As early as 1725, a group of Ipswich residents living on the south side of the river appealed for the right to build a separate church “for their convenience,” but no action was taken at that time.
In December, 1746, sixty-eight members of the Ipswich Congregational Parish signed an agreement pledging themselves to be incorporated as a separate Parish as soon as it could be approved by the General Court, and to build a meeting house near the South Green. They addressed a meeting at the First Parish on December 19 praying to be set off as a distinct body.
- “First. For that the Parish at this Time is so large that is sufficient to make Two either of which will be Considerably larger than most of the Parishes round about us.
- Secondly, For that the Parish having now but One Minister and their Meeting House altogether Unfit to meet in, it would Seem Unreasonable for us to join in ye charge of another Minister & House where we can’t be accommodated thereby.
- Thirdly, For that We Apprehend it would be Impracticable to Build One House that would with any tolerable Conveniency or Decency hold all the People at this Time, much less for ye future should our Numbers Increase as in Reason we may Expect.
- Fourthly, For that as we are mostly Farmers with large Families and so Remote from the present House as to Render it Difficult to meet there or to Return Home between Meetings.”
The meeting house was constructed, and dedicated in May, 1748. The leaders of the new church had been the most prominent men in the old, the wealthiest, the most influential, the highest in social distinction, and their absence in the First Church caused many years of distress.
The original South Church meeting house was replaced by a fine sanctuary in 1838. The house owned by Asa Brown was moved it to its current location on County Road in 1837 so that the South Congregational Church could be built facing the South Green on a lot west of the Heard mansion, now the Ipswich Museum.
South Congregational church burned on December 10, 1977. The lot is now a small park with two benches and the bell which survived the fire, surrounded by the old foundation.
In June 1899, the church steeple was struck by lightning and burned to the bell deck, causing the destruction of the bell. A new bell was contributed by Mrs. Elizabeth M Brown in memory of her husband the late William G Brown.
Bruce Lord adds: “The South Parish House as it was known was abandoned as a church about 1920. Thomas Franklin Waters was the next to last minister. Edgar Fletcher Allen served from 1912 to 1914. Thereafter seminary students served until it closed. It was used for all sorts of events for the town. It still had an intact and playable organ. In the basement was a six lane bowling alley. My father was janitor of it for many years. My parents’ 25th anniversary party was held in the upstairs hall. It was probably the premier meeting hall for the town for many years.”
- Waters, Thomas Franklin: Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Vol II, Chapter VI: “Division in the Parish”
- Waters, Thomas Franklin: Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Vol II, Chapter XX: “The South Church”