The Ipswich Historical Commission’s “Partial List of Historic Houses” prepared by Susan Nelson dates the house at 107 Argilla Road to 1785 with later alterations. Thomas Franklin Waters wrote the following for the Ipswich Historical Society in December 4, 1899: “Allen Baker built the substantial hip-roofed farm house nearby early in the present (19th) century. The Allen Baker farm house was purchased by Mr. Ephraim Brown and inherited by his son Thomas, whose widow and son own and occupy the historic spot today.”
The story of Argilla Farm
The land and marsh on the east side of Labour-in-vain Creek, extending to Northgate Road were bequeathed to John Winthrop in 1634. The Agawam Sagamore Masconomet had controlled the land, and made terms with Winthrop as follows:
” I doth testify that I Maskonomet did give to Mr. John Winthrop all that ground that is between the creek commonly called Labour in Vaine Creek & the Creek called Chebacco Creek, for which I do acknowledge to have received full satisfaction in wampampeage & other things and also for the sum of twenty pounds to be paid unto me by the said John Winthrop, I do fully resign all my right of the whole town of Ipswich as far as the bounds thereof shall go, all the woods, meadowes, pastures & broken up grounds, unto the said John Winthrop in the name of the rest of the English there planted.”
In 1637, Winthrop conveyed the Argilla Farm acreage to his brother-in-law Samuel Symonds, who became Deputy-Governor of the Colony. In 1644, John Winthrop sold Castle Hill to Samuel Symonds, and removed to Connecticut. 16 years later, Samuel Symonds sold Castle Hill and some portion of Castle Neck (300 acres) to his stepson Capt. Daniel Eppes. After Symonds’ death the the Argilla Farm property came into possession of Thomas Baker, who had married one of Symonds’ daughters. It was next inherited by his son John Baker. Thomas Franklin Waters wrote the history of the estate through the 19th Century:
“The whole western portion of the original Argilla farm seems thus to have come into the possession of John Baker. Colonel Baker died Aug. 1, 1734, aged forty-four, and left the farm to his son John. The latter became a man of large influence and great public usefulness. He was Town Clerk for many years, one of the Committee of Correspondence and Inspection during the Revolution, Colonel of a regiment, feoffee of the Grammar School, and Justice of the Sessions Court, and not least of all, father of twelve children. His town residence was the substantial dwelling on the Heard property, facing the South Green.
“In the partition of the estate in 1786, the widow received ‘the southwest end of the mansion in town,’ and two acres near the house, ‘from the house-block southwest by the street, etc,’ with the southwest end of the house at the farm with 33 rods of land bounding on Caldwell’s lane four rods and twenty links, and other lands. John received twenty-five and one half acres in ‘the great pasture,’ bounded by ‘ the highway to the Town’ and ‘the highway leading from Cape Ann to Castle Hill,’ with other lands, including Eagle Nest Island. Allen Baker received fifteen acres fronting on the highway, about forty-live rods from Labour-in-vain Bridge to Caldwell’s lane, with the northeast end of the farm house and the new barn, with other land.
“After their mother’s death in 1797 John received ‘one acre at the North corner of the close, so called, beginning at the north corner of John’s new dwelling house,’ and Allen, the west end of the old dwelling house, etc.,’ with all the privileges to said lane (Caldwell’s) which belong to said Argilla farm.’
“Allen Baker built the substantial hip-roofed farm house nearby early in the present (19th) century. The Allen Baker farm house was purchased by Mr. Ephraim Brown and inherited by his son Thomas, whose widow and son own and occupy the historic spot today.” —Thomas Franklin Waters, December 4, 1899
Lieutenant Governor Samuel Symonds
The Argilla Farm was conveyed by John Winthrop Jr. to Samuel Symonds in 1637. Symonds sent the following letter to Winthrop, describing how he wished his new home on the lot to be constructed. The house described is one or two rooms wide and one room deep, two stories in height, with a full cellar, central doorways and stairways, and wood chimneys on either side. (Archaic spelling corrected.)
To the Right Worshipful his much honored brother John Winthrop of Ipswich, Esq: speed this I pray.
I have received your letter, I thank you for it, it hath bin my earnest desire to have had an opportunity long ere this to have been with you again, but was hindered by the weather, and still my desire lasts, but now I cannot, by reason that my wife her time draweth very near.
Concerning the bargain that I have made with you for Argilla, my wife is well content, & it seems that my father Peter hath imparted it to the Governor, who (he tells me) approves of it very well; also, so I hope I shall now meet with no rub in that business, but go on comfortably, according as I have & daily do dispose my affairs for Ipswich.
Concerning the frame of the house, I thank you kindly for your love & care to further my business. I could be well content to leave much of the contrivance to your own liberty upon what we have talked together about it already.
I am indifferent whether it be 30 foot or 35 foot long ; 16 or 18 foot broad. I would have wood chimneys at each end, the frames of the chimneys to be stronger than ordinary, to bear good heavy load of clay for security against fire. You may let the chimneys be all the breadth of the house if you think good; the 2 lower doors to be in the middle of the house, one opposite to the other. Be sure that all the doorways in every place be so high that any man may go upright under.
The stairs I think had best be placed close by the door. It makes no great matter though there be no partition upon the first floor; if there be, make one bigger than the other. For windows let them not be over large in any room, & as few as conveniently may be; let all have current shutting draw-windows, having respect both to present & future use.
I think to make it a girt house will make it more chargeable then need; however, the side bearers for the second story being to be loaded with corn, etc., must not be pinned on, but rather ether let in to the studs, or borne up with false studs, & so tendoned in at the ends. I leave it to you & the carpenters.
In this story over the first, I would have a partition, whether in the middest or over the partition under, I leave it. In the garret no partition, but let there be one or two luthrn (gable) windows, if two, both on one side. I desire to have the spars reach down pretty deep at the eves to preserve the walls the better from the weather. I would have it cellared all over, & so the frame of the house accordingly from the bottom. I would have the house strong in timber, though plain & well braised.
I would have it covered with very good oak-heart inch board, for the present to be tacked on only for the present, as you told me. Let the frame begin from the bottom of the cellar, & so in the ordinary way upright, for I can hereafter (to save the timber within ground) run up a thin brick work without. I think it best to have the walls without to be all clap boarded besides the clay walls. It were not amiss to leave a doorway or two within the cellar, that so hereafter one may make comings in from without, & let them be both upon that side which the lucorne window or windows be.
I desire to have the house in your bargaining to be as completely mentioned in particulars as may be, at least so far as you bargain for, & as speedily done also as you can. I think it not best to have too much timber felled near the house place westward etc. Here are as many remembrances as come to mind. I desire you to be in my stead herein, & whatever you do shall please me.
Yours ever, S. Symonds
Sources and further reading:
- Samuel Symonds’ House, Historic Ipswich
- Publications of the Ipswich Historical Society
- Ipswich Historical Commission Partial List of Historic Houses
- Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Vol 1, page 511
- Publications of the Ipswich Historical Society: Argilla Farm (Baker ownership)