19th Century: Religion divided the town

Excerpts from Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony by Thomas Franklin Waters

The Congregational Church

The Congregational Church, founded by the first settlers, maintained the old order for many generations in undisputed supremacy. From time to time, as the population increased, as has been noted, new Parishes within the Town limits had been established, in Chebacco, now Essex, in the Hamlet, now Hamilton, in Linebrook, and finally the South Parish in the center of the Town, but these were all Congregational, holding firmly to the Puritan order.


The sanctuary of the First Church of Ipswich from 1749 until 1846.

The Baptists: 1806

A number of friends and Neighbors having met together at the mutual desire of each other for the purpose of forming a “Society to Unite in Religious worship of the Supreme Being” formed themselves into a Religious Society. The peace of quiet Ipswich was disturbed and much bitterness was interjected into the religious life, but the Baptist people proceeded steadily to establish their Church. The services of worship were held in the second story of the building, which Dr. Manning had built for a woolen mill, on the corner now occupied by Caldwell’s Block.

Dr. Manning's Windmill at the location of today's Caldwell Building.

The Baptists first met at the building that had originally housed Dr. Manning’s unusual windmill at the location of today’s Caldwell Building.

The withdrawal of parishioners from the First and South Parishes caused a considerable loss of revenue, but stable prosperity was never secured, and the plans for building  a Baptist meeting-house did not materialize.  A secession took place from the Church in 1816, and in the course of this year they dissolved. The original Society of Baptists continued after the secession from them only one year. In 1892, the Baptist people again began to worship together.

Immanuel Baptist Church on Central St.

The original Immanuel Baptist Church was built in the late 19th Century on the hillside behind the present day church on Central Street.

The Methodists: 1829

When the Baptist Church was virtually extinct, some of the leading members of that body turned to the Methodist order, which was then becoming prominent in Essex County. In 1829 and 1830, many Ipswich families joined the new Methodist Church.

A gathering of founding members of the Methodist Church in the late 19th Century, photo by Edward Darling courtesy of Bill Barton

A gathering of founding members of the Methodist Church in the late 19th Century, photo by Edward Darling courtesy of Bill Barton

During his pastorate, the famous revivalist Rev. John N. Maffit held a “protracted meeting” as it was called, which was undoubtedly the most extraordinary episode in the history of the churches of Ipswich since the days of Whitefield and Tennent. He preached sixty nights to congregations which occupied every inch of the meeting-house. It is said that during an entire week, business was at a stand still, most of the stores were closed, the cotton mill was shut down for want of help, and every one seemed to be seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

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2 replies »

  1. This brings to mind one of my Welsh relatives going back some 200 years. Story is that this daughter embraced the Methodist faith in Wales. The family was so upset by this upheaval in her zeal to throw aside the Church of England, she was thrown out of the house and told never to return. Religion WAS a big deal in the past!


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