Agawam

Masconomet and John Winthrop

Masconomet selling Agawam to John Winthrop
from the Ipswich Mural by Alan Pearsall

At the time of the arrival of European colonists in the 1630′s, the Ipswich area was known as Agawam but the tribe had been decimated by what is now believed to have been a hepatitis plague. The population of the Agawam region stretching from the Danvers River to the Merrimack River had been in the thousands. The sagamore (family chief) Masconomet of the Agawam tribe established friendly relations with the English, perceiving them as his best protections from raids by the Tarrantines, coastal raiding Indians from the St. John’s River Basin in New Brunswick. In an agreement with the leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Masconomet accepted the ways of the English, including Christianity. He sold to Ipswich founder John Winthrop Jr. “all the land lying and being in the bay of Agawam, soon named Ipswich, as well as land formerly reserved for my use in “Chebacco,” now the town of Essex, for the sum of 20 pounds, (about $2,800 in today’s rates.

Shells and arrowheads have been found in the fields along the Ipswich River and out to Jeffreys’s Neck. The Town hall sits at what is believed to have been the site of a village of bark-covered wigwams, and a winter campground was located on Pine Swamp Road. A larger paleoindian discovery was made at Bull Brook in the 1950′s.

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