morse information

ACCOUNTS OF WITCH TRIALS, MAPS, WILLS AND MORE of the morse family during the sixteen hundreds.   if you look through most of this information you should come away with a pretty good feel of how they lived and what there times were like.   some testimony is from anthony morse himself one of  my Great Grandfathers. 










William MORSE of Newbury, wife Elizabeth was tried and convicted of being a witch in 1679.

WILLIAM  barely escaped with his life, having been convicted of aiding and abetting her activities.

According to the family history, "Elizabeth" (who came to America from England with her husband in 1635) "was persecuted for witchcraft in 1679, thirteen years before the famous Salem (Essex County, Mass.) persecutions. The case is astounding and a whole volume is devoted to it, also in the Massachusets Archives. She was sentenced to death, but the Governor was inclined to discount some of the crazy evidence and eventually granted her reprieve, but only after she had been abandoned to rot in the dungeon of the Boston prison."



"stories of salem witchcraft"


William Morse

William MORSE [1614-1683] was a key figure in the only recorded case of supposed witchcraft in Newbury that was ever subjected to a full legal investigation. The principal sufferer in what Joshua Coffin (in his SKETCH OF THE HISTORY OF NEWBURY - 1845) calls "this tragi-comedy" was William's wife Elizabeth who resided with him in a house at the head of Market St. [later actually in Newburyport] across from St. Paul's Church for which William had received in the lot in 1645. William was then 65 years of age, a very worthy, but credulous and unsuspecting man who consequently was very easy prey to the taunting antics of a very roguish grandson who lived with them. Not suspecting any deception, the good man readily attributed all his troubles and strange afflictions to the supernatural instead of carefully analyzing the actions of those around him. With a belief in witchcraft almost universal at the time, it afforded a ready solution to anything strange and mysterious. The only person to have suspected the boy as the author of the mischief was a seaman Caleb POWELL who visited the house frequently enough to suspect that the Morse's troubles had human, rather than supernatural, origins. Caleb informed Goodman MORSE that he believed he could readily find and the source of the trouble and solve it. To add credibility to his claims, he hinted that in his many travels he had gained an extensive knowledge of astrology and astronomy. That claim, however innocently intended, led to Caleb being accused of dealing in the black arts himself--he was tried and narrowly escaped with his own life! Anthony MORSE, brother of William, gave the following testimony about the strange goings-on at his brother's house on Dec 8, 1679 [retaining the original spelling for its quaintness...]: "I Anthony Mors ocationlly being att my brother Morse's hous, my brother showed me a pece of a brick which had several tims come down the chimne. I sitting in the cornar towck the pece of brik in my hand. Within a littel spas of tiem the pece of brik was gon from me I know not by what meanes. Quickly aftar, the pece of brik came down the chimne. Also in the chimny corar I saw a hamar on the ground. Their being no person near the hamar it was soddenly gone; by what means I know not, but within a littel spas after, the hamar came down the chimny and within a littell spas of tiem aftar that, came a pece of woud, about a fute loung, and within a littell after that came down a fiar brand, the fiar being out." William MORSE was also asked to give testimony on the same day and reported instances of being in bed and hearing stones and sticks being thrown against the roof or house with great violence, finding a large hog in the house after midnight, and many strange objects being dropped down the chimney. Items in the barn were mysteriously overturned or out-of-place, shoes unexpectedly seemed to fly through the air as if thrown, and doors unexpectedly would open or close. The handwritten testimony concludes with the telling statement: "A mate of of a ship coming often to me [ie: Caleb POWELL] said he much grefed for me and said the boye [William's grandson] was the cause of all my truble and my wife was much Ronged, and was no wich, and if I would let him have the boye but one day, he would warrant me no more truble. I being persuaded to it, he Com the nex day at the brek of day, and the boy was with him untel night and I had not any truble since." When Caleb was finally acquitted, the judges looked for some other person guilty "of being instigated by the devil" for accomplishing such pranks, and for some reason selected Elizabeth MORSE, William's wife, as the culprit. [Elizabeth often served as a town midwife, and perhaps had incurred some male or professional' jealousies?] At a Court of Assistants held at Boston on May 20, 1680, Elizabeth MORSE was indicted as "having familiarity with the Divil contrary to the peace of our sovereign lord the King" and the laws of God. In spite of her protesting her complete innocense, she was found guilty and sentenced by the governor on May 27th as follows: "Elizabeth MORSE, you are to goe from hence to the place from when you came and thence to the place of execution and there to be hanged by the neck, till you be dead, and the Lord have mercy on your soul." Then, for some unexplained reason, Elizabeth was granted a reprieve on June 1, 1680 by Governor BRADSTREET. The deputies of the local court did not agree with the decision, however, and complained in Nov 1680 to have the case reopened. Testimony was again heard in the general court through May 1681. William sent several petitions pleading his wife's innocence and attempting to answer the hysterical allegations of 17 Newbury residents who submitted testimony in writing offering their reasons why they had concluded that Goody MORSE must be a witch and should be hung according to old Mosaic law. Reading the list of "reasons" today quickly strikes the 20th century mind as a dredging up of every petty annoyance, every grudge or neighborhood misunderstanding the townspeople could think of from sick cows to being snubbed in public. It was owing to the firmness of Gov. BRADSTREET in his initial decision that the life of Elizabeth MORSE was saved and the town of Newbury prevented from offering the first victim in Essex County to the witchcraft hysteria. Later town records and other contemporary sources fail to record what happened to the "vile and roguish" grandson whose attempts to torment his elderly grandparents nearly resulted in his grandmother's untimely death.
Submitted by: Carolyn G. Depp


