The Fox Creek Canal provided the missing link between the forests of New Hampshire and the shipyards of Essex. Lumber boats would sail down the Merrimack to Newburyport, cruise south along the landward-side of Plum Island and reach the Ipswich River without ever having to go on the ocean, then take the canal to the Castle Neck River to Essex Bay.
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.
Symonds Epes bought a large tract in 1726 and built a substantial farm and orchards at Wigwam Hill, named for a group of destitute Indians who briefly camped there. The protecting pitch pines were later cut for lumber, and the farm became a large dune.
After Dorothy demanded that the State conduct an investigation, the “Report on Insanity and Idiocy in Massachusetts” found that 68 insane or demented persons were being housed in the Ipswich jail.
The gilded weathercock at the First Church in Ipswich has graced the steeple of every church at that location since the middle of the 18th Century.
In 1829, Dr. Thomas Manning of Ipswich constructed a 6′ tall dam and mill on the Ipswich River along Topsfield Rd. Workers were provided housing a the large stone house. In 1884 the mill building burned and much of the stone walls for the mill building collapsed.
Known in Colonial times as Mile Brook, the Miles River is a major tributary of the Ipswich River but has been diminished in volume by upstream use as a water supply. Evidence of the old Potter and Appleton mills can still be found near County Rd.
In 1843, the Hamilton meetinghouse was turned 90 degrees to face the Bay Road, and the present bell was installed in the belfry. In 1888 a clock manufactured by E. Howard & Company of Boston was added to accompany the bell.
In 1844, John Sawyer sold to Josiah Caldwell an undeveloped tract known as “Knowlton’s Close.” Caldwell sold the land in house lots, where houses constructed in the popular vernacular Greek Revival style still stand today.
Baseball’s popularity grew quickly after the Civil War, and Bialek Park was once the town’s semi-professional ballpark, In 1912 the town purchased the two private lots that had been the ballpark, constructed a public playground, and removed the fence.
A Chronology of Ipswich Public Works: Telegraph, Telephone, Gas, Water, Electricity, Trash, Sewer,Wind and Solar
The history of public utilities in Ipswich starting in 1847. Downtown fires in 1894 prompted construction of the water and electrical systems. Today the Ipswich Electric Department promotes and utilizes renewable energy sources.
The 1893 Birdseye map shows a serious washout just to the east of the Old North Burying Ground, forming a deep gully. A late 19th Century photo taken by Arthur Wesley Dow shows rocks and soil pushed up against a barn and sheds that once stood below.
The American Society of Civil Engineers cites the Choate Bridge in Ipswich as the oldest documented two-span masonry arch bridge in the U.S., and the oldest extant bridge in Massachusetts.
The Agawam Diner on Rt. 1 in Rowley was built by the Fodero Dining Car Company in 1954, and was originally located on Market St. in Ipswich. Two Strand diner cars preceded it at that location.
By the early 1840s, Essex no longer had its own fishing fleet, but had turned to year-round shipbuilding fostering a symbiotic relationship with the successful fishermen in Gloucester
Situated in the epicenter of The Great Marsh, Ipswich is ground zero for the annual invasion of Town’s Official Pest, Tabanus nigrovittatus, better known as the Greenhead Fly. In my opinion, which I am happy to share with you, the Latin name for this scourge lends it far more dignity than it deserves.
Enjoy a fascinating hour-long virtual tour of the Rowley River with 4th-generation clammer and former Shellfish Constable Jack Grundstrum.
Kevin O’Connor from This Old House drives to Ipswich and gets a lesson from Dan Clapp in making mead.
Salt marsh hay is still gathered on the North Shore today. The grass that grows between the upland and the marsh is cut. Traditionally the hay was stacked on staddles to raise it above the high tides.
The contiguous historic neighborhoods of Meeting House Green, High Street, the East End, and the South Green present the town’s original settlement pattern and offer well-preserved streetscapes of 17th to 19th-century private residences.
Grape Island was once a small but thriving community, and briefly a popular summer resort. In 1941, 3000 acres of Plum Island including Grape Island were purchased by the U.S. government to establish the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.
