Hamilton, MA Historical Overview

A Brief History of the Town of Hamilton, MA

John Winthrop Jr

In June, 1638, John Winthrop, Jr., "John Winthrop The Younger", born 1606, son of founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, bought most of present-day Essex County from Masconomet, chief of the Agawam Indians, for the sum of 20 English pounds. He was eventually given six acres to plant in 1655. He died in 1676. A memorial stone on Sagamore Hill in southeastern Hamilton marks where he was buried with his gun and tomahawk.

Hamilton began as farms in the southern part of Ipswich, MA. The first recorded land grant in this area was given to Matthew Whipple to farm, dated 1638. In 1640 the new stagecoach road from Boston, MA to Newburyport, MA (Bay Road) was laid out through the Whipple's land. In this area, which was then called "The Hamlet" (a village without a church), houses were built for early settlers. It included family names such as Appletons, Winthrops, Lamsons, and Dodges, who were attracted by countryside similar to the English farms and estates they had left behind in England.

The church, with a congregational form of government, formed the center of early village life. In 1712, forty families of the Hamlet petitioned the Town of Ipswich to allow them to build their own church closer to their homes. In 1714, this area became the "Third Parish of Ipswich". A meeting house was built on the site of the present Congregational Church. Samuel Wigglesworth served as its pastor for 52 years until 1758. Other prominent ministers who followed were Manasseh Cutler and Joseph Barlow Felt.

Dr. Cutler made his influence felt beyond The Parish/Hamilton in a number of ways. In particular, as a negotiator with Congress for the purchase of land in the Northwest Territory in Ohio. This helped shape the Northwest territory and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 governing that territory, including clauses prohibiting slavery and providing for education. Dr. Cutler organized a party of forty eight villagers from Ipswich, including his own son, to travel by covered wagon to Marietta, Ohio to establish the first permanent settlement in Ohio and to survey the land to be given to the soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War. In 1793, following a court fight against Ipswich, the Parish became incorporated as Hamilton. Dr. Cutler spoke for the petitioners who objected to paying high taxes to Ipswich. Dr. Cutler chose the name of Hamilton in honor of Alexander Hamilton.

The town center included the Congregational meetinghouse, the town green, the cemetery (1706), a cobbler's shop (1750), and the homes of some of its prominent citizens. The post office, tavern, store, and the blacksmith's shop were all added to the center in the early 1800's.

With the arrival of Boston and Maine Railroad in 1839, the population center moved gradually southward toward the depot. Depot Square became the home of the American Express Company Office, which opened in 1898.

In 1897, the Town Hall was built in the old part of town on Bay Road enabling town meetings to be held there instead of in the church vestry.

A Methodist minister's association first held a camp meeting at Asbury Grove in 1859 because it was more accessible than Eastham on Cape Cod. During the years that followed, thousands came to Asbury Grove in the summer to hear gospel preaching, to play croquet, tennis, and baseball, and to join drama and music groups. The farms in town proved to be an attractive location for Boston groups seeking land for recreation and renewal.

In the 1890's, the Myopia Hunt Club, which had been named in jest for its nearsighted founders, moving from Winchester, Massachusetts to Gibney Farm in Hamilton. Beginning as a lawn tennis and baseball club, it turned to polo, the hunt, and golf as members built large summer estates in the area. Myopia donated the land to the town of Hamilton for the General George S. Patton Memorial Park. The Park continues to be a recreation center for the town today.

In 1921 the Mandell family along with other prominent families, built the Hamilton Wenham Community House in memory of the eight men of both towns who died in military service during World War I, including the Mandell's son, Sam. They commissioned Guy Lowell, a respected architect from Boston and New York, to design the building and gave the Community House (in trust) for the use of the residents of both towns. Although in its early days the Community House offered activities such as bowling and a men's smoking room, it now features a wide range of classes and activities for all ages.


Beattie, Donald W., ed., Hamilton, Massachusetts, "Chronicle of a Country Town" for the Bicentennial Commission, 1976 .