List of counties in Massachusetts

Last updated
Counties of Massachusetts
Berkshire CountyFranklin CountyHampshire CountyHampden CountyWorcester CountyMiddlesex CountyEssex CountyNorfolk CountyNorfolk CountyNorfolk CountySuffolk CountyBristol CountyPlymouth CountyDukes CountyNantucket CountyBarnstable CountyList of counties in Massachusetts
List of counties in Massachusetts
Location Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Number14
Populations10,172 (Nantucket) – 1,503,085 (Middlesex)
Areas48 square miles (120 km2) (Nantucket) – 1,513 square miles (3,920 km2) (Worcester)
Government County government
Subdivisionscities, towns, villages, unincorporated communities, census designated place

The U.S. state of Massachusetts has 14 counties. Massachusetts abolished eight [1] of its fourteen county governments between 1997 and 2000, but the counties in the southeastern portion of the state retain county-level local government (Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Norfolk, Plymouth) or, in one case, (Nantucket County) consolidated city-county government. [2] [3] Vestigial judicial and law enforcement districts still follow county boundaries even in the counties whose county-level government has been disestablished, and the counties are still generally recognized as geographic entities if not political ones, along with continuing to provide geographical demarcation for National Weather Service weather warnings. [4] Three counties (Hampshire, Barnstable, and Franklin) have formed new county regional compacts to serve as a form of regional governance.

Contents

Mismanagement of Middlesex County's public hospital in the mid-1990s left that county on the brink of insolvency, and in 1997 the Massachusetts legislature stepped in by assuming all assets and obligations of the county. The government of Middlesex County was officially abolished on July 11, 1997. Later that year, the Franklin County Commission voted itself out of existence. The law abolishing Middlesex County also provided for the elimination of Hampden County and Worcester County on July 1, 1998. This law was later amended to abolish Hampshire County on January 1, 1999; Essex County and Suffolk County on July 1 of that same year; and Berkshire County on July 1, 2000. Chapter 34B of the Massachusetts General Laws allows other counties either to abolish themselves, or to reorganize as a "regional council of governments", as Hampshire and Franklin Counties have done. The governments of Bristol, Plymouth, and Norfolk Counties remain substantially unchanged. Barnstable and Dukes Counties have adopted modern county charters, enabling them to act as efficient regional governments. Dukes County in particular has a strong regional planning agency known as the Martha's Vineyard Commission. [5]

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, Hampden, Norfolk, Plymouth and Suffolk are the same in geography and nomenclature as the respective counties, [6] and the District Attorneys for the Eastern, Middle, and Northern Districts are commonly known as the Essex County, [7] Worcester County, [8] and Middlesex County District Attorneys, [9] respectively.

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. [10] The majority of Massachusetts counties are named in honor of English place names, reflecting Massachusetts' colonial heritage. [11]

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. [12] County seat is the standard term used in general communications by the Massachusetts government.

FIPS code

The Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) code, used by the United States government to uniquely identify counties, is provided with each entry. FIPS codes are five-digit numbers; for Massachusetts the codes start with 25 and are completed with the three-digit county code. The FIPS code for each county in the table links to census data for that county. [13]

