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.

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. […]
Invention of the fried clam, 1916 - (This article is from the New England Historical Society.) On July 3, 1916, Lawrence ‘Chubby’ Woodman invented the fried clam. It was a hot, steamy day in Essex, Mass. Chubby Woodman and his wife Bessie had opened a small concession stand on Main Street two years earlier. On weekends they […]
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 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.
Essex shipyards 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. View below, “Legacy: Shipbuilders, Fishermen and the Age of the Gloucester Schooners” (58 minutes).
1793 and 1818: the “Burden of the Poor” divides Ipswich into three towns - 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 […]
The Great Colonial Hurricane and the wreck of the Angel Gabriel, August 25, 1635 - 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 John Cogswell and his wife, three members of the Burnham family, Captain Robert Andrews and his nephews, who all settled in an area called Chebacco, which is now Essex.
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...
Old Graveyard 1680, Essex MA The Body Snatcher of Chebacco Parish - The Old Burying Ground in Essex was established in 1680 for inhabitants of Chebacco Parish, the former part of Ipswich which broke away and became the town of Essex in 1819. It was in that year that people in the parish began noticing lights moving about at night […]
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.
The Rev. John Wise of Ipswich - The concepts of freedom freedom which Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence came from the pen of the Rev. John Wise of Ipswich: "The first human subject and original of civil power is the people...and when they are free, they may set up what species of government they please.

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
ESS.23
Perkins, Isaac House, 1765
Apple St
ESS.25
Story, Jacob House, 1831
1 Apple St
ESS.22
Story House, 1830
18 Apple St
ESS.24
Brown, Joseph – Cleveland, John House, 1713
23 Belcher St
ESS.42
Giddings, George House, 1690
66 Choate St
ESS.1
Giddings, George Barn, 1700
66 Choate St
ESS.2
Butler, Simon House, 1690
Conomo Dr
ESS.72
22 Eastern Ave, 1745
ESS.186
5 Grove St, 1768
ESS.205
Andrew, John House, 1768
68 Grove St
ESS.71
Cross – Proctor House, 1760
Harlow St. ESS.80
Choate, Francis House, 1730
Hog Island
ESS.79
Powder House, 1816
John Wise Ave
ESS.901
Giddings, Lt. Samuel House, 1678

143 John Wise Ave

ESS.21

Titcomb, Benaiah House, 1700
189 John Wise Ave
ESS.87
Butnam, Archer House, 1730
King’s Ct
ESS.73
16 Main St, 1830
ESS.30
Center School, 1835
Main St
ESS.35
First Congregational Church, 1746
39 Main St
ESS.36
Lamson, Dr. Josiah House, 1830
16 Main St
ESS.31
Griggs House, 1832
18 Main St
ESS.32
Cavies, John House, 1725
22 Main St
ESS.33
Story, Epes House, 1828
25 Main St
ESS.34
148 Main St, 1830
ESS.219
Proctor – Pankhurst House, 1780
166 Main St
ESS.78
Lyman, James House, 1820
21 Martin St
ESS.69
Goodhue House, 1775
113 Martin St
ESS.63
Burnham, John and David House, 1685
57 Pond St
ESS.19
Preston, David House, 1737
182 Southern Ave
ESS.70
Cogswell’s Grant, 1728
60 Spring St
ESS.3
Crafts House, 1791
Story St
ESS.40
14 Story St, 1790
ESS.37
Story, McKensi House, 1770
38 Story St
ESS.38
38 Story St
ESS.39
Story, Elisha House, 1784
49 Story St
ESS.41
Webster, Rev. Josiah House, 1795
7 Western Ave
ESS.4
Pickering, Rev. Theophilus House, 1730
9 Western Ave
ESS.5
Pickering, Rev. Theophilus converted barn, 1725
11 Western Ave
ESS.6
Cogswell, William House, 1771
17 Western Ave
ESS.7
Lowe, Winthrop House, 1718
18 Western Ave
ESS.9
Congregational Church Parsonage, 1824
19 Western Ave
ESS.8
Andrews, Col. House, 1806
21 Western Ave
ESS.10
98 Western Ave, 1750
ESS.16
Burnham, Francis House, 1790
135 Western Ave
ESS.17
Allen, Joe Gill House, 1727
246 Western Ave
ESS.18

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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