As there have been several Persons vexed with evil Spirits, so divers Houses have been wofully Haunted by them. In the Year 1679, the House of William Morse in Newberry  in New-England, was strangely disquleted by a Daemon. After those troubles began, he did by the Advice of Friends write down the particulars of those unusual Accidents. And the Account which he giveth thereof is as followeth ;

On December 3, in the night time, he and his Wife heard a noise upon the roof of their House, as if Sticks and Stones had been thrown against it with great violence; whereupon he rose out of his Bed, but could see nothing. Locking the Doors fast, he returned to Bed again. About midnight they heard an Hog making a great noise in the House, so that the Man rose again, and found a great Hog in the house, the door being shut, but upon the opening of the door it ran out.

On December 8, in the Morning, there were five great Stones and Bricks by an invisible hand thrown in at the west [Page 24] end of the house while the Mans Wife was making the Bed, the Bedstead was lifted up from the floor, and the Bedstaff  flung out of the Window, and a Cat was hurled at her; a long Staff danced up and down in the Chimney; a burnt Brick, and a piece of a weatherboard were thrown in at the Window : The Man at his going to Bed put out his Lamp, but in the Morning found that the Saveall of it was taken away, and yet it was unaccountably brought into its former place . On the same day, the long Staff but now spoken of, was hang'd up by a line, and swung to and fro, the Man's Wife laid it in the fire, but she could not hold it there, inasmuch as it would forcibly fly out ; yet after much ado with joynt strength they made it to burn. A shingle flew from the Window, though no body near it, many sticks came in at the same place, only one of these was so scragged that it could enter the hole but a little way, whereupon the Man pusht it out, a great Rail likewise was thrust in at the Window, so as to break the Glass.

At another time an Iron Crook that was hanged on a Nail violently flew up and down, also a Chair flew about, and at last lighted on the Table where Victuals stood ready for them to eat, and was likely to spoil all, only by a nimble catching they saved some of their Meal with the loss of the rest, and the overturning of their Table.

