Author Archives

Gordon Harris

Gordon Harris is the town historian for Ipswich Massachusetts.

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 […]

Shucking clams on the Ipswich River circa 1900

The Ipswich clam

Ipswich is known as the home of the fried clam, although the claim has long been disputed by the town of Essex. The mud in the salt marshes along the Ipswich, Eagle, Essex and Parker Rivers is what gives our clams their wonderful taste. Ipswich was also home to Soffron Bros which produced clam strips for Howard Johnsons restaurants.

Arthur Wesley Dow photo of Marblehead

Marblehead is established, May 6, 1635

Featured image: Marblehead, by Arthur Wesley Dow, circa 1900 A story at Mass Moments In May 1635 the General Court ordered “that there shall be a plantation at Marble Head” and gave the inhabitants the right to do whatever they pleased with the land, even though it was […]

Moses Jewett house, 307 High St.

Homes of the Jewetts

Deacon Maximilian Jewett was born in Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire, England, baptized Oct. 4th, 1607. He with his wife Ann, and his brother Joseph sailed from Hull, England in 1638 in the ship John, with a colony under the leadership of Rev. Ezekiel Rogers. They arrived at […]

Maple Street in Ipswich

Maple Ave.

Maple Street first appears in the 1884 Ipswich map, without houses. A white arrow in the photo above points to the house still standing at 6 Maple Street, with a horse in front. The photo was taken from Town Hill by Edward Darling, around 1890. In the foreground are […]

The Holyoke-French house

Colonial houses of Boxford

Houses built during the Colonial era in Boxford, Massachusetts. Listings and images provided by the MACRIS site of the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and by Vision Properties for the Town of Boxford, with additional historical information from The Dwellings of Boxford, by Sidney Perley BOX.48, Dr. William Hale, Rev. William P. […]

Bungalow, Ipswich MA

Bungalows of Ipswich

The Eastern Bungalow style was popular between 1910-1940, which included the Depression years. They are an affordable and practical adaptation of California’s Arts and Crafts movement. Full second floors are not a feature of this style, but finished attics are common. The style shares features with traditional well-ventilated folk houses in the warmer U.S. […]

Lynn Shoeworkers Strike, Feb. 22, 1860

Mass Moments On February 22,  1860, thousands of striking shoe workers filled Lyceum Hall in Lynn. By choosing to begin their protest on Washington’s birthday, the strikers were invoking the memory of their revolutionary forefathers. Lynn had been a shoe making town since the early 1800s. Hard times […]

The Marblehead smallpox riot

The Marblehead smallpox riot, 1773

In 1773, the attention of the inhabitants of Marblehead was occupied by danger from another source than British Parliament. The selectmen ordered all houses where the disease had appeared to be closed, and dogs to be killed immediately. The fears of the inhabitants increased when permission was granted to build a smallpox hospital on Cat Island.

High Spirits on Town Hill

  Standing 14′ high and about 12′ wide, the new bronze sculpture by Chris Williams on North Main St. in Ipswich honors the town’s creative community. It was conceived and funded by Ipswich resident Richard Silverman as a tribute to his late wife Robin Silverman.    

West Newbuy Massachusetts

Colonial houses of West Newbury MA

West Newbury’s history as a town began in 1635 when 23 men and their families, all from England, sailed through Plum Island Sound and up the Parker River, landing in Newbury. As more settlers arrived and families increased, land in Newbury became scarce, and some people moved westward to the “upper woods” beyond the Artichoke River.

Statue of Liberty

Born in a refuge camp

By Ingrid Miles, Ipswich  I was born in a refugee camp and I feel as if I am reliving my parents nightmare after World War II when my dad had to modify his name and identify himself as Christian; my mother was Catholic in order to come to […]

The Choate Bridge in Ipswich, photo by George Dexter

Battles of the bridges

Excerpts from Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, by Thomas Franklin Waters The stone bridges which span the Ipswich river with their graceful arches are picturesque and interesting, but the readiness with which the Town proceeded to build the latter two stone bridges is in singular contrast with […]

19th Century: Religion divided the town

Excerpts from Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony by Thomas Franklin Waters The Congregational Church The Congregational Church, founded by the first settlers, maintained the old order for many generations in undisputed supremacy. From time to time, as the population increased, as has been noted, new Parishes within […]

Lowell Offering, publication of mill workers in Lowell MA

The Lowell Offering

The Lowell Offering was a monthly periodical, first published in 1840, which featured poetry and fiction by female workers at textile mills in Lowell, MA. Known as the Lowell Mill Girls, they often wrote about situations in their own lives, including labor unrest in the factories. The Offering ceased publication in 1844 but was revived […]

Measuring time by an hourglass by Kitty Robertson

Measuring Time–by an hourglass

Kitty Robertson’s Measuring Time—By an Hourglass is an exquisite collection of essays, reflections on a 20th century life in small town New England, that first were published in the Ipswich Chronicle. Kitty is also the author of “The Orchard: A Memoir”. “Look through my eyes for a little […]