Essex County, Massachusetts

Essex County is a county in the northeastern part of the U.S. state of Massachusetts. As of the 2010 census, the total population was 743,159,[1] making it the third-most populous county in the state. It is part of the Greater Boston area (the BostonCambridgeNewton, MA–NH Metropolitan Statistical Area). The largest city in Essex County is Lynn. The county was named after the English county of Essex.

It has two traditional county seats: Salem and Lawrence. Prior to the dissolution of the county government in 1999, Salem had jurisdiction over the Southern Essex District, and Lawrence had jurisdiction over the Northern Essex District, but currently these cities do not function as seats of government. However, the county and the districts remain as administrative regions recognized by various governmental agencies, which gathered vital statistics or disposed of judicial case loads under these geographic subdivisions, and are required to keep the records based on them. The county has been designated the Essex National Heritage Area by the National Park Service.

Coordinates: 42°38′N 70°52′W / 42.64°N 70.87°W

Essex County, Massachusetts
County of Massachusetts
County of Essex
Essex County Superior Courthouse, Salem MA
Essex County Courthouse in Salem
Seal of Essex County, Massachusetts

Map of Massachusetts highlighting Essex County

Location in the U.S. state of Massachusetts
Map of the United States highlighting Massachusetts

Massachusetts's location in the U.S.
Named forEssex
SeatSalem and Lawrence
Largest cityLynn
 • Total828 sq mi (2,145 km2)
 • Land493 sq mi (1,277 km2)
 • Water336 sq mi (870 km2), 41%
 • (2010)743,159
 • Density1,509/sq mi (583/km2)
Congressional districts3rd, 6th
Time zoneEDT


The Gerry-Mander Edit
Printed in 1812, this political cartoon illustrates the electoral districts drawn by the Massachusetts legislature to favor the incumbent Democratic-Republican party candidates of Governor Elbridge Gerry over the Federalists, from which the term gerrymander is derived. The cartoon depicts the bizarre shape of a district in Essex County as a dragon.

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.[2] In 1680, Haverhill and Salisbury, both located north of the Merrimack River, were annexed to Essex County. These communities had been part of Massachusetts' colonial-era Norfolk County. The remaining four towns within colonial Norfolk County, which included Exeter and what is now Portsmouth, were transferred to what became Rockingham County in the Province of New Hampshire. The ten large founding Massachusetts-based settlements were then subdivided over the centuries to produce Essex County's modern composition of cities and towns.

Essex County is famous as the area that Elbridge Gerry (who was born and raised in Marblehead) districted into a salamander-like shape in 1812 that gave rise to the word gerrymandering.

Due to a confluence of floods, hurricanes, and severe winter storms, Essex County has had more disaster declarations than almost all other U.S. counties, from 1964 to 2016.[3][4]

Law and government

From the founding of the Republican Party until the New Deal, Essex County was a Republican stronghold in presidential elections. Since 1936, it has trended Democratic, with Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956 and Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984 being the only Republicans to carry the county since.

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 (currently Kevin Coppinger) 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. See also: League of Women Voters page on Massachusetts counties.


Essex County is roughly diamond-shaped and occupies the northeastern corner of the state of Massachusetts.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 828 square miles (2,140 km2), of which 493 square miles (1,280 km2) is land and 336 square miles (870 km2) (41%) is water.[7] Essex County is adjacent to Rockingham County, New Hampshire to the north, the Atlantic Ocean (specifically the Gulf of Maine and Massachusetts Bay) to the east, Suffolk County to the south, Middlesex County to the west and a very small portion of Hillsborough County, New Hampshire to the far north west in Methuen. All county land is incorporated into towns or cities.

Essex County includes the North Shore, Cape Ann, and the lower portions of the Merrimack Valley.


These routes pass through Essex County:

The Lawrence Municipal Airport and Beverly Municipal Airport are regional airports within the county; the nearest commercial airports are Logan Airport in Boston and Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in Manchester, NH.

The MBTA commuter rail has two lines operating in Essex County: the Haverhill Line and the Newburyport Line, both of which go toward Boston. Close to Boston, MBTA buses also exist. The MVRTA is a bus company that connects cities within the Merrimack Valley portion of Essex County.

National protected areas

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.

