7 South Village Green, the Col. John Baker House (1761)

7 South Village Green, the Col. John Baker House (1761)

The land on which this house sits was given to Nathaniel Rogers, the second minister in Ipswich. Daniel Rogers sold the Rogers homestead to John Baker in 1761 (110:94), and Baker built the present house. The house has much original material, including Georgian paneling.

 

Col. John Baker took an active part in the leadership of the town, speaking out against the British Parliament in steps that led the Town into the Revolutionary War.

The extended Baker family owned this side of the South Green. Aaron Smith, who built the house to the right of the Baker house married Lucy Baker. Her nephew David bought and tore down the old Compton Choate Inn that was located on the present site of the Whipple House.  Behind the Col. John Baker house is the Gables, a fascinating Gothic Revival home designed by mathematician David Baker and built between 1832 and 1846.

Sources: 

south_green_1840_lighter

The Col. John Baker house is on the left side, looking in the direction of downtown in this old painting of the South Green

south-green_1910

Photo from the early 20th Century. The house on the far right has since been taken down and was in the lot to the south of the Whipple House.

This house is protected by a preservation agreement between the owners and the Ipswich Historical Commission. Protected elements include:

  • Exterior front facade and two end gables of the original building
  • Central frame including primary and secondary members
  • Central chimney
  • Wooden architectural elements in the front hall, front first and second floor rooms of the original building, including mantelpieces, doors, paneling, and other molded detail.

Shown below are two of the fireplaces in the house:

fireplace, Col. John Baker House in Ipswich

Col. John Baker House, South Green Ipswich

The last witchcraft trial in the United States

Lucretia Brown and her sister never married and lived with their mother in this house.. Lucretia had been an invalid since she injured her spine in a childhood accident, but when she was in her 50’s she became a disciple of Mary Baker Eddy and was convinced that Christian Science had healed her. She even began calling on neighbors at the other end of the Green. When poor Lucretia suffered a “relapse” in 1875 Mrs. Eddy convinced her that Daniel Spofford of Newburyport, whom Mrs. Eddy had recently excommunicated, was exercising mesmeric powers upon her. Hearing of her illness and concerned about the charges being made against him, Mr. Spofford decided made a surprise call on his old friend, whereupon Miss Brown became agitated, believing he had come to do her further harm.

Mrs. Eddy became obsessed that Spofford was an enemy of her church and tried unsuccessfully to publish an attack against him in papers throughout the county. She directed twelve of her students to spend two hours each every day around the clock in concentrated thought against Mr. Spofford to prevent him from doing further harm to her patients. She had her lawyer in Lynn draw up a bill of complaint in Lucretia Brown’s name, setting forth the injuries that Spofford had supposedly inflicted and petitioning the court to restrain him from exercising his powers against her. The text stated that “the defendant practices the art of mesmerism and by his said art and the power of his mind influences and controls the minds and bodies of other persons for the purpose of injuring the persons and property and social relations of others”.

Mary Baker Eddy

Mrs Eddy’s attorney refused to argue the case in court, so she ordered her student Edward Arens to do so and twenty of her followers to stand as witnesses. On June 3, 1875 they assembled at the railway station in Lynn for the train to Salem. The Boston Globe reported that one of the appointed witnesses approached Mrs. Eddy to complain that he knew nothing whatever about the case and would not know what to say, whereupon she assured him that he would be told what to say. At the courthouse in Salem, nearly two centuries after the witchcraft hysteria, the last charge of witchcraft in this country was brought to trial. Mr. Spofford did not bother to appear. When Mr. Arens rose before Judge Horace Gray and presented the bill of complaint, Mr. Spofford’s attorney Mr. Noyes objected. Judge Gray declared that it was not within the power of the Court to control Mr. Spofford’s mind. Mrs Eddy was not given any opportunity to argue that disease could be the work of mesmeric powers, and the case was dismissed due to “defects in the writ.”

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