Plaistow Place Names

Below is a map showing three Plaistow places and the origins of their names.


1) Mankill Brook

The name of this little stream that runs between Harriman and Pollard Roads hearkens back to Plaistow’s early history when the threat of Indian raids was a very real part of everyday life. Not far from the brook lived a man named Harriman, who was killed by Indians who had concealed themselves on the stream bank among the alders. That night, Mrs. Harriman anxiously looked upon her husband’s corpse; the fear of remaining Indians stayed her footsteps. Mrs. Harriman continued to look out in horror until the morning’s light showed her that the raiding party had withdrawn.

2) Sweet Hill Road
One of Plaistow’s oldest roads was sometimes called the “County Road” in deeds of the 18th and 19th centuries. More often it was called the “road from Ezekiel Gile’s to Swetts Ferry” since Gile lived in the area of Sweet Hill Road that has been referred to for the last 125 years as Dow’s corner. Swett’s Ferry was on the shore of the Merrimack River at Rocks Village in Haverhill, MA. There was seldom need to travel any further north than Ezekiel Gile’s and settlement was sparse up there too.

The road we refer to is still one of Plaistow’s major roads. It is known today and has been so known for about 175 years as Sweet Hill Road. This is how it got its name:

“Lord” Timothy Dexter was one of this region’s most colorful eccentrics. He was born in Malden, Mass. and moved to Newburyport after the Revolution. There he made a fortune by accepting devalued Continental currency, which bills were redeemed at face value after everyone else had given up on them. After finding himself suddenly among the wealthiest men in Newburyport, Dexter’s serendipity persisted. In those days, the Clipper City was overrun with cats. Dexter put a bounty on cats and loaded them onto one of his ships. No one knew his motives until the ship returned empty from a rodent-infested island in the Caribbean Sea.

Another venture that Dexter sank capital into was trucking molasses overland from Newburyport to Concord (NH). While passing through Plaistow, one of the barrels of molasses began to leak, leaving a sugary trail over what has hitherto been known as Sweet Hill. A variant of this story holds that one or more barrels became unfastened and broke upon hitting the ground, leaving a big sticky mess.

3) Brandy Brow
At an elevation of 286 ft., the towns of Plaistow, Newton, Haverhill, and Merrimac meet at the summit of Brandy Brow Hill. According to legend, many generations ago a lone Indian had swallowed down a bottle of brandy on a cold winter night and sought the shelter of a hollow tree trunk. He was found later, frozen to death in that hollow, where he still clutched his empty bottle. There are of course, few, if any, reliable sources to substantiate this legend. Two local historians have posited other possible sources for the name. George S. Chase believed that the brow took its name after someone accidentally broke a bottle of brandy up there; another Haverhill historian, Benjamin Mirick, said that the hill was probably named for the reddish, brandy-colored stones of the hill.

Some excerpts from Plaistow 250th Anniversary Commemorative Book, pub. 1999