Author Archives

Gordon Harris

Gordon Harris is the town historian for Ipswich Massachusetts.

Daniel Hovey's house on Tansey Lane

Daniel Hovey

At the foot of Hovey Street along the Ipswich River is a plaque dedicated to the memory of Ipswich settler Daniel Hovey, whose home and wharf were across the river on what is now Tansey Lane.

Saugus Iron Works

Saugus Iron Works and the Appleton house.

Reprinted in part from MASS Moments. Featured image: National Park Service.  When the Great Migration of the 1630s ended, the number of ships bound for Massachusetts fell off steeply. The supply of iron products went down and the price went up.Among the men interested in seeing an iron industry develop in […]

Trails in Ipswich MA

Outdoor recreation

More than 50% of land in Ipswich is protected by the town, state and non-profit organizations, including Ipswich Open Space, Willowdale State Forest, Appleton Farms, Crane Beach and other Trustees of Reservations properties.

Voices of the Great Marsh

In March of 2001, the Eight Towns and the Great Marsh Committee in cooperation with organizations such as Mass Audubon and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as local citizens and students, produced a short videotape about the Great Marsh. The Committee promotes the value of this […]

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 […]

How to run for the Select Board

The Good People of Ipswich look forward the Annual Town Meeting, the hallowed New England tradition in which we debate transfers of even the smallest sums from one bookkeeping account to another, while being mercifully spared the details of an annual budget of some Fifty Million Dollars which […]

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 […]

Caldwell house, Ipswich MA

Sarah Dillingham Caldwell

Sarah Dillingham Caldwell was born in 1634, the daughter of John and Sarah (Caly) Dillingham. Her father died less than a year after she was born, and her mother two years later. At nineteen years of age she married John Caldwell. The years entrusted them with eight children, countless descendants, and their home on High Street still stands.

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.

Stagecoach Ipswich MA

The stagecoach in Ipswich

The first stagecoach in Essex County, drawn by four horses, was established in 1774 and connected Newburyport with Boston via Salem and Ipswich. By the early 1800’s, up to seventeen stagecoaches and four post chaises passed through town each day, most of them full to overflowing. In 1803, the Newburyport […]

polio shot

Life in the Summer of Polio

Photo by Peter Zaharis from the 1956 Ipswich Town Report. Before introduction of the Salk polio vaccine in 1955, there were tens of thousands of new cases of polio annually in the United States, many resulting in paralysis. In the following year, new cases had been cut in half, […]