I love to think of old Ipswich town Old Ipswich town in the east countree, Whence on the tide, you can float down Through long salt grass to the wailing sea. Where the Mayflower drifted off the bar, Sea-worn and weary, long years ago, And dared not enter, but sailed away Till she landed her boats in Plymouth Bay.
by Mary Ellen Lepionka. Featured image by Capt. Seth Eastman, U. S. Army, (1808-1875) Children in the colonial era were taught that the Indians’ Great Spirit was an avatar of Satan. Children today are taught that the Great Spirit is a version of the Christian God. How far from the truth are both these ideas? How—really—and … Continue reading Manitou in Context
By Sidney Perley, published March 1899 in the Essex Antiquarian "Moll Pitcher," the famous fortune-teller of Lynn, has no birth record. So the place of her first appearance in life cannot be thus determined. The tenement house, known as the " Old Brig," situated at the junction of Pond and Orne streets in Marblehead, is the reputed birthplace. The … Continue reading Moll Pitcher, the fortune-teller of Lynn and Marblehead
An old legend about the Gloucester witch Peg Wesson is often mentioned, but never was it told in such detail as in this story, written by Sarah G. Daley and published in the Boston Evening Transcript, October 14, 1892. It was carried in papers throughout the country. It was March, 1745, and the company raised in Gloucester to join the … Continue reading Peg Wesson, the Gloucester witch
These ghost stories were shared on Facebook. A friend of mine mentioned that a few years ago a realtor was getting ready to go out the front door at the Jonathan Pulcifer house on Summer Street, when he noticed a stack of old publications sitting on the bottom step, and oddly enough, on top was … Continue reading Haunted houses of Ipswich
Elizabeth Morse of Newbury was accused and found guilty of being a witch. She was initially sentenced to be hanged, but the execution was never carried out and, after spending a year in the Boston jail, Elizabeth Morse was sent home to live with her husband on the condition that she was forbidden to travel … Continue reading The Witchcraft Trial of Elizabeth Morse of Newbury, 1680
In Myths and Legends of our Own Time, Charles M. Skinner wrote the following story, based on two poems by John Greenleaf Whittier. Goodwife Eunice Cole, of Hampton, Massachusetts, was so "vehemently suspected to be a witch" that she was arrested in 1680 for the third time and was thrown into the Ipswich jail with a chain … Continue reading The Legend of Goody Cole, 1680
Snowstorms on the 20th and 24th of February 1717 covered the earth up to 20 ft. deep. In some places houses were completely buried, and paths were dug from house to house under the snow. A widow in Medford burned her furniture to keep the children warm.
From Reminiscences of a Nonagenarian, by Sarah Anna Emery In the latter half of the 18th Century, Mr. Gordon had a shipyard forge between Atkinson Common and Cashman Street. This gentleman was somewhat economical in his household and shop. At that period, cheese was a customary appendage of the dinner table, being considered an accessory … Continue reading “A Good Heat,” a short tale from Newburyport
Dogtown is an area in central Gloucester of about five square miles, or 3600 acres, stretching from the Riverdale section of the city, north of Route 128, into Rockport, and including the Goose Cove and the Babson Reservoirs. Development is banned in this protected municipal watershed. Dogtown is known for its woods and for its … Continue reading Dogtown, its history and legends
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem was inspired by the Blizzard of 1839, which ravaged the North Shore for 12 hours, starting on January 6, 1839. Twenty ships and forty lives were lost during the storm. The probable subject of the story is the schooner Favorite, which sank on a rock called Norman's Woe off the coast of Gloucester, … Continue reading Wreck of the Hesperus, January 6, 1839
Thomas Franklin Waters wrote that in the first half of the Eighteenth Century, Col. Thomas Berry was the most conspicuous citizen of the Town, "Autocrat of his time, Magistrate, Military leader, Physician and Statesman." Born in Boston in 1695 and a graduate of Harvard, he married Martha Rogers, daughter of the Rev. John Rogers of Ipswich in … Continue reading Col. Doctor Thomas Berry, “Last of the Ipswich Aristocracy”
As the young boys who arrived with the first settlers of Ipswich approached adulthood, they developed a fondness for hard liquor and rowdiness, which frequently landed them in court. The words of accusers, witnesses and defendants provide an entertaining narrative.
