Author Archives

Gordon Harris

Gordon Harris is the town historian for Ipswich Massachusetts.

The Dark Day, May 19, 1780

On the afternoon of May 18, 1780 the sky was a strange yellowish color and the clouds seemed dark and heavy. The next morning the sun came up deep red and barely visible through a haze, until by noon there was “midnight darkness” and people could not see. […]

Hay Scales

By the time of the Civil War, Fairbanks’ scales were the best known American product in the world. Erastus and Thaddeus Fairbanks were now joined by their younger brother, Joseph. The modest one-building operation expanded to 40 buildings with more than 20 acres of floor space by 1910. […]

Gothic Gables of Ipswich

The Gothic Revival style was a mid-19th century movement in architecture, reflecting the public’s taste for buildings inspired by medieval design. The Gables is a fascinating Gothic Revival home at 11 South Village Green, behind the John Baker House.  The house was designed by mathematician David Baker and […]

The Ipswich drive-through ban

In 1999, the Town of Ipswich began a growth management initiative for the 21st Century which came to be called “The Future of Ipswich Planning Project.” Its overall purpose was to help the residents, business owners, and property owners in Ipswich agree on a vision for the future […]

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.

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. […]

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 […]

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 […]