SALISBURY — It was early September in 1638 when a group of 12 men received permission to begin a plantation on the northern bank of the Merrimack River, near the spot where it spills out into the Atlantic Ocean.
The land grant went to Simon Bradstreet, secretary of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, awarded by Colonial Gov. John Winthrop and the General Court. Large in size, it included what are now the communities of Salisbury, Amesbury and Merrimac, as well as the New Hampshire towns of Seabrook, South Hampton, Newton, Hampstead, Plaistow and Kingston.
In only two years the community, known first as Colchester, would be incorporated as Salisbury. With good land for farming, valuable salt marsh for fishing, hunting and haying, as well as the beauty and commerce of its ocean and river access and location on the early travel routes between Boston and Portsmouth, Salisbury was positioned to prosper. And it did, through a number of incarnations over the centuries.
In September, Salisbury will celebrate its 375th anniversary. That distinction is not going unnoticed nor are plans for festivities, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 21, on Salisbury Green. And the planning is just getting under way.
Heading up the 375th Anniversary Committee are long-time Salisbury Chamber of Commerce and Historical Commission President Maria Miles and Bruce Macdonald, assistant vice president and branch manager of the Bridge’s Road’s Institution for Savings.
“We really want this to be about history, of and for the people of Salisbury,” Macdonald said.
“We have some plans, but we’re looking for more ideas and for volunteers,” Miles said. “The Chamber of Commerce is getting behind this and we’re hoping to get others who will get involved, too.”
Salisburys Green is an appropriate place to center the festivities. The original settlement was centered on the green. Within less than a decade, the Salisbury settlement quickly expanded into what is now Amesbury — in fact, large sections of Amesbury’s downtown as well as Point Shore were part of Salisbury until a new town line was drawn up in the late 1800s.
The Sept. 21 date corresponds with Essex National Heritage Commission’s Sails & Trails weekends, Miles said. And the event will also connect with Salisbury Historical Society’s Parson’s House Museum, which is right across the street from Salisbury Green.
“We’re hoping to have a living history display of Civil War artifacts because the Parson’s House Museum has a Civil War Room,” Miles said. “I want to have a fife and drum corps to open the celebration, but I’m having a hard time lining one up. If anybody knows of one, give me a call.”
Beverly Gulazian, of the Salisbury Historical Society, said the museum will be open during the event, and society President Jim Moghabghab will discuss the history of Salisbury Beach, complete with an extensive slide show.
On the town green, Miles and Macdonald hope to set up a fun experience, where residents can come, spread a blanket and enjoy the town’s past and present. Food and craft vendors are being sought, they said, as well as local artists, old or young.
“We’d like to have a coloring contest for the children at Salisbury Elementary School, to get them involved,” Miles said.
There are discussions of an antique appraisal event in conjunction with the historic celebration, and according to Miles, those with ideas who are willing to work are welcome to get involved.
Such celebrations aren’t inexpensive, even when volunteer driven, and the Institution for Savings plans to be one of its lead sponsors. In additions, Macdonald said, there are ways other businesses and individuals can help financially, such as contributing funds or equipment and materials. Donations of event infrastructure basics, like ice, portable rest rooms, cups, plates and napkins, will be very welcome, he said.
To volunteer or offer ideas for Salisbury’s 375th Anniversary Celebration, contact Miles at 978-239-4246 or Macdonald at email@example.com.