By Patrick Murray

The early beginnings of Beverly Farms stem directly from the determination and leadership of the five planters, Conant, Balch, Trask, Woodberry, and Palfrey.  They settled a territory called the Naumkeag[1], and the Agawam[2].  Invited by the Indians who sought protection, the new settlers found a land of promise.  William Woodberry, the brother of Thomas Woodberry, one of the five planters, built the first house in Beverly Farms in 1630 located on Prince Street[3].  The Land around Woodberry’s estate was granted and thus it began.  

In 1671 Roger Conant requested that the are be named Budleigh, after Budleigh England, because Beverly got the nickname of “beggarly”.  His request was not granted.  Later the Farms became known as the West Farms because of the owner John West.  Later it became known as Beverly Farms due to the large holdings of West, Woodberry, Thissell, and Ober, and this name still remains today.  The "Faaahms", as the natives call it, is an upper crust little village in the north east corner of Beverly, four and a half miles away from the center of Beverly[4]. Beverly Farms is the residential section of Beverly that borders the Atlantic from West Beach to Mingo Beach.  The Farms begins around the intersection of Boyle Street and Hale Street and continues northeast until you hit Manchester or north into Wenham.

The railroad tracks split Beverly Farms in half.  On one side, the ocean side, are the long narrow private roads, the large estates hidden behind the trees.  On the other side, are the two family houses, the two bedroom capes, and the one-story ranches. This side makes up the bulk of Beverly Farms also known as the other Beverly Farms.   This side is the most close-knit self-sufficient neighborhoods in Beverly[5].                     

The Beverly Farms Train Station is on Oak Street opposite Vine Street.  Its wide overhanging roof protected Victorian period passengers.  Mail sacks were loaded and unloaded on the docks.  The train helped to develop Beverly Farms by bringing the wealthy Bostonians who otherwise would not have come.  West Beach and the natural beauty of the area attracted them.  They soon started building large estates for summer homes.  A marble horse trough that still stands today in the middle of the road at the intersection of Hart Street and Hale Street, as a reminder of the days when horses were the main form of transportation.  Unlike the rest of the city Beverly, the Farms did not have a trolley system.  This was because they did not want the blacks and the rift raft of the city coming into Beverly Farms.  The streetcar tracks actually stop right in the middle of the street a little after the intersection of Boyle Street and Hale Street, which is the turn off to get to the Beverly Farms.  They had a place right before that intersection where they could turn the trolleys around or store them if they wanted.

Beverly Farms used to be all Yankees, the summer people.  Over the years Anglo-Saxon Protestants, English, and Scottish people moved in.  The majority of the people were Irish and Italians[6].  There was an old saying that the Irish worked inside and the Italians worked outside, because a lot of Italians were stonemasons.  Beverly Farms has a couple great churches.  Saint John’s Episcopal Church is located at 701 Hale Street. This Tudor-style stone church was built in 1902 by architect Henry Vaughn, who was the architect for the National Cathedral in Washington D.C., Saint Margaret’s a Roman Catholic Church also on Hale Street was organized in 1887.  Pastor John J Downey held its first mass on July tenth.  The Second Baptist Church on the corner of Hale Street and  Hart Street was organized in 1826.  It was the first meetinghouse in 1830.  The building that stands today was rebuilt in 1844. Now it is a quite large congregation many of whom come from Gordon College.

Beverly Farms was known for its long green fields and deep woods[7].  Because of it’s fertile soil there were a lot of farms in the Farms.  The most common crops were hay, Indian corn, rye, oats, barley and potatoes.   Beverly Farms was used for farming for over 200 years.  It was almost without trees for wood was the farmers best paying crop.  Stonewalls were used to divide the land, partly in order to clear the fields.  

Its small town commercial center begins at the corner of Hale Street and West Street.  West Street was the main business street.  At two West Street was the Beverly Farms Public Library, now on Vine Street.  It was erected in 1915.  It is said to be a fountain of knowledge to all who would come drink from it.  Adjacent to the library housed the Beverly Farms Telephone Exchange.  Here a crew of operators would stand by and answer the phone by asking,” What number please”, and then they would patch you through.  The Farms lost this when the dial tone system was introduced to the city of Beverly.  At four West Street was the engine house and at eight West Street was the Beverly Farms Post Office.  One of the Farms advertising businesses was Mullen Advertising.  One of the fifteen largest advertising firms in New England, that is located in one of old Farms estates.  By the early 1900’s there were more shoemakers than farmers.  Shoe shops on the side of their estates were common, making shoes for the winter months.

