Boundary Dispute Between Beverly and Wenham, 1678

According to the early charters of Massachusetts, town officials were charged with clarifying boundaries of local towns. This 1678 document, whose information was originally recorded in the Salem town book, declares that the land in question actually belongs to Wenham, it being the “ancientist” town. Many of the founding records of early Cape Ann communities involve disputes over land/town boundaries. In a time before standardized streets or other landmarks often geographical features were used to mark boundaries.

At a meeting of the Selectmen1 27th . 7. 1678 present

In answer to the petition2 of the said Inhabitants of Wenham (to give our minds concerning a division between Beverly & Wenham) & to grant them their own proprietors3, which without their line; To the first we desire that Confiding Wenham is the ancientist4 Town & the line between Wenham and Beverly may be settled in favor to Wenham. Beverly having far larger accommodation5 in proportion than Wenham, & as for granting them the land They motion without their land, we find that the town of Salem has already granted away so much land that they cannot spare any now without much lightening themselves & the land they desire is already granted to be within that line which Salem allowed to Salem Village for the maintenance of a minister amongst them.

Vera Copia6 as it stands Entered in Salem Town’s book fol. 282: as attested John Croads, Town Clerk at age

As per margins Mr. Jos Grafton Mr. Ph Cromwell Sam Gardner Junr. Edw. Flint

Jno. Higginson

1 Selectmen = leaders of the town
2 Petition = written request
3 Proprietors = people to look at the boundary
4 Ancientist = oldest
5 Larger accommodation = larger amount of land
6 Vera copia = a true copy


“Boundary Dispute Between Beverly and Wenham”, 1678, Beverly Historical Society, Beverly, MA. *

*now Historic Beverly