The Town of Manchester-by-the-Sea was included in a grant of land to the Massachusetts Bay Colony made in 1629 by Charles I, who signed the charter in that year. By June of the same year the first ship, the Talbot, dropped anchor in Manchester Harbor carrying settlers who were attracted by "the promise of a safe harbor, streams of water, the sheltering hills and an abundant opportunity for building fishweirs, which offered an almost ideal spot for the planting of a new settlement." Prior to the settlers’ arrival, the Agawams, a tribe of the Algonquins, inhabited all of eastern Massachusetts. The chief, or Sagamore, who ruled in this region was named Masconomo. He was a friendly, peace loving man whose tribe was decimated by a plague soon after the arrival of the settlers.
Manchester became "Manchester" in 1645, when the people of "Jeoffereyes Creeke" requested and were granted the village name. Before that, the area was part of the town of Salem, and before that belonged to the Algonquin Indians. The settlers acquired land by purchase or by "peaceful possession" until 1700, when a final payment was made to the grandson of Masconomo. At that time, the Native Americans relinquished all right, title, and interest in the land then comprising this township. Before Manchester was settled by our immigrant ancestors the land belonged to the nativeAmericans. The chief of the tribes who claimed the area was variously known as Sagamore John of Agawam or Chief Masconomo. Much of the land in Essex County was purchased from him. It was not however, until 1700, when the town paid Masconomo's grandsons 3 pounds 19 shillings, that the title was considered clear.
The Town of Manchester was first known as Jeffrey's Creek. It changed it's name in recent times to Manchester-By-The-Sea, to distinguish itself from the larger Manchester, New Hampshire, which is not far away. It is a small town, between Beverly and Gloucester on the coast, about four and a half miles long and two and a quarter miles wide in 1895. It was founded by settlers who had moved from Salem to that area. Some settlers, members of Roger Conant's Company, may have been there as early as 1626. By 1640 the entire town consisted of about 63 people, who petitioned to become the town of Jeffrey's Creek. The name was changed upon incorporation in 1645 to Manchester
The townfolk were mostly fishermen, with a few farmers eking out a living in the rocky fields. Having a smaller harbor than nearby Gloucester, the boats tended to be smaller, but there were numerous fishing families, many of whom lost their loved ones to the dangers of the sea. Many of the fishing boat crews contained several relatives, and captains of the boats might be as young as 20. This style of fishing was a young man's job. The Manchester Vital Records show the deaths of some as young as 14 "at sea" and the oldest deaths at sea tend to be men in their 30's or early 40's. Some mariners were also involved in coastal trading, and by the time of the Revolutionary War, ships belonging to Manchester men were venturing overseas, as far as Europe, and later to the Orient. Often these ships were home ported at the larger Gloucester or Salem harbors, where goods could be offloaded and sold or traded more easily.
Later generations saw a small but thriving cabinet making industry, with the first shop being that of Moses Dodge around 1773. At it's height in 1865 there were 160 cabinetmakers. Many of the shops consisted of the owner and one to three workers or apprentices. Small shoemaking establishments were also common in Manchester. Census records show that occupations were not fixed among the smaller craftsmen. One census may record a man as a fisherman, the next as a cabinet-maker, and still another as a mariner.
At about the time of the Civil War, it was a popular resort location for wealthy people from New York and Boston, some of whom kept summer homes there. One of the earliest was the poet Richard Henry Dana, who purchased 30 acres in 1845. Masconomo House was built originally as a residence for John Wilkes Booth's brother, and was enlarged until it became what was a luxury hotel of it's time, with an amphitheater on the grounds where plays and musicals were performed. It remained a hotel until into the 20th century, but was eventually mostly torn down and turned again into a private residence. Manchester is now primarily a bedroom community, with rail links to Boston. No large hotels or motels exist in the city.
Men from Manchester were among those who died at Bloody Brook, near Deerfield in 1675. Others served at the siege of Louisburg in 1690. Manchester contributed a number of men, perhaps 75 in all, to the Revolutionary War. Like the other communities in the area, it sent its militia, about 45 men under the command of Captain Andrew Marsters, to the relief of the Minutemen at Lexington-Concord, but they turned back before reaching their destination, the battle being over. Of those in the militia, 21 enlisted in the Continental Army, and a large number of others served in other units. Privateers from among the Manchester fishermen and coastal traders also were commissioned and sent out with Letters of Marque, both during the Revolution and during the War of 1812. 85 men served in the War of 1812, and 159 during the Civil War, which saw 18 men die in action and another 5 in Confederate prisons. Lists of all of these military men can be found in Lamson's History of Manchester, Mass. 190 persons served in World War I, with only 5 deaths. In World War II about 330 Manchester citizens served, with 11 deaths.
The population of Manchester has always been smaller than it's neighbors, Beverly and Gloucester. By 1640 there were 63 persons living in the area. In 1662 there were only 20 landowners. By 1717 64 residents were taxed. At the time of the first United States census in 1790, 959 residents were enumerated, with 195 heads of families, 56 of whom were women. Of those, only one family head, Greece Black, was other than white. There were 6 other nonwhites in town, living with white families, probably as servants. By 1915 the population had grown to 2,945.
Manchester was governed, like other towns in the area, by officials elected at the Town Meetings. It is interesting to note that these were exclusively male events until into the 20th century. The first known instance of a woman (Mrs. George Silva) speaking out at a Town Meeting wasn't until the early 1920's, an event of such import that it was reported in the local newspaper, the Cricket. The first woman selectman, Suzanne Noble, was elected in 1985.
I do not know exactly when the town began to use the name Manchester-By-The-Sea. What I have read is that the name was first used on the letterhead of one of the "summer residents" in the late 1800's.