Beverly Farms had its own parochial and public schools.  There were two early schools in the Farms: East Farms and West Farms.  The West Farms School was built in 1802 and is now an antique shop on Fish Flake Hill.  It had three previous identities before the antique shop.  From 1802 to 1858 it was a grammar school grades one thru eight, then it was the cities first high school, and then it was a dwelling house.  A single school was built in 1872.  A new brick school was built 1902 and continued being used until 1978.  It was turned into condominiums in 1981.  Beverly Farms elementary students usually attended Beverly High School.   Beverly Farms is also the home of Saint Margaret’s Parochial, Gordon College, the Divinity school, and Endicott Junior College.

Directly across from the Parish house at 705 Hale Street stood the old firehouse. This was built in 1889, and contained a steam fire engine and a team of horses.  This service was provided by the city of Beverly.  The old steam engine firehouse has been replaced with a new firehouse equipped with modern equipment and fire trucks.  In 1940 the Deputy Chief for the Farms District was John M. Publicover.  Engine number three was stationed at four West Street with Howard Morgan as the stationmaster, and Ladder number two was next door at six West Street.  The fire department had a regular meeting of engineers the first Tuesday of every month.  The Beverly Farms Firemen’s Home Benefit Association was organized on January nineteenth, 1889. Its meeting were held annually on the last Saturday in December.[8]

West Beach was a part of the original seventeenth century private land grant by the town of Salem.  The West Beach Corporation was charted by the state in 1852 at the request of Farms residents and Beverly officials. West Beach is still private.  In 1890 you would see bathhouses along the beachfront until 1910 when the West Beach Board of Directors ordered all bathhouses off the beach to make room for the Grand Pavilion.  It was built in 1911 and had 224 locker rooms, but on July fifteenth 1948 it burned to the ground and is replaced with today’s cinder block bathhouse.  The West Beach Pier was originally used for docking boats.  There was a sign near the entrance that states, "This pier [is] for the sole use of the members of the West Beach Corporation and subscribers.”  In the later years the pier was a great jumping place before it got wiped out in the blizzard of 1978. The Michael J. Cadigan Junior American Legion Post 46 was Beverly Farms baseball team. Henry Cabot Lodge was a member of Post 46.

The geography of the Farms forced a confrontation over who should govern it. The Farms residents complained that they had to travel too far too go to town meetings, that they got too much of Beverly’s tax burden, and did not get comparable services like fire protection, water pipes, and roads.  The Divisionists as they called themselves lost the first time around in 1886 when they tried to secede.  State legislature voted 131 to 78 against the proposal. The second time around in 1887 they hired lobbyists to plead their case. The house passed the bill 131 to 87, but Governor Oliver Ames argued that the lobbyist tainted the vote by paying off representatives, so he vetoed the bill. The third time in 1888 the secession failed again and the Farms remained a part of Beverly. Although it wasn’t able to secede the farms remained a self-sufficient village.  It had its own churches, schools, fire station, and library, train depot, post office, Cadillac dealership, and West Street; the main drag could boast two grocery stores the First National, and A&P.  Although Beverly Farms has changed a bit over the years, it has retained its beauty; it has an interesting history in which it allows it to be quaint, and yet moving enough to keep up with the times.[9]                                                                 


[1] Naumkeag – fishing place
[2] Agawam – resort for fish of passage
[3] Williams Blakeslee, The History of Beverly Farms Massachusetts
[4] Kevin Coyne, “ The other Beverly Farms,” North Shore Sunday, 14 July 1985, page 2
[5] Kevin Coyne, “ The other Beverly Farms,” North Shore Sunday, 14 July 1985, page 4
[6] Beverly City Documents 1930
[7] Katherine Peabody Loring, The Earliest Summer Residents of the North Shore and Their Houses
[8] City of Beverly, City Directory 1911
[9] Kevin Coyne, “ The other Beverly Farms,” North Shore Sunday, 14 July 1985, page 3
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