In 1821, the Annisquam woods was the scene of a murder. Gorham Parsons, while chopping wood, struck and instantly killed a boy of 10 years, named Eben Davis, the act being done with a hatchet. The boy had given offense by singing a song. After committing the deed Parsons took the boy on his back … Continue reading A tragic story from old Gloucester
John Fillmore was born in Ipswich in 1702, the son of mariner John Fillmore Sr. who died at sea in 1711. His widowed mother was Abigail Tilton, whose two brothers Jacob and Daniel famously overcame and killed several Indians who took them hostage after boarding their fishing schooner in 1722. After sailing the ship back to … Continue reading The reluctant pirate from Ipswich, Captain John Fillmore
Featured image: "Hannah Duston Killing the Indians" by Junius Brutus Stearns, (1847); Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville Maine. Hannah Duston of Haverhill was born in Ipswich on High Street in 1657 while her mother was visiting her relatives the Shatswells. In 1879, a bronze statue of Hannah Duston was created by Calvin Weeks in Haverhill in Grand Army Park, … Continue reading The Amazing Story of Hannah Duston, March 14, 1697
Mark Quilter made his living as a cow-keeper in the common land on the north side of town and seemed to always be in trouble. He was called before the court in 1647 and reprimanded for "sleeping in the barn" rather than watching the cows during his evening shift. He had a reputation in Ipswich for drinking and losing his temper and was always the butt of jokes and pranks.
Obadiah Wood married a 35-year-old widow Haselelponiah, whose scriptural name means "A shadow falls upon me." The only person in modern history with that name. Haselelpony Wood's tombstone is located at the Old North Burial Ground in Ipswich.
Cotton Mather related the tale of a doomed ship called "Noah's Dove" which left Salem during the late 17th century for England. Among the passengers were "a young man and a passing beautiful girl pale and sorrowful, whom no one knew and who held communion with no one." Many people in Salem supposed them to be demons … Continue reading The Spectre Ship of Salem
This story of apparitions suggests that the colony was suffering from mass insanity. In the midst of witchcraft accusations in 1692, Gloucester was invaded by a spectral company for a fortnight. Their speech was in an unknown tongue, and bullets passed right through them. The alarm became so great that Major Samuel Appleton of Ipswich sent sixty men on the 18th of July. When the defender's guns had no effect, the soldiers fell to their knees, calling out the name of God. Heaven rang with the howls of the angry fiends, and never again were the Spectral Leaguers seen in Gloucester.
This story is adapted from the Reminiscences of Joseph Smith and Reminiscences of a Nonagenarian and brings together no less than four incredible old tales. Jane Hooper was in 1760 a Newburyport "school dame" but after she lost that job she found fame as a fortune teller and became known in our area as "Madam Hooper, the Witch." The Madam had very bright … Continue reading Jane Hooper, the fortune teller
The Old Burying Ground in Essex was established in 1680 for inhabitants of Chebacco Parish, the former part of Ipswich which broke away and became the town of Essex in 1819. It was in that year that people in the parish began noticing lights moving about at night in the graveyard. It was soon discovered … Continue reading The Body Snatcher of Chebacco Parish
The earliest recorded sighting of a Sea Serpent in North American waters was at Cape Ann in 1639: "They told me of a sea serpent or snake, that lay coiled up like a cable upon a rock at Cape Ann; a boat passed by with two English on board and two Indians. They would have shot … Continue reading The Cape Ann Sea Serpent
A remarkable northeasterly storm on the 4th of December, 1786 caused most of the salt hay along the North Shore to be set afloat and lost in the tide. Samuel Pulsifer and Samuel Elwell, both of Rowley were digging clams on the flats in Plum Island Sound and got caught in the storm. The Rev. Ebenezer Bradford … Continue reading Adrift on a Haystack, 1876
Imprinted into the rocks in front of the First Church in Ipswich is the footprint of the devil, left there forever in a legendary encounter with the traveling English evangelist George Whitefield in 1740.
Harry Maine — you have heard the tale; He lived there in Ipswich Town; He blasphemed God, so they put him down with an iron shovel, at Ipswich Bar; They chained him there for a thousand years, As the sea rolls up to shovel it back; So when the sea cries, the goodwives say "Harry Maine growls at his work today."
A rumor spread that two British ships were in the river, and were going to burn the town. The news spread as far as New Hampshire, and in every place the report was that the regulars were but a few miles behind them, slashing everyone in sight.
In Ipswich town, not far from the sea, Rises a hill which the people call Heartbreak hill, and its history Is an old, old legend known to all. It was a sailor who won the heart Of an Indian maiden, lithe and young; And she saw him over the sea depart, While sweet in her ear his promise rung;..