The City of Methuen was originally organized as a town in 1725 when Lieutenant Stephen Barker petitioned to divide the Town of Haverhill. Governor Dummer signed the act establishing the Town of Methuen, naming it in honor of Sir Paul Methuen, a friend of the Governor's and member of the King's Privy Council. The first Town Meeting was held March 9, 1726.
Methuen operated under the Town Meeting form of government until 1917 when the state Legislature allowed the town to organize as a city. In 1921 the Supreme Judicial Court found that the City Charter had not been appropriately adopted under the Constitution of the Commonwealth. Methuen reverted back to its status as a town and established a Charter setting a Selectman/Representative Town Meeting government. That Charter remained in effect until 1973 when Methuen's first Home Rule Charter became effective establishing a 21 member Town Council and Town Manager.
Methuen's second Home Rule Charter in 1978 maintained the Town Manager/Town Council form of government, but reduced the number of councilors to nine and increased the powers of the Council. In 1993 Methuen voters approved a Charter change converting from a town to a city form of government. The position of Town Manager was changed to that of an elected Mayor. Mayor Dennis DiZoglio took office in January of 1994 becoming Methuen's first Mayor since 1921. Mayor DiZoglio's successor, Sharon M. Pollard took office January 3, 2000. Mayor William Manzi, III took office on January 2, 2006. Mayor Stephen N. Zanni took office on January 2, 2012, Mayor James P. Jajuga took office on January 1, 2018, and current Mayor Neil Perry took office on January 6, 2020.
Industrial growth in the 1800's influenced Methuen's development. Construction of the Methuen Cotton Mills at Spicket River falls in the 1820s and the increased manufacturing of hats and shoes in small factories along the Spicket River spurred the centralization of Methuen's economic, residential, and cultural activities within the area around Osgood, Broadway, Hampshire and Pleasant Streets.
Three wealthy and prominent families - the Nevins, the Tenney and the Searles played a significant role in Methuen's history and development. Thanks to those families, the City boasts some of its finest landmarks including the Nevins Memorial Library, the Searles building, Tenney Gatehouse, Nevins Home, Spicket Falls, and the Civil War Monument between Pleasant and Charles Streets.