The Ipswich River begins in Burlington, MA and passes through the towns of Wilmington, Reading, North Reading, Peabody, Middleton, Topsfield, Hamilton, and Ipswich, connecting with the Atlantic Ocean at Ipswich Bay. The river has been dammed since Colonial days, providing power for the Ipswich mills. In the days of sailing ships, ocean-going cargo vessels, fishing and whaling boats navigated the treacherous outlet between Plum Island and Crane Beach, resulting in numerous shipwrecks.
The Ipswich River
Ipswich Mills Dam video - This video was taken in the summer of 2016 during the Ipswich Mill Dam drawdown, which coincidentally occurred duirng the worst part of the summer drought. The video describes the investigation that was conducted at that time of the dam’s structure, and a study of the feasibility of […]
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 […]
The Green Street dam - (*In March 1934, Congress passed the Civilian Conservation bill, creating the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC). It was through this program that the old jail on Green Street was demolished and the short-lived Green Street dam was built.) by Harold Bowen, Volume III Tales of Olde Ipswich, […]
Deluge! An Eyewitness Account of the Mother’s Day Storm of 2006 - The spring of 2006 brought a paucity of rain that resulted in very dry conditions throughout Eastern New England. I remember noting the dryness of the landscape while patrolling through April into early May. Places normally exhibiting pools of standing water; the low ground west of Route One, […]
Rum runners - Ipswich folks have always had a taste for good rum. Its hidden creeks was a paradise for the rum runners and bootleggers during the Prohibition era. Tales of the Coast Guard chasing rum runners were common. It was very seldom that one could be caught. The booze was unloaded at convenient places like Gould's Bridge. To distract the authorities, someone would set a fire in town.
Along the Ipswich River - Follow the Ipswich River, starting at the Willowdale Dam and continuing past all four stone arch bridges in Ipswich, then along Water Street to the Town Wharf and out to sea. Many of these photos were digitally developed by the Town Historian from original glass negatives taken by three early Ipswich […]
The boy who fell beneath the ice - The Rev. Joseph Dana served the Second Congregational Church at the South Green from 1765 until his death in 1827 at age 85. Rev, Dana’s tombstone in the Old South Cemetery reads: “In memory of the Rev Joseph Dana D.D., for sixty-two years, Minister of the South Church. His […]
Jeffreys’ Neck Road - This history of Jeffreys Neck is from the Agawam Manual and Directory by M.V.B. Perley, published in 1888. The business of fur-trading and fishing along the New England coast received a new impetus about the beginning of the seventeenth century. In 1604 Agawam was the center of Arcadia, so-called in the […]
Awful Calamities: the Shipwrecks of December, 1839 - Featured image: Ships off Liverpool in the Great Storm of 1839, painted by Samuel Walters. From: “Awful calamities: or, The shipwrecks of December 1839: “It has probably never fallen to the lot of the citizens of New England to witness or record so many terrible disasters by sea in the […]
An autumn walk in the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary - These photos are from one of my favorite hikes in Mass Audubon’s Ipswich River Sanctuary at 87 Perkins Row in Topsfield. Twelve miles of trails weave through an amazing mix of forests, meadows and wetlands, with great views of the Ipswich River from the central drumlin and two eskers that were left by retreating glaciers only […]
Joseph Ross, 19th Century Ipswich bridge builder - Joseph Ross (1822-1903) began his working life as a house carpenter in Ipswich, his native town. He is best known for designing the first movable span bridge in the country, which he patented in 1849 at the age of 26. According to his obituary, “he has been engaged […]
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 […]
Melanson’s fire, August 7, 2009 - Herman Melanson’s Boatyard on Water Street burned in a spectacular fire on August 7, 2009.The boathouse was constructed by Herman Melanson’s father in 1954. Herman and his mother continued to live there after it was sold to Arthur Harrington in 1985. Harrington’s heirs had a sales agreement with developers who […]
Great Neck - Before the settlement of Ipswich was begun in 1633 by John Winthrop, William Jeffrey, who had come over in 1623, had purchased from the Indians a title to the glacial drumlin which bears his name. By 1639 the whole tract was set apart as a common pasture by the new town, and in 1666 the General Court gave Jeffrey five hundred acres of land elsewhere. After the early eighteenth century, the Necks remained as the only common lands retained by the Commoners.
