List of counties in Massachusetts

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Massachusetts counties

This is a list of the 14 counties in Massachusetts. Massachusetts has abolished eight[1] of its fourteen county governments, leaving five counties with county-level local government (Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Norfolk, Plymouth) and one, Nantucket County, with combined county/city government.[2][3] Vestigial judicial and law enforcement districts still follow the old county boundaries in the counties where county-level government has been disestablished, and the counties are still generally recognized as geographic entities if not political ones.[4] Three counties have formed new county regional compacts to serve as a form of regional governance, and these include: Hampshire, Barnstable, and Franklin Counties.

Jurisdictional areas for District Attorneys are created by state law and while some follow traditional county boundaries, names and geographic areas covered are often different.

Criminal matters in Essex County are handled by the District Attorney for the Eastern District; in Middlesex County by the District Attorney for the Northern District; in Worcester County by the District Attorney for the Middle District; in Dukes, Barnstable and Nantucket counties by the District Attorney for the Cape and Islands District and in Franklin and Hampshire counties by the District Attorney for the Northwestern District. The districts for the counties of Berkshire, Bristol, Hamden, Norfolk, Plymouth and Suffolk are the same in geography and nomenclature as the respective counties.[5]

Eleven other historical counties have existed in Massachusetts, most becoming defunct when their lands were absorbed into the colony of New Hampshire or the state of Maine, both of which were created out of territory originally claimed by Massachusetts colonists. The oldest counties still in Massachusetts are Essex County, Middlesex County, and Suffolk County, created in 1643 with the original Norfolk County which was absorbed by New Hampshire and bears no relation to the modern Norfolk County. When these counties were created, they were a part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which would remain separate from the Plymouth Colony and that colony's counties until 1691. Hampden County, created in 1812, is the most recently created county still in Massachusetts, although Penobscot County, Maine bore that distinction until Maine broke off from Massachusetts in 1820.[6] The majority of Massachusetts counties are named in honor of English place names, reflecting Massachusetts' colonial heritage.[7]

The term shire town is the statutory term for the Massachusetts town having a county court and administration offices; a county can have multiple shire towns.[8] County seat is the standard term used in general communications by the Massachusetts government.

List of current counties[edit]

County
FIPS code
[9]
County seat
[10][6]
Established
[10]
Origin
[6]
Etymology
[7]
Population
[10]
Area
[10]
Map
Barnstable County001Barnstable1685One of three original counties created in the Plymouth ColonyAfter its county seat of Barnstable, which is named after the English town of Barnstaple215,888396 sq mi
(1,026 km2)
State map highlighting Barnstable County
Berkshire County003Pittsfield1761From part of Hampshire County. Government abolished in 2000.[4]For the English county of Berkshire131,219931 sq mi
(2,411 km2)
State map highlighting Berkshire County
Bristol County005Taunton1685One of three original counties created in the Plymouth ColonyFor its original county seat of Bristol, Massachusetts, which is named for the English port city of Bristol - when the Town of Bristol joined Rhode Island, the name of the county was kept548,285556 sq mi
(1,440 km2)
State map highlighting Bristol County
Dukes County007Edgartown1695From Martha's Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands, which had been part of Dukes County, New York until Massachusetts gained it in 1691Formerly a part of Dukes County, New York until 1691, the land at one time was literally the possession of the Duke of York16,535104 sq mi
(269 km2)
State map highlighting Dukes County
Essex County009Salem and Lawrence1643One of four original counties created in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Government abolished in 1999.[4]For the English county of Essex743,159498 sq mi
(1,290 km2)
State map highlighting Essex County
Franklin County011Greenfield1811From part of Hampshire County. Government abolished in 1997.[4]For Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790), early American scientist, diplomat, and politician71,372702 sq mi
(1,818 km2)
State map highlighting Franklin County
Hampden County013Springfield1812From part of Hampshire County. Government abolished in 1998.[4]John Hampden (1595—1643), the famous 17th century English parliamentarian463,490618 sq mi
(1,601 km2)
State map highlighting Hampden County
Hampshire County015Northampton1662From unorganized territory in the western part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Government abolished 1999.[4]For the English county of Hampshire158,080529 sq mi
(1,370 km2)
State map highlighting Hampshire County
Middlesex County017Cambridge and Lowell1643One of four original counties created in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Government abolished in 1997.[4]For the English county of Middlesex1,503,085824 sq mi
(2,134 km2)
State map highlighting Middlesex County
Nantucket County019Nantucket1695From Nantucket Island which had been part of Dukes County, New York until Massachusetts gained it in 1691.The Town of Nantucket, itself derived from a Wampanoag word meaning "place of peace"10,17248 sq mi
(124 km2)
State map highlighting Nantucket County
Norfolk County021Dedham1793From part of Suffolk County.For the English county of Norfolk670,850400 sq mi
(1,036 km2)
State map highlighting Norfolk County
Plymouth County023Plymouth and Brockton1685One of three original counties created in the Plymouth Colony.For its seat of Plymouth, which is named for the English port city of Plymouth494,919661 sq mi
(1,712 km2)
State map highlighting Plymouth County
Suffolk County025Boston1643One of four original counties created in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Government abolished in 1999.[4]For the English county of Suffolk722,02358 sq mi
(150 km2)
State map highlighting Suffolk County
Worcester County027Worcester1731From parts of Hampshire County, Middlesex County and Suffolk County. Government abolished in 1998.[4]For its county seat of Worcester, which is named in honor of the English city of Worcester and the English Civil War Battle of Worcester in 1651, a Parliamentarian victory798,5521,513 sq mi
(3,919 km2)
State map highlighting Worcester County

Former counties[edit]

County
Created
[6]
Abolished
[6]
Fate
[6]
Cumberland County17601820Transferred to Maine
Devonshire County16741675Abolished
Hancock County17891820Transferred to Maine
Kennebec County17991820Transferred to Maine
Lincoln County17601820Transferred to Maine
Old Norfolk County16431679Abolished - most of its territory was absorbed into New Hampshire; one of four original counties created in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Oxford County18051820Transferred to Maine
Penobscot County18161820Transferred to Maine
Somerset County18091820Transferred to Maine
Washington County17891820Transferred to Maine
York County16521820Transferred to Maine - there were two periods when York County was abolished, 1664 to 1668 and 1680 to 1691

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "General Laws of Massachusetts, Chapter 34B. Abolition of County Government". Massachusetts General Court. Retrieved January 24, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on 8 June 2007. Retrieved 19 July 2007. 
  3. ^ "Find A County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2012-04-07. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Historical Data Relating to the Incorporation of and Abolishment of Counties in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts". Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Retrieved 14 January 2007. 
  5. ^ [1][dead link]
  6. ^ a b c d e f Brown, Richard and Tager, Jack (2000). Massachusetts: A Concise History. University of Massachusetts Press. ISBN 1-55849-249-6. 
  7. ^ a b Beatty, Michael (2001). County Name Origins of the United States. McFarland Press. ISBN 0-7864-1025-6. 
  8. ^ Part III, Title I, Chapter 213, §7, Massachusetts General Laws. Accessed 24 January 2008.
  9. ^ "EPA County FIPS Code Listing". EPA.gov. Retrieved 23 February 2008. 
  10. ^ a b c d National Association of Counties. = Find_a_County&Template = /cffiles/counties/state.cfm&state.cfm&statecode = MA "NACo - Find a county". Retrieved 30 April 2008. [dead link]

External links[edit]