Last Summer, as their forefathers had for 300 years before them, the people of Ipswich and Rowley were making a comfortable living out of the rich juicy clams from the briny marsh along the Parker River. Last winter they suddenly discovered a proclamation posted on their land. The government had taken over the lands for a Wildlife Refuge. The clam battle was on. Arguments were almost as thick as Ipswich clams. Ipswich hunters were afraid of losing their private hunting reserves. Ipswich farmers were afraid of losing their land.
Said one resident,
“I found they had taken all the land on my which my privy sets. I can go into my house, but I can’t go into my privy.” But Ipswich clam diggers were the most vociferous. Said they…”Ipswich clams have been fostered and protected by local law, and are recognized as the world’s best. Now the ducks will eat most of them, paddle about and cover up the rest. Without clams, where would Ipswich be?”
Patiently the Department of the Interior presented its case….Hunters will profit by a wildlife refuge nearby. Nobody has to leave his land except for a few summer residents. Clam diggers can go right on digging. And besides, the ducks don’t eat clams; they eat mussels. Resorted the diggers…mussels! That’s what we have been cleaning out of the flats for years! Now they want to put them back to feed the ducks.
A month ago, armed with evidence, righteous wrath, and Governor Tobin, the citizens advanced on Washington. There they joined forces with Massachusetts’ new senator, Leverett Saltonstall, and moved on Secretary Harold Ickes’ ornate air-conditioned meeting room. They got a promise that the Secretary would keep the clams in mind. Ickes added that the Department of the Interior “has not been notorious for destroying wildlife.”
Plum Island-The General Court on October 17, 1649 divided Plum Island among three towns, granted to Ipswich 2/5, Newbury 2/5, and Rowley 1/5. The salt marsh hay, sand, and wildlife were valuable assets to the towns. In the late 1800’s summer and resort communities sprung up at the northern end, as well as at Grape Island … Continue reading Plum Island
History of Plum Island-Excerpts from “Plum Island,” Publications of the Ipswich Historical Society, by Thomas Franklin Waters Who was the first European, voyaging along the coast, who saw the surf-beaten shore of Plum Island, with its fringe of white sand dunes, and its pine forests in the back ground? The Sagas of the Northmen record a voyage of … Continue reading History of Plum Island
The Northern End of Plum Island-Nancy Virginia Weare spent 33 years at her family’s summer camp was at Plum Island. After the Parker River Wildlife Refuge was established, she moved to a home on Great Neck in Ipswich overlooking Plum Island. In 1993, after Nancy retired, she wrote “Plum Island: The Way It Was.” Nancy Weare passed away in December, 2017. The … Continue reading The Northern End of Plum Island
The Early History of Plum Island-Nancy Virginia Weare spent 33 years at her family’s summer camp was at Plum Island. After the Parker River Wildlife Refuge was established, she moved to a home on Great Neck in Ipswich overlooking Plum Island. Nancy was a member of The Ipswich Historical Society, The Museum of Old Newbury, The Maritime Museum, The Sons and … Continue reading The Early History of Plum Island
Nancy Weare-Nancy Virginia Weare passed away in Exeter on December 12 of this year at the age of 92. She taught at the Brown School in Newburyport for 17 years. She spent 33 years at her family’s summer camp was at Plum Island, and after the Parker River Wildlife Refuge was established, she moved to a home … Continue reading Nancy Weare
The shipwrecks at Ipswich Bar-Featured image: Map from Plum Island: The Way It Was by Nancy V. Weare The Ipswich Bar has a long history of tragic shipwrecks. Its swift currents and shallow waters are especially dangerous during storms, and many ships have gone aground. In 1802 and again in 1852 the Merrimack Humane Society of Newburyport constructed shelters at Sandy … Continue reading The shipwrecks at Ipswich Bar
The last cottage on Plum Island-(This article was written by Beverly Perna before the cottage was torn down, and has been updated.) An iconic Ipswich landmark, the last privately owned cottage on the Ipswich end of Plum Island, was turned over to the Fish and Wildlife Service and was taken down in 2016. Boaters and Great Neck residents were most familiar with … Continue reading The last cottage on Plum Island
The steamship “Carlotta”-The excursion boat Carlotta was built in 1878 at Rogers Point Boar Yard at the end of Agawam Avenue, and sailed from the Town Wharf to points on the Neck and Plum Island for 35 years. William J. Barton wrote about the Carlotta: “From Brown’s Wharf, the steamer Carlotta, a local steamboat owned by Nathaniel Burnham … Continue reading The steamship “Carlotta”
300 years on Grape Island-Grape Island is a part of the town of Ipswich that was once a small, but thriving community of fishermen, farmers, and clam diggers. There was an abundance of farmland, fish and fowl for the people who lived on this narrow, isolated strip of land.
Wrecks of the sand schooners-These are photos of two-masted sand schooners, several of which wrecked at Steep Hill Beach, Crane Beach and Plum Island. Featured image: Wreckage on Steep Hill Beach believed to be the Ada K. Damon is frequently exposed by the changing tide and sands. Photo by Bruce Lord. Sand schooners delivered sand from local beaches to Boston … Continue reading Wrecks of the sand schooners
Gathering Salt Marsh Hay-(Featured photo from a glass plate negative taken by Ipswich photographer George Dexter (1862-1927).) Salt marsh hay is still gathered on the North Shore today. Eva Jackman replied to this post: “My husband’s family has been harvesting salt hay on the same Newbury land as in 1643. He cuts salt hay and helps with the stacks … Continue reading Gathering Salt Marsh Hay
The Cape Ann Sea Serpent-The earliest recorded sighting of a Sea Serpent in North American waters was at Cape Ann in 1639: “They told me of a sea serpent or snake, that lay coiled up like a cable upon a rock at Cape Ann; a boat passed by with two English on board and two Indians. They would have shot … Continue reading The Cape Ann Sea Serpent
The Plum Island Salt Company-In the Publications of the Ipswich Historical Society I read the forgotten story of the Plum Island Salt Company. All traces of its existence have disappeared. In the 1820’s a Frenchman, Gilshenan by name made examination of many localities along the American coast to erect a salt works. Coming at last to the Ipswich Bar at the end … Continue reading The Plum Island Salt Company
Adrift on a Haystack, 1876-A remarkable northeasterly storm on the 4th of December, 1786 caused most of the salt hay along the North Shore to be set afloat and lost in the tide. Samuel Pulsifer and Samuel Elwell, both of Rowley were digging clams on the flats in Plum Island Sound and got caught in the storm. The Rev. Ebenezer Bradford … Continue reading Adrift on a Haystack, 1876
The ghost of Harry Maine-Featured image: Harry Maine house by Arthur Wesley Dow Harry Maine — you have heard the tale; He lived there in Ipswich Town; He blasphemed God, so they put him down With an iron shovel, at Ipswich Bar; They chained him there for a thousand years, As the sea rolls up to shovel it back … Continue reading The ghost of Harry Maine
Stopping nuclear, 1967-1970-1967: Ipswich Nuclear Missile Site 1970: Nuclear Power Plant In 1970 a proposal was made to build a nuclear power generating plant on the site of the former town dump at the end of Town Farm Road in Ipswich. MEPP Inc., an organization of 29 Massachusetts Municipal Electric Departments, had been studying Ipswich as a … Continue reading Stopping nuclear, 1967-1970