Rowley, Massachusetts

According to theUnited States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 20.3 square miles of which 18.2 square miles is land and 2.2 square miles or 10.56%, is water.Rowley lies along theAtlantic Oceannorth ofCape Ann, the mainland separated from the ocean by a small portion ofPlum Islandand Plum Island Sound. The island and a portion of the marshes south of Mud Creek (part of the town's northern border) are protected as part of theParker River National Wildlife Refuge. The town has other portions which are protected, including parts of the Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area, the Georgetown-Rowley State Forest, the Willowdale State Forest, the Arthur Ewell Reservation, and the Bay Circuit Trail. Much of the eastern mainland part of town is marshy, feeding Mud Creek, Mill River and theRowley River, which constitutes part of the town's southern border.

Rowley is located 7 miles south ofNewburyport, 16 miles north ofSalem, 17 miles east ofLawrence, and 28 miles northeast ofBoston. It is bordered to the north byNewbury, to the northwest byGeorgetown, to the west byBoxford, and to the south byIpswich.

Interstate 95passes through the western end of town, with the nearest exits being in Georgetown and Boxford.U.S. Route 1, known as the Newburyport Turnpike in the area, passes near the geographic center of town, andMassachusetts Route 1Apasses through the eastern part of town, through the town center. All three roads are connected byMassachusetts Route 133, which passes from west to east through the town, becoming coextensive with Route 1A just north of the Ipswich town line and heading south with it.

Rowleyis one of the stations along theNewburyport/Rockport Lineof theMBTA Commuter Rail, providing service between Newburyport to theNorth Shoreand Boston'sNorth Station. The nearest national air service can be found at Boston'sLogan International Airport, thoughPlum Island Airport, a small general aviation airport, is located in neighboring Newburyport.


The Rowley Historical Society:Rowley has played an important part in this countries growth. In 1642, 40 armed men were sent out from Rowley, Ipswich and Newbury to disarm Passaconaway, “the great Sachem of all the tribes that dwelt in the Valley of Merrimac”. Rowley has supplied the area with finished wool through the first fulling mill, lumber from it mills, small vessel during the 1700′s, famous Ipswich clams and seafood, as well as scholars who founded new universities and an accused witch, Margaret Scott hanged during the height of the witch trials.

Rowley residents have been proud of its heritage. There have been founding celebrations over the years, the last being in 1989 featuring Rowley River activities, a grand 350th Ball on the Common, a huge parade, fairs on the common, old time movies, firemen’s muster and of course the traditional ham and bean supper.
From the earliest use of the area by Native Americans, the Salt Marsh has been an important part of daily life on the North Shore. Salt marsh haying, farming, fishing, shipbuilding, and the arts continue to link our past to the present.

The area around Essex Bay was colonized in 1634 by fisherman, farmers, and their families. Rowley was founded in 1638. The region was once famous for ship and dory building, which peaked in the late 1800s. Most of the shipbuilding was in support of the local fishing industry as well as Gloucester, Essex, Ipswich and Newburyport.
Prior to colonization by Europeans, the Great Marsh area was said to be controlled by Masconomo. During the fair weather months the indians lived off the natural resourses of the marshes as did the early settlers of Rowley. They harvested fish, a variety of shellfish and waterfowl in the marsh and estuaries. According to The History of Byfield by John Louis Ewell,who was a Rowley Historian; “When the white man came, all the territory from the Merrimack south as far as the North River of Salem and inland as far as Andover was subject to Masconomo, who (Governor) Winthrop terms “the Sagamore of Agawam …”

Salt marshes were a tremendous asset to early colonialists and settlers. The marshes were divided between the families who were the first landowners of Rowley. Salt marsh hay was an essential part of survival and had to be shared evenly between landowners. Salt marsh hay was used for insulation, roofing, and livestock feed and bedding. Milking cows whose feed was supplemented with marsh hay produced richer milk. It was used for roofing and livestock bedding because it is so difficult to burn.

Salt marsh haying declined in the 1930s as farms switched primarily to upland hay as a result of the industrialization of the area. Today, salt marsh hay is almost exclusively used as mulch.