Ipswich in the 17th Century

Mural at the Ipswich Post Office 

Ipswich was settled in 1633 in an area the Native Americans called Agawam. The town was incorporated as Ipswich the following year.  The strain of King Philip’s War left the colony exhausted, and the General Court enacted a series of restrictive and irksome laws.

In 1681, Mason’s Claim threatened to make every land title worthless, and in 1684 King Charles II of England revoked the Colony’s charter. An Ipswich town meeting three years later resisted the Andros’ government in an act for which several of the town leaders were jailed.

The Puritans imagined the work of Satan at every location, culminating in the Salem Witch Trials, of which Ipswich played a significant role. In 1697, The Rev. John Hale wrote, “Such was the darkness of that day, the tortures and lamentations of the afflicted and the power of former precedents that we walked in the clouds and could not see our way.”

Wreck of the Watch and Wait, August 24, 1635 - Many ships and lives were lost in the Great Colonial Hurricane, including 21 passengers who had set out from Ipswich on August 21, 1635 on a small bark named “Watch and Wait.” As they rounded Cape Ann they were suddenly met by the force of the winds. Reverend John […]
Captain John Smith New England “A Land of Promise,” April 1614 - In April of 1614, Captain John Smith of Virginia sailed near Ipswich, about which he recorded, “Here are many rising hills, and on their tops and descents are many corne fields and delightful groves… There is also Okes, Pines, Walnuts and other wood to make this place an […]
The Great Dying--Native Americans in the early 17th Century The Great Dying 1616-1619, “By God’s visitation, a wonderful plague” - Featured image: Drawn by a French missionary of Abenaki in Maine during a smallpox epidemic in 1740 The arrival of 102 Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower at Plymouth in 1620 and the settlements by the Puritans in Boston, Salem and Ipswich a decade later were accompanied by the demise of […]
Jeffreys Neck Ipswich ma map and aerial view Jeffreys’ Neck Road - This history of Jeffreys Neck is from the Agawam Manual and Directory by M.V.B. Perley, published in 1888. The business of fur-trading and fishing along the New England coast received a new impetus about the beginning of the seventeenth century. In 1604 Agawam was the center of Arcadia, so-called in the […]
The “Commonwealth” - An irony of the recent presidential election is the millions of people who felt abandoned by the government and left out in today’s economy, and yet chose as their presidential candidates two very wealthy people. This brought me to reflect on the word “commonwealth,” defined as a state or collection […]
Puritans leaving for America Mass Moments: Puritans Leave for Massachusetts - Featured image: The Pilgrim Fathers: Departure of a Puritan family for New England 1856 by Charles COPE On April 7, 1630, the last well-wishers stepped off the ship Arabella and returned to shore. More than a week after the vessel first set out, the winds were finally favorable. The […]
John Winthrop’s journal of the ship Arbella’s voyage to America, March 29 – July 8, 1630 - On April 7, 1630, the Arabella was a week out from its port in England, and the last well-wishers returned to shore. The winds were finally favorable, and the ship weighed anchor and sailed for New England, with Governor John Winthrop and approximately 300 English Puritans on board, leaving their homes in England to settle in a fledgling colony.
Agawam - Image: Ipswich Riverwalk Mural ,Sagamore Masconomet selling Agawam to John Winthrop At the time of the arrival of European colonists in the 1630′s, the Ipswich area was known as Agawam but the tribe had been decimated by what is now believed to have been a hepatitis plague. The […]
Who Were the Agawam Indians, Really? - (The following article is written by Mary Ellen Lepionka of Gloucester. Download the full PDF document View the references page It’s hard for people to change their stories—so embedded in deep time and official canon, so wedded to civic pride, expensive sometimes to modify—even when there is good […]
An old pear tree grows in Danvers… -  A History of the Endecott Pear Tree by Richard B. Trask The 375-year-old Endecott Pear Tree in Danvers was planted under the direction of the first Massachusetts Governor, English Puritan John Endecott (c 1588-1665). Endecott sailed from England to the New World aboard the ship Abigail in 1628, landing at a small peninsula the native […]
Lydia Wardwell on her presentment for coming naked into Newbury meeting house - In 1661,  Lydia Perkins of Newbury had become a Quaker, and the church issued demands that she appear and give reasons for her withdrawal. Her angry response was to appear naked in the Meeting House. She was ordered to appear at the Salem court, and was then taken to Ipswich and severely whipped.
