Author Archives

Gordon Harris

Gordon Harris is the town historian for Ipswich Massachusetts.

The wolf in colonial America

Killing wolves

One of the first laws instituted by the Massachusetts Bay Colony was a bounty on wolves, and in early Ipswich, a rather disconcerting aspect of entering the Meeting House was the site of wolf heads nailed to the door. Even in 1723, wolves were so abundant and so near the meeting house, that parents would not suffer their children to go and come from worship without some grown person.

Historic New England house Newbury MA

Colonial houses of old Newbury, Massachusetts

This page displays the First Period, Georgian, and early Federal houses of Newbury, Massachusetts. The following images, and text were provided by the Newbury Historical Society in 1989, and are online through the Massachusetts Historical Commission site (MACRIS). Photos are displayed alphabetically in order of street name. House numbers may have changed. Click on […]

Newburyport colonial houses

Newburyport Colonial homes

The HABS and the HABs NOTS Documenting the Architecture of Newburyport in the Historic American Buildings Survey Newburyport, MA was settled in 1635 as part of the town of Newbury. In 1764, the General Court of Massachusetts passed “An act for erecting part of the town of Newbury […]

County Street

County Street is in the Ipswich Architectural Preservation District and has some of the oldest houses in town. The section between East and Summer Streets was originally called Cross St, and the section between the County Street bridge and Poplar Street was known as Mill St. The roads were […]

Puritans warned out strangers and announced that the "town is full"

The Town is Full!

In 1673 the constable of Ipswich gave notice to William Nelson, Abner Ordway, and “an Irish man that married Rachel, Quarter Master Perkins’ maid” that the Town would not allow them to inhabit the Town unless they gave security to render the Town harmless from any charges by receiving them. In 1689, the Town refused to receive Humphrey Griffin as an inhabitant, or ” to provide for him as inhabitants formerly received, the town being full.”

Linebrook Church 1930, Ipswich Ma

Linebrook Parish

This remote area was originally known as Ipswich Farms. After the residents began pressing for their own church, the Massachusetts General Court on June 4, 1746, created the Linebrook Parish, the boundries of which were defined by 6 brooks and lines connecting them. The community had a church, store, school and its own militia.

Argilla Road by Arthur Wesley Dow

Argilla Road

The South Green was long known as School House Green. From there, historic Argilla Road crosses pastures and deep woods, then opens up to a scenic vista of the Great Salt Marsh and the ocean on its way from South Green to Crane Beach.

East Street

The abrupt change in the name of High Street to East Street at the intersection with North Street is odd unless one knows a bit of history. When Ipswich was laid out in the 1600’s, town center was Meetinghouse Green.  A road headed south and crossed the river — […]

Lower Summer Street, Ipswich Ma

Summer Street

Summer Street may be the oldest public way in Ipswich, and in the earliest days of the settlement was called Stony Street, or simply “The Way to the River. ” Thomas Franklin Waters wrote that for two centuries it was Annable’s Lane, named after settler John Annable. In the Colonial years, […]

1910 Ipswich Census

1910 Ipswich census and maps

The 121 handwritten 1910 Federal Census survey forms for Ipswich provide a wealth of information about the population of Ipswich during its greatest period of industrial growth, which included the arrival of hundreds of immigrants to work in the Ipswich Mills. Survey forms for Ipswich are provided through Archive.org. The lists below […]

The 2016 Ipswich drought

Based on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Palmer Drought Severity Index, the three-month period between May 1 and July 31 was the driest for those three months in Massachusetts since 1966 and the ninth driest on record. Due to the shortage of rainfall and continued high water […]

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.