The following areas of national significance have also been preserved:


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 2016779,018[8]4.8%
U.S. Decennial Census[9]
1790-1960[10] 1900-1990[11]
1990-2000[12] 2010-2013[1]

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 743,159 people, 285,956 households, and 188,005 families residing in the county.[13] The population density was 1,508.8 inhabitants per square mile (582.6/km2). There were 306,754 housing units at an average density of 622.8 per square mile (240.5/km2).[14] The racial makeup of the county was 81.9% white, 3.8% black or African American, 3.1% Asian, 0.4% American Indian, 8.2% from other races, and 2.6% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 16.5% of the population.[13] In terms of ancestry, 23.3% were Irish, 17.1% were Italian, 12.6% were English, 6.1% were German, and 3.6% were American.[15]

Of the 285,956 households, 32.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.9% were married couples living together, 13.5% had a female householder with no husband present, 34.3% were non-families, and 28.1% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.54 and the average family size was 3.14. The median age was 40.4 years.[13]

The median income for a household in the county was $64,153 and the median income for a family was $81,173. Males had a median income of $58,258 versus $44,265 for females. The per capita income for the county was $33,828. About 7.7% of families and 10.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.3% of those under age 18 and 9.4% of those age 65 or over.[16]

Demographic breakdown by town


The ranking of unincorporated communities that are included on the list are reflective if the census designated locations and villages were included as cities or towns. Data is from the 2007-2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.[17][18][19]

Rank Town Per capita
Population Number of
1 Manchester-by-the-Sea Town $69,930 $114,639 $131,136 5,137 2,047
2 Boxford Town $67,601 $137,159 $145,691 7,950 2,665
Boxford CDP $65,327 $112,656 $121,000 2,406 763
3 Marblehead Town $55,778 $99,574 $122,679 19,811 7,898
4 Wenham Town $55,054 $139,856 $159,688 4,831 1,311
Topsfield CDP $53,247 $116,667 $125,156 2,788 976
5 West Newbury Town $52,882 $104,931 $123,237 4,222 1,497
6 Andover Town $52,404 $113,936 $142,413 32,945 11,929
7 Nahant Town $51,308 $77,243 $134,875 3,420 1,531
8 Topsfield Town $50,689 $116,122 $122,794 6,075 2,039
9 Swampscott Town $48,013 $90,148 $108,004 13,826 5,577
10 North Andover Town $47,092 $95,199 $121,563 28,156 10,223
11 Newburyport City $46,327 $80,861 $117,305 27,370 10,534
12 Lynnfield Town $44,969 $101,921 $115,726 11,548 4,069
13 Newbury Town $44,349 $89,107 $120,870 6,647 2,516
Essex CDP $43,589 $77,188 $121,343 1,581 669
14 Rockport Town $43,201 $71,447 $98,587 7,021 3,020
15 Georgetown Town $42,683 $106,765 $125,417 8,083 2,790
16 Ipswich Town $42,494 $84,609 $100,000 13,127 5,473
Andover CDP $41,811 $72,440 $105,000 8,799 3,640
17 Amesbury City $41,142 $79,293 $94,946 16,267 6,543
18 Essex Town $40,213 $79,492 $115,048 3,470 1,383
Rowley CDP $39,483 $69,243 $75,481 1,370 615
19 Danvers Town $39,067 $78,593 $98,723 26,303 10,282
20 Rowley Town $38,592 $79,449 $103,197 5,815 2,254
21 Hamilton Town $38,157 $103,774 $113,000 7,809 2,532
22 Groveland Town $37,173 $91,080 $100,972 6,401 2,372
23 Beverly City $36,889 $67,733 $90,672 39,455 15,278
Salisbury CDP $36,812 $65,205 $77,119 4,735 2,117
Ipswich CDP $36,687 $70,970 $86,397 3,951 1,831
24 Merrimac Town $36,643 $76,936 $90,812 6,297 2,442
25 Middleton Town $36,194 $93,415 $100,288 8,839 2,621
Rockport CDP $36,099 $56,250 $97,241 4,952 2,137
26 Gloucester City $35,080 $59,061 $76,610 28,869 12,310
Massachusetts State $35,051 $65,981 $83,371 6,512,227 2,522,409
Essex County County $34,858 $65,785 $83,047 739,505 284,940
27 Salisbury Town $34,755 $68,194 $82,353 8,212 3,399
28 Saugus Town $34,076 $75,258 $93,125 26,516 9,917
29 Peabody City $32,442 $65,471 $80,859 50,824 20,890
30 Salem City $30,961 $56,203 $64,769 41,163 17,690
31 Haverhill City $30,574 $60,611 $76,754 60,544 24,334
32 Methuen City $29,778 $65,799 $81,190 46,785 17,508
United States Country $27,915 $52,762 $64,293 306,603,772 114,761,359
33 Lynn City $22,190 $44,367 $51,384 90,006 34,018
34 Lawrence City $17,068 $31,478 $35,606 75,761 27,004


Voter registration and party enrollment as of October 13, 2010[20]
Party Number of voters Percentage
Democratic 158,409 32.98%
Republican 57,759 12.02%
Unenrolled 261,600 54.46%
Minor parties 2,619 0.55%
Total 480,387 100%


Essex County is home to numerous libraries and schools, both public and private.


