Several years ago I rode 3500 across America without incident, but in Ipswich I fear for my life.
Gordon Harris is the town historian for Ipswich Massachusetts.
Although there was great enthusiasm for the Mexican War in Southern and Western states, “President Polk’s War” was seen in our area as an intolerable expansion of slavery states.
Representing the defendants, Daniel Webster appealed to the jury to say under oath whether the inconsistencies and improbabilities of the prosecution should have any weight.
In the last couple of years I’ve composted about a ton of coffee grounds to be used in my garden. The peas received a generous helping of the compost, and this year’s plants are almost 8′ tall!
The Great Migration brought nearly 14,000 Puritan settlers, unprepared for the hardships and trauma that awaited them. Building a new society in the wilderness induced transgenerational post-traumatic stress and mass conversion disorder, culminating in the Salem Witch Trials.
Photos of houses and tombstones of the early inhabitants of Ipswich, with maps of the lots and land grants given to the settlers.
The contiguous historic neighborhoods of Meeting House Green, High Street, the East End, and the South Green present the town’s original settlement pattern and offer well-preserved streetscapes of 17th to 19th-century private residences.
When the Town of Ipswich was established, ownership of a house and land within the town bounds carried with it the right of pasturage beyond the Common Fence. In 1788, the commoners resigned all their land interests to pay the heavy town debt incurred during the Revolution.
Grape Island was once a small but thriving community, and briefly a popular summer resort. In 1941, 3000 acres of Plum Island including Grape Island were purchased by the U.S. government to establish the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.
In 1737, Captain Nathaniel Treadwell opened an inn in the house still standing at 12 N. Main St. The second Treadwell’s Inn stands at 26 N. Main St. Guests at the two inns included John Adams, President Monroe, Daniel Webster and the Marquis de LaFayette.
Massachusetts men played a conspicuous part in the French and Indian War, which resulted in wholesale destruction and deportation in French-speaking Nova Scotia. Surviviors were exiled to the Colonies, their children taken from them and distributed to English families as “nothing more than slaves.”
Newcomers and visitors to Ipswich inevitably suggest installing a traffic light at the confusing intersection of Market, Central, North Main and South Main Streets, but most people agree it would be a bad idea.
Snowstorms on the 20th and 24th of February 1717 covered the earth up to 20 ft. deep. In some places houses were completely buried, and paths were dug from house to house under the snow. A widow in Medford burned her furniture to keep the children warm.
In 1648, Alexander Knight was charged with the death of his chiled whose clothes caught on fire. A jury fined him for carelessness after being warned. The town took mercy and voted to provide him a piece of land “whereas Alexander Knight is altogether destitute, his wife alsoe neare her tyme.”
Imprinted into the rocks in front of the First Church in Ipswich is the footprint of the devil, left there forever in a legendary encounter with the traveling English evangelist George Whitefield in 1740.
Crane Beach belongs to the Trustees of Reservations and is part of the historic Crane Estate. The property includes Crane Castle, miles of shoreline, and over 5 miles of marked trails through the dunes at Castle Neck and Steep Hill Beach, open year-round.
Crane Beach and all of Castle Neck are protected by the Trustees of Reservations. Pitch pine and scrub oak rise from the masses of marsh grass, sage green hudsonia and dune lichen lining the trails that wind through the dunes.
Harry Maine — you have heard the tale; He lived there in Ipswich Town; He blasphemed God, so they put him down with an iron shovel, at Ipswich Bar; They chained him there for a thousand years, As the sea rolls up to shovel it back; So when the sea cries, the goodwives say “Harry Maine growls at his work today.”
In the 1960’s, music could be heard in Ipswich at the King’s Rook. In 1969, Phil Cole purchased the business and renamed it Stonehenge, Tom Rush, Judy Collins. the Paul Butterfield Band. Bo Didley, Al Kooper, Bonnie Rait and many other famous musicians played there before it closed in 1972.
In our struggle for Independence, the British military received its first setback from the inhabitants of Salem in an episode that could not have been more ludicrous or entertaining if it had been written for Monty Python.
