User:Mschorr/Merrimack Valley

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Merrimack River watershed

The Merrimack Valley is a bi-state region along the Merrimack River in the states of New Hampshire and Massachusetts, United States. The Merrimack is one of the larger waterways in the New England region and has helped define the livelihood and culture of those living along it since native times.

Major cities in the Merrimack Valley include Concord, Manchester and Nashua in New Hampshire, as well as Lowell, Lawrence and Haverhill in Massachusetts. The Merrimack Valley was a major center of the textile industry in America during the 1800s.

Geography and demographics[edit]


Approximation of towns in the Merrimack Valley

The Merrimack Valley area in Massachusetts is a community of towns and cities surrounding the Merrimack River along the New Hampshire border. The cities and towns in this area are:

Of these communities, Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill, Methuen and Newburyport are cities. Amesbury is legally a city, but officially calls itself a town. The population of the region, in 2000, was 605,853 residents, or slightly more than the city of Boston, and over one tenth of the state.

The Merrimack Valley contains a mixture of nineteenth-century industrial cities built to take advantage of the river's waterpower, modern suburbs (many built over towns dating from the 17th century), and some relatively rural areas. The western region, including Greater Lowell and Haverhill/Lawrence/Methuen, is generally more urbanized than the eastern region. The entire Valley, and particularly the western region, is a component of Greater Boston by a moderately liberal definition.

Automobile travel through the Massachusetts section of the Merrimack Valley is served primarily by Interstate 495. From Lowell and Lawrence, U.S. Route 3 and Interstate 93, respectively, head north along the valley, joining in Manchester, New Hampshire.

New Hampshire[edit]

The Merrimack Valley Region is an area of south-central New Hampshire, approximately 35 miles (56 km) wide, centered on the Merrimack River, and running from Canterbury south to the Massachusetts border.[1] Henniker marks the western extent, and Nottingham the east.

It includes portions of Hillsborough, Rockingham and Merrimack counties, as well as the state capital of Concord, and the state's two largest cities, Manchester and Nashua. Manchester boasts a large regional airport, with scheduled, commercial services. Other notable towns and cities in the region include Merrimack, Salem and Derry.

To the east is the Seacoast Region, to the west is the Monadnock Region, and the Lakes Region is to the north.

Interstate 93 bisects the region which is also served by Interstate 293, U.S. Route 3 and many New Hampshire state highways.


The largest city on the Merrimack River in Massachusetts, Lowell, owes its existence to the waterpower the river provided to run her mills.


The original settlers of the Merrimack Valley were various tribes of the Pennacook Indians. The river provided an easy means of transportation, an exceptional source of salmon as well as other fish, and the land along the river banks was suitable for hunting and sometimes farming. However, much of the soil is full of granite, and the pine forests provide poor soil.

Colonization and the Early Federal Period[edit]

The earliest European records of the river date to a French expedition under Pierre du Guast, Sieur de Monts, in 1605. By 1629, the British were moving into the area, and a land grant delineated by the river was made to a Jonathan Wheelwright in 1629.[2]

The city of Newburyport, first settled in 1635, at the river's mouth, became an important shipbuilding center during the colonial era, using lumber floated downriver from the White Mountains. Its prominence was diminished when the Middlesex Canal was completed in the first quarter of the 19th century, allowing lumber to be shipped directly downriver from the White Mountains to Charlestown, Massachusetts, and improving connections between Boston and the Merrimack Valley. Prior to this time, other small canals had been built around falls and rapids to make the Merrimack navigable, such as the Pawtucket Canal at East Chelmsford, which became Lowell.

The Industrial Revolution[edit]

While the Merrimack had been used for small manufacturing concerns for decades, in the early 1820s, a group of investors from Boston founded the city of Lowell, to take advantage of the 30-foot drop of the Merrimack over the Pawtucket Falls. Lowell, the first large-scale planned textile center in America, remained the nation's largest into the 1850s. Textile production spread up and down the Merrimack Valley in both states for the next few decades, but eventually was eclipsed after the Civil War by cities like Fall River, Massachusetts, as coal-powered mills eclipsed water-power, and seaport locations became more attractive than those only reached by rail.

Manchester's Amoskeag Mills was once the largest cotton textile plant in the world. Other major textile companies based in the Merrimack Valley included the Merrimack Manufacturing Company in Lowell, Pemberton Mill in Lawrence, and the Nashua Manufacturing Company in its namesake city. Lawrence was the site of the Bread and Roses strike, a landmark event in the history of labor relations in the United States.

Modern era[edit]

After World War II, the textile industry collapsed rapidly. After a few decades of stagnation, the "Massachusetts Miracle" came to the valley, bringing the headquarters of Wang Laboratories to Tewksbury, then Lowell. Apollo Computer located in Chelmsford and Nashua Corporation in Nashua moved beyond printing to computer products. The defense industry, for example, Raytheon in various sites and Sanders Associates in Nashua, became a major local employer. Increased development pressure from Greater Boston and the proliferation of the automobile pushed development outside of Massachusetts Route 128 to Interstate 495 and up Routes 3 and 93 into southern New Hampshire, greatly increasing the populations of these communities over the postwar years.


The Merrimack Valley region is sometimes referred to as the Valley of the Poets for its significant contribution to the development of American literary culture.[citation needed]

Anne Dudley Bradstreet was a founding mother of three towns in the Massachusetts Bay Colony: Boston, Cambridge (then Newe Towne), and the original Andover Parish, known now as North Andover, where she lived and wrote for the last half of her life. The first published poet of the New World, she died in North Andover in 1672.[citation needed]

In Haverhill and Amesbury, the family of John Greenleaf Whittier settled. Mr. Whittier was so well thought of during his lifetime, his birthday was celebrated as a national holiday.[citation needed].

A colony of writers and artists at Kittery and the Isles of Shoals included novelists William Dean Howells, Willa Cather, Sarah Orne Jewett, and poets Whittier, Lucy Larcom, and Celia Thaxter.

Lawrence is the birthplace of actress Thelma Todd, composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein and actor/singer Robert Goulet. Robert Frost spent his teenage years there, as did his future wife, Elinor Miriam White[3] They were co-valedictorians (1892) at Lawrence High School [3]. Actress Bette Davis and the writer Jack Kerouac were born in Lowell.



New Hampshire[edit]

Attractions include:

Institutions of higher education include:


  1. ^ Though the river begins in Franklin, that city is part of the Lakes Region tourist area. [1]
  2. ^ Pendergast, John. The Bend in the River. Pgs 35-36. Merrimack River Press, 1996. Tyngsborough, Massachusetts.
  3. ^ [2]

External links[edit]