The county was created by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony on May 10, 1643, when it was ordered “that the whole plantation within this jurisdiction be divided into four sheires“. Named after the county in England, Essex then comprised the towns of Salem, Lynn, Wenham, Ipswich, Rowley, Newbury, Gloucester, and Andover, which were subdivided over the centuries to produce the modern composition of cities and towns.
Like several other Massachusetts counties, Essex County exists today only as a historical geographic region, and has no county government. All former county functions were assumed by state agencies in 1999. The sheriff and some other regional officials with specific duties are still elected locally to perform duties within the county region, but there is no county council, commissioner, or county employees. Communities are now granted the right to form their own regional compacts for sharing services.
Because of Essex County’s rich history, which includes 17th century colonial history, maritime history spanning its existence, and leadership in the expansions of the textile industry in the 19th century, the entire county has been designated the Essex National Heritage Area by the National Park Service.Essex County is home to numerous libraries and schools, both public and private.
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