Stories from Essex

essex_sealThe inhabitants of the part of Ipswich known as Chebacco (now Essex) established their own parish in 1679, but were still residents of the town of Ipswich. Among its early residents were many of the most important and influential people in Ipswich history.

On April 6, 1818, two hundred and six men of Chebacco petitioned the Legislature for incorporation, and the town of Essex as they named it, came into existence on Feb. 5, 1819.

Take the Essex Walking Tour.

Essex MA wooden boatbuilding Building a schooner, the art of wooden boatbuilding - The five-part series explores the design and construction of traditional wooden boats. Participants will have hands-on practices at several traditional boatyards within the Essex National Heritage Area.
The Great Colonial Hurricane and the wreck of the Angel Gabriel - In August 1635, the 240-ton Angel Gabriel sank in Pemaquid Bay after sailing into the most intense hurricane in New England history. Among the survivors were members of the Cogswell, Burnham and Andrews families, who settled in an area of Ipswich known as Chebacco.
Building a ship in Essex - By the early 1840s, Essex no longer had its own fishing fleet, but had turned to year-round shipbuilding fostering a symbiotic relationship with the successful fishermen in Gloucester
Choate Island and Rufus Choate - Choate Island was originally known as Hog Island, and is the largest island in the Crane Wildlife Refuge and is the site of the Choate family homestead, the Proctor Barn, the White Cottage, and the final resting place of Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Crane. There are great views from the island summit of the Castle Neck dunes and Plum Island Mount Agamenticus in Maine.
Old Graveyard 1680, Essex MA The Body Snatcher of Chebacco Parish - In 1819 the inhabitants of Chebacco Parish began noticing lights moving about at night in the graveyard. It was discovered that at least eight graves had been dug up and their coffins were empty.
John Wise house Tercentenary sign, Essex MA The Rev. John Wise of Ipswich - The concepts of freedom about which Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence originated from the pen of the Rev. John Wise of Ipswich: "The origin of civil power is the people...and when they are free, they may set up what species of government they please."
Chebacco women build a meetinghouse The women of Chebacco build a Meeting House, March 21, 1679 - When Chebacco Parish (now Essex) began building their own meeting house, Ipswich authorities obtained an order that “No man shall build a meeting house at Chebacco.” Abigail Proctor saw a glaring legal loophole...
John Wise house, Essex MA Historic houses of Essex, Massachusetts - The inhabitants of the part of Ipswich known as Chebacco established their own parish in 1679, but were still residents of the town of Ipswich. In 1818, two hundred and six men of Chebacco petitioned the Legislature for incorporation, and the town came into existence on Feb. 5, 1819.
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. […]
Georgetown-Ipswich trolley 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.
Legacy: Shipbuilders, Fisherman and the Age of the Gloucester Schooners - Over 4000 wooden vessels were launched from Essex, including many schooners that sailed from nearby Gloucester, once the largest fishing port in the United States. The video "Legacy: Shipbuilders, Fishermen and the Age of the Gloucester Schooners" was produced by Jim and Laura Lowell.
1793 and 1818: the “Burden of the Poor” divides Ipswich into 3 towns, Ipswich, Hamilton and Essex - As the people of the Hamlet were financially stable, the burden of taxation for the support of the poor in the old town of Ipswich was considered to be an unjust imposition. The leaders of the parish petitioned Ipswich to be allowed to incorporate as the new town of Hamilton. 25 years later, the men of Chebacco petitioned the Legislature for incorporation as a separate town, and to not be held for any part of the new establishment for the relief of the poor in Ipswich. The following year, Chebacco Parish became the Town of Essex
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 […]

Historic Essex houses

The following First Period, Georgian and Federal era houses in Essex are listed on MACRIS, The Massachusetts Cultural Resources Information System. Dates for other historic houses on the interactive map below are from the Town of Essex Patriot Properties property database and are not confirmed. View at Google Maps

Russell, Richard House, 1705
Apple St
Perkins, Isaac House, 1765
Apple St
Story, Jacob House, 1831
1 Apple St
Story House, 1830
18 Apple St
Brown, Joseph – Cleveland, John House, 1713
23 Belcher St
Giddings, George House, 1690
66 Choate St
Giddings, George Barn, 1700
66 Choate St
Butler, Simon House, 1690
Conomo Dr
22 Eastern Ave, 1745
5 Grove St, 1768
Andrew, John House, 1768
68 Grove St
Cross – Proctor House, 1760
Harlow St. ESS.80
Choate, Francis House, 1730
Hog Island
Powder House, 1816
John Wise Ave
Giddings, Lt. Samuel House, 1678

