About This Place
Marblehead is a town in Essex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 19,808 at the 2010 census. It is home to the Marblehead Neck Wildlife Sanctuary and Devereux Beach. A town with roots in both commercial fishing and yachting, locals allege that Marblehead is the birthplace of the American Navy, Marine Corps Aviation, and a yachting capital of the United States.
Marblehead was first settled as a plantation of Salem in 1629 by John Peach Sr., then set off and incorporated in 1649. Originally called Massebequash after the river which ran between it and Salem, the land was inhabited by the Naumkeag tribe of Indians under the sachem, Nanepashemet. But epidemics in 1615–1619 and 1633, believed to be smallpox, devastated the tribe. Heirs of Nanepashemet would sell their 3,700 acres (15 km2) on September 16, 1684, the deed preserved today at the town hall.
At times called Marvell Head, Marble Harbour (by Captain John Smith) and Foy (by immigrants from Fowey, Cornwall), the town would be named Marblehead by settlers who mistook its granite ledges for marble. It began as a fishing village with narrow, crooked streets, and grew inland from the harbor. The shoreline smelled of drying fish, typically cod, which were exported abroad and to Salem. The town peaked economically just prior to the Revolution, as locally financed privateering vessels pirated the seas for bounty from large European ships. Much early architecture survives from the era, including the Jeremiah Lee Mansion.