In July 1813, John Hodgkins sold John Stanwood a one-acre lot at the corner of County Street and East Street in 1813. John sold to his son Stephen in 1827, and Stephen Stanwood erected the Stanwood – Willcomb House in 1830 for a fulling mill, a cleaning process for wool. The sheep grazed on the bare hills above East and High Streets, where there were no trees other than orchards. The mill used water that still runs under Spring Street (known then as Brook Street).
In 1837 Stephen Stanwood sold the building to Isaac Stanwood, and he sold to Daniel L. Willcomb in 1848. It was later owned by Fred Willcomb and his brother Lewis E. Willcomb, where they operated a house and store.
In the mid-19th Century, the County improved the spring on the hillside, and laid a pipe to the House of Correction, which was located where the Ipswich Town Hall is now. The County Street bridge was constructed, and a large woolen mill was constructed on the northeast side. As a condition for the town to pipe the water across his land, Wilcomb’s house is said to have been the first in Ipswich with running water. If you stand at the crosswalk near the intersection of County and East Streets, you will hear the sound of running water in the culvert nearby.
Lewis Edwin Willcomb was the son of Daniel L. and Louisa (Sweet) Willcomb. In early life he went to California and the north-west territories, and was one of the party that founded Helena, now the capitol of Montana. On April 20, 1864 at the age of 25 he was married by the Rev. Robert to Lucy A. Ross, daughter of Daniel and Elizabeth (Perkins) Ross. For many years he conducted a general grocery and provision business at this location, known locally as Willcomb’s square, succeeding his brother, Fred Willcomb.
This closeup from the 1872 Ipswich map shows Willcomb’s store at the intersection of East, Spring, and County Street, which was still called Cross Street at that time. It is said that when the County wanted to pipe water from the spring to the jail on Green Street, they provided running water to the Willcomb building as a condition for laying pipes through his land.