People were sometimes Barricado'd out of doors, when as yet there was no body to do it : and a Chest was removed from place to place, no hand touching it. Their Keys being tied together, one was taken from the rest, and the remaining two would fly about making a loud noise by knocking against each other. But the greatest part of this Devils feats were his mischievous ones, wherein indeed he was sometimes Antick enough too, and therein the chief sufferers were, the Man and his Wife, and his Grand-Son. The Man especially had his share in these Diabolical Molestations. For one while [Page 25] they could not eat their Suppers quietly, but had the Ashes on the Hearth before their eyes thrown into their Victuals . yea, and upon their heads and Clothes, insomuch that they were forced up into their Chamber, and yet they had no rest there; for one of the Man's Shoes being left below, 'twas filled with Ashes and Coals, and thrown up after them. Their Light was beaten out, and they being laid in their Bed with their little Boy between them, a great stone (from the Floor of the Loft) weighing above three pounds was thrown upon the mans stomach, and he turning it down upon the floor, it was once more thrown upon him. A Box and a Board were likewise thrown upon them all. And a Bag of Hops was taken out of their Chest, wherewith they were beaten, till some of the Hops were scattered on the floor, where the Bag was then laid, and left.

In another Evening, when they sat by the fire, the Ashes were so whirled at them, that they could neither eat their Meat, nor endure the House. A Peel  struck the Man in the face. An Apron hanging by the fire was flung upon it, and singed before they could snatch it off. The Man being at Prayer with his Family, a Beesom  gave him a blow on his head behind, and fell down before his face.

On another day, when they were Winnowing of Barley, some hard dirt was thrown in, hitting the Man on the Head, and both the Man and his Wife on the back; and when they had made themselves clean, they essayed to fill their half Bushel but the foul Corn was in spite of them often cast in amongst the clean, and the Man being divers times thus abused was forced to give over what he was about.

On January 23 (in particular) the Man had an iron Pin twice thrown at him, and his Inkhorn was taken away from him while he was writing, and when by all his seeking it he could not find it, at last he saw it drop out of the Air, down by the fire : a piece of Leather was twice thrown at him; and a shoe was laid upon his shoulder, which he catching at, was suddenly rapt from him. An handful of Ashes was thrown at his face, and upon his clothes : and the shoe was [Page 26] then clapt upon his head, and upon it he clapt his hand, holding it so fast, that somewhat unseen pulled him with it backward on the floor.

On the next day at night, as they were going to Bed, a lost Ladder was thrown against the Door, and their Light put out; and when the Man was a bed, he was beaten with an heavy pair of Leather Breeches, and pull'd by the Hair of his Head and Beard, Pinched and Scratched, and his Bed-board  was taken away from him; yet more in the next night, when the Man was likewise a Bed; his Bed-board did rise out of its place, notwithstanding his putting forth all his strength to keep it in ; one of his Awls  was brought out of the next room into his Bed, and did prick him; the clothes wherewith he hoped to save his head from blows were violently pluckt from thence. Within a night or two after, the Man and his Wife received both of them a blow upon their heads, but it was so dark that they could not see the stone which gave it ; the Man had his Cap pulled off from his head while he sat by the fire.

The night following, they went to bed undressed, because of their late disturbances, and the Man, Wife, Boy, presently felt themselves pricked, and upon search found in the Bed a Bodkin, a knitting Needle, and two sticks picked  at both ends. He received also a great blow, as on his Thigh, so on his Face, which fetched blood : and while he was writing a Candlestick was twice thrown at him, and a great piece of Bark fiercely smote him, and a pail of Water turned up without hands. On the 28 of the mentioned Moneth, frozen clods of Cow-dung were divers times thrown at the man out of the house in which they were ; his Wife went to milk the Cow, and received a blow on her head, and sitting down at her Milking-work had Cow-dung divers times thrown into her Pail, the Man tried to save the Milk, by holding a Piggin side-wayes under the Cowes belly, but the Dung would in for all, and the Milk was only made fit for Hogs. On that night ashes were th rown into the porridge which they had made ready for the Supper, so as that they could not eat [Page 27] it ; Ashes were likewise often thrown into the Man's Eyes, as he sat by the fire. And an iron Hammer flying at him, gave him a great blow on his back; the Man's Wife going into the Cellar for Beer, a great iron Peel flew and fell after her through the trap-door of the Cellar ; and going afterwards on the same Errand to the same place, the door shut down upon her, and the Table came and lay upon the door, and the man was forced to remove it e're his Wife could be released from where she was; on the following day while he was Writing, a dish went out of its place, leapt into the pale, and cast Water upon the Man, his Paper, his Table, and dis-appointed his procedure in what he was about ; his Cap jumpt off from his head, and on again, and the Pot-lid leapt off from the Pot into the Kettle on the fire.