The First Winters in Ipswich - Featured image: painting by George Henry Boughton Nearly half of the original 102 passengers on the Mayflower did not survive the first winter after arriving in Plymouth in December 1622. Only four of the original thirteen women lived to celebrate the “First Thanksgiving” the following November. Two hundred […]
The early homes of the Shatswells - The oldest section of the Tuttle – Lord – Shatswell house at 88 High Street in Ipswich is said to have been built before 1690 as the home of John Shatswell, who came to join the Ipswich settlement in 1633 with his wife and four children. He was granted this piece of land and built […]
Thomas Lord house Ipswich Homes of the Lords - Featured image: The Thomas Lord house on High Street in Ipswich dates to 1658. Robert Lord arrived with the first settlers of Ipswich in late 1634 or early 1635, probably from Sudbury, Suffolk, England, where he was born in 1603. Soon after his arrival, Robert Lord was appointed Ipswich Town […]
Ecclesiastical Ipswich by Agnes Edwards Ecclesiastical Ipswich - Featured image from the book “The Romantic Shore” by Agnes Edwards, 1915. In the preface she writes, Of all the thousands of miles of our inspiring coast-line, east and west, there is no part more rich in romance, more throbbing with legendary and historical associations than the North […]
Daniel Denison - Daniel Denison was born in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, England in 1612, and came to America with his parents William Denison and Margaret Chandler on the ship “Lyon” in 1631. When Daniel Denison’s son John died unexpectedly, Denison left an autobiography for his grandchildren, which told about the journey to […]
John Winthrop Jr. here and gone - John Winthrop the younger was the son of Massachusetts Bay Colony governor John Winthrop, and led the settlement of Agawam in 1633 (renamed Ipswich in 1634), accompanied by 11 men. During that first year they erected crude shelters and the next year brought their families to join them […]
Anne Dudley Bradstreet, the colony’s first published poet - Anne Dudley Bradstreet was born in 1612 in England. She married Simon Bradstreet at age sixteen. Her father was a steward to an Earl, and thus she was well tutored in language and literature. With her parents they arrived in American on June 14, 1630 in Salem aboard the […]
Martha Winthrop’s grave - The Ipswich Chronicle ran this story in the year 2000. Burial site of first settler may be revealed  A recent letter to the Zoning Board may hold some clues to the location of the gravesite of Mrs. John Winthrop and her child who may have been buried on […]
Arthur Wesley Dow photo of Marblehead Marblehead is established, May 6, 1635 - Featured image: Marblehead, by Arthur Wesley Dow, circa 1900 A story at Mass Moments In May 1635 the General Court ordered “that there shall be a plantation at Marble Head” and gave the inhabitants the right to do whatever they pleased with the land, even though it was […]
Linebrook Church 1930, Ipswich Ma Linebrook Parish - This remote area was originally known as Ipswich Farms. After the residents began pressing for their own church, the Massachusetts General Court on June 4, 1746, created the Linebrook Parish, the boundries of which were defined by 6 brooks and lines connecting them. The community had a church, store, school and its own militia.
The Narragansett Indians welcomed Roger Williams Mass Moments: Roger Williams Banished - In 1635, Puritan minister Roger Williams was found guilty of spreading “newe & dangerous opinions” and banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Before leaving England in 1630, Williams had seen heretics whipped, imprisoned, and burned at the stake. He called for religious freedom, a serious threat to the […]
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.
Ipswich at war - Featured image: Civil War veterans at the Choate Bridge Some American wars in which Ipswich citizens have fought 1634: Settlement and the early military annals 1636-1638 Pequot War 1675 -1676 King Philip’s War 1689-1697 War of William and Mary (King William’s War) 1690 Battle of Quebec 1702-1713 Queen […]
The wolf in colonial America Killing wolves - One of the first laws instituted by the Massachusetts Bay Colony was a bounty on wolves, and in early Ipswich, a rather disconcerting aspect of entering the Meeting House was the site of wolf heads nailed to the door. Even in 1723, wolves were so abundant and so near the meeting house, that parents would not suffer their children to go and come from worship without some grown person.
