This week we mark the 275th anniversary of the Incorporation of the Town of Wareham. Click here for details of the planned events.
Although Wareham was incorporated in 1739, its history does not begin there. Home to three tribes of Wampanoag Indians, the region was first settle by Pilgrims in the early 1600s. This tract of land was called Agawam, meaning “a place where fish are caught.”
Agawam was purchased from the Indians by Plymouth in 1666. Known as the “Agawame Purchase,” it sold for twenty-four pounds, ten shillings to four men from Plymouth. In 1678 it was recorded to be about 8000 acres, and in 1682, the land was sold for two-hundred and eighty pounds to John Chubbuck, Samuel Bates, John Fearing, William Beale, Seth Pope, Joseph Bartlett and Josiah Lane.
These gentlemen met to lay out “home lotts” that were sixty acres each. They also set apart meadow land, a lot for a grist mill on the Agawam River near the present herring run, a place for an animal pound, roads, or “convenient publike and private high waies,” and a cemetery or “burying acre.” The oldest marked grave has been reported as that of Samuel Bates erected in 1730 in Agawam Cemetery.
The Agawam Plantation eventually extended to the shores of Buzzards Bay including Long Neck, Agawam or Great Neck, Indian Neck, Swift’s Neck, Cromeset and several islands, Onset, Wicket’s, Mashnee and Hog. The area and population grew and eventually, its citizens wanted to become a separate town. In 1738, Israel Fearing, along with a group of men, began planning for Wareham’s incorporation.
The Town of Wareham became incorporated in 1739 through a legislative process. The General Court of Massachusetts had to be petitioned in order to become a separate precinct. In 1738, Israel Fearing, then Justice of the Peace, was sent on horseback, carrying the petition to Boston. There he met Plymouth Representative, James Warren, to whom he delivered the petition along with a fee of twenty shillings.
But many of the residents preferred that the area become a town rather than a precinct. Consequently, a second petition was prepared in 1739 by Ebenezer Burgess, Thomas Hamlen and others and was delivered. The petition was granted and the bill was signed by Governor Jonathan Belcher on July 10, 1739. The fee for this second petition was quite a bit more. In Israel Fearing’s “Booke” (or record he kept since 1722), he lists the amounts donated by private citizens totaling 54 shillings including ten of his own.
While the population of the town in 1739 is unknown, at that time, any town that contained forty voters was entitled to a representative in Boston. For forty years following incorporation Wareham did not qualify, but was allowed to send an agent instead of a representative to be heard at the General Court in Boston.
We’re planning a whole host of celebratory events. Visit our calendar page to learn more.
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Wareham Village is conveniently located at the I-495/I-195 interchange. Off either highway, take Route 28 (Cranberry Highway) South.