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.