February 2. While he and his Boy were eating of Cheese, the pieces which he cut were wrested from them, but they were afterwards found upon the Table under an Apron, and a pair of Breeches : And also from the fire arose little sticks and Ashes, which flying upon the Man and his Boy, brought them into an uncomfortable pickle; But as for the Boy, which the last passage spoke of, there remains much to be said concerning him, and a principal sufferer in these afflictions: For on the 18 of December, he sitting by his Grandfather, was hurried into great motions and the Man thereupon took him, and made him stand between his Legs, but the Chair danced up and down, and had like to have cast both Man and Boy into the fire : and the Child was afterwards flung about in such a manner, as that they feared that his Brains would have been beaten out; and in the evening he was tossed as afore, and the Man tried the project of holding him , but ineffectually. The Lad was soon put to Bed, and they presently heard an huge noise, and demanded what was the matter? and he answered that his Bed-stead leaped up and down : and they (i. e. the Man and his Wife) went up, and at first found all quiet, but before they had been there long, they saw the Board by his Bed trembling by him, and the Bed-clothes flying off him, the latter they laid on immediately, but they were no sooner on than off ; so they took him out of his Bed for quietness.

[Page 28] December 29 The Boy was violently thrown to and fro, only they carried him to the house of a Doctor in the Town, and there he was free from disturbances, but returning home at night, his former trouble began, and the Man taking him by the hand, they were both of them almost tript into the fire. They put him to bed, and he was attended with the same iterated loss of his clothes, shaking off his Bed-board, and Noises, that he had in his last conflict; they took him up, designing to sit by the fire, but the doors clattered, and the Chair was thrown at him, wherefore they carried him to the Doctors house, and so for that night all was well. The next morning he came home quiet, but as they were doing somewhat, he cried out that he was prickt on the back, they looked, and founci a three-tin'd Fork sticking strangely there; which being carried to the Doctors house, not only the Doctor himself said that it was his, but also the Doctors Servant affirmed it was seen at home after the Boy was gone. The Boys vexations continuing, they left him at the Doctors, where he remained well till awhile after, and then he com-plained he was pricked, they looked and found an iron Spindle sticking below his back; he complained he was pricked still, they looked, and found Pins in a Paper sticking to his skin; he once more complained of his Back, they looked, and found there a long Iron, a bowl of a Spoon, and a piece of a Pansheard. They lay down by him on the Bed, with the Light burning, but he was twice thrown from them, and the second time thrown quite under the Bed; in the Morning the Bed was tossed about with such a creaking noise, as was heard to the Neighbours ; in the afternoon their knives were one after another brought, and put into his back, but pulled out by the Spectators; only one knife which was missing seemed to the standers by to come out of his Mouth : he was bidden to read his Book, was taken and thrown about several times, at last hitting the Boys Grandmother on the head. Another time he was thrust out of his Chair and rolled up and down with out cries, that all things were on fire ; yea, be was three times very dangerously thrown into the fire, and preserved by his Friends with much ado. The Boy also made for a long time together a noise like a Dog, and like an Hen with her Chickens, and could not speak rationally.

