Category: Stories

The Muster Murder of 1787

During the Boston Muster of 1787, Daniel Foster of Rowley participated in the customary celebration of shooting musket balls into the air, and accidentally killed Amos Chapman of Ipswich. A jury ordered his execution, but Governor John Hancock opposed capital punishment and pardoned Foster.

Ipswich telephone exchange story by Harold Bowen

The Hello Girls

Harold Bowen wrote, “My family was more or less a telephone family. My father, two brothers and a sister-in-Iaw were all telephone operators. The dial system is quicker and more efficient, but it still cannot compare with that personal touch you had with the Hello Girls.”

General Lafayette

Lafayette returns to Ipswich

In 1824 citizens of Ipswich heard with “unfeigned pleasure” that General LaFayette, “the undeviating defender of rational freedom and the rights of man, the illustrious friend of America” would be passing through our area. The town prepared the most elaborate tribute it had ever paid to a visitor.

Boston rum runners caught during prohibition

Rum runners

Ipswich folks have always had a taste for good rum. Its hidden creeks was a paradise for the rum runners and bootleggers during the Prohibition era. Tales of the Coast Guard chasing rum runners were common. It was very seldom that one could be caught. The booze was unloaded at convenient places like Gould’s Bridge. To distract the authorities, someone would set a fire in town.

The Ipswich jail on Green Street

The Ipswich jails

The second jail in the Colony was erected in Ipswich in 1656. Sixteen British prisoners were kept hostage in the cold and cruel stone jail during the War of 1812. A large brick House of Corrections was constructed in 1828 at the site of the present Town Hall on Green Street.

Cape Ann earthquake

The Cape Ann Earthquake, November 18, 1755

At between 6.0 and 6.3 on the Richter scale, the1755 Cape Ann Earthquake remains the largest earthquake in the history of Massachusetts, and caused great alarm. The Rev. Leslie of Linebrook Church recorded the earthquake’s effect: “Between ye hours of four & five in ye morning there happened a most surprising shock of ye earthquake, which was afterwards succeeded by several others, though non equal to ye first in ye Town of Ipswich. Much damage was done to many houses, yet through ye goodness of God no hurt was done either to ye lives or ye limbs of any persons. On Nov. 19 several shocks were heard, tho but small compared to ye first.”

Roads to Paradise, Ipswich MA

Roads to Paradise

“The ancient way, now called not inaptly Paradise Road, winds through long stretches of woodland, where ferns and brakes grow luxuriantly, and every kind of wild flower finds congenial haunt in open glades or shaded nooks.”

Sketch of wolves by Walter Heubach

Killing wolves

One of the first laws instituted by the Massachusetts Bay Colony was a bounty on wolves, and in early Ipswich, a rather disconcerting aspect of entering the Meeting House was the site of wolf heads nailed to the door. Even in 1723, wolves were so abundant and so near the meeting house, that parents would not suffer their children to go and come from worship without some grown person.

Shucking clams on the Ipswich River circa 1900

The Ipswich clam

Ipswich is known as the home of the fried clam, although the claim has long been disputed by the town of Essex. The mud in the salt marshes along the Ipswich, Eagle, Essex and Parker Rivers is what gives our clams their wonderful taste. Ipswich was also home to Soffron Bros which produced clam strips for Howard Johnsons restaurants.

Battle of clammers over the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Clam Battle!

Life Magazine, July 16, 1945: The government had taken over the lands for a Wildlife Refuge, and the clam battle was on. Ipswich hunters were afraid of losing their private hunting reserves. Ipswich farmers were afraid of losing their land.

Haselelponiah Wood, buried in the Old North Burying ground in Ipswich

Haselelponah Wood

Obadiah Wood married 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.

Lord Timothy Dexter's house in Newburyport

Lord Timothy Dexter

Lord Timothy Dexter of Newburyport was insane but profited from everything he undertook. He declared himself to be “the greatest philosopher in the known world.” His book, “A Pickle for the Knowing Ones” is a collection of whatever entered his head at the moment, spelling as he wished, and devoid of punctuation.

sheep

Troubles with Sheep

Thomas Granger of Duxbury was hung for sodomy in 1642, the first execution in the Colony. With great speed the court issued an edict suggesting spinning and weaving as suitable occupation for boys and girls to avoid idleness and immodest behavior.

A short history of dog laws

A short history of Ipswich dog laws

In 1644, the Town of Ipswich ordered, “If a man refuse to tye up his dogg’s legg and hee bee found scrapeing up fish in a corne fielde, the owner thereof shall pay twelve pence damages, beside whatever damage the dogg doth. But if any fish their house lotts and receive damage by doggs the owners of those house lotts shall bear the damage themselves.”

One Third for the Widow

Under Puritan law an adult unmarried woman was a feme sole, and could own property and sign contracts. A married woman was a feme covert and could not own property individually. Widows regained the status of feme sole but the Right of Dower entitled them to keep only one third of their property. When a woman was left a widow some men like vultures were ready to take the other two thirds.