West Newbury’s Upcoming Bicentennial

(Photo Source: www.rocksvillage.org)

(Photo Source: www.rocksvillage.org)


In 1819, West Newbury was established as a separate town from Newbury and 200 years later, local citizens will take part in an extensive celebration this upcoming February and July. West Newbury has a rich history that is not common knowledge in the community and surrounding areas. This year is time for the town to reflect on its past and look forward to the future.

(Photo Source: www.wnewbury.org)

Hung between two telephone poles on Main Street lies a large sign promoting awareness of the bicentennial for local residents and people passing through the town. The West Newbury bicentennial is being organized by a specific committee and they have scheduled meetings in the First Floor Hearing Room of the town hall. Their notes are publicly available on the West Newbury website. There will be a variety of activities “chosen to appeal to residents of all ages and will attract participants from the many, varied, groups in the town,” as the committee’s mission statement says.

The land was first settled on in 1635 by a group of men and their families who sailed from England. Due to growth in population, more people began to settle westward beyond the Artichoke River. As an agricultural community, life was generally peaceful, despite a couple accounts of conflict between the settlers and native Indians. Active since 1896, the oldest standing farm is Long Hill Orchard, located next to the small town ice cream shop, Scoops. Throughout the town’s lifespan, representatives have valued the rural character of the town and have made extensive efforts to preserve land, historical houses, and stone wall used to divide farming land.

Around 1875, the town had a booming economy and was making a half million dollars in business a year. Combs were largely manufactured and at one point there were 32 comb shops in the town and three factories. The first one was founded by Enoch Noyes and a Hessian soldier named William Cleland. They had great success and others followed the profitable trend. Shoes were also a valued product in the town, with seven factories in the town.

West Newbury resides on the shore of the Merrimack River, making transportation to other towns convenient. Weaving through the town and leading into the Merrimack River was the Artichoke River and the Indian River, where mills were built and used. The Artichoke River was dammed up to create the Upper and Lower Artichoke Reservoirs, in between Rogers Street and Main Street. The Indian River flows into Mill Pond before going to the Merrimack River.

Transportation across the Merrimack River was by ferry, until 1794 when the first Rocks Village Bridge was built as a covered bridge with stone piers as a foundation. The covered aspect of the bridge allowed horses and cattle to cross without fear. After being swept away, it was rebuilt in 1828, and then again with steel and cement in 1912 for safety precautions.

West Newbury is the hometown of a few famous people such as Lenny Mirra, a State Representative serving in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Also, John Cena a professional wrestler and TV celebrity, who was born in the neighboring town Newburyport in 1977. He was on a Pentucket wrestling team as a child and attended Central Catholic High School, in Lawrence. His mother currently resides in West Newbury.

The town’s elementary school, Dr. John C. Page School, used to be an all-boys religious academy. The Pentucket Middle and High School were built around 1954. The district has high MCAS score averages and students have opportunities to achieve high academic standards with the option of accelerated and AP classes.

While maintaining a small country town feel, West Newbury is among the most affluent areas in the Essex County. Its natural land consists of rolling hills, open fields, woodlands, ponds, and a network of hiking trails. Because of the small population, the community is cohesive and has many close ties. Make sure to mark your calendar with the upcoming events and join the celebration of our past, present, and future.