Author Archives

Gordon Harris

Gordon Harris is the town historian for Ipswich Massachusetts.

Melanson’s fire, August 7, 2009

The video above was posted on Youtube by Donald Freyleue. Herman Melanson’s Boatyard on Water Street burned in a spectacular fire on August 7, 2009. The boathouse was constructed by Herman Melanson’s father in 1954. Herman and his mother continued to live there after it was sold to Arthur Harrington in 1985. Harrington’s […]

Lords Square

Lords Square was known as Brewer’s Corner in early Ipswich. John Brewer was a town clerk and being on what was then the outskirts of town owned a large lot, which he divided into sections and sold. Brewer’s First Period home at 82 High Street was built in […]

Great Neck

Before the settlement of Ipswich was begun in 1633 by John Winthrop, William Jeffrey, who had come over in 1623, had purchased from the Indians a title to the glacial drumlin which bears his name. By 1639 the whole tract was set apart as a common pasture by the new town, and in 1666 the General Court gave Jeffrey five hundred acres of land elsewhere. After the early eighteenth century, the Necks remained as the only common lands retained by the Commoners.

Wolf moon over Little Neck

Little Neck

Featured image: “Wolf Moon” over Little Neck, January 1, 2018. Photo by Susan Turner Po In 1639, two wealthy brothers William and Robert Paine (aka Payne) procured a grant of land in the town of Ipswich from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In about 1649 Robert offered to “erect […]

Benjamin Ellsworth at the Ipswich Lighthouse

The Ipswich lighthouse

Benjamin Ellsworth was appointed keeper of the Ipswich lighthouse by Abraham Lincoln in 1861. With his daughter Susan, he remained at the station until his death in 1902. In 1837 the U.S. government erected two 29′ towers for guidance to the mouth of the Ipswich River along with […]

Legendary ships of Salem

The photos and text below are from Old-time Ships of Salem, published by the Essex Institute, 1917. “From the year of its settlement in 1628 until the middle of the 19th century, Salem, in the Massachusetts Bay, was a maritime port surpassed in size and importance by only two or three […]

Dustbane–sawdust in a can!

Dustbane Products was founded in 1908 by two entrepreneurial Canadians, Chester E. Pickering and George W. Green, who managed to convince people to buy pine-scented sawdust for cleaning floors, despite the fact that people already used free sawdust for that purpose. U.S. Manufacturing plants were established in Chicago and Ipswich.The […]

Sales of Negroe slaves

Names of the Ipswich slaves

In 1641 the Massachusetts Bay Colony adopted a code of laws that made slavery legal. In 1755, the slaves in this town above the age of sixteen numbered sixty-two, but within ten years, public opinion began turn against slavery. In 1780, the present Constitution of Massachusetts was adopted, its first article asserting that all men are born free and equal.

The Great Salem Fire, June 25, 1914

Salem, Massachusetts burned on June 25, 1914. It began with a series of explosions at the Korn leather factory on Boston street, and burned 253 acres, cut a swath a half-mile wide and a mile-and-a-half long through the city. Almost half of the population of 48,000 people lost their homes. Read more […]

Bombshell from Louisbourg

Mounted securely to a stone post at the corner of Middle and Independent Streets in Newburyport, there was for many years a large cast-iron bombshell, thrown from a mortar at the Second Siege of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia in 1758. It was brought to Newbury by Nathaniel Knapp, who served as […]

Rachel Clinton arrested for witchcraft, May 28, 1692

Everything about Rachel Clinton’s life went wrong, and in her old age she became a beggar and a ward of the town of Ipswich, She was an easy target for the witchcraft hysteria that spread from Salem throughout Essex County, and on May 28, 1692, Rachel Clinton was arrested, and was kept in the Ipswich or Salem jail, shackled with iron fetters.

The Ipswich steamship Carlotta

The steamship “Carlotta”

The excursion boat Carlotta was built in 1878 at Rogers Point Boar Yard at the end of Agawam Avenue, and sailed from the Town Wharf to points on the Neck and Plum Island for 35 years. The small hotels at Ipswich Bluff on Plum Island were a favorite destination for tourists and locals.

Mothers Day Flood, May 14-16, 2006

Fourteen inches of rain fell between May 14 and May 16, 2006, creating the historic 2006 Mothers Day Flood.  Water flow levels in the Ipswich River were 27% higher than recorded in previous epic floods. Photos are from the Ipswich River Watershed Association site with additonal photos provided by myself and readers. Kerry […]

The “wearing of long hair”

The wearing of long hair was a burning theme of address in the early Puritan pulpit. The clergy prescribed that the hair should by no means lie over the band or doublet collar. In 1649, the Governor and seven of the Assistants declared their “dislike and detestation against the wearing of such long hair, whereby men doe deforme themselves, and offend sober and modest men.”

Engraving of Market Square in Ipswich from John Warner Barber’s Historical collections: being a general collection of interesting facts, traditions, biographical sketches, anecdotes, etc. relating to the history and antiquities of every town in Massachusetts,” published in 1839

Ipswich town meeting

Featured image: Ipswich woodcut, 1838 attributed to S. E. Brown. Thomas Franklin Waters recorded the early history of Town Meeting in his book, Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The first Ipswich public official appointed was the Clerk, Robert Lord, chosen in February 1643-4, “from this time forward to be […]

The Choate Bridge–what a bargain!

This 250-year-old bridge that the naysayers claimed would never survive its first day has stood the test of time. It cost our town £500 to build, $1000 to widen, and some occasional upkeep. When we consider every horse, buggy, stagecoach, car, truck, bicycle and pedestrian that has passed over Col. Choate’s bridge since 1764, that seems like a really good deal.

John Winthrop’s journal of the ship Arbella’s voyage to America, March 29 – July 8, 1630

On April 7, 1630, the Arabella was a week out from its port in England, and the last well-wishers returned to shore. The winds were finally favorable, and the ship weighed anchor and sailed for New England, with Governor John Winthrop and approximately 300 English Puritans on board, leaving their homes in England to settle in a fledgling colony.

The Hayes Hotel

The Hayes Hotel was constructed in 1842 by James Peatfield and Sandford Peatfield as a factory for the manufacture of woolen goods, hosiery and underclothing. John W. Hayes purchased the building in 1885 and established the Hayes Tavern, By the middle of the 20th Century the building still had the hotel sign, but was being used as a rooming house, which burned in 1969 with loss of life.

Joppa Flats, Newburyport

In the late 19th Century, clam shacks proliferated along a stretch of the Merrimack River in Newburyport known as Joppa Flats, providing clams to the Boston area. Photos in this slideshow were provided by Laurie Jarvis Short. Visit her Joppa Flats page on Facebook.