[Page 29] Particularly, on December 26. He barked like a Dog, and clock't like an Hen, and after long distraining to speak, said, there's Powel, I am pinched; his Tongue likewise hung out of his mouth, so as that it could by no means be forced in till his Fit was over, and then he said 'twas forced out by Powel. He and the house also after this had rest till the ninth of January : at which time because of his intolerable ravings, and because the Child lying between the Man and his Wife, was pulled out of Bed, and knockt so vehemently against the Bedstead Boards, in a manner very perillous and amazing. In the Day time he was carried away beyond all possibility of their finding him. His Grandmother at last saw him creeping on one side, and drag'd him in, where he lay miserable lame, but recovering his speech, he said, that he was carried above the Doctors house, and that Powel carried him, and that the said Powel had him into the Barn, throwing him against the Cart-wheel there, and then thrusting him out at an hole; and accordingly they found some of the Remainders of the Threshed Barley which was on the Barn-floor hanging to his Clothes.

At another time he fell into a Swoon, they forced somewhat Refreshing into his mouth, and it was turned out as fast as they put it in ; e're long he came to himself, and expressed some wilinguess to eat, but the Meat would forcibly fly out of his mouth; and when he was able to speak, he said Powel would not let him eat : Having found the Boy to be best at a Neighbours house, the Man carried him to his Daughters, three miles from his own. The Boy was growing antick as he was on the Journey, but before the end of it he made a grievous hollowing, and when he lighted, he threw a great stone at a Maid in the house, and fell on eating of Ashes. Being at home afterwards, they had rest awhile, but on the 19 of January in the Morning he swooned, and coming to himself, he roared terribly, and did eat Ashes, Sticks, Rugyarn. The Morning following, there was such a racket with [Page 30] the Boy, that the Man and his Wife took him to Bed to them. A Bed-staff was thereupon thrown at them, and a Chamber pot with its Contents was thrown upon them, and they were severely pinched. The Man being about to rise, his Clothes were divers times pulled from them, himself thrust out of his Bed, and his Pillow thrown after him. The Lad also would have his clothes plucked off from him in these Winter Nights, and was wofully dogg'd with such fruits of Devilish spite, till it pleased God to shorten the Chain of the wicked Daemon.

All this while the Devil did not use to appear in any visible shape, only they would think they had hold of the Hand that sometimes scratched them ; but it would give them the slip. And once the Man was discernably beaten by a Fist, and an Hand got hold of his Wrist which he saw, but could not catch; and the likeness of a Blackmore Child did appear from under the Rugg and Blanket, where the Man lay, and it would rise up, fall down, nod and slip under the clothes when they endeavoured to clasp it, never speaking any thing.

Neither were there many Words spoken by Satan all this time, only once having put out their Light, they heard a scrapmg on the Boards, and then a Piping and Drumming on them, which was followed with a Voice, singing, Revenge! Revenge! Sweet is Revenge! And they being well terrified with it, called upon God; the issue of which was, that suddenly with a mournful Note, there were six times over uttered such expressions as, Mas! Mas! me knock no more! me knock no more! and now all ceased.

The Man does moreover affirm, that a Seaman (being a Mate of a Ship) coming often to visit him, told him that they wronged his Wife who suspected her to be guilty of Witchcraft; and that the Boy (his Grandchild) was the cause of this trouble; and that if he would let him have the Boy one day, he would warrant him his house should be no more troubled as it had been ; to which motion he consented. The Mate came the next day betimes, and the Boy was with him until night ; after which his house he saith was not for some time molested with evil Spirits.

Thus far is the Relation concerning the Daemon at William [Page 31] Morse his House in Newbery.  The true Reason of these strange disturbances is as yet not certainly known : some (as has been hinted) did suspect Morse's Wife to be guilty of Witchcraft.

One of the Neighbours took Apples which were brought out of that house and put them into the fire; upon which they say, their houses were much disturbed. Another of the Neigh-bours, caused an Horse-shoe to be nailed before the doors, and as long as it remained so, they could not perswade the suspected person to go into the house ; but when the Horse-shoe was gone, she presently visited them. I shall not here inlarge upon the vanity and superstition of those Experiments, [Page 32] reserving that for another place : All that I shall say at present is, that the Daemons whom the blind Gentiles of old worshipped, told their Servants, that such things as these would very much affect them ; yea, and that certain Characters, Signs and Charms would render their power ineffectual; and accordingly they would become subject, when their own directions were obeyed. It is sport to the Devils when they see silly Men thus deluded and made fools of by them. Others were apt to think that a Seaman  by some suspected to be a Conjurer, set the Devil on work thus to disqulet Morse's Family. Or it may be some other thing as yet kept hid in the secrets of providence might be the true original of all this Trouble.