Lathrop Brothers Coal and Ice Company harvested on the Ipswich River between Upper River Road and Haywood Street. Lines were drawn on the ice and horses dragged “groovers” along the line, cutting the ice about 6 to 8 inches deep. The ice was then floated to the ice house, where it was cut into blocks.
In 1819 the inhabitants of Chebacco Parish began noticing lights moving about at night in the graveyard. It was discovered that at least eight graves had been dug up and their coffins were empty.
The 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.
Symonds Epes bought a large tract in 1726 and built a substantial farm and orchards at Wigwam Hill, named for a group of destitute Indians who briefly camped there. The husband of one of his descendants cut the protecting scrub pines for lumber. Without the protection of the trees and grass, the farm quickly fell victim to the drifting sand.
The first settlers of Ipswich were given rights to use of the Common land. Unfenced tillage lots beyond the residential area were assigned in areas set apart for this use, including the area of Newmarch Street which was known as Manning’s Neck.
Many people trace their roots back through several generations to Ipswich, one of the earliest towns in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. No community in this country is a more fulfilling destination for the genealogy tourist.
Ipswich has over 40 houses or other buildings that were moved, or have sections that were moved from a different location. Many other small outbuildings in town were also moved decades ago and are still standing.
In 1792 Dr. John Manning erected a factory at the corner of South Main and Market Street beside the Choate Bridge, and began the manufacture of coarse cloths and blankets in 1794. The completed building was two stories high, 105 feet long and 32 feet wide. On the roof squatted a great octagonal tower, inside of which were the arms and sails of a horizontal windmill.
A grassy strip near the intersection of Topsfield and Mill Roads belonged to Crocker Snow, an aviation pioneer. He received Massachusetts Pilot License No. 5 in 1927, signed by Orville Wright.
Although half-billion year old granite formed Town Hill in Ipswich, most of the town’s landforms date to about 20,000 years ago.
In New England we anticipate snowstorms with a mix of dread and glee. Edgar Allen Poe observed that in life “We stand upon the brink of a precipice. We peer into the abyss. Unaccountably we remain.”
In 1673, two fishermen from the Isles of Shoals, Andrew Diamond and Harry Maine, arrived together in Ipswich. Mr. Diamond built a platform for salting and shipping fish, and became quite successful. The location is still known today as Diamond Stage.
On the cold icy morning of December 13, 1774, Paul Revere headed out on a 60 mile gallop from Boston along the Old Bay Road through Ipswich to warn the citizens of Portsmouth that British troops may be landing.
An angry mob surrounded the Haverhill home of Col. Richard Saltonstall, a Loyalist, who opened his door and stated that that he was bound to discharge the duties of the office.
Magistrates in the Massachusetts Bay Colony were alarmed by Quaker teachings of direct personal revelations from God. The courts passed a series of laws forbidding residents from housing Quakers. Quakers themselves were threatened with whipping, arrest, imprisonment, banishment, or death.
Featured image: Ships off Liverpool in the Great Storm of 1839, painted by Samuel Walters. From: “Awful calamities: or, The shipwrecks of December 1839: “It has probably never fallen to the lot of the citizens of New England to witness or record so many terrible disasters by sea in the […]
On December 1, 1722, Daniel Rogers was returning to Ipswich from a court case in Hampton and took a wrong turn that led deep into Salisbury marshes. His body was found a few days later near Salisbury beach. Suspicion fell on one Moses Gatchel but no charges were filed, there being a lack of solid evidence.
Dr. John Calef was among only seven members of the Massachusetts Assembly who voted to retract the “Massachusetts Circular Letter” which was adopted in response to the 1767 Townshend Acts. Ipswich citizens’ anger at Calef lingered as war with England approached.
After weeks of rain and a record-breaking cold spell, this was a beautiful day for a hike at Castle Neck, returning along Crane Beach.
Jenny Slew was born about 1719 as the child of a free white woman and a black slave. She lived her life as a free woman until 1762 when she was kidnapped and enslaved by John Whipple. Jenny Slew is believed to be the first person held as a slave to be granted freedom through trial by jury.