John Calef house Ipswich MA

5-7 Poplar Street, the Dr. John Calef house (1671)

The core of the house at 5-7 Poplar Street is an example of a First Period house with Georgian modifications. It was built between 1671 and 1688 by Deacon Thomas Knowlton who purchased the land on which it originally stood on South Main. It was subsequently altered in the middle of the 18th century, acquiring its present Georgian styling. In 1777 John Heard moved the house to its present location in order to build his elaborate Federalist home which now houses the Ipswich Museum. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

In the 1700’s the house was owned by Loyalist John Calef. From 1754 to 1760 Dr. John Calef was a surgeon in the “Old French War” in ’56. From 1755 on he was frequently Representative from Ipswich to the General Court, and was in opposition to the growing differences between the colonies and the British Government.

In 1774, after one of his votes was called into question, he signed a statement that “Inasmuch as a great Number of Persons are about the House of the Subscriber, who say that they have heard I am an Enemy to my Country, etc. and have sent a large Committee to me to examine me respecting my principles, in compliance with their request I declare, First I hope and believe I fear God, honor the King, and love my Country.Secondly, I believe the Constitution of civil Government held forth in the Charter of Massachusetts Bay Province to be the best in the whole world, and that the Rights and Privileges thereof ought to be highly esteemed, greatly valued and seriously contended for, and that the late Acts of Parliament made against this province are unconstitutional and unjust and that I will use all lawful means to get the same recovered; and that I never have and never will act by an omission under the new Constitution of Government, and if I have ever said or done anything to enforce said Act I am heartily sorry for it; and as I gave my vote in the General Assembly on the 30th of June 1768, contrary to the minds of the people, I beg their forgiveness and that the good people of the Province would restore me to their esteem and friendship again.”

In this political cartoon by Paul Revere, John Calef is portrayed with a calf’s head (beneath the pitchfork).

The people of Ipswich never forgave John Calef. A cartoon by Paul Revere pictured the seven who had voted retraction of a petition to the King. Calef is drawn with a calf’s head. Calef sold the property to John Heard and joined the British troops at Fort George. At the close of the war he settled in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, there practicing his profession til his death.

John Calef house Ipswich MA

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