Category: Stories

Benjamin Ellsworth at the Ipswich Lighthouse

The Ipswich lighthouse

In 1881, a 45-foot cast iron lighthouse was erected at Crane Beach, replacing an earlier structure. By 1913, the sand had shifted so much that the lighthouse was 1,090 feet from the high water mark. Use of the light was discontinued in 1932 and in 1939 the Coast Guard floated the entire lighthouse to Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard.

John Updike at typewriter

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 for seventeen years. Updike’s 1968 novel Couples and several of his short stories were based in the fictional community Tarbox, which everyone knew was really Ipswich.

The Ipswich steamship Carlotta

The steamship “Carlotta”

The excursion boat Carlotta was built in 1878 at Rogers Point boat yard, and sailed from Town Wharf to the Neck and Plum Island for 35 years. The small hotels at Little Neck, Ipswich Bluff and Grape Island were favorite destinations for tourists and locals.

The wearing of long hair and wigs

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.”

masconomet tombstone

The Bones of Masconomet

On March 6, 1659 a young man named Robert Cross dug up the remains of the Agawam chief Masconomet, and carried his skull on a pole through Ipswich streets, an act for which Cross was imprisoned, sent to the stocks, then returned to prison until a fine was paid.

Ipswich MA lighthouse

Santa hits the Ipswich lightkeeper’s house, December 24, 1937

In 1939 the children were all assembled at the Ipswich Lighthouse, waiting for Flying Santa Edward Snow, who was running a bit behind schedule. Hearing the sound of an airplane the keeper called up to his wife, “Has Santa arrived yet, dear?” Immediately he heard the Christmas bundle crashing through the skylight, upon which his wife yelled down, “Yes, dear. We can start the party now.”

The year without summer in New England

1816, the year without summer

On June 5, 1816 a heat wave raised the temperature in Ipswich to 92° but that afternoon a cold front swept across New England and the temperature fell to 43° by the next morning. For the next four days there were severe frosts along the Eastern seaboard, and snow was recorded in some locations. By the 9th of June ice began to form on water left standing outside overnight. Rapid, dramatic temperature swings continued throughout the summer.

The farm at Wigwam Hill

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.

Appleton's Pulpit Massachusetts Bay Colony Tercentenary Commission

The defiant Samuel Appleton

In 1687, a warrant was issued for the arrest of several Ipswich men for being “seditiously inclined and disaffected to his Majesty’s government.” The 62-year-old Major Samuel Appleton scorned the appearance of submission and remained imprisoned in the cold Boston Jail through the winter.

Puritans drinking

Strong drink

Colonial liquor licenses were granted to Ipswich men of highest esteem. They were bound “not to sell by retail to any but men of family, and of good repute, nor sell any after sunset; and that they shall be ready to give account of what liquors they sell by retail, the quantity, time and to whom.”