ipswich_town_sealIpswich was established in 1634, and was one of the most influential towns in Colonial America. The early town records, the actions of Town Meeting, and the deliberations of the courts which met here are available online:

Ancient Records of the Town of Ipswich MA The Ancient Records of the Town of Ipswich - In September 1898, The Ipswich Chronicle began publishing the Ancient Records of Ipswich as a column. The collection was later published as Vol. 1. Volume 1: 1634-1660 (view online) Town Records online: 1600 – 1916 These online documents are available on the Town of Ipswich site. Birth, Deaths, Marriage, Intentions 1663-1733 Births, Deaths, Marriage, Intentions 1663-1783 Birth, […]
Development of our Town Government - An address by Thomas Franklin Waters before the Ipswich Historical Society,
30 South Main Street, the Old Town Hall (1833) - The Old Town Hall building at 30 Main Street in Ipswich is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the South Green National Historic District (9/17/1980). For 180 years the massive Greek Revival building has stood at the corner of Elm Street and South Main Street. The Unitarian Church built it […]
73 High Street, the Nathaniel Lord house - The house at 73 High Street is named after Nathaniel Lord who graduated from Harvard and spent 36 years as the Register of Probate in the Ipswich Court. His sons all entered the legal profession and one followed him in the same position. In 1824 General Lafayette visited our town and was met by a crowd […]
Meeting House Green Historic District - Featured image: Meeting House Green, 1839 The National Register of Historic Places is the official federal list of districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects that have been determined significant in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering and culture. Ipswich has a total of seven listed historic districts and 62 individual structures. Boston was only three years […]

The Karma of Modern Problems - by Gavin Keenan:  Town Meeting time can often raise the blood pressure. When paired with the daily MOABs of POTUS 45, a defibrillator may be indicated. But here I want to speak of local affairs; to wit, small town politics and the history of governing in Ipswich as clearly as I recall it. Those of […]
Ipswich woodcut,1838 attributed to S. E. Brown. Governing Ipswich - Ipswich was established in 1634, and was one of the most influential towns in Colonial America. The early town records, the actions of Town Meeting, and the deliberations of the courts which met here are available online: Ipswich Public Library archives, complete list, PDF) The Development of our Town Government, by Thomas Franklin Waters Ipswich in the […]
Patronage and Scandal at the Ipswich Customs House - The Ipswich Custom House The exact location of the Ipswich Custom House has never been verified. Shown above is a photograph of the Town Wharf area taken by Arthur Wesley Dow, sometime between 1905 and 1910. Alice Keenan wrote that the small building on the right had been the customs house. Later photos show a sign […]
The Essex Convention The Ipswich Convention and the Essex Result - Delegates met in Ipswich in 1774 and 1778 to deliberate a Constitution for Massachusetts. Their “Exceptions” were published in the 60-page “Essex Result,” and included an ominous warning to future generations: In 1774, in retaliation for the Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773, General Gage was sent to Boston with troops, and assumed the governorship. The colony’s […]
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 […]
Illegal Currency: Ipswich and the Land Bank scheme of 1740-41 - In the first half of the 18th Century, the colonies suffered greatly from a shortage of money in circulation, the result of which was an unsanctioned scheme to print currency in Massachusetts, led in no small part by several Ipswich men. In September 1740, the Land Bank began to issue 50,000 pounds of notes of varying amounts […]
The wolf in colonial America Killing wolves - One of the first laws instituted by the Massachusetts Bay Colony was a bounty on wolves, and in early Ipswich, a rather disconcerting aspect of entering the Meeting House was the site of wolf heads nailed to the door. Roger Williams, who fled the colony to establish Rhode Island, referred to the wolf as “a fierce, […]
James Nailer, Quaker, persecuted by Puritans. The Town is Full! - from Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Vol. I: 1633-1700 published in 1905 by Thomas Franklin Waters THE BODY POLITIC The political privileges of those early years of the seventeenth century, when Ipswich was a frontier town, were few. In a community so thoroughly religious, one would expect to find perfect brotherliness. But Religion was itself narrow. Our […]
Ipswich and the Breach with Britain - From The Breach With Great Britain” by Thomas Franklin Waters, author of “Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.” “The march of critical events now became rapid. In March, 1770, the clash between the soldiers and citizens, known as the “Boston Massacre” caused the death of several Boston men. In 1772, the “Gaspee,” a British armed vessel, […]
19th Century political toasts - In April, 1778, a number of prominent Essex County men gathered in Ipswich to discuss the drafting of a new Massachusetts constitution, and became the local backbone of the Federalist Party, advocating the financial policies of Alexander Hamilton. President John Adams coined the name “Essex Junto” for this group, who he deemed his adversaries. The Federalist Party dominated Ipswich politics until […]
