A series of earthquakes in the early 18th Century gave rise to recurrences of religiosity in Ipswich.

Woodcut, 1755 earthquake in Boston

On October 29, 1727 a severe earthquake occurred on a Sabbath night between ten and eleven o’clock. People became so frightened that a very powerful revival of religion followed in the Ipswich parishes and throughout New England. An urgent demand for reformation among the churchgoers at Chebacco parish (Essex) tested the abilities of the Rev. Thomas Pickering, until the more usual degree of harmony prevailed.

On June 3, 1744, the services of worship at the Hamlet (Hamilton) were interrupted by another earthquake. Pastor Wigglesworth continued preaching and calmed his parishioners by reminding them that “There is no better place for us to die in than the house of God”.

On November 18, 1755, the great “Cape Ann Earthquake” took place off the coast of Gloucester. At between 6.0 and 6.3 on the Richter scale, it remains the largest earthquake in the history of Massachusetts, and caused great alarm. The Rev. Leslie of Linebrook Church in Ipswich announced it an opportune moment for “God of his infinite mercy to make it an effectual means of arousing sinners to a seasonable realization of their danger.”

Cape Ann Earthquake
The 1755 Cape Ann earthquake shook Boston for over a minute. It was reported that 1500 chimneys were destroyed and church steeples were left tilting.

Rev. Leslie recorded the earthquake’s effect on Ipswich: “Between ye hours of four & five in ye morning there happened a most surprising shock of ye earthquake, which was afterwards succeeded by several others, though non equal to ye first in ye Town of Ipswich. Much damage was done to many houses, yet through ye goodness of God no hurt was done either to ye lives or ye limbs of any persons. On Nov. 19 several shocks were heard, tho but small compared to ye first.”

The 1755 Cape Ann Earthquake was felt from Halifax to the Chesapeake Bay and from Lake George, NY to almost 200 miles out to sea east of Gloucester and Rockport. Fences were said to have fallen over in a line from Boston to Montreal. The epicenter was about 25 miles east northeast of Cape Ann in an area of the ocean near Jeffreys Ledge where several small earthquakes have been noted over the past few decades. Read a scientific analysis of the Cape Ann Earthquake.

This map shows This map shows the occurrence and severity of earthquakes in New England from the beginning of English colonization until 1974. Note the cluster on the North Shore. The star just off of Cape Ann is the 1755 quake.

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