Wenham, Massachusetts

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Wenham is a town in Essex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 4,440 at the 2000 census.

The Town of Wenham was originally settled in 1643 and has retained much of its unique historic character and tranquil rural scenery. 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. It features nearly 300 acres of parks, playgrounds and recreational lands.[1]

Wenham is closely tied to its sister town, Hamilton, sharing a school system, library, recreation department, commuter rail station and newspaper. In 2010, the community of Hamilton-Wenham was listed among the "Best Places to Live" by Boston Magazine.[2]



Wenham was first settled in 1635 and officially incorporated in 1643.[3]

English settlers first came to Wenham in the 1630s, but the area had been home to the Algonquin tribe for hundreds of years. The Algonquin were a peaceful, agricultural group who planted and stored corn, and whose numbers had been greatly reduced by a massive epidemic, probably smallpox, in the early 17th century. Until recent years, Indian artifacts were found frequently throughout Wenham, and a representative collection in the possession of the Wenham Museum.

Wenham was originally a part of Salem. Hugh Peters, the minister in Salem, preached to a group on a hill by the Great Pond around 1638, most probably to encourage settlement. The earliest land grants in the Wenham area roughly coincide with Peters' sermon. The hill was leveled in later years to make room for the ice industry at the Great Pond.

In September 1643, the General Court of Massachusetts granted that Wenham should be a town in its own right and send a representative to the General Court. 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." A church was formed in October, 1644 with John Fiske as pastor and seven families as members.

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