“Dalliance and too much familiarity” - William Row v. John Leigh, Mar. 28, 1673 Writ: William Row v. John Leigh; for insinuating dalliance and too much familiarity with his wife, drawing away her affections from her husband, to the great detriment both in his estate and the comfort of his life. From the Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, […]
Election night in Ipswich MA Election night in Ipswich - Thomas Franklin Waters made observations about Ipswich politics in his two-volume set, Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony: “The New England settlers of the 17th Century largely reproduced English institutions in an older shape than they knew in England. They gave a new life to many things, which in their older home had well nigh died out. […]
Ipswich in the Great Depression - The severe winter of 1933-34, in which below-zero temperatures lasted for weeks, added great misery to the lives of the homeless during the Great Depression. As part of the New Deal, President Roosevelt signed a forced draft work relief program known as the Civil Works Administration, putting millions to work on secondary roads, schoolhouses, parks, and other projects. […]
1854: Anti-immigrant Know Nothing Party sweeps Massachusetts elections - The American Party, better known as the “Know Nothing Party,” emerged in 1843, originally named the “Native American Party” with the intent of preventing Irish Catholic immigration. Anti-Catholic activists formed secret groups to support their cause, and when asked about their activities, members were instructed to reply “I know nothing.” The movement first made news in 1834 with the burning of […]
Puritans torturing quakers Persecution of Quakers by the Puritans - The Rev. John Norton was born at Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, England, where he was ordained. He joined the Puritan movement, and sailed in 1634 to New England, arriving Plymouth. In 1638 at the age of 38, he was called to become the “teacher” for the congregation in recently-settled Ipswich. In 1652 Norton left Ipswich and later […]
To the Inhabitants of the Town of Ipswich, from Thomas Jefferson, September 2, 1808 - The Embargo Act of 1807, sponsored by President Thomas Jefferson, made illegal any and all exports from the United States. The embargo was imposed in response to violations of U.S. neutrality by the French and English during the Napoleonic Wars. By 1808, New England ports were at a standstill and its cities and towns were […]
Elizabeth Cole Ipswich MA selectman Elizabeth S. Cole is elected as first female Ipswich selectman, March 10, 1970 - IPSWICH, March 10, 1970: For the first time in as long as anyone can remember, a woman has been elected a member of the Ipswich Board of Selectmen. Trouncing three male contenders, including the incumbent, Mrs. Elizabeth s. Cole of Argilla Road swept into office Monday, poling 1401 of the 3364 ballots cast by an […]
President Monroe’s brief visit to Ipswich - From the journal of Miss Eunice Jones, 1793-1825. Journal, July 12 1817: “This morning about nine o’clock the President of the United States, Monroe, passed through Ipswich. He was attended by a large concourse of people; they paid him all the honor possible. The gentlemen and ladies of the town decorated our street and bridge […]
John Adam’s letters from Ipswich, May-June, 1774 - Article by Bruce Laing.  John Adams visited Ipswich many times during his tenure as the Boston representative to the colonial legislature from 1770 to 1774. This brilliant and controversial fellow served as a member of the Continental Congress, then as the 1st Vice President in the Washington administration, then as the 2nd President of the United States. […]
Ipswich woodcut,1838 attributed to S. E. Brown. Ipswich town meeting - Featured image: Ipswich woodcut, 1838 attributed to S. E. Brown. Thomas Franklin Waters recorded the early history of Town Meeting in his book, Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The first Ipswich public official appointed was the Clerk, Robert Lord, chosen in February 1643-4, “from this time forward to be present at every general meeting of the […]
Ipswich Massachusetts: Birthplace of American Independence - The legendary and heroic opposition by the people and leaders of Ipswich to a tax imposed by the Crown in 1687 is commemorated in the seal of the town of Ipswich, which bears the motto, “The Birthplace of American Independence 1687.” This act of resistance has been called ‘the foundation of American Democracy,’ and was the beginning of a […]
The Gerrymander is born in Essex County, February 11, 1812 - Elbridge Gerry was born in Marblehead in 1744 and spent almost all of his life in government service. He promoted colonial opposition to the British Parliament’s colonial policies, and served in the Second Continental Congress from February 1776 to 1780. Gerry was elected as a Massachusetts representative to the United States Congress in its first […]
Central Street in ashes, January 13, 1894 - Three Business Blocks and Three Dwellings Destroyed in Ipswich January 14, 1894,© The New York Times. Flames were discovered soon after 1 o'clock this morning in the photograph rooms of George Dexter, in the upper portion of the Jewett Block, on Central Street. The wind was blowing a gale, and the temperature registered nearly at […]
Early Ipswich, “A paradise for politicians” - Thomas Franklin Water gave us in Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony a history of the early formation of the government of the Town of Ipswich.
