Voices of the Great Marsh

In March of 2001, the Eight Towns and the Great Marsh Committee in cooperation with organizations such as Mass Audubon and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as local citizens and students, produced a short videotape about the Great Marsh. The Committee promotes the value of this resource and place it in the context … Continue reading Voices of the Great Marsh

Jake Burridge, the sailor

Featured image: 2014 photo of Jake Burridge, courtesy Ipswich Chronicle. Original color photo by Kirk Williamson. In October, 2016 I was privileged to speak with Jake Burridge, a legendary 99-year-old Ipswich native. His wife Marsha graciously shared photos for this story. Jake grew up on Linebrook Rd., where he received his earliest education at the one-room Linebrook School. … Continue reading Jake Burridge, the sailor

Ipswich Mills Dam video

This video was taken last summer during the Ipswich Mill Dam drawdown, which coincidentally occurred duirng the worst part of the summer drought. The video describes the investigation that was conducted at that time of the dam's structure, and a study of the feasibility of removing the dam. Field work is complete, and a public … Continue reading Ipswich Mills Dam video

The 2016 Ipswich drought

Based on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Palmer Drought Severity Index, the three-month period between May 1 and July 31 was the driest for those three months in Massachusetts since 1966 and the ninth driest on record. Due to the shortage of rainfall and continued high water demand, the Ipswich Water Department issued a Drought … Continue reading The 2016 Ipswich drought

Asbury Grove Methodist Camp Meeting, Hamilton MA

The Asbury Grove Methodist Camp Meeting on Asbury St. in Hamilton is listed in the National Register of Historic Districts, and has a collection of historic buildings that were built between 1870 and 1960. The land is owned by the Association, while the houses owned individually by the residents. 12,000 people, most from Boston, attended the first camp … Continue reading Asbury Grove Methodist Camp Meeting, Hamilton MA

The old tool guys Jake Burridge and Jim Giannakakis visit the Heard House

Paul Valcour heads down to the Ipswich Heard House and gets a lesson on old farm tools from Jake Burridge & Jim Giannakakis. Presented by Ipswich ICAM.

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 wrote: “The early farm of Mr. Charles Day … Continue reading Roads to Paradise

Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the fate of the American Revolution

I listened today to an interview with author Nathaniel Philbrick on NPR, and was impressed with his fresh take on the social dynamics of the Revolutionary War, portrayed in his book, Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution. His account of the Revolution and the tragic relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold … Continue reading Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the fate of the American Revolution

The Proximity Fuze: How Ipswich women helped win WW II

The former Ipswich Mills, now owned by EBSCO, was the site of one of the most closely guarded secrets of the Second World War. The VT proximity fuze (variable time fuse) resembled tubes found in radios, and made it possible to detonate antiaircraft shells in the proximity of their target, rather than on impact. Fearing that the secret of the invention might fall into … Continue reading The Proximity Fuze: How Ipswich women helped win WW II

Boston streetcar 1906

The streets of Boston, 1906

Boston's first motorized trolley opened on Jan. 5, 1889. Within seven years, the city had a network of electric streetcars. Enjoy this 1906 trolley ride on Boston's busy Boylston Street. Read more at the New England Historical Society.

Taking to the air in Ipswich, 1910-11

In 1909, W. Starling Burgess joined with Augustus Moore Herring to form the Herring-Burgess Company, manufacturing aircraft under a license with the Wright Brothers, thus becoming the first licensed aircraft manufacturer in the United States. Burgess took the initial flight of his first plane in 1908 at Chebacco Lake in Hamilton, MA. Burgess had been offered $5,000 by Charles … Continue reading Taking to the air in Ipswich, 1910-11

Hammers on Stone, the story of Cape Ann granite

Kitty Robertson's book The Orchard includes a sorrowful tale by old Mr. Patch about Mr. Brown and his team of horses who drowned in Ipswich Bay as he dragged a sled loaded with Rockport granite across the frozen surface. Whether itr happened, we may never know, but in searching for more information, I found the fascinating and often tragic story … Continue reading Hammers on Stone, the story of Cape Ann granite

History quiz

Who won the Civil War? Who is our Vice President? Who did we gain our independence from? What show is Snookie on? Who is Brad Pitt married to? (Guess which questions were answered with, "I have no clue.") It's not just the kids...

Joseph Nye Welch shuts down Joseph McCarthy: “Have you no sense of decency?”