The Ipswich Town Landing is one of several locations along the River where wharves were located over the centuries.
in the early 1950’s, a group of young amateur archeologists men discovered one of the largest Paleo-Indian sites in North America along the banks of Bull Brook and the Egypt River in Ipswich, with over 6,000 artifacts uncovered.
The Fox Creek Canal is the oldest man-made tidewater canal in the United States, dug in 1820. In 1938 it was dredged to accommodate ship-building at Robinson’s Boatyard, where small minesweepers were constructed for World War II.
Choate Island was originally known as Hog Island, and is the largest island in the Crane Wildlife Refuge and is the site of the Choate family homestead, the Proctor Barn, the White Cottage, and the final resting place of Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Crane. There are great views from the island summit of the Castle Neck dunes and Plum Island Mount Agamenticus in Maine.
In 1648, Alexander Knight was charged with the death of his chiled whose clothes caught on fire. A jury fined him for carelessness after being warned. The town took mercy and voted to provide him a piece of land “whereas Alexander Knight is altogether destitute, his wife alsoe neare her tyme.”
Crane Beach and all of Castle Neck are protected by the Trustees of Reservations. Pitch pine and scrub oak rise from the masses of marsh grass, sage green hudsonia and dune lichen lining the trails that wind through the dunes.
In the 1960’s, music could be heard in Ipswich at the King’s Rook. In 1969, Phil Cole purchased the business and renamed it Stonehenge, Tom Rush, Judy Collins. the Paul Butterfield Band. Bo Didley, Al Kooper, Bonnie Rait and many other famous musicians played there before it closed in 1972.
Lathrop Brothers Coal and Ice Company harvested on the Ipswich River between Upper River Road and Haywood Street. Lines were drawn on the ice and horses dragged “groovers” along the line, cutting the ice about 6 to 8 inches deep. The ice was then floated to the ice house, where it was cut into blocks.
The South Congregational church burned on December 10, 1977. The lot is now a small park with two benches and the bell which survived the fire, surrounded by the old foundation.
The first settlers of Ipswich were given rights to use of the Common land. Unfenced tillage lots beyond the residential area were assigned in areas set apart for this use, including the area of Newmarch Street which was known as Manning’s Neck.
The Old North Burying Ground on High Street in Ipswich was established in 1634 upon the founding of the town, and is one of the oldest cemeteries in North America.
In 1673, two fishermen from the Isles of Shoals, Andrew Diamond and Harry Maine, arrived together in Ipswich. Mr. Diamond built a platform for salting and shipping fish, and became quite successful. The location is still known today as Diamond Stage.
Historic photos of the Ipswich River from original glass negatives taken by early Ipswich photographers Arthur Wesley Dow, George Dexter and Edward L. Darling.
The Thomas Manning house on North Main Street has a fugitive slave hiding place in the basement, and a door to the roof, providing this colorful fall view of downtown Ipswich. Read the history of the Thomas Manning house and view more photos
A mild controversy has arisen in the town of Ipswich about what to name the grassy lawn between the Old Town Hall and the Ipswich Museum. Depending on who you ask, it’s the Middle Green, Memorial Green, Veterans Green, or the Visitor Center Lawn, and I’ll add “Augustine Heard’s back yard” just to add to the confusion.
A pear tree in Danvers was planted before 1640 by the Massachusetts governor John Endicott. President John Adams enjoyed the flavor of its fruit, and Longfellow admired its longevity. The tree has survived hurricanes, earthquakes, cows, development and vandalism but continues to thrive and bear fruit.
Long before the intersection of Mile Lane and High Street became famous for the Clam Box, it was known as Pingrey’s Plain, and was where the wicked were hung.
In 1642, a dam and fulling mill were built on the Mill River in Rowley. The stone arch bridge on this property was constructed between 1850 and 1870.
Google Maps used to show “Nancy’s Corner” at the intersection of Highland Street and Cutler Road in Hamilton. I wondered who Nancy was and discovered an amazing story.