143 John Wise Ave


Titcomb, Benaiah House, 1700
189 John Wise Ave
Butnam, Archer House, 1730
King’s Ct
16 Main St, 1830
Center School, 1835
Main St
First Congregational Church, 1746
39 Main St
Lamson, Dr. Josiah House, 1830
16 Main St
Griggs House, 1832
18 Main St
Cavies, John House, 1725
22 Main St
Story, Epes House, 1828
25 Main St
148 Main St, 1830
Proctor – Pankhurst House, 1780
166 Main St
Lyman, James House, 1820
21 Martin St
Goodhue House, 1775
113 Martin St
Burnham, John and David House, 1685
57 Pond St
Preston, David House, 1737
182 Southern Ave
Cogswell’s Grant, 1728
60 Spring St
Crafts House, 1791
Story St
14 Story St, 1790
Story, McKensi House, 1770
38 Story St
38 Story St
Story, Elisha House, 1784
49 Story St
Webster, Rev. Josiah House, 1795
7 Western Ave
Pickering, Rev. Theophilus House, 1730
9 Western Ave
Pickering, Rev. Theophilus converted barn, 1725
11 Western Ave
Cogswell, William House, 1771
17 Western Ave
Lowe, Winthrop House, 1718
18 Western Ave
Congregational Church Parsonage, 1824
19 Western Ave
Andrews, Col. House, 1806
21 Western Ave
98 Western Ave, 1750
Burnham, Francis House, 1790
135 Western Ave
Allen, Joe Gill House, 1727
246 Western Ave

Historic sites on the Essex walking tour

  • ESSEX TOWN HALL AND T.O.H.P. BURNHAM LIBRARY This exuberant Shingle Style building with a working clock tower was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
  • FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH Housed in the steeple is an original Paul Revere bell, cast in 1797. The first minister, Reverend John Wise, was one of the earliest to speak out against the Salem Witchcraft Delusion of 1692. Additional History
  • OLD BURYING GROUND AND HEARSE HOUSE Laid out in 1680, the Old Burying Ground was the site of the notorius grave robberies of 1818. The Hearse House still stands and is believed to be one of only three left in America. Additional History
  • CENTRAL SCHOOLHOUSE, VETERAN’S HALL AND MUSEUM For 55 years, this building was a two-room schoolhouse for 60 pupils in grades one through eight. It later became a meeting hall for veterans and today house Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum exhibits and archives. Additional History
  • SHIPBUILDING IN ESSEX For over 300 years, close to 4,000 wooden vessels – more two-masted vessels than any other town in the world – were built and launched in Essex. The majority of vessels were fishing schooners. At its peak in 1851, sixty vessels launched from 15 shipyards. Additional History
  • ESSEX SHIPBUILDING MUSEUM Preserving American maritime history in the heart of Essex at the site of the historic Story Shipyard, established in 1813. Additional History
  • THE ESSEX CAUSEWAY, “GREAT BRIDGE” AND SPAR POND This main roadway served the needs of Essex shipyards and brought together two parts of a town. Upstream, a spar pond held logs used for masts and booms so they would not dry out. Additional History
  • THE ESSEX BRANCH OF THE EASTERN RAILROAD Built in 1870 to transport ice cut from Chebacco Lake, the railroad later carried Boston picnickers to Centennial Grove. Additional History
  • OLD SOUTH ESSEX ENGINE HOUSE In the mid 1800’s, this building was the second firehouse built in South Essex. Additional History
  • ESSEX RIVER AND CLAM FLATS This tidal waterway is central to Essex’s economic vitality – from the early days of shipbuilding to shellfishing, boating and recreation today. Additional History
  • THE GREAT MARSH AND ESTUARY The largest contiguous acreage of salt marsh north of Long Island, extending from Cape Ann to Salisbury, Masssachusetts. Additional History
    ESSEX ANTIQUE SHOPS Regarded as “America’s Antique Capital”, Essex has long been a collector’s, dealer’s and decorator’s paradise. Additional History
  • BURNHAM’S CORNER This part of town, South Essex, was home to several small shops and one large shoe factory at the end of the 19th century.
  • METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH This Federal-style structure was the gathering place of several different congregations – spanning nearly 200 years.

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