Essex, Massachusetts

Essex is a town in Essex County, Massachusetts, 26 miles north of Boston. Incorporated as a town in 1819, Essex was previously a part of the town of Ipswich and was then called Chebacco Parish. The first European settlers arrived in 1634. At that time, the land formed part of an area inhabited by Native Americans of the Agawam tribe. The name Chebacco is Agawam in origin and refers to a large lake whose waters extend into neighboring Hamilton. Conomo Point, the easternmost part of the town, is named for the Sagamore or Chief of the Agawams, Masconomo, the leader of the tribe in the late 17th century.

Popular history tells that one written dictate was issued stating that “no man shall raise a meeting house,” so a local woman, Madam Varney, assembled the town’s women and construction of a meeting house was carried out by them while the men looked on.

The main source of income for the town of Essex comes from the shellfish industry and tourism. The fried clam was reportedly “invented” in Essex by Chubby Woodman early in the 20th century. Due to the exceptional quality of the clam that lives in the tidal river in Essex, local restaurants thrive by preparing it along with other types of seafood. Tourists are mainly drawn to Essex for its restaurants but in recent years leisure activities such as excursions down the Essex River in boats or self-guided kayak trips have become increasingly popular.

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