Before a nationwide television audience, Joseph Welch attacked McCarthy with the following words: Joseph Nye Welch "Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness....Senator. You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

The Grand Wenham Canal and the Topsfield Linear Common

The Topsfield Rail Trail is a "Linear Common" following the former Danvers to Newburyport rail line, which was officially abandoned in 1981. A plaque at the trailhead in downtown Topsfield details the former railroad's history.The trail connects to the Danvers Rail Trail as part of the greater Border to Boston Trail.   Topsfield voters approved the rail … Continue reading The Grand Wenham Canal and the Topsfield Linear Common

Swampscott train wreck

Ipswich woman survived two train crashes in one morning, 1956!

Today I had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time with Charlotte Lindgren, an Ipswich native, and who also loves Ipswich history. Her great grandparents Marianna and Maynard Whittier owned a "commodious house" at the junction of Essex Road and County Road (also known as "Parting Paths"). The old house and farm were long ago replaced by the … Continue reading Ipswich woman survived two train crashes in one morning, 1956!

Choate Island and Rufus Choate

Featured image: Painting of the Choate homestead by E. Choate Kane, courtesy of Joyce Patton Choate Island was originally known as Hog Island. In the Records of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, it is recorded that keeping hogs on islands or in fenced enclosures during the planting season was the law from the 1630’s, and each … Continue reading Choate Island and Rufus Choate

Clamming on Cape Ann

Clamming on Cape Ann

Shep Means hosts the show On The Waterfront at Cape Ann TV. On Episode 1, he goes digging for soft shell clams.

Strandbeests at Crane Beach

Strandbeest Invasion

The Strandbeests came to Crane Beach this morning, but the bigger news was the largest invasion of people the town of Ipswich has experienced in recent memory. Even though it was cool and cloudy, Deb and I anticipated a traffic backup on Argilla Road, so we took our bicycles. Finally, the Strandbeests were able to move a short … Continue reading Strandbeest Invasion

Melanson’s fire, August 7, 2009

Herman Melanson's Boatyard on Water Street burned in a spectacular fire on August 7, 2009.The boathouse was constructed by Herman Melanson’s father in 1954. Herman and his mother continued to live there after it was sold to Arthur Harrington in 1985. Harrington’s heirs had a sales agreement with developers who planned to build condos. The entire building, … Continue reading Melanson’s fire, August 7, 2009

Lords Square

Lord's Square was known as Brewer's Corner in early Ipswich. John Brewer was a town clerk and being on what was then the outskirts of town owned a large lot, which he divided into sections and sold. Brewer's First Period home at 82 High Street was built in 1700 and still stands just north of … Continue reading Lords Square

Little Neck

Featured image: "Wolf Moon" over Little Neck, January 1, 2018. Photo by Susan Turner Po In 1639, two wealthy brothers William and Robert Paine (aka Payne) procured a grant of land in the town of Ipswich from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In about 1649 Robert offered to “erect an edifice for the purpose of a … Continue reading Little Neck

The trolley comes to Ipswich, June 26, 1896

In 1896, the first trolley from Beverly arrived in Ipswich, and a year later, the Georgetown, Rowley and Ipswich Street Railway opened. By 1919, Mr. Ford's Model T ended the brief era of the street railway.

Bill George’s nostalgic look at old Ipswich

Paul Valcour interviewed Bill George twice for his show on Ipswich ICAM, and Bill shared his collection of old Ipswich photographs.

Mothers Day Flood, May 14-16, 2006

Fourteen inches of rain fell between May 14 and May 16, 2006, creating the historic 2006 Mothers Day Flood.  Water flow levels in the Ipswich River were 27% higher than recorded in previous epic floods. Photos are from the Ipswich River Watershed Association site with additonal photos provided by myself and readers. Kerry Mackin was at that time director of … Continue reading Mothers Day Flood, May 14-16, 2006

The Great White hurricane, train surrounded by snow

The Great White Hurricane, March 11, 1888

The Great White Hurricane of 1888 struck on the night of March 11 and continued furiously for two days, dumping as much as 60 inches of snow on parts of the Northeast. It was one of the worst blizzards in U.S. history, killing 400 and paralyzing the East Coast from the Chesapeake to Maine. Read … Continue reading The Great White Hurricane, March 11, 1888

The old American Elm tree succumbs, July 11, 2012

The American Elm tree at the corner of County Street and East Streets succumbed to Dutch Elm disease and on July 11, 2012 it was felled. The town made available pieces of the wood to artisans, woodworkers, furniture makers, builders, crafters and nonprofit organizations. Applications were reviewed by the Ipswich Department of Public Works and the Shade Tree … Continue reading The old American Elm tree succumbs, July 11, 2012

