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What’s in a name?

May 23, 2014

Many of the 34 cities and towns of the North of Boston region were once known by different names: Salisbury was once “Colchester,” Danvers was “Salem Village,” and Lynn was, in a confusing turn of events, incorporated as “Saugus.”  The beautiful coastal town of Manchester-by-the-Sea was once called…”Manchester.”

Okay, so originally, Manchester-by-the-Sea was known as “Jeoffereyes Creeke”.  That name did not last long and the town was renamed “Manchester” in 1645.  But why the addition of “by the sea”?

Aside from Rhode Island, each New England state has a town called “Manchester.”  During the days of railroad travel, this became a little confusing (especially since Manchesters New Hampshire and Massachusetts are only 65 miles apart).  Railroad conductors thus began to call Manchester, MA “Manchester-by-the-Sea.”  This visually descriptive name helped to differentiate Manchester, MA from the others.

The people of Manchester liked the descriptive name and took a fancy to it.  Manchester was a popular seaside resort town frequented by everyone from presidents and politicians to actors at the turn of the 20th century and the new name seemed to suit the town well in everyone’s opinion.

By “everyone” we mean “everyone but Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes.”  Holmes thought the name pretentious and would address letters to Manchester friends from “Boston-by-the-Charles.”

Manchester officially became Manchester-by-the-Sea in 1989 – so today, only Massachusetts and Rhode Island are the only two New England states without a town called “Manchester.”

(Additional Fun Fact: each New England state does have a town called “Warren”)


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