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.

Ipswich Mills Dam video - This video was taken last summer 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 removing the dam. Field work is complete, and a public … Continue reading Ipswich Mills Dam video
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
WPA dam on Green Street in Ipswich 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, published in 1977 For years before the … Continue reading The Green Street dam
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, Town Farm Road, and the Greenbelt property … Continue reading Deluge! An Eyewitness Account of the Mother’s Day Storm of 2006
Rum runners - Ipswich folks have always had a taste for good rum. All we know of Benjamin Wheeler who lived at 67 Turkey Shore Road is that in 1750 was that he was fined for selling rum without a license. When Rev. David Kimball was hired as pastor in 1806 for the First Church, his payment included “Best West India … Continue reading Rum runners
The Ipswich River, 1860-1930 - 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 photographers: Arthur Wesley Dow, the famous Ipswich … Continue reading The Ipswich River, 1860-1930
The boy who fell beneath the ice, March 19, 1802 - The Rev. Joseph Dana served the Second Congregational Church at the South Green from 1765 until his death in 1827 at age 85. His 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 protracted life was eminently devoted to … Continue reading The boy who fell beneath the ice, March 19, 1802
William Jeffreys’ Neck - 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 French patent of November 8, 1603. For a … Continue reading William Jeffreys’ Neck
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 short period of fourteen days as have transpired … Continue reading Awful Calamities: the Shipwrecks of December, 1839
Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary 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 15,000 years ago. View the location at Google … Continue reading An autumn walk in the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary
Joseph Ross Ipswich MA 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 in some of the largest engineering enterprises … Continue reading Joseph Ross, 19th Century Ipswich bridge builder
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
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 planned to build condos. The entire building, … Continue reading Melanson’s fire, August 7, 2009
Great Neck, a photographic history - (Text adapted from the History of Great Neck, published in 1984 by Doris Wilson) 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. Thomas Franklin Waters wrote: “The first … Continue reading Great Neck, a photographic history
Little Neck, Ipswich MA Little Neck, a photographic history - 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 an edifice for the purpose of a grammar school, provided the town or any particular inhabitant of the town would devote, set … Continue reading Little Neck, a photographic history
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 of its settling to the current day, … Continue reading The Ipswich Riverwalk mural
Water Street historic photos - In the book, Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Volume I, Thomas Franklin Waters recorded the history of Water Street, which is part of an early public right-of-way that extended from the wharf to the Green Street Bridge, then cotinued along the Sidney Shurcliff Riverwalk to County St. “Close by the river bank, on either side, a … Continue reading Water Street historic photos
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 at night by the light of torches … Continue reading A photographic history of the Ipswich Mills Dam
The Choate Bridge, a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark - The Choate Bridge in Ipswich was constructed in 1764 and is the oldest documented surviving double stone arch bridge in North America. As part of Rt. 1A and Rt. 133 the Choate Bridge is estimated to carry between 10,000 and 20,000 vehicles each day! The town approved construction of the stone bridge on April 18, … Continue reading The Choate Bridge, a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark
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 Mackin was at that time director of … Continue reading Mothers Day Flood, May 14-16, 2006
The Choate Bridge–what a bargain! - On May 16, 2015, the Choate Bridge was closed to traffic briefly so that the people of Ipswich could partake in a ceremony sponsored by the Ipswich Historical Commission and the American Society of Civil Engineers to the Choate bridge for its 250 years of service. The first settlers of Ipswich forded the river near the present-day dam, … Continue reading The Choate Bridge–what a bargain!
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 in 1910. Many of the Glover family … Continue reading Glover’s Wharf and the Ipswich coal industry
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 that it took three railroad cars full … Continue reading The Ice House
County Street, Sawmill Point, and bare hills - The County Street bridge was built in the mid 19th Century and for half a century was the town’s newest industrial area. The following story is from Ipswich Yesterday by Alice Keenan, written in 1982. When we first viewed this picture some years ago we must admit it was a complete puzzlement to us until we discovered … Continue reading County Street, Sawmill Point, and bare hills
The Ipswich Hosiery Industry - 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 American Revolution. At the height of its … Continue reading The Ipswich Hosiery Industry
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 street before Agawam Ave. In the 19th Century, … Continue reading The Town Wharf
Isinglass Mill, Ipswich MA 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 1931, the roadway was raised; stone parapets … Continue reading The Mill Road Bridge and the Isinglass Factory
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 River of Chebacco to avoid the long … Continue reading The Fox Creek Canal

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