Saving John Appleton’s house - In 1707, Col. John Appleton acquired the lot at 2 North Main Street (across Central Street from the Five Corners Deli) after commanding a regiment in the expedition against Port Royal. He built the house still standing, and lived in it for the rest of his life. John Appleton represented the Town in the General Court in 1697, was […]
Fall 1774: Ipswich mob attacks Loyalist John Calef - The people of Ipswich have a long tradition of heated debate at Town Meeting. In 1687 Samuel Appleton and other town leaders called an emergency town meeting to debate new taxes imposed by the Crown. They were imprisoned for their refusal to appoint a tax collector, an act for which Ipswich is known as the “Birthplace […]
Daniel Denison - Daniel Denison was born in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, England in 1612, and came to America with his parents William Denison and Margaret Chandler on the ship “Lyon” in 1631. When Daniel Denison’s son John died unexpectedly, Denison left an autobiography for his grandchildren, which told about the journey to America and their heritage. “I thought meet to […]
Police open fire at the Ipswich Mills Strike, June 10, 1913 - The Lawrence Textile Mills strike in 1912 known as the “Bread and Roses strike” involved immigrant workers in Lawrence MA striking against a a two-hour pay cut. The strike grew to more than twenty thousand workers. Amos Lawrence also owned the Ipswich Mills Company, where a similar strike occurred a year later. The Ipswich Mills Strike In early 1913, […]
Chebacco women build a meetinghouse The women of Chebacco build a Meeting House, March 21, 1679 - In 17th Century New England,  the church was the center of government. Chebacco was the section of Ipswich that is now Essex, and its inhabitants were expected to make the ten-mile round trip every Sabbath, Lecture Day, Training Day or Town Meeting day to the Meeting House in Ipswich. Chebacco residents petitioned the town of […]
The defiant Samuel Appleton - The Ipswich Post Office Mural portrays Reverend John Wise and Major Samuel Appleton gathered with other Ipswich men in 1687 in opposition to taxes imposed by Sir Edmund Andros. On April 18, 1689 leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony reclaimed control of the government from the crown-appointed governor, Sir Edmund Andros. Major Samuel Appleton of Ipswich […]
A short history of Ipswich dog laws - 1644 The following is transcribed from the Ipswich Town Meeting, May 11, 1644: “It is ordered that all doggs for the space of three weeks after the publishing hereof shall have one legg tyed up, and if such a dogg shall break loose and be found doing any harm, the owner of the dogg shall pay […]
Stopping the nuclear options, 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 […]
The Rev. John Wise of Ipswich - The concepts of freedom about which Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence came from the pulpit and pen of the Rev. John Wise of Ipswich, Massachusetts. “The first human subject and original of civil power is the people…and when they are free, they may set up what species of government they please. The end of all good […]
Life in the Ipswich jails - The first Essex County gaol (jail) was erected in Ipswich across from the Meeting House in 1652. The Court paid the keeper 5 shillings per prisoner and ordered that each prisoner should additionally pay the keeper before they be released for “their food and attendance.” Those who were unable to pay for their food were allowed only […]

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