Puritans drinking Strong drink - Colonial liquor licenses were granted to Ipswich men of highest esteem. They were bound “not to sell by retail to any but men of family, and of good repute, nor sell any after sunset; and that they shall be ready to give account of what liquors they sell by retail, the quantity, time and to whom.”
The Life of Daniel Hovey - At the foot of Hovey Street on Water Street along the Ipswich River is a plaque dedicated to the memory of Daniel Hovey, placed there by his descendants. The original wharf on the river in Ipswich was Hovey’s Wharf at this approximate location. Daniel Hovey was born in […]
Moses Jewett house, 307 High St. Homes of the Jewetts - Deacon Maximilian Jewett was born in Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire, England, baptized Oct. 4th, 1607. He with his wife Ann, and his brother Joseph sailed from Hull, England in 1638 in the ship John, with a colony under the leadership of Rev. Ezekiel Rogers. They arrived at […]
1639: “The pigs have liberty” - From the Ancient Records of the town of Ipswich, January 13, 1639 “Agreed that if any swine shall be taken within two miles of the towne, after the tenth day of April next, running, the owners of such swine shall forfeit five shillings a piece for every such swine, the […]
Milestone 33 on the Old Bay Road Along the Old Bay Road - In November 1639, the General Court in Boston ordered that the first official road be laid out from Boston to Portsmouth. Bay Road was to be constructed by each town along the way and milestones carved in stone were installed to indicate distances. Some (but not all) of […]
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. This hoax photograph of an Ipswich sea serpent was created by Ipswich photographer George Dexter in 1910.
Gold Coast negro slaves for sale Names of the Ipswich slaves - In 1641 the Massachusetts Bay Colony adopted a code of laws that made slavery legal. In 1755, the slaves in this town above the age of sixteen numbered sixty-two, but within ten years, public opinion began turn against slavery. In 1780, the present Constitution of Massachusetts was adopted, its first article asserting that all men are born free and equal.
A photographic and chronological history of the Ipswich Schools - Featured image: Manning School, and the first Winthrop School on the left. Photo by George Dexter, circa 1900. Excerpts from The History of the Ipswich Public Schools, an excellent article written in 2008 by William E. Waitt, Jr, who served as teacher and principal in the Ipswich Public Schools for 36 […]
Drunk Puritans in Plymouth Colony Drunkards, liars, a hog, a dog, a witch, “disorderly persons” and the innkeeper - As the young boys who arrived with the first settlers of Ipswich approached adulthood, they developed a fondness for hard liquor and rowdiness, which frequently landed them in court. The words of accusers, witnesses and defendants provide an entertaining narrative.
Troubles with Sheep - Thomas Granger was the 16 year old son of Thomas and Grace Granger of Plymouth Plantation, and was a servant to Love Brewster of Duxbury. He was found guilty of having sexual relations with animals in Love’s barn. Granger’s execution on September 8, 1642 was the first in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
A Nostalgic Glance at Harvard’s Early History - *From it’s earliest days, the people of Ipswich made frequent contributions to Harvard College. William Hubbard of Ipswich, the son of the Rev.William Hubbard, in his twenty-first year, ‘was one of that remarkable group of nine young men whom Harvard College sent forth in 1642, as the first specimens of […]
Saugus Iron Works Saugus Iron Works and the Appleton house. - Reprinted in part from MASS Moments. Featured image: National Park Service.  When the Great Migration of the 1630s ended, the number of ships bound for Massachusetts fell off steeply. The supply of iron products went down and the price went up.Among the men interested in seeing an iron industry develop in […]
William Franklin of Newbury, hanged for the death of an indentured child in 1644 - Children in the 17th and 18th Century New England colonies generally arrived with their families, but hundreds of English children were taken from the streets and unwillingly taken without their parents to be indentured as servants. Although the practice was more common in the Southern colonies, Joshua Coffin […]
A short history of Ipswich dog laws - 1644 The following is transcribed from the Ipswich Town Meeting, May 11, 1644: “It is ordered that all doggs for the space of three weeks after the publishing hereof shall have one legg tyed up, and if such a dogg shall break loose and be found doing any harm, […]
The Simple Cobbler of Ipswich by Nathaniel Ward Nathaniel Ward: The Simple Cobbler of Agawam in America - Nathaniel Ward (1578–October 1652) was a clergyman born in Haverhill, Suffolk, England. Known for his caustic temperament he was a key player in the Puritan movement. Reprimanded by the Bishop of London for his activism and fervent espousal of theocratic polities, Ward emigrated to Massachusetts in 1634. Already in […]
The proof was in the Kettle - Mark Quilter made his living as a cow-keeper in the common land on the north side of town and seemed to always be in trouble. He was called before the court in 1647 and reprimanded for "sleeping in the barn" rather than watching the cows during his evening shift. He had a reputation in Ipswich for drinking and losing his temper and was always the butt of jokes and pranks.
