This year the North Andover Society was offered a generous bequest from the Estate of Mr. Clifford Wrigley to research a topic very close to Mr. Wrigley’s heart, the earliest European origins of the settlement of Andover (initially Cochichewick Plantation). It was his utmost hope that the present 1646 date of incorporation would be rescinded when evidence proving an earlier site might come to light. Mr. Wrigley hypothesized a first settlement of 1629 on the Merrimack River which moved in 1634 to present day Central Street in Andover. According to him, these settlements were founded by Englishman William Wood, of Lincolnshire, as Mr. Wrigley liked to call him, “our hero”.
Mr. Wrigley felt he had compiled a healthy body of circumstantial evidence, but no ‘smoking gun’. In the years before his death, he gave local lectures and handed out self-published booklets with his “proofs”, he gave newspaper interviews and worked, as he put it, day and night writing a book on the topic.
After some months of investigation, we concluded that it is extremely unlikely that any European settlement was established in this area by 1629, or even by 1634. We could agree with Mr. Wrigley that there was clearly settlement here before the incorporation date of 1646. The village of Cochichewick was part of Essex County when it was created in 1642.
We looked at over 25 primary sources from the 17th century, and over 40 interpretations and local histories. We visited and corresponded with local historical societies and special collections, and contacted the State Archives and Congregational Library. We also reached out to Lincolnshire Castle in England, where Mr. Wrigley felt a “treasure trove” of documents about William Wood were stored. The results of our research have been compiled into a whole new study collection, the Wrigley Collection, which is available to visitors in our Library and Archive.
We are grateful that Mr. Wrigley provided the funds to continue investigation into and further discussion about our town origins and early settlement. Although we were unable to prove his theory, we are able to acknowledge his efforts. For more information on this project, we invite you to visit the website about the Clifford Wrigley Bequest generated by the Andover Historical Society: