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 (chief) Masconommet of the Agawam tribe established friendship with the English, perceiving them as his best protections from raids from 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, alias Ipswich, as well as land formerly reserved for my use in Chebacco,” now known as Essex for the sum of 20 pounds, (about $2,800 in today’s rates.)