Category: Stories

Records of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County MA

Stories from the Courts

In 1641, the General Court established four quarter-annual courts kept yearly by the magistrates of Ipswich & Salem, two to be held at Salem & the other two at Ipswich, with jurisdiction in all matters not reserved to the Court of Assistants. Read stories of Ipswich residents who faced the magistrates.

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 Fying 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.”

Rooty Plain near Rowley MA

Flight from Rooty Plain

The story of the Great Ipswich Fright on April 21, 1775  was widely told, and memorialized by John Greenleaf Whittier. Mrs. Alice P. Tenney in 1933 provided an amusing story of the fear that struck Rooty Plain, also called “Millwood,” a thriving little mill community along today’s Rt. 133 […]

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 […]

Life in the summer of polio

Polio killed 3,145 people in the United States in 1952 and crippled tens of thousands. Children were kept inside, and public health officials imposed quarantines. From 1956 – 57 over 6000 Ipswich children and adults received the new Salk polio vaccine, and in 1962, Ipswich residents received the oral Sabin vaccine. Since 1979, no cases of polio have originated in the United States. David Lindgren tells what it was like in 1949, “the Summer of Polio.”

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 […]

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, Ipswich MA

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 […]

Attacked by a swordfish in Ipswich Bay

Killed by a swordfish, August 19, 1886

Captain Langsford sailed from Cape Ann in pursuit of swordfish. After spotting one in Ipswich Bay, the fish fish quickly turned thrust sword up through the boat, causing the captain to fall backward. Not yet realizing that he was wounded, he seized the sword and exclaimed, “We got him anyway!”

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.