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Historic Ipswich

The Ipswich Historical Commission acts to preserve the history and historical assets of the Town of Ipswich, Massachusetts.

Several Ipswich MA men in the mid-19th Century

Election night in Ipswich

“The climax of petty officialdom might well have been reached in 1797 when the list of officers chosen at the Town meeting included Selectmen, Overseers, Town Clerk and Treasurer, Tithing-men, Road Surveyors, Fish Committee, Clerk of the Market, Fence Viewers, Haywards, Surveyors of Lumber, Cullers of Fish, Sealers of Leather, Hog-reeves, Gangers of Cask, Sealers of Weights, Measurers of Grain, Corders of Wood, Firewards, Packer of Pork, and Cullers of Brick.”

The Great Fire of Boston, November 9-10, 1872

The Great Boston Fire of 1872 occurred on November 9-10, 1872 and destroyed the city’s business district, burning uncontrolled for more than 12 hours with such heat that it created a raging firestorm. Starting in a building at the intersection of Summer and Kingston Streets, the flames leaped from one wooden roof to another, leaving a smoldering pile of rubble between the Common and the waterfront.

Ipswich in the Revolutionary War

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.

Appleton Farms "New House"

Homes of the Appletons

Appleton Farms was gifted to the Trustees of Reservations by Francis and Joan Appleton in 1998. Originally granted to Ipswich settler Samuel Appleton, it is the oldest continuously operating farm in America. The farm continued in family ownership for seven generations, and the extended family built homes along Waldingfield Rd. and the nearby vicinity. 

Arrival of English Puritans in New England

Arrival of the English

Within three years of the arrival of the Winthrop fleet to New England, so many immigrants had arrived in Massachusetts Bay that Boston Neck could not hold them all. Perceiving a threat from the French, thirteen men arrived in 1633 to establish the town that would be named Ipswich a year later.

John Wise house Tercentenary sign, Essex MA

The Rev. John Wise of Ipswich

The concepts of freedom about which Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence originated from the pen of the Rev. John Wise of Ipswich: “The origin of civil power is the people…and when they are free, they may set up what species of government they please.”

Ipswich telephone exchange story by Harold Bowen

The Hello Girls

Harold Bowen wrote, “My family was more or less a telephone family. My father, two brothers and a sister-in-Iaw were all telephone operators. The dial system is quicker and more efficient, but it still cannot compare with that personal touch you had with the Hello Girls.”

Ipswich town wharf circa 1930, photography by Edward Darling

The Old Town Landings and Wharfs

Many a pleasant sail down the river are in the memories of William J. Barton. “These were the names of the places and flats along the Ipswich River before my time, and familiar to me during my time. They were used by the fishermen and clammers. I know. I was one of them. It was the happiest time of my life.”

General Lafayette

Lafayette returns to Ipswich

In 1824 citizens of Ipswich heard with “unfeigned pleasure” that General LaFayette, “the undeviating defender of rational freedom and the rights of man, the illustrious friend of America” would be passing through our area. The town prepared the most elaborate tribute it had ever paid to a visitor.

Ipswich Cornet Band

The Grand Old Fourth

“The night before the Fourth of July, thousands of people were milling up and down Central and Market Streets and Depot Square. Every man and boy carried a revolver and shot off blank cartridges as fast as they could reload. “At five o’clock on the morning of the Fourth, the sexton of the Methodist Church could open up the doors and let in the boys to ring the church bell for an hour. Then came the parade.”

Boston rum runners caught during prohibition

Rum runners

Ipswich folks have always had a taste for good rum. Its hidden creeks was a paradise for the rum runners and bootleggers during the Prohibition era. Tales of the Coast Guard chasing rum runners were common. It was very seldom that one could be caught. The booze was unloaded at convenient places like Gould’s Bridge. To distract the authorities, someone would set a fire in town.