The last Will and Testament of Anthony Morse of Newbury, Mass. 

I anthony Morse of Newbury in the name of god amen i being sensible of my own frality and mortality being of parfit memory due make this as my last Will and testament cominding my sole to god that gave it and my body to the dust in hope of a joyful rasurixtion and as for my wourly goods I dispose of as foloieth,

I gve and bequeth to my son Joshua Morse making him my lawful eaire all my housing and lands both upland and meddow with my freehould and privilidge in all comon lands both upland and meddow alweais provided that if the toen of Newbury dou divide any part of the comon lands that then the on half part of that land which belongeth to me which cometh by vartu of my freehould shall be the lawful inheritance of my son benieman morse all so I geve to my son Joshua morse all mv cattell an horsis and sheep swuine and all my toules for the shumaking trade as allso my carte wheles dung pot plow harrow youkes chains houes forkes shovel spad grin stone yt as allso on father bed which he lieth on with a bouister and pillo and a pair of blinkets and covrlitt and tou pair of shetes a bed sted and mat a pot and a brass cetell the best of tou cettles and a belmetell scillet and tou platars and a paringer and a drinking pot and tou spoons and the water pails and barils and tobes all these about named I geve to my son Joshua and his eaires of his own body begoten lawfully than then all aboue geven to my son Joshua shall Return to the Rest of my children upon the peayment on good peay to my sons widow besides what estate she att any time brought to her husband she the said widdo shall enjoy the houl estate on half year before she shall surrender - also I geve to my son Robard Morse Eighteen pounds or his children to my son Peter morse or children L3, to my son Anthony morse children I geve L3 to my son Joseph morses children I geve L12 to my son Benieman Morse or children I geve L12 to my dafter Thorlo or children L12 to my dafter Stickney or children I geve L12 to my dafter Newman children I geve L12. to my dafter Smith or children I giev L12. to my grand son Richard Thorlo I geve an sheep to my grandson Robard Homes I giev fiev pounds allso I geve the Remainder of my housall which is not in partikelar geven to my son Joshua in the former part of this my will to all my children equally to be devided between them and my grand children hous parents are dead, namely anthonys children, Josephs children hanahs children, allso I dou by this my last will allow and geve loberty to my son Joshua morse hou is my Eaire to make sail and dispose of that land by the pine swamp which I had of Benieman lacon of that pece of land by John Akisons hous if he see Resan so to do. allso I du by this will apoynt my son Joshua morse to be my sole executor to peay all debtes and legacies by this will geven and to Receve all debtes allso I dou apoynt my loving and crisian frinds Cap danil Pears and Tristram Coffin and thomas noyes to be oversers of this my last Will Allso I dou apoynt my Exicutor to peay my son Robard and son peter within on yeare after my death on the other to be peaid within three years the plas of peayment to be newbury my will is that my son benieman shal have the on half of all comon lands when devided as above said in witnes thereof I anthony morse have hearunto Set my hand and seall this 28 Aprell, 1680.


Sinid selid and onid in the presense of us



that whereas I anthony morse in this my will abou said have geven on half of all comon lands if devided to my sonn benieman mors; my meaning iss that my sonn benieman shall haev the on half of my proportion of lands when devided, but my sonn Joshua to haev all my Rights in the lower comon this is my mind and will as witnes my seall this 20 of aprell 1680


Witness to this part of my Will

James Coffin

Mary Brown

Joshua Morse is allowed Exer to this will.

