Wenham, Massachusetts

Wenham is a town in Essex County, Massachusetts, originally settled in 1635 and incorporated in 1643. It is a town of many open views of farm lands, lakes, woodlands, historic homes and old stone walls that accompany its winding tree-lined roads, featuring nearly 300 acres (120 ha) of parks, playgrounds and recreational lands. Wenham is closely tied to its sister town, Hamilton, sharing a school system, library, recreation department, commuter rail station and newspaper. Hamilton-Wenham was recently listed among the “Best Places to Live” by Boston magazine.

When English settlers first came to Wenham in the 1630s, the area had been home to Native American Algonquian peoples for centuries. In 1643, the General Court of Massachusetts declared Wenham a town in its own right. It was the first town to be set off from Salem. Because many of its early settlers came from Suffolk County in England, it is presumed that the name of the town derives from two small villages there, Great Wenham and Little Wenham. Wenham means “home on the moor.”

The Industrial Revolution, which changed the face of many Massachusetts towns in the 19th century, left Wenham largely untouched. It remained a small community, with one notable exception: Wenham’s ice industry brought its name to the attention of people as far away as London, where hotels in the 1850s advertised: “We serve Wenham Lake Ice.”

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