelcome. In 1665, the town constable arrested a tramp as well as the citizen who provided him shelter.

A primary factor that determined Andover and similar towns’ growth was the short life span of women, upon whom childbirth took its toll. A widower would remarry and raise a second family.

Death was commonplace, with one family recording the death from disease of three children in one week. It was not unusual for the name of a departed child to be assigned the next born of the same sex.

However, life was abundant, with the number of children birthed by a mother often being in double digits.

The first town meeting of record in Andover was held in January 1656, for the purpose of clarifying land ownership matters.

Dudley Bradstreet, a son of Anne and Simon, was Andover’s first town clerk. He later served in many other capacities, including selectman.

Although early Andover was centered in what is now North Andover, by 1707 enough people had migrated to the south end of Andover that the first signs of a split between the towns emerged in the form of the south people wishing for their own church.

The primary reason was simple pragmatism: if you lived in the south section, it was a long ride to get to the existing church.

Obviously, that is how South Church got its name.


Bill Dalton writes a weekly column for the Andover Townsman. His email address is