Manchester-by-the-Sea was one of the very first towns settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, with a charter signed by King Charles I in 1629. In June of that same year, the Talbot became the first ship to drop anchor in Manchester Harbor and unload its settlers who would inhabit the new town. Having become incorporated in 1645, the fledgling community made clear its moral standing by establishing laws which accentuated the kind and morally righteous citizens of the area, with such regulations in place as prohibition of slave trade, animal cruelty being a civil offense, and debt not being grounds for imprisonment.
Manchester quickly began building a reputation for its industry. The town’s first tide mill was constructed as early as 1644, with a sawmill and a grist mill following soon after in 1668 and 1684, respectively. Also in 1684, a man by the name of John Norton kickstarted the town’s future in maritime industry by starting a ship-building business on his shoreside land. By the turn of the 18th century, the townsfolk had prospered well enough that they were able to purchase each and every square foot of land on which the town was built from Masconomet, the chief of the Agawam tribe.
The town built its economy primarily on fishing and agriculture, with Manchester fishermen known in the area as some of the best mariners around. Although the town held this maritime focus for many years, with a full-fledged fleet of fishermen and all the industrial support needed to sustain them, the fishing industry suffered something of a decay. After that, some of the newly-freed workers found other work in carpentry, working wood and making cabinets for residence of the town and its surrounding area.
When the poet Richard Dana built the town’s first vacation home in 1845, a whole new horizon dawned on the town: tourism. Soon enough, Manchester had become a popular summer vacation spot, with wealthy people gathering around the watering-hole of a town from all over. As a result of the town’s new status as a summer vacation spot, Manchester was able to bloom, with a town hall and public library being founded shortly after the vacationers began to flood in. Today, Manchester remains a beautiful place to take a summer vacation, as well as boasting a new, suburban residential community.
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