Henry Kingsbury, the earliest known owner of this lot, is first mentioned in Ipswich Records of 1638. Key features of this house include a hidden room, 10 fireplaces with delicate Federal details (added by the Lords when they redecorated in 1790). It is possible that some elements of the present house may date to 1660, the year Kingsbury sold a house and lot to Robert Lord. Re-used chamfered timbers from a previous structure have been observed in the stone foundation of one of its chimneys. The present house, however is not First Period and probably dates to after John Lord gained possession in 1716.
The left side of this outstanding early Georgian house is said to be the oldest. The leanto (saltbox) was popular for structures throughout the colonial period and were built integrally in Georgian houses until the Federal era. This places the date of construction for the oldest part of 52-54 High St. between 1716 and approximately 1780. Interior architectural features would suggest the later time period, but that is because of the 1790 remodeling. It is unclear when the house was expanded to its present form.
Prudence Fish wrote, “Another questionable subject for me is the long Harris (Kingsbury-Lord) house on High St. A previous owner asked me to look at it a long time ago when they were thinking of selling. I know it supposedly has an early date but I didn’t find anything old in there. It all looked Federal. That was many years ago but at the time I was convinced that the house did not retain anything before 1800. The deed says there was a house there in 1822.”
Thomas Franklin Waters wrote, “On the north corner (of High and Mineral Streets), Henry Kingsbury owned a lot with a house, which he sold to Robert Lord, “the street or lane leading into the Mill St., southeast August 30, 1660. The property continued for generations in the Lord line. John Lord was in possession in 1716. Richard Sutton and others, including the widow Almira Lord of Portland, sold to Ephraim B. Harris, the house and three quarters of an acre, December 30, 1820 (233: 148). A portion of the house and land was still owned by the Harris heirs at the beginning of the 20th Century. Major Epes Jewett owned a portion of the house, and Andrew Russel married his daughter and bought the northwest end, while another, Mrs. Woodbury owned a tenement in the middle of the old mansion.”
The adjoining six and one half acres to the northwest on High St. is land formerly of Quartermaster Perkins in the 17th Century. The lots with buildings on them were conveyed to John Harris, July 7, 1795 (164: 236). Col. Nathaniel Harris inherited a portion. In 1858 a fire swept off a number of buildings in this neighborhood but this house survived. The 1832 map shows these houses belonging to various members of the Harris family, with Ephraim Harris as the owner of 52-54 High St. The 1856 map shows this stretch of houses on High St. as the Nathaniel Harris estate.
Henry Kingsbury was a commoner in 1641, and one of Major Denison’s subscribers in 1648. He came with Gov. Winthrop in 1630, and appears to have been one of his family. In writing to his wife, “From aboard the Arbela, riding at the Cowes, March 28, 1630,” Gov. Winthrop says, “Henry Kingsbury hath a child or two in the Talbot sick of the measles , but like to do well.” He sold a farm of thirty acres to Thomas Safford, February 8, 1648, but in the same year he bought of Daniel Ladd, of Haverhill, house and land on High St. in Ipswich in which he was already living. Kingsbury sold his properties in Ipswich in 1660 and resettled in Haverhill. He possessed a six acre lot which he sold to Edmund bridges; who sold the same to Anthony Potter and Elder John Whipple, April 4, 1660. In the same year he sold this lot with a house on it to Robert Lord, for two Oxen in hand plus 5 pounds to be paid Robert Paine, and 40 shillings to Edmund Bridges.
Many legends surrounded the enigmatic Robert Lord Jr. He, like many Ipswich men, served in the Indian wars. Although he was short in stature, he was one of the strongest and most fearless men in the military service, and in fact became so accustomed to camp life that he could never afterwards sleep upon a feather bed.
A story was told that a group of Indians was confronted by Robert Lord’s unit, and the Indians proposed that the dispute be settled by the champions of the two parties. Robert Lord walked to the front as champion of the colonists. The Indians selected the tallest and strongest of their tribe, nearly seven feet in stature. Lord and the Indian were to meet at full run and wrestle with the “Indian hug”, which the Indians anticipated would be an easy victory.
They ran toward each other and in an instant the Indian lay stretched upon the earth. Shouts of encouragement by the colonists could be heard throughout the forest. The Indians demanded a rematch, and in this second encounter Lord used the “hip-lock” on his antagonist and threw him with such force that a blood vessel was ruptured in the fall. The Indians carried him from the arena, fully acknowledging defeat.
Sources and further reading:
- T.F. Waters, Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, vol. I, pp. 363, 66, 83, 139, vol. II, pp. 108, 700.
- Hammatt Papers: Early inhabitants of Ipswich, Mass. 1633-1700 by Abraham Hammatt
- WikiTree: Henry Kingsbury
- Genealogy of the Descendants of Henry Kingsbury of Ipswich and Haverhill, Massachusetts