Legend of Heartbreak Hill, Ipswich MA The Legend of Heartbreak Hill - In Ipswich town, not far from the sea, Rises a hill which the people call Heartbreak hill, and its history Is an old, old legend known to all. It was a sailor who won the heart Of an Indian maiden, lithe and young; And she saw him over the sea depart, While sweet in her ear his promise rung;..
The sad story of Alexander Knight - In 1648, Alexander Knight was charged with the death of his chiled whose clothes caught on fire. A jury fined him for carelessness after being warned. The town took mercy and voted to provide him a piece of land "whereas Alexander Knight is altogether destitute, his wife alsoe neare her tyme."
Mass Moments: Quakers Outlawed, December 3, 1658 - Magistrates in the Massachusetts Bay Colony were alarmed by Quaker teachings of direct personal revelations from God. The courts passed a series of laws forbidding residents from housing Quakers. Quakers themselves were threatened with whipping, arrest, imprisonment, banishment, or death.
Puritans torturing quakers Persecution of Quakers by the Puritans - Beginning in 1656, laws forbade any captain to land Quakers. Any individual of that sect was to be committed at once to the House of Correction, to be severely whipped on his or her entrance, and kept constantly at work, and none were suffered to speak with them. In Ipswich,  Roger Darby his wife lived in High St, and were warned, fined and dealt with harshly.
The Bones of Masconomet - On March 6, 1659 a young man named Robert Cross dug up the remains of the Agawam chief Masconomet, and carried his skull on a pole through Ipswich streets, an act for which Cross was imprisoned, sent to the stocks, then returned to prison until a fine was paid.
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 […]
The first jailbreak in the Colony, March 30, 1662 - On the morning of the 30th of March, 1662, the Ipswich jailer found that a prisoner had escaped, the first offence of this nature committed in the country.
Thomas Dennis, legendary Ipswich joiner - In 1937, Irving P. Lyon published a series of six articles about Thomas Dennis, joiner of Ipswich, analyzing numerous articles of furniture and family documents. The furniture of Thomas Dennis took on the status of historic treasure, and over time more pieces were attributed to him than he could […]
“Wording it over the sheep” and behaving badly - Samuel often had words with his neighbor John Lee Sr. over the handling of cattle and sheep, and in 1668 the two landed in court for disturbing the peace. Neither would not admit to any wrong. A witness testified that John's son Joseph hit Samuel with a club as they “were wording it over the sheep”
The ghost of Harry Maine - Harry Maine — you have heard the tale; He lived there in Ipswich Town; He blasphemed God, so they put him down with an iron shovel, at Ipswich Bar; They chained him there for a thousand years, As the sea rolls up to shovel it back; So when the sea cries, the goodwives say "Harry Maine growls at his work today."
“Dalliance and too much familiarity” - William Row v. John Leigh, Mar. 28, 1673: “For insinuating dalliance and too much familiarity with his wife and drawing away her affections from her husband, to the great detriment both in his estate and the comfort of his life.”
Ipswich, the Brookfield Massacre and King Philip’s War - In 1660, a group of Ipswich families settled in Quaboag which they renamed Brookfield. Indian attacks in 1675 resulted in its destruction.
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...