  • Merrimack Valley Library Consortium - Northern Essex and Middlesex County Libraries[21]
  • North of Boston Library Exchange - Southern Essex and Middlesex County Libraries[22]

Secondary education

Public schools

Technical schools

Private schools

Higher education



As of 2015, the county had total employment of 282,412.[7] The largest employer in the county is Massachusetts General Hospital, with over 5,000 employees.[27]


Based on deposits in the county, the five largest banks are TD Bank, N.A., Salem Five Cents Bank, Institution for Savings, Bank of America, and Eastern Bank.[28]

Essex National Heritage Area

On November 12, 1996, Essex National Heritage Area (ENHA) was authorized by Congress. The heritage area consists of all of Essex County, MA a 500-square-mile (1,300 km2) area between the Atlantic Coast and the Merrimack Valley. The area includes 34 cities and towns; two National Historic Sites (Salem Maritime National Historic Site and Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site); and thousands of historic sites and districts that illuminate colonial settlement, the development of the shoe and textile industries, and the growth and decline of the maritime industries, including fishing, privateering, and the China trade.[29] The Essex National Heritage Area[30] is one of 49 heritage areas designated by Congress, affiliated with the National Park Service.

The Essex National Heritage Commission is a non-profit organization chartered to promote tourism and cultural awareness of the area, connecting people to the places of Essex County, MA. The Commission's mission is to promote and preserve the historic, cultural and natural resources of the ENHA by rallying community support around saving the character of the area. This is accomplished through the commission's projects and programs, which include Partnership Grant Program, Explorers membership program, photo safaris, and the annual September weekend event Trails & Sails,[31] as well as other important regional partnership building projects like the Essex Heritage Scenic Byway, and the Border to Boston trail.


The towns and cities of Essex County are listed below. They are incorporated under the current laws of the State of Massachusetts, even though in several cases the incorporation was accepted as a legacy from Massachusetts Bay Colony. A large number of traditionally recognized places are not. They are not listed here but may be in the articles for the incorporated places. All the territory of the state is under the jurisdiction of a city or town.

The list does not utilize the terminology of the U. S. Census Bureau, which is defined decannually.[32] For example, the census-designated place (CDP) may or may not be comparable to any single municipality on the list. CDPs change frequently. The Bureau collects data on discrete populations defined to be appropriate to its mission at the time of the census. There is not necessarily a regard for political or traditional subdivisions, although those subdivisions typically play a major role.

The cities and towns on this list officially consider themselves to be so and are defined to be so by the laws of the State of Massachusetts. As government at the county level was dissolved in Essex County in 1999, the cities and towns are directly subordinate to the state. The county still plays a role in administrative districting by various governmental agencies in Massachusetts. Subordinate places may be defined by them on any basis, except that they have no separate corporate existence under those names.



Census-designated places

Other villages

See also


  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  2. ^ Davis, William T. Bench and Bar of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, p. 44. The Boston History Company, 1895.
  3. ^ "Frequency of Disaster Declarations". New America.
  4. ^ "Essex County, Massachusetts". New America.
  5. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections".
  6. ^ The leading "other" candidate, Progressive Theodore Roosevelt, received 21,098 votes, while Socialist candidate Eugene Debs received 2,716 votes, Prohibition candidate Eugene Chafin received 444 votes, and Socialist Labor candidate Arthur Reimer received 249 votes.
  7. ^ a b "United States Census Bureau QuickFacts: Essex County, Massachusetts". United States Census Bureau.
  8. ^ "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  9. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on May 12, 2015. Retrieved September 16, 2014.
  10. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved September 16, 2014.
  11. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 16, 2014.
  12. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 16, 2014.
  13. ^ a b c "DP-1 Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data". United States Census Bureau.
  14. ^ "Population, Housing Units, Area, and Density: 2010 - County". United States Census Bureau.
  15. ^ "DP02 SELECTED SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS IN THE UNITED STATES – 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau.
  16. ^ "DP03 SELECTED ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS – 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau.
  17. ^ "SELECTED ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS 2007-2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  18. ^ "ACS Demographic and Housing Estimates 2007-2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  19. ^ "Households and Families 2007-2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  20. ^ "Registration and Party Enrollment Statistics as of October 13, 2010" (PDF). Massachusetts Elections Division. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  21. ^ Merrimack Valley Library Consortium - Northern Essex and Middlesex County Libraries
  22. ^ North of Boston Library Exchange - Southern Essex and Middlesex County Libraries
  23. ^ Danvers High School
  24. ^ Lawrence High School
  25. ^ Lynnfield High School
  26. ^ Swampscott High School
  27. ^ "Largest 200 Employers in Essex County". Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.
  28. ^ "Deposit Market Share Report". Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
  29. ^ The National Parks: Index 2001-2003, Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, p. 104.
  30. ^ Essex National Heritage Area
  31. ^ Trails & Sails
  32. ^ "Massachusetts". United States Census Bureau. 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-10-26. This site states the definitions in use for the 2010 census.


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