Category: History

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.

Ipswich at war

Featured image: Civil War veterans at the Choate Bridge Some American wars in which Ipswich citizens have fought 1634: Settlement and the early military annals 1636-1638 Pequot War 1675 -1676 King Philip’s War 1689-1697 War of William and Mary (King William’s War) 1690 Battle of Quebec 1702-1713 Queen […]

The Preston-Foster house, Ipswich MA

Something to Preserve

Featured image: the Preston-Foster house on Water Street. Something To Preserve was published by the Ipswich Historical Commission in 1975 and is a report on historic preservation by the acquisition of protective agreements on buildings in Ipswich, Massachusetts. This important book described the process by which the town of […]

The First Church Clock

By Ipswich Historical Commission chairman John Fiske: It’s not often that a major purchase in 1762 turns into a major headache in 2017. But that is what happened with the First Church’s clock in Ipswich. The First Church (uppercase C: the institution) built its first church (lowercase c: […]

In Congress, July 4, 1776

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Arthur Wesley Dow photo of Marblehead

Marblehead is established, May 6, 1635

Featured image: Marblehead, by Arthur Wesley Dow, circa 1900 A story at Mass Moments In May 1635 the General Court ordered “that there shall be a plantation at Marble Head” and gave the inhabitants the right to do whatever they pleased with the land, even though it was […]

The Essex Convention

The Ipswich Convention and the Essex Result

Delegates met in Ipswich in 1774 and 1778 to deliberate a Constitution for Massachusetts. Their “Exceptions” were published in the 60-page “Essex Result,” and included an ominous warning to future generations: In 1774, in retaliation for the Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773, General Gage was sent to Boston […]

Lynn Shoeworkers Strike, Feb. 22, 1860

Mass Moments On February 22,  1860, thousands of striking shoe workers filled Lyceum Hall in Lynn. By choosing to begin their protest on Washington’s birthday, the strikers were invoking the memory of their revolutionary forefathers. Lynn had been a shoe making town since the early 1800s. Hard times […]

The Marblehead smallpox riot, 1773

From The History and Traditions of Marblehead” by Samuel Roads. Featured image by Charles Green. During the year 1773, the attention of the inhabitants of Marblehead was for a time occupied in considering their danger from another source than the oppressive acts of the British Parliament. In June […]

19th Century: Religion divided the town

Excerpts from Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony by Thomas Franklin Waters The Congregational Church The Congregational Church, founded by the first settlers, maintained the old order for many generations in undisputed supremacy. From time to time, as the population increased, as has been noted, new Parishes within […]

Lowell Offering, publication of mill workers in Lowell MA

The Lowell Offering

The Lowell Offering was a monthly periodical, first published in 1840, which featured poetry and fiction by female workers at textile mills in Lowell, MA. Known as the Lowell Mill Girls, they often wrote about situations in their own lives, including labor unrest in the factories. The Offering ceased publication in 1844 but was revived […]

The First Winters in Ipswich

Featured image: painting by George Henry Boughton Nearly half of the original 102 passengers on the Mayflower did not survive the first winter after arriving in Plymouth in December 1622. Only four of the original thirteen women lived to celebrate the “First Thanksgiving” the following November. Two hundred […]

The “Commonwealth”

An irony of the recent presidential election is the millions of people who felt abandoned by the government and left out in today’s economy, and yet chose as their presidential candidates two very wealthy people. This brought me to reflect on the word “commonwealth,” defined as a state or collection […]

Ralph W. Burnham, Antiques and Hooked Rugs

In the late 19th Century, hooked rugs gained immense popularity, partly due to a Maine Peddler and rug hooker named Edward Sands Frost, who introduced preprinted hooked-rug patterns on burlap. In 1876, when Frost sold his business, he had about 180 patterns. Frost’s patterns included a wide variety of natural […]

Pigeon Cove

The ”October Gale” of 1841

A strong hurricane stayed offshore of the Carolinas in early October, 1841  As it continued moving north, it pulled cold air into its circulation and intensified as an extra-tropical storm, with a direct hit on New England on October 3. The Georges Bank fishing fleet was destroyed with the loss of 81 fishermen’s lives. […]

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.

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 […]

Abraham Knowlton, “Workman of rare skill”

By Ipswich Historical Commission chairman John Fiske: Ipswich is home to two groundbreaking masterworks of early eighteenth century America, a paneled wall and a pulpit. Both were made by Abraham Knowlton (1699- 1751), a woodworker who is less well known than he deserves to be. William Knowlton, born in England in 1615, was […]

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 […]

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 […]