Category: History

Thomas Dennis house, County Street, Ipswich MA

Thomas Dennis, legendary Ipswich joiner

Thomas Dennis (1638–1706), came to Ipswich from Devonshire, England. His home at 7 County Street still stands, and is where he practiced his trade as a joiner and master carver. The furniture of Thomas Dennis took on the status of historic treasure, and over time more pieces were attributed to him than he could have produced in his lifetime.

The Pillow Lace Tercentenary plaque on High Street in Ipswich

Ipswich Pillow lace

In the late eighteenth century, Ipswich had 600 women and girls producing more than 40,000 yards of lace annually. Ipswich industrialists imported machines from England to mechanize and speed up the operation, which destroyed the hand-made lace industry.

Acadian exiles in Ipswich, 1755

Massachusetts men played a conspicuous part in the French and Indian War, which resulted in wholesale destruction and deportation in French-speaking Nova Scotia. Surviviors were exiled to the Colonies, their children taken from them and distributed to English families as “nothing more than slaves.”

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.

Commons, Ipswich photo by Edward Darling

The Commons

When the Town of Ipswich was established, ownership of a house and land within the town bounds carried with it the right of pasturage beyond the Common Fence. In 1788, the commoners resigned all their land interests to pay the heavy town debt incurred during the Revolution.

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.

The 1918 flu epidemic in Ipswich

An estimated 1,500 cases of the so-called “Spanish flu in Ipswich resulted in at least 66 deaths. It is believed that the country reached herd immunity after the virus mutated to a less lethal variant. By the end of the pandemic, the average life expectancy had been shortened by 12 years!

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.