In our cold New England winter, ye Ipswich inhabitants and expatriates arm ouselves with keyboards and set out on the battling fields of Facebook to resolve the age-old questions that have long perplexed the Good People of Ipswich.
Starting this round is David, a well-meaning person who posted a photo of the “Historic Crane Estate,” to whom one reader replied, “I always called it Castle Hill.” Reader #2 pointed out that “The Great House at the Crane Estate is not a fortified structure and therefore is technically a manor house, not a castle, but nonetheless a lovely place.” Reader #3 suggested that David is not from Ipswich. Reader # 4, Jeff, offered to resolve the issue by renaming it “Jeff’s Castle” and he would rule Ipswich.
It comes down to linguistics. When John Winthrop Jr. and the settlers of Ipswich arrived in 1634, the Native American tribal leader Masconomet lived at a fortified location, a castle of sorts I suppose, where he could keep a watchful eye for attacks. He sold Castle Hill to the Ipswich colony along with the rest of Agawam for about $25 and a promise of protection from the Tarrantines. From the Ancient Records of Ipswich we learn that in 1634 the Ipswich selectmen unanimously voted “That the Neck of Land whereupon the great Hill standeth, which is known by the name of the Castle Hill, lying on the other side of this River towards the Sea, shall remayne unto the common use of the Town forever.” Nonetheless, in 1639 the Town deeded Castle Hill with nearby meadow and marsh to John Winthrop, Jr. to persuade him to stay. Winthrop sold the property to Samuel Symonds, after which Winthrop and almost all of the 12 original settlers moved away and became the Founding Fathers of the Ipswich Diaspora. They’ve been grumbling ever since.
That does little to resolve the century-old argument about whether it’s Crane Beach or Crane’s Beach. The Trustees call it Crane, the Townies call it Crane’s. But it doesn’t much matter because the only cranes left there are the ones that fly. Before the 20th Century it was Lakeman’s Beach, before that Brown’s Beach, and before that it was Patch’s Beach. Those worthy ancestors are not waiting in their graves for the beach to resume their venerable family name, because the peninsula is, and has always been Castle Neck (even though there was never a Castle). Strictly speaking, it’s Castle Neck Beach, which to my knowledge, it has never been called.
For clarification we could look to a bewildering intersection in town, the name of which has perplexed map-makers for lo, ye many years. It was the site of Asa Lord’s Store, and almost every house on adjoining High Street was occupied at one time by a member of the extended Lord family. Is it Lord’s Square or Lord Square? Pronounce both and they come out the same. On Google Maps and the United States Postal Service site it is officially “Lord Square.” According to the Ipswich Assessors Office it’s “Lords Square.” To others it shall always be “Lord’s Square.” Regardless, it’s not square at all, and it’s still a mess however you spell it.
I’m sure we’ll soon suffer again through that tiresome old argument that the intersection of Market and Central Streets is not Five Corners, it’s Quint’s Corner. But ask your grandparents and they might tell you it’s Tyler’s Corner because that’s who built the big brick building in 1907, and the wording across the top proves it. If you want to be historically correct, it’s been Market Square for a much longer time. Oddly enough, Market Street has always had the same name, even though in the first century it was a path crossing a muddy marsh, and the markets were on North Main Street.
Some people need a stiff drink every time they hear the phrase, “Town Landing” rather than “Town Wharf,” but there was never a “Town Wharf.” There was Brown’s Wharf, Glover’s Wharf, Hovey’s Wharf, Appleton’s Wharf, Hunt’s Wharf, Lakeman’s Wharf, Pulcifer’s Wharf, Sawyer’s Wharf and quite a few other wharfs, but they are all gone. Half of the Town Landing is on fill where there was originally a small bay abutting East Street. For accuracy and historic purposes, we shall henceforth call it “The Boat Landing Parking Lot that’s Not a Wharf but was Once a Bay.”
Every generation understandably wants to keep Ipswich the same, but be careful what you wish for. In the early 19th Century, Ipswich was so run down and dilapidated that the color of most houses in the town was “brown.” A Salem publisher who visited Ipswich wrote that the town had “Gone to the Dogs.” I’m sure old Masconommet felt even stronger about the changes the Puritans brought to Ancient Agawam.
But now it’s lovely old historic Ipswich, which it has been for almost 400 years, and as Shakespeare once wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”