Category: Stories

Stagecoach Ipswich MA

The stagecoach in Ipswich

The first stagecoach in Essex County, drawn by four horses, was established in 1774 and connected Newburyport with Boston via Salem and Ipswich. By the early 1800’s, up to seventeen stagecoaches and four post chaises passed through town each day, most of them full to overflowing. In 1803, the Newburyport […]

polio shot

Life in the Summer of Polio

Photo by Peter Zaharis from the 1956 Ipswich Town Report. Before introduction of the Salk polio vaccine in 1955, there were tens of thousands of new cases of polio annually in the United States, many resulting in paralysis. In the following year, new cases had been cut in half, […]

Lakeman's Lane and Fellows Road Ipswich

Lakemans Lane and Fellows Road

by Charlotte Lindgren One hundred years ago, Lakemans Lane was a narrow dirt road lined by stone walls. About a mile beyond Parting Paths, then called Whittier’s Corner (for the now demolished homestead of the large Whittier family), the lane connected County and Essex Roads. It was bisected […]

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.

The “Detested Tea”

From Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, by Thomas Franklin Waters In 1767, the Townshend Acts were passed, one of which provided for a tax on wine, glass, tea, gloves, etc, imported into the Province. During the winter, the General Court issued a Circular Letter, which was sent to the […]

The Choate Bridge in Ipswich, photo by George Dexter

Battles of the bridges

Excerpts from Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, by Thomas Franklin Waters The stone bridges which span the Ipswich river with their graceful arches are picturesque and interesting, but the readiness with which the Town proceeded to build the latter two stone bridges is in singular contrast with […]

The Battle of Vimy Ridge by Richard jack

William Clancy, WWI hero

Featured image: The Battle of Vimy Ridge by Richard Jack Harold Bowen wrote in Tales from Olde Ipswich that William Clancy’s family lived in the Old Post Office on North Main Street. Thomas Franklin Waters spoke about historic actions by William Clancy in a 1917 address to the Ipswich Historical Society, […]

The wolf in colonial America

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.

Puritans warned out strangers and announced that the "town is full"

The Town is Full!

In 1673 the constable of Ipswich gave notice to William Nelson, Abner Ordway, and “an Irish man that married Rachel, Quarter Master Perkins’ maid” that the Town would not allow them to inhabit the Town unless they gave security to render the Town harmless from any charges by receiving them. In 1689, the Town refused to receive Humphrey Griffin as an inhabitant, or ” to provide for him as inhabitants formerly received, the town being full.”

Roads to Paradise

Paradise Road follows a shallow peninsula bordered by Muddy Brook and the Egypt River. In 1807, the ancient path was laid out by the Town as a road from Pingrey’s Plain near the Clam Box, which served as the hanging grounds, to the Muddy River Bridge and the Egypt River. Thomas Franklin Waters […]

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.”

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.

Election night in Ipswich MA

Election night in Ipswich

Thomas Franklin Waters made observations about Ipswich politics in his two-volume set, Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony: “The New England settlers of the 17th Century largely reproduced English institutions in an older shape than they knew in England. They gave a new life to many things, which in their […]

Benjamin Ellsworth at the Ipswich Lighthouse

The Ipswich lighthouse

Benjamin Ellsworth was appointed keeper of the Ipswich lighthouse by Abraham Lincoln in 1861. With his daughter Susan, he remained at the station until his death in 1902. In 1837 the U.S. government erected two 29′ towers for guidance to the mouth of the Ipswich River along with […]

Bombshell from Louisbourg

Mounted securely to a stone post at the corner of Middle and Independent Streets in Newburyport, there was for many years a large cast-iron bombshell, thrown from a mortar at the Second Siege of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia in 1758. It was brought to Newbury by Nathaniel Knapp, who served as […]

The Ipswich steamship Carlotta

The steamship “Carlotta”

The excursion boat Carlotta was built in 1878 at Rogers Point Boar Yard at the end of Agawam Avenue, and sailed from the Town Wharf to points on the Neck and Plum Island for 35 years. The small hotels at Ipswich Bluff on Plum Island were a favorite destination for tourists and locals.

The “wearing of long hair”

The wearing of long hair was a burning theme of address in the early Puritan pulpit. The clergy prescribed that the hair should by no means lie over the band or doublet collar. In 1649, the Governor and seven of the Assistants declared their “dislike and detestation against the wearing of such long hair, whereby men doe deforme themselves, and offend sober and modest men.”

John Updike, the Ipswich years

In 1957, John Updike moved to Ipswich, where he and his family lived in the Polly Dole house on East Street, where they lived for seventeen years. Updike wrote that “Most Americans have not had the happy experience of living for thirteen years in a seventeenth-century house, since most of […]