Author Archives

Gordon Harris

Gordon Harris is the town historian for Ipswich Massachusetts.

The shipwrecks at Ipswich Bar

Featured image: Map from Plum Island: The Way It Was by Nancy V. Weare The Ipswich Bar has a long history of tragic shipwrecks. Its swift currents and shallow waters are especially dangerous during storms, and many ships have gone aground. In 1802 and again in 1852 the Merrimack Humane […]

Thomas Dennis house, County Street, Ipswich MA

Thomas Dennis, legendary Ipswich joiner

In 1937, Irving P. Lyon published a series of six articles about Thomas Dennis, joiner of Ipswich, analyzing numerous articles of furniture and family documents. The furniture of Thomas Dennis took on the status of historic treasure, and over time more pieces were attributed to him than he could […]

Ipswich and the Breach with Britain

On June 10th, 1776, the men of Ipswich, in Town-meeting assembled, instructed their Representatives, that if the Continental Congress should for the safety of the said Colonies Declare them Independent of the Kingdom of Great Britain, they will solemnly engage with their lives and Fortunes to support them in the Measure.

19th Century political toasts

In April, 1778, a number of prominent Essex County men gathered in Ipswich to discuss the drafting of a new Massachusetts constitution, and became the local backbone of the Federalist Party, advocating the financial policies of Alexander Hamilton. President John Adams coined the name “Essex Junto” for this group, who he deemed his […]

Ipswich during World War II

WWII scrap metal collection in Ipswich To build tanks, ships, and planes during WWII, scrap metal drives were held across the country, and Ipswich was no exception. Do you recognize this location? The Proximity Fuze: How Ipswich women helped win WWII The former Ipswich Mills, now owned by EBSCO, was the site of one of the most […]

Christian Wainwright house, Ipswich MA

The Christian Wainwright house, Market St.

The home of Christian Wainwright house originally sat next door to the Nathaniel Treadwell house at 12 North Main Street. In 1845 Joseph Baker moved it to the corner of Market and Saltonstall Streets. The Ipswich Historical Society tore down the house in order to create a better view of the Whipple House before it was moved to the South Green.

Historic people

Alice Keenan wrote, “When we moved to Ipswich, this lovely old town, its long history, ancient houses and interesting people became almost an obsession. Dry names and dates mean little to me until one firms out the flesh of the past, for it’s those long-ago people without whom […]

The British attack on Sandy Bay

On the wall of a building at Bearskin Neck in Rockport, MA is the sign shown below. Rockport experienced one of the oddest invasions in U.S. history during the War of 1812 when British sailors faced the town’s stubborn and fearless residents. I don’t know if the people of Rockport […]

Roads to Paradise

Paradise Road follows a shallow peninsula bordered by Muddy Brook and the Egypt River. In 1807, the ancient path was laid out by the Town as a road from Pingrey’s Plain near the Clam Box, which served as the hanging grounds, to the Muddy River Bridge and the Egypt River. Thomas Franklin Waters […]

The last cottage on Plum Island

(This article was written by Beverly Perna before the cottage was torn down, and has been updated.) An iconic Ipswich landmark, the last privately owned cottage on the Ipswich end of Plum Island, was turned over to the Fish and Wildlife Service  and was taken down in 2016. Boaters and […]

John Dolan Ipswich MA

Remembering John Dolan

The following article was written in 2013 by Beverly Perna for the Ipswich Chronicle.  Reprinted with permission. It is true—when you become “of an age,” you start to scan the obituaries. Sadly with each passing year, I see more familiar names. If I didn’t know them, I knew of them. I looked […]

How will sea level rise affect Ipswich?

Sea levels rose about 8 inches globally and about 1 foot on the Eastern Seaboard in the past century. What would happen to Ipswich if catastrophic predictions for the 21st Century are realized? In a December 6, 2012 report, NOAA’s Climate Program Office collaborated with authors from NASA, the U.S. Geological […]

The Muster Murder of 1787

During the Boston Muster of 1787, Daniel Foster of Rowley participated in the customary celebration of shooting musket balls into the air, and accidentally killed Amos Chapman of Ipswich. A jury ordered his execution, but Governor John Hancock opposed capital punishment and pardoned Foster.

Taffty Hill

Remembering Taffy Hill

by Beverly Perna Ipswich lost a great friend recently with the death of Howard “Taffy” Hill. Memories poured forth as residents learned he had passed away at the age of 87 on March 26, 2011. Hill was a familiar sight at his near iconic store on Market Street, in […]

Photo of the Ipswich Town Farm by George Dexter

The Ipswich Town Farm, 1817-1928

Ipswich established its first poorhouse in 1717, and until then the poor and incapacitated were simply let out to the lowest bidder. There was a growing movement in Massachusetts during the early 19th century for establishing rural working town farms for the poor. In 1817 the town voted to buy the farm owned by John Lummus, on what is now Town Farm Road.

Greek Hotel Ipswich

The Greek Hotel

The J. J. Goodhue home at the corner of Market Street and Saltonstall Streets is visible in the 1872 Ipswich village map, and in the 1884 village map, but the 1910 village map identifies it as the Greek Hotel, which operated a coffee shop on its main floor. In […]

Nautical map of Crane Beach

The missing dunes at Castle Neck

When Google maps first went online, it showed a couple of large dunes at the tip of Crane Beach, one labelled “The Great Dune.” It was the tallest of the newer dunes, comparable in size to Wigwam Hill, which is an older well-established dune in the middle of Castle Neck. The Great […]

Carted back to Ipswich, 1714

In the Old North Burying Yard on High Street in Ipswich lies the body of the Reverend Samuel Belcher. Born in Ipswich in 1639, he graduated from Harvard College in 1659, and studied for the ministry, and was preaching at Kittery, Maine as early as 1663. In 1668 he married Mary, daughter […]

The Ipswich Lower North Green, photo by George Dexter

George Dexter’s Ipswich

Perhaps the best-known early Ipswich Photographer was George Dexter (1862-1927). His photographs along with those of Edward Lee Darling (1874-1962) provide a wonderful visual history of the town. Thanks to Ipswich native Robert Cronin for sharing with me his collection of George Dexter glass plate negatives that have been […]

View of Ipswich Town Hill in the Winter from the hill

Ipswich after a snowstorm, circa 1900

  This photo was taken by Ipswich photographer George Dexter in the late 19th or early 20th Century from Town Hill above High Street, in the vicinity of Highland Cemetery. The First Church and Methodist Church steeples are in the background. Snow-covered Heartbreak Hill rises in the distance. Copies of […]