Author Archives

Gordon Harris

Gordon Harris is the town historian for Ipswich Massachusetts.

Mill Road Linear Park RIP

It’s been a few years now since the 2006 Mother’s Day storm knocked the Mill Road Bridge a bit askew, closing it for three years. Two fences were erected effectively making the bridge feel like a demilitarized zone between Hamilton and Ipswich Massachusetts. And thus did the Mill […]

Ada K. Damon, Ipswich MA

Wrecks of the schooners

These are photos of two and three-masted schooners, several of which wrecked at Steep Hill Beach, Crane Beach and Plum Island. Featured image: Wreckage on Steep Hill Beach believed to be the Ada K. Damon is frequently exposed by the changing tide and sands. Photo by Bruce Lord. Sand […]

The year without summer in New England

1816, the year without summer

On June 5, 1816 a heat wave raised the temperature in Ipswich to 92° but that afternoon a cold front swept across New England and the temperature fell to 43° by the next morning. For the next four days there were severe frosts along the Eastern seaboard, and snow was recorded in some locations. By the 9th of June ice began to form on water left standing outside overnight. Rapid, dramatic temperature swings continued throughout the summer.

Mason’s Claim

On January 4, 1681, John T. Mason presented the King’s letter to the General Court, which ordered “all said tenants” to appear in Ipswich. If an ancient claim was confirmed, every land title would be worthless and a landed medieval system known as “quit-rents” could be grafted upon New England.

Appleton's Pulpit Massachusetts Bay Colony Tercentenary Commission

The defiant Samuel Appleton

In 1687, a warrant was issued for the arrest of several Ipswich men for being “seditiously inclined and disaffected to his Majesty’s government.” The 62-year-old Major Samuel Appleton scorned the appearance of submission and remained imprisoned in the cold Boston Jail through the winter.

Old photo of the Hart House

Lucy Kimball

The following is from Historic Ipswich Vol III by Susan Howard Boice: “This is an old photo of Lucy Ardell Kimball, joined by her mother, Kate, and father, Phillip. Lucy was a descendant of the Jewett, Lord and Kimball families, who were big parts of Ipswich for more […]

Into the Fire, 2001

On a Tuesday night in January 2001 the Collum house at 18 Lafayette Street went up in flames. Harold Bowen once wrote that this house had been built from lumber that was salvaged when a tall wood fence surrounding Bialek Park was removed early in the 20th Century. […]

General Lafayette

Lafayette returns to Ipswich

In 1824 citizens of Ipswich heard with “unfeigned pleasure” that General LaFayette, “the undeviating defender of rational freedom and the rights of man, the illustrious friend of America” would be passing through our area. The town prepared the most elaborate tribute it had ever paid to a visitor.

A beautiful little bridge

Bob Foote took this photo of a small bridge just beyond the EBSCO building that is along the tracks beyond the train station. Kimball Brook is a small stream that originates at Scott Hill off of Topsfield road, curves around Bush Hill and then crosses Topsfield Road  and the […]

The Plum Island Salt Company

In the Publications of the Ipswich Historical Society I read the forgotten story of the Plum Island Salt Company. All traces of its existence have disappeared. In the  1820’s a Frenchman, Gilshenan by name made examination of many localities along the American coast to erect a salt works. Coming at last […]

Mathison painting, "Examination of a Witch" trial of Elizabeth Howe of Ipswich

The Witchcraft Trial of Elizabeth Howe

Elizabeth Howe and her husband James resided on outer Linebrook. Her husband James lost his sight at about the age of 50 and Elizabeth assumed the dual responsibility of managing the family and the farm. Elizabeth Howe was charged with bewitching her neighbor’s child, was arrested on May 28, 1692. She was hung in Salem on July 19, 1692.

One Third for the Widow

Under Puritan law, widows could keep only one third of their property. Martha Ringe was widowed with small children after her husband died. After considering her petition, the court allowed Martha to marry John Wood before three years had passed “in order to advance her circumstances.”

The Year that Ipswich Burned

The Central Street Fire, January 13, 1894 Late in the night on January 13, 1894 townspeople were awakened to the church bells sounding the alarm that downtown was on fire. Firefighters struggled with their equipment in gale-force winds as the temperature dropped to 16 degrees below zero. The […]

The Ipswich Townie Test

In 2008 the Ipswich Chronicle ran a series of articles called “The Townie Test”. Readers responded with their answers. Q1: Name the successful Ipswich retail merchant known as “Taffy.” A: Howard “Taffy” Hill Q2: What was the name of the dry cleaning business that was once located on […]

Martha Winthrop’s grave

The Ipswich Chronicle ran this story in the year 2000. Burial site of first settler may be revealed  A recent letter to the Zoning Board may hold some clues to the location of the gravesite of Mrs. John Winthrop and her child who may have been buried on […]

Map of the Ipswich hills

The hills of Ipswich

The photo above is a view of Heartbreak Hill taken from the roof of a building onNorth Main Street in 1879. Mills line County Street on either side of the bridge which was only a few years old at that time. The mills are gone now, and Heartbreak […]

The Missing Burial Ground

The Case of the Missing Burial Ground Lesslie Road Burial Ground Linebrook Parish, Old Ipswich, Massachusetts Story by: Bruce Laing Toward a comprehensive documentation of the greater Ipswich burial grounds In 1935 Arthur Warren Johnson and Ralph Elbridge Ladd jr. wrote Momento Mori, a map and transcription of tombstones […]