January 12, 1912: Lawrence Bread and Roses strike

On January 12, 1912, the labor protest later known as the "Bread and Roses" strike began in Lawrence. A new state law had reduced the maximum workweek from 56 to 54 hours. Factory owners responded by speeding up production and cutting workers' pay by two hours. Polish women were the first to shut down their … Continue reading January 12, 1912: Lawrence Bread and Roses strike

The Strand Opera House and Theater

The Strand Opera House was built in 1909 at 37 Market Street in Ipswich. It hosted operas, plays, travelling shows and even the Boston Symphony. It was quite a big deal to have such a grand venue in town. In 1930 the Strand burned, then re-opened as a movie theater featuring first run films. It was owned … Continue reading The Strand Opera House and Theater

Building and launching the schooner Ardelle in Essex

The 55-foot pinky schooner Ardelle was designed and built by Harold Burnham of Burnham Boat Building in Essex MA using locally harvested wood and hand tools and similar techniques to those that Colonial-era shipbuilders used. Hundreds of spectators watched from the Essex Shipbuilding Museum in 2011 for the launching of the Ardelle into the Essex River. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7fUqZ7O6rk

The Great New England Hurricane, September 21, 1938


Kings Rook and Stonehenge Club: when Ipswich rocked!

Just beyond the Choate bridge on South Main Street was a funky building put together from pieces of other buildings by an antiques dealer named Ralph Burnham early in the 20th Century. In the 1960'sHoward Ferguson and Gardner Damon started the Kings Rook. Good coffee and cocoa were served, two fireplaces kept it warm in the … Continue reading Kings Rook and Stonehenge Club: when Ipswich rocked!

Newburyport: A Record of Change


Bull Brook boys, Ipswich MA

The Bull Brook Discovery

Native Americans began moving into New England after the retreat of the Wisconsin Glacier, around 12,000 BC. Artifacts discovered at Great Neck and along the riverbanks have been identified as belonging to the later Archaic period (8000-5000 years ago) and the Woodland period (2000 years ago). Evidence of a 3000-year old village was discovered along … Continue reading The Bull Brook Discovery

Hay straddle Ipswich MA

Gathering Salt Marsh Hay

(Featured photo from a glass plate negative taken by Ipswich photographer George Dexter (1862-1927).) Salt marsh hay is still gathered on the North Shore today. Eva Jackman replied to this post: "My husband's family has been harvesting salt hay on the same Newbury land as in 1643. He cuts salt hay and helps with the stacks … Continue reading Gathering Salt Marsh Hay

Into the Fire, 2001

On a Tuesday night in January 2001 the Collum house at 18 Lafayette Street went up in flames. Harold Bowen once wrote that this house had been built from lumber that was salvaged when a tall wood fence surrounding Bialek Park was removed early in the 20th Century. Lisa Collum and her two young daughters … Continue reading Into the Fire, 2001

Sea Serpent, Cape Ann MA

The Cape Ann Sea Serpent

The earliest recorded sighting of a Sea Serpent in North American waters was at Cape Ann in 1639: "They told me of a sea serpent or snake, that lay coiled up like a cable upon a rock at Cape Ann; a boat passed by with two English on board and two Indians. They would have shot … Continue reading The Cape Ann Sea Serpent

Nancy Astor, Hamilton MA

The Amazing Life of Nancy Astor

If you look at an online map you will often see a reference to "Nancy's Corner" at the intersection of Highland Street and Cutler Road in Hamilton. I started researching who this Nancy was and discovered an amazing story. Nancy Witcher Langhorne was the daughter of a Virginian slaveholder whose family fell into poverty after the … Continue reading The Amazing Life of Nancy Astor

The Witchcraft Trial of Elizabeth Howe

Elizabeth Howe and her husband James resided on outer Linebrook. James Howe lost his sight at about the age of 50 and Elizabeth assumed the dual responsibility of managing the family and the farm. There was long-standing friction between Elizabeth Howe and her neighbors Samuel and Ruth Perley. Elizabeth Howe was charged with bewitching her neighbor’s child, was arrested on May 28, 1692. She was hung in Salem on July 19, 1692.

Building a ship in Essex

This very entertaining mid-20th Century documentary is shown at the Essex Shipbuilding Museum, just a short drive from Ipswich. Viewing time: 12 minutes.