List of current counties

County
FIPS code [14] County seat [15] Est. [16] Origin [10] Etymology [11] Population [16] Area [16] Map
BarnstableCounty 001 Barnstable 1685One of three original counties created in the Plymouth Colony After its county seat of Barnstable, which is named after the English town of Barnstaple 212,990396 sq mi
(1,026 km2)
Map of Massachusetts highlighting Barnstable County.svg
BerkshireCounty 003 Pittsfield 1761From part of Hampshire County. Government abolished in 2000. [4] For the English county of Berkshire 124,944931 sq mi
(2,411 km2)
Map of Massachusetts highlighting Berkshire County.svg
BristolCounty 005 Taunton 1685One of three original counties created in the Plymouth Colony For 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 kept565,217556 sq mi
(1,440 km2)
Map of Massachusetts highlighting Bristol County.svg
DukesCounty 007 Edgartown 1695From 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 the possession of the dukes of York 17,332104 sq mi
(269 km2)
Map of Massachusetts highlighting Dukes County.svg
EssexCounty 009 Salem,
Lawrence
1643One of four original counties created in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Government abolished in 1999. [4] For the English county of Essex 789,034498 sq mi
(1,290 km2)
Map of Massachusetts highlighting Essex County.svg
FranklinCounty 011 Greenfield 1811From part of Hampshire County. Government abolished in 1997. [4] For Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790), early American scientist, diplomat, and politician70,180702 sq mi
(1,818 km2)
Map of Massachusetts highlighting Franklin County.svg
HampdenCounty 013 Springfield 1812From part of Hampshire County. Government abolished in 1998. [4] John Hampden (1595—1643), the famous 17th century English parliamentarian466,372618 sq mi
(1,601 km2)
Map of Massachusetts highlighting Hampden County.svg
HampshireCounty 015 Northampton 1662From unorganized territory in the western part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Government abolished 1999. [4] For the English county of Hampshire 160,830529 sq mi
(1,370 km2)
Map of Massachusetts highlighting Hampshire County.svg
MiddlesexCounty 017 Lowell,
Cambridge
1643One of four original counties created in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Government abolished in 1997. [4] For the English county of Middlesex 1,611,699824 sq mi
(2,134 km2)
Map of Massachusetts highlighting Middlesex County.svg
NantucketCounty 019 Nantucket 1695From 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"11,39948 sq mi
(124 km2)
Map of Massachusetts highlighting Nantucket County.svg
NorfolkCounty 021 Dedham 1793From part of Suffolk County.For the English county of Norfolk 706,775400 sq mi
(1,036 km2)
Map of Massachusetts highlighting Norfolk County.svg
PlymouthCounty 023 Brockton,
Plymouth
1685One of three original counties created in the Plymouth Colony.For its seat of Plymouth, which is named for the English port city of Plymouth 521,202661 sq mi
(1,712 km2)
Map of Massachusetts highlighting Plymouth County.svg
SuffolkCounty 025 Boston 1643One of four original counties created in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Government abolished in 1999. [4] For the English county of Suffolk 803,90758 sq mi
(150 km2)
Map of Massachusetts highlighting Suffolk County.svg
WorcesterCounty 027 Worcester 1731From 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 victory830,6221,513 sq mi
(3,919 km2)
Map of Massachusetts highlighting Worcester County.svg

Former counties

County
Created
[10]
Abolished
[10]
Fate
[10]
Cumberland County 17601820Transferred to Maine
Devonshire County 16741675Abolished and then absorbed into Maine
Hancock County 17891820Transferred to Maine
Kennebec County 17991820Transferred to Maine
Lincoln County 17601820Transferred to Maine
Norfolk County 16431679Abolished – most of its territory was absorbed into New Hampshire; towns remaining in Massachusetts were absorbed into Essex County. One of four original counties created in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Oxford County 18051820Transferred to Maine
Penobscot County 18161820Transferred to Maine
Somerset County 18091820Transferred to Maine
Washington County 17891820Transferred to Maine
York County 16521820Transferred to Maine – there were two periods when York County was abolished, 1664 to 1668 and 1680 to 1691

See also

Related Research Articles

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References

  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. Archived from the original on 2014-01-13. Retrieved 2012-04-07.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "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. "Martha's Vineyard Commission - mvcommission.org". www.mvcommission.org. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-03-08. Retrieved 2017-03-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 Brown, Richard & Tager, Jack (2000). Massachusetts: A Concise History . University of Massachusetts Press. ISBN   1-55849-249-6.
  8. 1 2 Beatty, Michael (2001). County Name Origins of the United States . McFarland Press. ISBN   0-7864-1025-6.
  9. Part III, Title I, Chapter 213, §7, Massachusetts General Laws. Accessed 24 January 2008.
  10. "County FIPS Code Listing for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts". US Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved September 27, 2017.
  11. "EPA County FIPS Code Listing". EPA.gov. Archived from the original on 2011-05-14. Retrieved 2008-02-23.
  12. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/MA/PST045219
  13. 1 2 3 "NACo – Find a county". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on 2010-06-01. Retrieved 30 April 2008.