Roads to Paradise, Ipswich MA

Roads to Paradise

Paradise Road follows a shallow peninsula bordered by Muddy Brook and the Egypt River. In 1807, the ancient path was laid out by the Town as a road from Pingrey’s Plain near the Clam Box, which served as the hanging grounds, to the Muddy River Bridge and the Egypt River.

1795 map of Ipswich
The 1795 map of Ipswich shows High Street as the Post Road in its present configuration

Thomas Franklin Waters wrote: “The early farm of Mr. Charles Day was on the ancient way, now called not inaptly Paradise Road, for it is a very beautiful road, winding through long stretches of woodland, where ferns and brakes grow luxuriantly, and every kind of wild flower finds congenial haunt in open glades or shaded nooks.”

At the far end of Paradise Road , several acres have been bulldozed and flattened as part of the Mill River Sand and Gravel operation, which began operations in the early 1950’s. At the site, a group of young amateur archaeologists known as the “Bull Brook Boys” discovered hundreds of stone points and other early native American artifacts. The”Bull Brook Site” dates back 11,000 years and is one of the earliest PaleoIndian finds in North America.

Paradise and Mitchell Roads
Closeup of Paradise and Mitchell Roads in the 1910 Ipswich map
the end of Paradise Road became a sand and gravel operation
In the 1950’s, an area at the end of Paradise Road became a sand and gravel operation, and was soon discovered to be the site of a PaleoIndian encampment. In 2014, the Ipswich Open Space Bond Steering Committee added the 201-acre site to the Open Space Bond list.

Thomas Franklin Waters wrote: “The early farm of Mr. Charles Day was on the ancient way, now called not inaptly Paradise Road, for it is a very beautiful road, winding through long stretches of woodland, where ferns and brakes grow luxuriantly, and every kind of wild flower finds congenial haunt in open glades or shaded nooks.”

A plague in Paradise

In November 1736 a great sorrow visited the farm of John Boardman and his wife Abigail Choate near the intersection of High Street and Paradise Road. In the course of 24 hours, four of their children, Lucy (four), Mary (seven), Sarah (nine) and fifteen month old Francis were taken by the diptheria epidemic.

Tidal mills on the Rowley River

The first grist mill in Rowley was built by Thomas Nelson on the Mill River, a short distance above the tide-water. A fulling mill was built in 1643 by John Pearson. A mill, waterwheel, dam and stone arch bridge still exist at that location, which can be viewed from Rt. 1 and Glen Street in Rowley.

Jack Grundstrom, the former Shellfish Constable of Rowley provided documentation of two tidal mills that were built in what was at that time the Town of Ipswich. Phillip H. Kimball built a sawmill at Kimball’s point, about a quarter mile below the John Harris mill. A canal for the Kimball Mill was dug on the Bradstreet grant, and the Harris Mill was built on the Cross Grant. Both of these grants were issued in 1638 on the “Rowley side” of the Egypt River. The properties were later, by petition, granted to Rowley due to the great distance to the Ipswich town offices. In Colonial times, the Rowley River was known as the Egypt River in Ipswich and Warehouse River in Rowley.

Jack is a descendant of John Harris, who built the first mill on the Rowley River in 1760. John Harris was born in 1695, the son of Deacon Timothy Harris and grandson of the first John Harris of Ipswich. The tide mills could be used during the ebb and flow of the tide throughout the year.

A section of the Harris mill wheel is on display at the Rowley Historical Society’s headquarters, the Platts-Bradstreet House.

A piece of the wooden waterwheel from the Rowley River gristmill built by John Harris is on display at the Rowley historical house. The curvature of the pre-Revolutionary water wheel indicates that it exceeded 30′ in diameter. One of the millstones from the same mill now serves as a front step at the Savage farmhouse in Rowley. Photos courtesy of Jack Grundstrom.
Paradise, Mitchell and Town Farm Roads are connected
In the 1832 map, Paradise, Mitchell and Town Farm Roads are connected. Kimball’s point is at the end of Paradise Road and was the site of the Harris tidal mill. The Kimball mill was a quarter mile downstream at the Junction of Muddy Run.

Town Farm Road

Thomas Franklin Waters wrote also about Town Farm Road:

“The road to the Town Farm runs through the open tillage lands, and by many side roads affords access to the vast area of salt-marsh, level, green and beautiful. Tidal creeks and ditches wind their tortuous courses and divide its outer edge into many points and islands, each bearing the name, given centuries ago, of the ancient land holder, or some quaint appellation, which pleased the fancy of the early settlers and still abides.

“Nearby are Cross’s Bank, Bagwell’s Island, Rogers’s Island and Holy Island, Stacey’s Creek and Six Goose Creek”, Deacon Sam’s Point, Hart’s Creek , the Window Frames, Wattle’s or Wadleigh’s Neck’, Kimball’s Point and other points, coves and creeks innumerable…At the very beginning of the settlement (and for the Indians before them) this was the road To Newbury or “the pathway leading toward the River of Merrimac.”

Ipswich town farm
The Town Farm was located at the end of Town Farm Road near the present day transfer station and wind turbines. The buildings were torn down in the 1940’s, after serving as a military training center, and the location became the Town Dump, now a transfer station. In the 1970’s, Ipswich citizens beat back a proposal to build a nuclear power plant at the site. IPhoto by Edward L. Darling, courtesy of William Barton.

Mitchell Road

In the old maps, Mitchell and Avery Roads are the way to Muddy Brook. The section of Mitchell Road near the Dairy Queen did not yet exist, and was the site of the Mitchell family farm, later owned by the Hetnar family. The Mitchell barn still stands, and dates back to 1750. Harold Bowen wrote that during the Great Depression, William Mitchell allowed tramps to sleep in the hay, provided they did not smoke. “Of the many thousands, not one was known to let him down.”

The farmhouse and barn at Mitchell Farm on Mitchell Road

The Railroad

On December 20, 1839, a train from Boston made its first passage through Ipswich. By the next summer the Eastern Railroad had cut a swath separating Town Farm and Mitchell Roads, continuing on its way through the Great Salt Marsh to Newburyport

The Great Salt Marsh

While I have been unable to discover when the area came to be called “Paradise,” it is home to acres of unspoiled countryside, rolling upland and marsh. Jack Grundstrom answers simply, “It’s Paradise!”

The Great Marsh is the largest continuous stretch of Salt Marsh in New England, extending from Cape Ann to New Hampshire, with over 20,000 acres of marsh, barrier beach, tidal river, estuary, mudflat, and upland islands extending across the Massachusetts North Shore. Part of this area was designated in 1979 as the Parker River/Essex Bay Area of Critical Environmental Concern, dedicated to the preservation of the unique ecological system and its many migratory birds.

Rowley River topo map
Topo map of the Rowley River and the Great Salt Marsh between Ipswich and Rowley


Drone video of the Great Salt Marsh

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