Just before you cross the triple stone arch Warner’s Bridge that connects Mill Rd. in Ipswich to Asbury St. in Hamilton, you can see on your left the large house built by Caleb Warner in 1755. Within it is an earlier home assembled of two structures before 1734, the year that Caleb Warner came into possession of the property. No records exist that would indicate exact construction dates of the two older sections on the right side of the house. We know that tanners operated on both sides of the river as early as 1667. Conceivably, one or both of those structures may have been part of the 1697 fulling mill. It is possible that Benjamin Brown, who sold the property to Caleb Warner, may have constructed or lived in the small house as early as 1720.

The living room is to the right after entering the left front door, and has fine hand-planed wall panels around the fireplace. Its large summer beam and corner posts are encased with bead-edge boards, suggesting a Georgian structure, built no earlier than 1734, the year when Caleb Warner purchased the property, but no later than 1755 when the full floor plan as we see it today was completed.

Calab Warner
“Calab” Warner’s tombstone at the Old North Burying Ground.

Thomas Franklin Waters wrote the history of the dam, mill, bridge and this house in his book, Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Vol. 2:

“Between the hills, a bridge, probably of logs, was built by the tanners, whose land abutted on the river on both sides, about 1667.

John Adams, Senior, his son John, Jim. and Michael Farley Junior petitioned the Town for permission to build a dam, and operate a grist mill and a fulling mill. After a little delay, they received the desired liberty, and built the dam, with a fulling mill on the north side and the grist mill on the south, in the year 1697.

Miller Benjamin Brown died in February, 1733-4, and in March, his widow petitioned the Town for an allowance for “cost and charge which hath arisen in building a bridge over the river & for finishing the same for the benefit of passing to the mill.” It was a cheap structure of logs without doubt, so cheap that the Town heartlessly refused the petition of the widow, burdened with seven young children, but it answered its purpose for the convenience of the neighborhood.”

“Caleb Warner, clothier, bought Mr. Forley’s interest in 1734, married Elizabeth Brown, the sixteen year old daughter of Benjamin Brown, the deceased miller, who lived close by, in November, 1784, and prospered so well that in 1755, he had gained possession of a large farm by several purchases, and built the large and comfortable mansion that still stands by the river side.

William Warner, 3rd., Capt William as he was known in later life, succeeded his father in the fulling business, and his son Stephen purchased the property from his brother William in 1829.”

Caleb Warner house, photo from the early 20th Century
Caleb Warner house, photo from the early 20th Century. The enlarged house was constructed in 1755, and the dormers were added in the 19th Century. The right side of the house is older and has two smaller structures that were constructed before 1734, probably First Period. The smaller right entry door would have been the left side of the earlier “half house.”

Benjamin Brown was born in Ipswich in 1699 to Joseph Browne and Hannah Aslett. He married Elizabeth Fossee (Elizabeth Forcy), with whom he had 7 children. It appears that Benjamin Brown was employed as miller by the wealthy Michael Farley Jr, and that this location was where the Brown family lived.

Post and beam construction in one of the two older sections on the far side of the Caleb Warner house, possibly First Period.
Post and beam construction in the two older sections on the far side of the Caleb Warner house. The two small structures were combine
“Elisabeth” Warner’s tombstone at the Old North Buring Ground.

Caleb Warner was born on March 23, 1709 to Daniel Warner and Dorcas Adams, early residents of Ipswich. He died in 1774, and his wife Elizabeth’s death date is 1787.

Elizabeth Brown Warner was the daughter of Benjamin Brown and Elizabeth Fossee.

Benjamin Brown was the son of Joseph Brown, and the grandson of Edward Brown and Faith Lord, two of the first settlers of Ipswich. Their home on High St. still stands.

Elizabeth Fossee Brown was the wife of Benjamin Brown, and the daugher of Thomas Fossee, the Ipswich jail keeper, and his wife Elizabeth Raynor. Thomas and Elizabeth Fossie testified in the behalf of accused witch Mary Easty, that they “saw no evil carriage or deportment while confined in Ipswich jail, and that her demeanor was both sober and civil.” Mary Easty was hung with her fellow-prisoners, Martha Corey, Ann Pudeater, and five other accuesed witches in September, 1692.

Door and molding detail from the 1734 Caleb Warner house
Door and molding detail from the Caleb Warner house in the middle front section, believed to date to 1734 and no later than 1755.
William Warner, son of Caleb Warner built his home across Mill Road from the home of Caleb Warner. The barn and a small farm house are near the road, but this house was moved down the long driveway that connected to Topsfield Rd. before construction of Mill Rd.

Thomas Franklin Waters in Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony noted that

“A mulatto man on March 20, 1737 with force & arms entered the fulling mill of Caleb Warner in Ipswich. He stole a piece of woolen cloth of brownish color about 13 yards valued at £5. The sentence was that he pay £24 damage and be whipped 10 stripes on his naked back at the public whipping post. He also stole 8 yards of bluish cloth valued at £5 for which the penalty was £15 and 10 stripes. As he was unable to pay, the Court ordered that Warner may sell him to any suitable person for six years.”

 The Caleb Warner house faces the triple stone arch Warner Bridge which connects Mill Rd. in Ipswich to Highland St. in Hamilton. A was constructed in 1829, and in 1856, the present day bridge was reconstructed.

Caleb Norwood purchased the property from the Warner heirs in 1880. He built a large four story mill below the house to manufacture isinglass, a collagen from the air bladders of sturgeon, cod and carp, which is converted into gelatin. This form of isinglass was used in the clarification of wines and beers and for thickening confectionery and glues. Thirty five employees processed 100,000 lbs of isinglass yearly. After the mill closed in 1912, the building was unusable for any other purpose and was demolished. The mills on the Hamilton side of the river ceased to operate in 1919 and the sawmill still stands.

The isinglass factory was on the Mill Road side of the river. The Caleb Warner house can be seen in the background. A small mill pond still exists between the remnants of the old dam and the triple arch Warner Bridge.
The Warner bridge on the Ipswich River connects Ipswich and Hamilton.
View of the Warner Bridge from the front yard of the Caleb Warner house

Sources:

One thought on “50 Mill Road, the Caleb Warner house (1734)

  1. Once again I can only thank you! It seems small for all the information that applies to my family. Keep us posted on what a further inspection of this interesting survivor of time reveals.

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