19 North Main Street, Thomas Manning house (1799)

19 North Main Street, Thomas & Margaret Heard Manning house (1799)

Dr. Thomas Manning (1775-1854) bought this lot from Robert Wallis in 1799 (171:65) and built the house at 19 North Main St. He married Margaret Heard, daughter of John Heard, May 24, 1807. She died Aug. 13, 1829, age 46 years.

Dr. Manning was a pioneer in the use of the smallpox vaccine in America. After importing a sample in 1799 from England, he carried out a successful test on his family members and distributed the vaccine without payment to other practitioners, purposefully breaking the monopoly held by Professor Benjamin Waterhouse of Harvard.

Dr. Manning built and operated the mill and dam at Willowdale at the site of Foote Brothers Canoes. He invested in the Lace Factory on High St. and played a prominent role in town events. He died on February 3, 1854, at the age of eighty, bequeathing the greater part of his estate to the Town for the purpose of establishing “a High School in the town of Ipswich, which should be free to the youth of the town of both sexes.” His son, Joseph E. Manning, contested the will on the ground that his father was incompetent to make such an instrument, in which he failed to receive his proper share, and the will was disallowed. But in order to fulfil his father’s wishes in part, he conveyed in 1857, securities of an estimated value of $10,000 to the Trustees of the School.

Members of the Manning family lived in the house until 1858, when it became the First Church parsonage. Rev. Robert Southgate Succeeded Rev. David Kimball in 1851 and remained the Pastor until 1868. The ladies of Ipswich under the leadership of Mrs. Southgate and Mrs. Lucretia Perkins formed an association at the beginning of the Civil War, forwarding supplies to the hospitals for care of the wounded through the United States Sanitary Commission (USSC) and the United States Christian Commission (USCC), civilian relief agencies established to coordinate aid for Union troops. Augustine Heard, the brother of Margaret Heard Manning, gave $10,000 with his nephews for the relief of soldiers.

19 North Main Street, Thomas Manning house
The Thomas Manning house in the 1800s. The Ipswich Female Seminary is on the right.
Old Parsonage Ipswich MA, 19 North Main St.,
The Dr. Thomas Manning house in 1978, from the MACRIS site. The Christian Science Church is on the right.
Thomas Manning house brick arches
The massive basement of the house has several brick arches.

Thomas Franklin Waters described this house in the two-volume Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, published in 1905:

“The Arthur Abbott homestead was inherited by his son Philip Abbott, who sold the house and land, to Robert Wallis, Jan. 17, 1799 (171: 65), and he to Dr. Thomas Manning, who built the mansion, now used as the Parsonage of the First Church, Jan. 17, 1799 (185: 146).” (Vol. 1)

“Mr. Augustine Heard conveyed to the Parish on June 11, 1858, the family mansion of the late Dr. Thomas Manning, which he had recently purchased from Joseph E. Manning, son of the deceased. He prescribed in the deed of conveyance that it should be used only as a Parsonage, and that there should never be any building erected “between the dwelling now standing thereon, and the said land of said Cowles and within seventy feet of said Main Street.'” (Vol. 2)

Front stairway in the entrace hall at the Thomas Manning house
Front stairway in the entrance hall at the Thomas Manning house

In the 1960’s Donald Fowser purchased this rundown Federalist period house and restored the house with authentic moldings and a curved veranda overlooking a beautiful garden.

Kitchen fireplace in the Thomas Manning House
Kitchen fireplace in the Thomas Manning House
Rumfords Roassters
A Rumford Roaster is on the right side of the fireplace above
Thomas Manning house room
A small room in the rear of the Thomas Manning house

The Rev. David Kimball of First Church became pastor in 1805 and served for over 40 years. He was a staunch abolitionist whom William Lloyd Garrison referred to as “zealously affected in our cause.” He built his home, still standing facing the north side of the church. The New England Anti-Slavery Convention assembled at Boylston Hall on May 27, 1834. William Oakes, Esq., Ipswich’s famous botanist, was appointed vice president, and the Rev. David Kimball, was named an officer. The Thomas Manning house became the new parsonage after Rev. Kimball’s retirement.

secret chamber where fugitive slaves were hidden
A trap door in the floor of a small room in the rear of the house leads down to a secret chamber where fugitive slaves were hidden.

