Native Americans inhabited what is now northeastern Massachusetts for thousands of years prior to European colonization of the Americas. At the time of European arrival, Massachusett and Naumkeag people inhabited the area south of the Merrimack River and Pennacooks inhabited the area to the north. The Massachusett referred to the area that would later be renamed Andover as Cochichawick.
In 1634, the Massachusetts General Court set aside a portion of land in what is now Essex County for an inland plantation, including parts of what is now Andover, North Andover and South Lawrence. In order to encourage settlement, early colonists were offered three years' immunity from taxes, levies, and services (apart from military service). The first permanent settlement in the Andover area was established in 1642 by John Woodbridge and a group of settlers from Newbury and Ipswich.
Shortly after they arrived, they purchased land from the Massachusett sachem Cutshamekin for "six pounds of currency and a coat" on the condition that a local company of indigenous people headed by a man named Roger be allowed to plant corn and take alewives from a local water source. Roger's Brook, a small stream which cuts through the eastern part of town, is named in his honor.
In May 1646 the settlement was incorporated as a town and was named Andover. This name was likely chosen in honor of the town of Andover in England, which was near the original home of some of the first residents. The first recorded town meeting was held in 1656 in the home of settler John Osgood in what is now North Andover.
The old burying ground in what is now North Andover marks the center of the early town. Contrary to popular belief, the towns split due to the location of the Old North Church, also located in what is now North Andover. The villagers from the southwestern part of the town were tired of walking all the way to the extreme north of what was then Andover and decided to build their own South Church central to what is now Andover.