[Source: The Morse Genealogy, 1903/5, which notes that the will is on file at Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts]



North American Witches and Witch Trials

1679 N/Eng/MA Newbury 1 Gowell, Caleb m A seaman accused of disturbing the Morse household. He served his apprenticeship with the "Wizard" Francis Norwood (Source: Heyrman, Christine. Commerce and Culture, The Maritime Communities of Colonial Massachusetts, 1650-1750)


Hello! I am a research assistant from the Morse Society looking for any and all connections with the branch of Hannah Morse daughter of Anthony Morse of England and Newbury Mass. and Anne Cox, married to a Thomas Newman of the Ispwich Mass. area. Thomas and Hannah Newman were married I believe on the 8 June 1665. They had 2 known children: Sara Newman married to a John Safford Jr. and Thomas Newman married to a Rose Sparks. Please contact me if you think you may be related to this line or may have information to share. Thank yo so much! Molly Bryant-White


The settlers of Newbury were much like those of much of what is now northern Essex county. They were not religious enthusiasts or pilgrims who fled from religious persecution in England. They were substantial, law abiding, loyal English tradesmen, of that staunch middle class that was the backbone of England.

Those that settled Newbury came at different times and on different ships, between the end of April, 1634 and July, 1635. In one of the first ships arriving in 1635, came Thomas Parker a minister along with a small company of settlers. They went first to Agawam (Ipswich) and later along with their countrymen, who came from Wiltshire, England, to Newbury.

On May 6, 1635, before the settlers had moved from Ipswich to Newbury, the House of Deputies passed a resolution that Quascacunquen was to be established as a plantation and its name was to be changed to Newbury. So Newbury was named before the first settlers arrived, interestingly Thomas Parker had taught school in Newbury, Berkshire, England before coming to America.

The first settlers came by water from Ipswich, through Plum Island Sound, and up the Quascacunquen River, which was later renamed the Parker River. There had been a few fisherman occupying the banks of the Merrimack and Parker rivers before this, but they were not permanent settlers. These settlers came to Newbury in May or June of 1635. Ships from England began to arrive almost immediately with cattle and more settlers. Governor Winthrop, in his history of New England under the date of June 3, 1635, records the arrival of two ships with Dutch cattle along with the ship "James", from Southampton bringing more settlers.

Newbury was, therefore, begun as a stock raising enterprise and the settlers came to engage in that business and to establish homes for themselves. In total fifteen ships came in June and one each in August, November and December bringing still more families to the settlement.

There is no record of how many families arrived in the first year. Houses were erected on both sides of the Parker River. The principal settlement was around the meeting house on the lower green. The first church in Newbury could not have been formed before June, as some of those recorded at its formation are not recorded as having arrived until June.

In the division of land the first settlers recognized the scripture rule, "to him that hath shall be given," and the wealth of each grantee can be estimated by the number of acres given him.

The reason for establishing Newbury, as stated above, was not in fleeing from religious persecution but to utilize vacant lands and to establish a profitable business for the members of a stock-raising company.

When they arrived in Massachusetts, the settlers found that the state had established the Congregational form of religion. Everyone was taxed to support the Congregational Society and was commanded to attend worship at the meeting house. The Reverend Thomas Parker was a member of the stock raising company and was also the minister of the settlers.

The outlying settlers had a long journey to the meeting house. The congregations were in danger of attacks from Indians and wild beasts on their way to and from worship. There was a constant dread of attack during the time of services and all able bodied inhabitants were required to bring their weapons to church. Sentinels were posted at the doors.

In spite of the hardship and danger, the population steadily increased in number and gradually improved its worldly condition. Being cramped for room, the settlers moved up to the upper or training green. This was in order to get tillable land and engage in commercial pursuits. This movement began in 1642. Each had been allotted half an acre for a building lot on the lower green, on the upper green each was to have four acres for a house lot. Also on the upper green a new pond was artificially formed for watering cattle.

The new town gradually extended along the Merrimack River to the mouth of the Artichoke River. It appears that all desirable land in this region was apportioned among the freeholders by October 1646. The land beyond was ordered to lie perpetually common. This tract of common land was a part of Newbury and what is now West Newbury. The Indian threat had disappeared as most of the Indians in the region had been exterminated by an epidemic. The first record of an Indian living in Newbury is in January 1644, when a lot was granted to "John Indian."

