Author Archives

Gordon Harris

Gordon Harris is the town historian for Ipswich Massachusetts.

The Ipswich Town Flag

Behind the Selectmen in Meeting Room A at Town Hall are the American and Massachusetts flags, and in a frame between them is the Ipswich Town Flag. I found the history of our flag in the 1996 Ipswich Annual Town Report: “This year, the Town Clerk’s office was involved […]

An Ipswich rose by any other name

In our cold New England winter, ye Ipswich inhabitants and expatriates arm ouselves with keyboards and set out on the battling fields of Facebook to resolve the age-old questions that have long perplexed the Good People of Ipswich. Starting this round is David, a well-meaning person who posted […]

Bundling in Colonial America

Bundling

As settlers moved west into the cold New England frontier away from the Puritan strongholds, it was not uncommon for unmarried persons to be invited to sleep in the same bed for warmth. The definition of bundling evolved and developed over time into a ritual of courtship.

Records of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County MA

Stories from the Courts

In 1641, the General Court established four quarter-annual courts kept yearly by the magistrates of Ipswich & Salem, two to be held at Salem & the other two at Ipswich, with jurisdiction in all matters not reserved to the Court of Assistants. Read stories of Ipswich residents who faced the magistrates.

Ipswich MA lighthouse

Santa hits the Ipswich lightkeeper’s house, December 24, 1937

In 1939 the children were all assembled at the Ipswich Lighthouse, waiting for Fying Santa Edward Snow, who was running a bit behind schedule. Hearing the sound of an airplane the keeper called up to his wife, “Has Santa arrived yet, dear?” Immediately he heard the Christmas bundle crashing through the skylight, upon which his wife yelled down, “Yes, dear. We can start the party now.”

Plum Island the Way it Was

Nancy Weare

Nancy Virginia Weare passed away in Exeter on December 12 of this year at the age of 92. She taught at the Brown School in Newburyport for 17 years. She spent 33 years at her family’s summer camp was at Plum Island, and after the Parker River Wildlife Refuge […]

Rooty Plain near Rowley MA

Flight from Rooty Plain

The story of the Great Ipswich Fright on April 21, 1775  was widely told, and memorialized by John Greenleaf Whittier. Mrs. Alice P. Tenney in 1933 provided an amusing story of the fear that struck Rooty Plain, also called “Millwood,” a thriving little mill community along today’s Rt. 133 […]

Winslow Homer, the Christmas Tree

How Christmas came to Ipswich

Puritans shunned Christmas for its pagan roots, allowing only Thanksgiving as a time for feasting, and imposed a five-shilling fine on any persons found “observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way.” A Cambridge Unitarian minister’s family had the first Christmas tree in Massachusetts.