By 1838 the anti-slavery movement was gathering strength in Ipswich. The Anti-Slavery Society held its meetings in the Methodist vestry. The Ipswich Female Anti-Slavery Society met at Mrs. Jabez Farley’s house and at the home of Lucy Caldwell at 16 Elm Street, the house which is now featured at the Smithsonian. The Methodist Church allowed anti-slavery meetings but the more ardent Abolitionists split away to form the Methodist Wesleyan Church, meeting in Mr. Hammatt’s Hall on North Main street. The churches reunited several years later

hidden fugitive slave chamber
The hidden fugitive slave chamber in the Thomas Manning house has a small opening to the outside .

The cellar of the Thomas Manning house is very large and includes a number of brick storerooms. A trap door in the floor of a small room in the rear of the house has a ladder where you can descend into a small chamber. A steel door opens into another small chamber, which has a small square opening in the foundation that leads to the back yard. Fugitive slaves were hidden from bounty hunters and would be taken after dark to the river behind the house, where they would float down to the wharf and board freight ships to Nova Scotia.

Underground Railroad map
Map of the Underground Railroad by Wilbur H. Siebert

The Underground Railroad in Massachusetts” by Wilbur H. Siebert identified three underground routes starting from Salem and diverging northward: one through Danvers, Andover and South Lawrence; another through Danvers, Georgetown and Haverhill; and a third through Beverly, Ipswich, Newburyport and Amesbury.

From Salem three Underground trails diverged to the northward, one through Danvers, Andover, Frye Village, South Lawrence, and across the New Hampshire line; another by way of Danvers, Georgetown, and Haverhill into the same state ; and the third by way of Beverly, Ipswich, Newburyport, and Amesbury to Seabrook, New Hampshire. At Beverly Dr. Ingalls Kittredge, a graduate of Harvard in 1820, was an indefatigable manager of the Underground service. From 1836 on he lived at the corner of Cabot and Federal streets, where both his house and purse were always open to the refugees. In Ipswich there were zealous workers, and at Newburyport we know of three by name. Captain Alexander Graves, a Mr. Jackman and Richard Plumer. He lived in a two-story frame house at No. 63 Federal Street, with a barn in the rear, and went at night in his spring wagon with his son Wendell Phillips, a lad of eight or nine years, to the south end of the bridge over Parker River for the fugitives brought there by the men from Ipswich.”

There’s no mention of who the Ipswich “men” were. I’m curious if it may have actually been the wife of Thomas Manning, Margaret Heard. This is a good mystery for us to explore.

The names of the Underground Railroad agents in Ipswich are not known, nor is it known if Dr. Manning was working with them. Ipswich legend is that they made their escape on the River behind the house, but there are records of escapees being taken on the Bay Road to the Parker River bridge in Newbury, where they were transferred to Richard Plummer of Newburyport and hidden underneath bags of grain in his cart. There are legends in Newburyport of “an intricate tunnel system” under the Old Burying Ground beneath the center of town to the wharf area, and indeed an old tunnel was discovered recently during an excavation.

Thomas Manning house hip roof framing
Hip roof timber framing in the Thomas Manning house
View of Ipswich from the Thomas Manning house roof
View of downtown Ipswich from the Thomas Manning house roof

Thomas Manning / Old Parsonage, 19 North Main Street Preservation Agreement

This house is protected by a preservation agreement between the owners and the Ipswich Historical Commission. Protected elements include:

  • Exterior front and side facades
  • Central frame including primary and secondary members
  • Wooden architectural elements including stairway, doors, paneling and other elements of the front and rear halls and the first floor right rear room.

Biography of Dr. Thomas Manning

(from The Genealogical and Biographical History of the Manning Families of New England By William Henry Manning)

“THOMAS MANNING (John-Joseph-Thomas-Richard) born February 7, 1775 at Ipswich Mass. He was a physician and a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society. It is believed that he practiced for a short time in Marblehead at the beginning of his career, but he soon located in Ipswich and remained a successful physician there to the time of his death. He was among the progressive members of his profession and the first doctor who introduced inoculation for kine pox in his vicinity, his experiments being completely satisfactory. He was a justice of the peace, and on June 1, 1802 was commissioned surgeon of the 2d regt, 2d brigade and 2d division of the State militia. In advancing the business interests of the town he was energetic. By will he left a large sum of money to found the Manning School at Ipswich and this under the wise oversight of his nephew, Richard H. Manning and others, became an established and highly successful institution, which has enjoyed an excellent reputation to the present time. He married on May 24, 1807 Margaret Heard, born 1783, who died August 13, 1829 . She was a daughter of Hon. John Heard; her mother’s maiden name according to an old manuscript was Sarah Staniford. Dr. Manning died Feb. 3, 1854 at Ipswich.”

Further reading:

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