Author Archives

Gordon Harris

Gordon Harris is the town historian for Ipswich Massachusetts.

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.

Bruce Laing

Bruce Laing will be missed. He was one of the first people to offer articles for the Historic Ipswich website, and was instrumental in creating the inventories of internments at the oldest burying grounds in Ipswich..

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 Flying 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.”

Ipswich high posted cape

High-posted Capes

Ipswich has several Cape-style houses constructed with second floor kneewalls, found especially in the Ipswich Village and Linebrook neighborhoods. “High post Capes” in the 19th Century incorporated popular decorative elements of the Greek Revival, Italianate, Victorian and Colonial Revival eras.

Topsfield MA land grants

The plantations at New Meadows, now Topsfield

Large allotments of land in today’s Topsfield were granted in the early 17th Century by the colony’s leaders, comprising more than one-half of the town’s present acreage. The persons who were awarded the lots, sometimes referred to as “king’s grants” were merchants and men of influence and power who had joined the Massachusetts Bay Company.

Camp Sea Haven, Plum Island MA

The Knobbs

The Knobbs is a small beach in a stretch of salt marsh on the west side of the Ipswich section of Plum Island. On the Atlantic side was the Kbobbs Beach Life-Saving Station, replaced in 1947 by a camp for children who had been victims of polio.

Ipswich MA Green Team

Sustainable Ipswich

The Ipswich Middle/Highschool GreenTeam is a green-fueled group of 35 bright individuals ready to take on the big fights like climate change. They aim to engage the community in taking a stand with nature, and inspiring by example.

Gordon Harris and Ruth Strachan

Ruth Strachan

It was with great sadness that we learned today about the sudden passing of Ruth Strachan, a member of the Ipswich Historical Commission and the Architectural Preservation District Commission for several years.

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.

The farm at Wigwam Hill

Symonds Epes bought a large tract in 1726 and built a substantial farm and orchards at Wigwam Hill, named for a group of destitute Indians who briefly camped there. The protecting pitch pines were later cut for lumber, and the farm became a large dune.

Treatment of 1918 flu victims

Lessons from historic epidemics

In 1347, Officials in Ragusa kept newly arrived sailors in isolation for a “quartino” (40 days), the origin of the word quarantine. In 1800, Dr. Thomas Manning of Ipswich broke Benjamin Waterhouse’s monopoly on the smallpox vaccine created by Edward Jenner. Transfusion of blood plasma from survivors of the 1918 Spanish Flu reduced mortality in patients. In 2020, people learned that Science is real.

Frequency of the world wide hum

The “Hum”

The Hum is an unexplained low frequency rumbling sound heard by about 2% of the population from inside their homes during the late evening hours. I began noticing the Hum when I moved to Ipswich. Do you hear it?

The Miles River in Hamilton

The Miles River

Known in Colonial times as Mile Brook, the Miles River is a major tributary of the Ipswich River but has been diminished in volume by upstream use as a water supply. Evidence of the old Potter and Appleton mills can still be found near County Rd.