Over the following years some notable, though not earth shaking events occurred in Newbury.

In 1639, Edward Rawson began the manufacture of gun powder in what was probably America's first powder mill.

Newbury had a trial for witchcraft thirteen years before the trials in Salem. In 1679, Elizabeth Morse was accused. She was condemned three times to die, but was reprieved and spent her last years in her home, at what is now Market square in Newburyport.

The first American born silversmith was Jeremiah Dummer of Newbury who apprenticed to John Hull, an Englishman. He practiced his trade in what is now Newburyport. Jeremiah was the father of Governor William Dummer the founder of Gov. Dummer Academy. Jeremiah's brother-in-law, John Coney, engraved the plates for the first paper money made in America.

In 1686, when the upper Commons (West Newbury) were divided among the freeholders of the town of Newbury, Pipestave Hill was covered with a dense forest of oak and birch. These trees were cut and used to make staves for wine casks and molasses hogsheads. For many years, this industry, the first of its kind in America, flourished and the place is still called Pipestave Hill.

Limestone was discovered in Newbury in 1697. Previous to this all the lime used for building was obtained from oyster and clam shells. Mortar made from this lime was very durable and came, in time, to be almost as hard as granite. This business prospered for many years until a superior quality of lime was discovered elsewhere.

The first toll bridge and shipyard in America were also in Newbury. The latter giving rise to the ship building industry which was to determine the prosperity of Newburyport in the coming centuries.

In West Newbury, in 1759, Enoch Noyes began making horn buttons and coarse combs of various kinds. This was the beginning of the comb making business in Newbury and other places. This business continued and grew, moving to Newburyport in its later years, closing in 1934.

Lt. Gov. William Dummer, in his will of 1761 directing that a school house be erected on the most convenient part of his farm. In 1762, the first schoolhouse was erected, a low one story building about twenty feet square commencing its sessions in 1763, this is the oldest boarding school in America.

In 1764, that part of Newbury which had become the commercial center was divided off and made Newburyport. This action relegated Newbury to a rural and fishing community.

In 1784, the first incorporated woolen factory in Massachusetts was erected at the falls of the Parker River in Newbury.

In 1851, still another section of Newbury was added to what is now the city of Newburyport. The area known as "Joppa", was the area from Bromfield Street, along the shore to Plumb Island.

Today Newbury is a quiet New England town, rich in heritage, the birthplace of many things American, not the least of which is an abiding reverence for our past.



Newbury was settled in 1635 by approximately one hundred colonists, mostly from Whiltshire, England. The colonists, along with their minister Rev. Thomas Parker and settled along the Quascacunquen River (now known as the Parker River). Quascacunquen is a Native American word meaning waterfall and referred to the falls where Center St. now crosses the Parker River. These falls have played a prominent role in the history of the region. Before the arrival of Europeans the falls was the location of a major Native American village and later, in 1636, became the site of the first water-powered mill in Newbury. In 1794 the first textile mill in Massachusetts was built at the falls and the Parker River continued to provide water power for local industry until the 1980's.

Newbury is best described as three villages; Byfield, Old Town and Plum Island, each with its own history, all located within one town. Byfield is a former mill village along the banks of the Parker River. The economy of the Old Town section was based on prosperous farms located on the coastal plain. Plum Island was a Victorian resort community and is now a densely populated beach community.






Research LINKS



Last Will and Testament of Anthony Morse



Newbury - The Settlement and the Morses




Witchcraft Cases


NEWBURY - A Brief History



national geographic - salem

Morse society

essex co. ma.




essex books

Winthrop Society



Samuel Finley Breese Morse, artist, inventor of the telegraph and Daguerreotype Camera,  a seventh generation descendant of Anthony Morse.

"Samuel is the real inventor of the internet if you think about it."  

"What Hath God Wrought!"  Samuel Morse

National Geographic (article mentions S. Morse)

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