“I feel unutterable anxiety. God grant us wisdom and fortitude! Should the opposition be suppressed, should this country submit, what infamy and ruin! God forbid. Death in any form is less terrible!”
I stumbled upon a remarkable family artifact: the crude “signature” that the probable founder of the Grow family in America – my direct ancestor nine generations removed – had put down on paper 326 years earlier. A small, nondescript mark on a long-forgotten document brought history personally alive for me in a way that perhaps only passionately engaged family historians would fully understand.
Puritans founded Ipswich during the “Great Migration” of the early 17th Century. Many residents of the town descend from immigrants who arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to work in the mills.
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.
Lillian Eden, one of the founders of Olde Ipswich Days recalls the work and effort that went into running the original fairs.
At noon, a “midnight darkness” had fallen on Essex County. Candles were lighted, and fowls went to roost. By the next morning, dark ash lay four or five inches thick.
The locality became very unsightly and in 1906, the land and buildings were laid out the lot as an attractive park and garden, maintained by the subscriptions of the proprietors.
In 1967, Ipswich was proposed as a site for an anti-ballistic missile base, and in 1970 opponents prevented construction of a nuclear power plant on Town Farm Road that eventually was built in Seabrook.
“Millend” was the west side of the settlement, including today’s Topsfield Rd. and Washington St. Home of Samuel Appleton and John Whipple, it was separated from the east side by a wetland. In1717, Capt. Beamsley Perkins was taken to court for blocking their path to the Meeting House.
In the 1820’s a Frenchman named Gilshenan organized an unsuccessful salt harvesting company on Plum Island with a 10′ deep canal and a bull turning an overshot wheel like a hamster. A large sundial survived for a few decades, but no trace remains today.
In 17th Century Ipswich, funeral services were without eulogies, but extravagant outlays were often made for mourning garments, gloves, rings, wine, refreshments and the coffin. In the 18th Century, public opinion turned against such excesses.
High Street originally continued straight until the first bridge over the railroad tracks was constructed in 1906. From 1900 when the first trolleys came to town until the bridge was built, passengers had to unload here to switch from the trolley from Newburyport to continue through Ipswich.
On February 19, 1777, aboard the warship Warren, ten American sailors met in secret and wrote a letter charging Esek Hopkins, Commander-in-chief of the Continental Navy with torturing British prisoners of war.
Prejudice disguised as patriotism repeats itself in American politics. In 1854, the “Know Nothing” American Party formed in opposition to Irish immigration and carried local elections in New England communities. They swept the state of Massachusetts in the fall 1854 elections but were defeated two years later.
Theodore Wendel (1859–1932) was an Impressionist artist who lived for thirty-four years in Ipswich, where he painted the village, bridges, farmlands and landscapes, and left behind a magnificent collection of paintings of his adopted home town.
Representing the defendants, Daniel Webster appealed to the jury to say under oath whether the inconsistencies and improbabilities of the prosecution should have any weight.
In the late 19th Century, most of the men around the river would look forward to “herringing” when fall arrived. The foot of Summer Street was the best landing. One year so many herring were caught, they were dumped in the Parker River, and Herring did not return for many years.
The town voted in 1861 to build County Street and its stone arch bridge, connecting Cross and Mill Streets. A Woolen mill, saw mill, blacksmith shop and veneer mill operated near the bridge.
Slavery was abolished in Massachusetts before the declaration of independence, officially made law on March 26, 1788. The law imposed a penalty of £50 upon every citizen or person residing in this Commonwealth for each slave bought or transported and £200 upon every vessel engaged in the Slave […]
After the first stocking machine was smuggled from England to Ipswich in 1822, immigrants arrived in Ipswich to work in the cotton and hosiery mills, contributing to the town’s diverse cultural heritage.
Dr. John Calef represented Ipswich in the Massachusetts Assembly and was one of only 17 members who voted to retract the Circular Letter opposing the Townshend Acts. An engraving by Paul Revere portrays Calef being pushed into Hell.
Marblehead’s Elbridge Gerry served as governor of Massachusetts and vice-president of the United States, but his historic legacy will forever be tied to a political monster dubbed the “Gerrymander.”
The South Congregational church burned on December 10, 1977. The lot is now a small park with two benches and a bell, surrounded by the old foundation.
Twenty years after building the County Street Bridge, construction began for the Green Street Bridge. The original structure was made of wood but was later replaced by an arched bridge of stone on May 14, 1894. This was the fifth bridge built on the Ipswich River in the Town of Ipswich.
The Ipswich Female Seminary was established in April 1828 by Zilpah Grant and 24-year-old Mary Lyon for the secondary and college-level education of young women. It was the first endowed seminary for women and the first to give diplomas to its graduates.
In December 1787, a group of Revolutionary War veterans and adventurers set out from Ipswich on an 800-mile journey through the wilderness by horseback and rafts to establish the first settlement in the Ohio Territory.
On January 15, 1919, people in Boston’s North End were startled by a loud rumbling noise. They watched in horror as a five-story tank broke apart, unleashing a wave of molasses 15 feet high and 160 feet wide.
The collapse of the Pemberton Mill in Lawrence is the worst industrial accident in Massachusetts history. On Tuesday afternoon January 10, 1860, hundreds of men, women, and children were buried alive in the ruins.
When Charles Dickens was twelve, his feckless father was imprisoned for three months in Marshalsea Prison in London for debt. The boy had to leave school and work in a boot blackening factory to support the family, a humiliation he never forgot. Nevertheless, Dickens rose to fame quickly as a young novelist becoming “an international celebrity, famous for humor, satire, and keen observation of character and society.”
Magistrates in the Massachusetts Bay Colony were alarmed by Quaker teachings of direct personal revelations from God. The courts passed a series of laws forbidding residents from housing Quakers. Quakers themselves were threatened with whipping, arrest, imprisonment, banishment, or death.
Ipswich, Massachusetts was founded in 1634 in an area the Native Americans called “Agawam,” and is America’s best-preserved Puritan town.
The flu pandemic that spread throughout the world in 1918-1919 may have killed more people than the medieval Black Death.
At the foot of Hovey Street along the Ipswich River is a plaque dedicated to the memory of Ipswich settler Daniel Hovey, whose home and wharf were across the river on what is now Tansey Lane.
In the 19th Century, wealthy professionals and businessmen who chose to construct lavish summer homes in Swampscott for themselves and their families to enjoy its sea breezes and ocean views.
After John Winthrop Jr. founded the town of Ipswich, he returned to England to find investors for the first iron works in the colonies. In the 1680’s, Samuel Appleton of Ipswich owned the Iron Works.
Underneath the Town scene, in the blue water, are the large gold letters that read: “The Birthplace of American Independence – 1687.” In the border around the Town scene, are the large gold letters that read: “Ipswich Massachusetts – Incorporated 1634.”
Today, vestiges of the Commons survive here as city parks or conservation lands, such as the South Green in Ipswich, and public gardens, such as Boston Common.
I find no evidence that Lief Ericson’s brother Thorvald was buried on Cape Ann in 1004 AD or even that Vikings actually set foot here.
“Purveyors of the Practical and Hard-to-Find since 1946” reads the masthead on the Vermont Country Store catalog mailed to thousands of American homes regularly.
As the parish records tell us, “A clock purchased by subscription was landed in Ipswich May 29, 1762. The Parish on May 31st voted their readiness to receive it into the steeple of this meeting house and September 16, 1762 they voted to be at the charge of putting it up there.”