Marblehead is a coastal New England town located in Essex County, Massachusetts. Its population was 19,808 at the 2010 census. It is home to the Marblehead Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, Crocker Park, the Marblehead Lighthouse and Devereux Beach. Archibald Willard's famous painting The Spirit Of '76 currently resides in Abbot Hall. A town with roots in both commercial fishing and yachting, Marblehead is the birthplace of the American Navy and Marine Corps Aviation and a popular yachting destination.
Marblehead was first settled by Joseph Doliber in 1629 on the shore near the end of what is now Bradlee Road. Mayflower Pilgrim Isaac Allerton came approximately three years earlier, establishing a fishing village about mid-Marblehead Harbor on the town side, across from Marblehead Neck, then set off and incorporated in 1649. Originally called Massebequash after the river which ran between it and Salem, the land was inhabited by the Naumkeag tribe of Indians under the sachem Nanepashemet. But epidemics in 1615–1619 and 1633, believed to be smallpox, devastated the tribe. Heirs of Nanepashemet sold their on September 16, 1684; the deed is preserved today at the town hall.
At times called Marvell Head, Marble Harbour (by Captain John Smith) and Foy (by immigrants from Fowey, Cornwall), the town would be named Marblehead by settlers who mistook its granite ledges for marble. It began as a fishing village with narrow, crooked streets, and grew inland from the harbor. The shoreline smelled of drying fish, typically cod, which were exported abroad and to Salem. The town peaked economically just prior to the Revolution, as locally financed privateering vessels pirated the seas for bounty from large European ships. Much early architecture survives from the era, including the Jeremiah Lee Mansion.
During the late 19th century, Marblehead experienced a short-term boom from shoe-making factories. At the same time, the exceptional harbor attracted yachting and yacht clubs. It would become home to the Boston Yacht Club, Corinthian Yacht Club, Eastern Yacht Club, Marblehead Yacht Club, Dolphin Yacht Club, and the oldest junior yacht club in America, the Pleon Yacht Club.
Marblehead town officials recently banned fishing off of all public piers due to overcrowding. This ban was lifted after town officials approved regulations aimed at preventing the problem.