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History of Haverhill, Massachusetts

Haverhill is a city in Essex County, at the head of navigation of the Merrimack River, 33 miles north of Boston, Massachusetts, and 15 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. Beginning in the 18th century, it first developed a tanning industry and then became the most important center for the manufacture of women's shoes. Before Haverill had any European settlers, it was an Indian village known as Pentucket, "place of the winding river." The Reverend John Ward founded Haverill in 1640 and the site was purchased from the Indians in 1642 for the price of three pounds, 10 shillings. Haverhill's legendary heroine is Hannah Dustin, who was captured by Indians and carried off along with her nurse and newborn child to Penacook, now Concord, New Hampshire. With the help of the nurse and a captured English boy, she tomahawked and scalped 10 Indians, then escaped downriver to reach her home. The village was attacked by a party of French and Indians in 1708, which resulted in 40 deaths. Haverill was incorporated as a town in 1645 and as a city in 1869. Neighboring Bradford was settled in 1649 and annexed to Haverhill in 1897. One of New England's oldest coeducational institutions was Bradford Academy, founded in 1803. It converted to an all-female school in 1836, grew to a junior college in 1932 and was authorized to confer bachelor degrees in 1971. Due to financial difficulties, it closed in 2000. Northern Essex Community College (NECC) is an accredited public, two-year college that aims to serve the people of the Greater Merrimack Valley. George Washington visited Haverhill on November 4, 1789. Following his departure, the town named the place where he had spent the night Washington Square. John Greenleaf Whittier was born in Haverhill in 1807 and lived at the Whittier homestead until 1836. Rowland Hussey Macy, now famous for Macy's Department Store in New York City, got his start in Haverhill. The first Macy's parade was in Haverhill on July 4, 1854. Alexander Graham Bell conducted early experiments with telephones in Haverhill. The first business telephone call was made in Haverhill by Thomas S. Sanders, between Sanders' home and his sole-cutting business. Haverhill's Hale Hospital, the last municipally owned hospital in Massachusetts, was sold in 2001 to Essent Healthcare, which reopened it as Merrimack Valley Hospital. For more than a century, the Haverhill Historical Society has maintained the Buttonwoods Museum in the former home of James Henry Duncan, a prominent Haverhill attorney.