Author Archives

Gordon Harris

Gordon Harris is the town historian for Ipswich Massachusetts.

Milestone 33 on the Old Bay Road

Along the Old Bay Road

In November 1639, the General Court in Boston ordered that the first official road be laid out from Boston to Portsmouth. Bay Road was to be constructed by each town along the way and milestones carved in stone were installed to indicate distances. Some (but not all) of […]

Ada K. Damon, Ipswich MA

Wrecks of the sand schooners

These are photos of two-masted sand 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 schooners […]

The Ipswich Town Wharf

The Town Wharf

In November, 1634, it was agreed that “the length of Ipswich should extend westward unto the buryinge place (Old North Burying Ground), and eastward unto a cove of the river, unto the planting ground of John Pirkings the Elder.” The cove mentioned here was where the Ipswich River lapped East […]

1816, the year without summer

Featured image: View from Town Hill by George Dexter, circa 1900 The year 1816 was known as “The Cold Year,” and “The Year Without a Summer.” In our area it was called “Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death” and “the Summer of Mittens.” Throughout New England there was frost in […]

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.

Samuel Appleton in the Ipswich Post Office Mural

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.

The Ipswich Female Seminary

The Ipswich Female Seminary was established in April 1828 by Zilpah Grant and 24-year-old Mary Lyon for the secondary and college-level education of young women. Girls were prepared for careers as teachers and provided with rigorous studies in academic subjects and “standards of personal conduct and discipline.” It was the first endowed seminary for women and the first to give diplomas to its graduates.

Agawam Diner when it was in Ipswich

The Agawam Diner

The Agawam Diner on Rt. 1 in Rowley was built by the Fodero Dining Car Company in 1954. An earlier Agawam Diner was opened by the Galanis Family at Depot Square in Ipswich in 1940, and was replaced by a larger diner, and then by the current one […]

The Great Storm of 1815

Jane Hooper, the fortune teller

This story is adapted from the Reminiscences of Joseph Smith and Reminiscences of a Nonagenarian and brings together no less than four incredible old tales. Jane Hooper was in 1760 a Newburyport “school dame” but after she lost that job she found fame as a fortune-teller and became known in our area as “Madam Hooper, the […]