Little Neck - Featured image: “Wolf Moon” over Little Neck, January 1, 2018. Photo by Susan Turner Po In 1639, two wealthy brothers William and Robert Paine (aka Payne) procured a grant of land in the town of Ipswich from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In about 1649 Robert offered to “erect […]
The Ipswich Riverwalk mural - In 2005 EBSCO Publishing commissioned artist Alan Pearsall to paint a 2,700-square-foot mural on one of the old mill buildings occupied by the company in Ipswich. The mural is the centerpiece of the town’s new Riverwalk. Alan based the mural on the history of Ipswich from the time […]
Samuel Goodhue’s pier - In the early 20th Century, Samuel Goodhue operated a canoe rental business on the Ipswich River at the end of Peatfield St in the area known as Pole Alley.
A photographic history of the Ipswich Mills Dam - Until 350 years ago, the Ipswich River ran unencumbered from its origin 35 miles upstream, carving its way through a 148-square-mile watershed. Herring, shad, salmon and alewife swam upstream to spawn. Thomas Franklin Waters noted that, “Great shoals of alewives came up the river in the Spring and were seined […]
The Choate Bridge - The American Society of Civil Engineers cites the Choate Bridge in Ipswich as the oldest documented two-span masonry arch bridge in the U.S., and the oldest extant bridge in Massachusetts.
Mothers Day Flood, May 14-16, 2006 - Fourteen inches of rain fell between May 14 and May 16, 2006, creating the historic 2006 Mothers Day Flood. Water flow levels in the Ipswich River were 27% higher than recorded in previous epic floods. Photos are from the Ipswich River Watershed Association site with additonal photos provided by myself and readers. Kerry […]
The Choate Bridge–what a bargain! - This 250-year-old bridge that the naysayers claimed would never survive its first day has stood the test of time. It cost our town £500 to build, $1000 to widen, and some occasional upkeep. When we consider every horse, buggy, stagecoach, car, truck, bicycle and pedestrian that has passed over Col. Choate's bridge since 1764, that seems like a really good deal.
Glover’s Wharf and the Ipswich coal industry - John S. Glover opened a wharf on Water St. in 1847, receiving shipments of coal and cement, along with maritime salvage. His wharf was a short distance from the home be built on East St. around 1872 across from the present-day Town Wharf, which was demolished recently. The business was sold to Charles Lovell […]
The Ice House - Lathrop Brothers Coal and Ice Company was located at “Tougas’ pit,” a small body of water that may have been an old channel of the Ipswich River. It can be accessed off of Hayward Street at “Ice House Crossing.” Photos courtesy of Bill George and archives. Susan Howard Boice wrote […]
County Street, Sawmill Point, and bare hills - Green Street was once called Green Lane and was anciently known as Bridge Lane. There was apparently a foot bridge that crossed the river, where the Island in the middle of the span on which the present bridge stands. County Street, or Cross Street, as it was called, originally […]
Ipswich Hosiery - In the mid-18th Century a group of Ipswich women started making and selling lace with distinctive patterns. Small round lap pillows were used to pace the bobbins and needles as the lace grew around it. Ipswich lace quickly became very popular and played an important roll during the […]
The Town Wharf - In November, 1634, it was agreed that “the length of Ipswich should extend westward unto the buryinge place (Old North Burying Ground), and eastward unto a cove of the river, unto the planting ground of John Pirkings the Elder.” The cove mentioned here was where the Ipswich River lapped East […]
The Mill Road Bridge and the Isinglass Factory - Library of Congress records state that the triple stone arch Warner Bridge that connects Mill Rd. in Ipswich to Highland St. in Hamilton was built in 1856, designed by architect Henry Hubbard. Thomas Franklin Waters wrote that it was first constructed in 1829, and Ipswich town history records that it was “rebuilt” in 1856. In […]
The Fox Creek Canal - The Fox Creek Canal is the oldest man-made tidewater canal in the United States, dug in 1820. The following was written by Thomas Franklin Waters: “As early as 1652 a move was made toward cutting a passage way for boats through the marshes from Ipswich River to the […]