Image: Ipswich Riverwalk Mural ,Sagamore Masconomet selling Agawam to John Winthrop

At the time of the arrival of European colonists in the 1630′s, the Ipswich area was known as Agawam but the tribe had been decimated by what is now believed to have been a hepatitis plague. The population of the Agawam region stretching from the Danvers River to the Merrimack River had been in the thousands.


The sagamore (family chief) Masconomet of the Agawam tribe established friendly relations with the English, perceiving them as his best protections from raids by the Tarrantines, coastal raiding Indians from the St. John’s River Basin in New Brunswick. In an agreement with the leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Masconomet accepted the ways of the English, including Christianity. He sold to Ipswich founder John Winthrop Jr. “all the land lying and being in the bay of Agawam, soon named Ipswich, as well as land formerly reserved for my use in “Chebacco,” now the town of Essex, for the sum of 20 pounds, (about $2,800 in today’s rates.)

Shells and arrowheads have been found in the fields along the Ipswich River and out to Jeffreys’s Neck. The Town hall sits at what is believed to have been the site of a village of bark-covered wigwams, and a winter campground was located on Pine Swamp Road. A larger paleoindian discovery was made at Bull Brook in the 1950’s.

The Great Dying--Native Americans in the early 17th Century The Great Dying 1616-1619, “By God’s visitation, a wonderful plague” - The arrival of 102 Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower at Plymouth in 1620 and the settlements by the Puritans in Boston, Salem and Ipswich a decade later were accompanied by the demise of the native population of North America. “Within these late years, there hath, by God’s visitation, reigned a wonderful plague, the utter destruction, devastation, … Continue reading The Great Dying 1616-1619, “By God’s visitation, a wonderful plague”
Living descendants of the Agawam Indians Living Descendants of the Native Americans of Agawam - by M. E. Lepionka 3/6/17. Mary Ellen is a publisher, author, editor, textbook developer, and college instructor with a Master’s degree in anthropology from Boston University and post-graduate work at the University of British Columbia. In 2008 she retired to research the prehistory of Cape Ann and the Native Americans who lived here and to document … Continue reading Living Descendants of the Native Americans of Agawam
Discovery of native American shell heap on Treadwell’s Island, 1882 - Early in September 1882, Mr I. J. Potter, owner and publisher of the Ipswich Chronicle, called the attention of the officers of the Peabody Academy of Science to a shell heap which he had observed on the shore of Ipswich River on Treadwell’s Island, formerly known as Perkins Island. In one spot at the depth … Continue reading Discovery of native American shell heap on Treadwell’s Island, 1882
Emma jane Mitchell Safford The Ipswich “Indian Princess” Emma Jane Mitchell Safford - Across Green Street from the Ipswich Town Hall is a sign on a fence, commemorating Emma Jane Mitchell Safford. She was a descendant of Massasoit, Sachem (tribal leader) of the Wampanoag when the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth in 1620. While the sign is factually incorrect (the term “Indian Princess” is an English construct and Massachusetts was not named after … Continue reading The Ipswich “Indian Princess” Emma Jane Mitchell Safford
The Amazing Story of Hannah Duston, March 14, 1697 - Hannah Duston of Haverhill was born in Ipswich on High Street in 1657 while her mother was visiting her relatives the Shatswells. In 1879, a bronze statue of Hannah Duston was created by Calvin Weeks in Haverhill in Grand Army Park, honoring her escape from Abanaki captors.  The following are excerpts from an article by H.D. Kilgore in 1940. … Continue reading The Amazing Story of Hannah Duston, March 14, 1697
The Brookfield Massacre, August 2, 1675 - This is the story of William Prichard, John Ayres, John Warner and Daniel Hovey and their families, who left Ipswich to establish the doomed plantation at Brookfield, Massachusetts. In May 1660, a group of colonists moved from Ipswich to the Indian town Quaboag in Western Massachusetts, which they renamed Brookfield. Indian attacks known as “King … Continue reading The Brookfield Massacre, August 2, 1675
Who Were the Agawam Indians, Really? - (The following article is written by Mary Ellen Lepionka of Gloucester. Download the full PDF document View the references page It’s hard for people to change their stories—so embedded in deep time and official canon, so wedded to civic pride, expensive sometimes to modify—even when there is good reason to do so, such as a … Continue reading Who Were the Agawam Indians, Really?
The Bones of Masconomet - Masconomet was the sagamore (chief) of the Agawam tribe of the Algonquian native Americans when the first Puritan colonists arrived in Ipswich in 1633. He had survived the pandemic which killed 90% of the local native population in the early 1600′s. Masconomet ruled all the tribal land from Cape Ann to the Merrimack River, which … Continue reading The Bones of Masconomet
Bull Brook boys, Ipswich MA The Bull Brook Discovery - Native Americans began moving into New England after the retreat of the Wisconsin Glacier, around 12,000 BC. Artifacts discovered at Great Neck and along the riverbanks have been identified as belonging to the later Archaic period (8000-5000 years ago) and the Woodland period (2000 years ago). Evidence of a 3000-year old village was discovered along … Continue reading The Bull Brook Discovery
Legend of Heartbreak Hill, Ipswich MA The Legend of Heartbreak Hill - When the lands of Ipswich were apportioned among the settlers, the summit of Heartbreak Hill was designated as a planting lot because the Indians had cleared it for corn. Perhaps some settler was “heartbroken” to receive such an inaccessible and rocky field. The 1832 Ipswich map gives the name “Hardbrick,” and perhaps the name evolved from “Hardbrick,” which referred to the hill’s abundance of clay … Continue reading The Legend of Heartbreak Hill


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