The tragic story of Rebecca Rawson, 1679 -   The following is from a story told in 1921 by Rev. Glenn Tilley Morse, President of the Historical Society of Old Newbury and Newburyport. Edward Rawson arrived in Newbury in 1637. When he was only twenty-three years old he was chosen town clerk, notary public, and registrar […]
Elizabeth Morse Witch of Newbury The Witchcraft Trial of Elizabeth Morse of Newbury, 1680 - Elizabeth Morse of Newbury was accused and found guilty of being a witch. She was initially sentenced to be hanged, but the execution was never carried out and, after spending a year in the Boston jail, Elizabeth Morse was sent home to live with her husband on the […]
The Legend of Goody Cole, 1680 - In Myths and Legends of our Own Time, Charles M. Skinner wrote the following story, based on two poems by John Greenleaf Whittier. Goodwife Eunice Cole, of Hampton, Massachusetts, was so “vehemently suspected to be a witch” that she was arrested in 1680 for the third time and was thrown […]
The Spectre Ship of Salem - Cotton Mather related the tale of a doomed ship called “Noah’s Dove” which left Salem during the late 17th century for England. Among the passengers were “a young man and a passing beautiful girl pale and sorrowful, whom no one knew and who held communion with no one.” […]
Sarah Goodhue’s advance directive, July 14, 1681 - On July 14, 1681, Sarah Whipple Goodhue left a note to her husband that read: "Dear husband, if by sudden death I am taken away from thee, there is infolded among thy papers something that I have to say to thee and others." She died three days after bearing twins. This is the letter to her husband and children.
The Boy Who Couldn’t Remember - Ezekiel Cheever was the Ipswich schoolmaster, followed in 1660 by Schoolmaster Andrews. An unfortunate but mischievous lad was the nemesis of the esteemed Mr. Andrews.
Mason’s Claim - On January 4, 1681, John T. Mason presented the King's letter to the General Court, which ordered "all said tenants" to appear in Ipswich. If an ancient claim was confirmed, every land title would be worthless and a landed medieval system known as "quit-rents" could be grafted upon New England.
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.
John Dunton’s visit to Ipswich and Rowley, 1686 - Thomas Franklin Waters wrote that in 1686, Mr. and Mrs. Stewart who lived in the ancient Caleb Lord house on High Street (no longer standing), “were favored with a visit from the book-seller John Dunton, who came to Ipswich in the course of his saddle-bag peregrinations.” In October 1685, Dunton sailed from […]
Birthplace of American Independence - Resistance by the citizens and leaders of Ipswich to a tax imposed by the Crown in 1687 is commemorated in the seal of the town of Ipswich, which bears the motto, "The Birthplace of American Independence 1687."
The defiant Samuel Appleton - In 1687, a warrant was issued for the arrest of several Ipswich men for being "seditiously inclined and disaffected to his Majesty's government." The 62-year-old Major Samuel Appleton scorned the appearance of submission and remained imprisoned in the cold Boston Jail through the winter.
Puritans warned out strangers and announced that the "town is full" The Town is Full! - In the 17th Century Ipswich, residency was allowed to such as were church members and deemed suitable under the law. Every man thus elected took the freeman's oath, prescribed by the General Court. No stranger was permitted to live more than one week in any tenement without satisfaction of the Selectmen.
Mary Walcott The witchcraft accusations against Sarah Buckley and Mary Witheridge - On May 23, 1692, a complaint for witchcraft was filed against Sarah Buckley and her widowed daughter Mary Witheridge. The "bewitched" girls of Salem Village claimed that the women's specters had attacked them. Held in shackles in the cold crowded jail, both were acquitted in January,1692
South Main Street - In March 1692 the Selectmen laid out twenty-three small lots and granted them "to as many individuals with the conditions that they not encumber the highway, make provision for drainage under the buildings, that each person provide paving four-foot wide all along before ye said buildings for the convenience of foot travelers, and erect posts to keep horses from spoiling the same.”
Rachel Clinton arrested for witchcraft, May 28, 1692 - Everything about Rachel Clinton’s life went wrong, and in her old age she became a  beggar and a ward of the town of Ipswich, She was an easy target for the witchcraft hysteria that spread from Salem throughout Essex County, and on May 28, 1692, Rachel Clinton was arrested, and was kept in the […]
Ipswich and the Salem witchcraft trials - During the Salem witch trials the Ipswich jail was filled with the accused. Elizabeth Howe of Linebrook Road was tried and hung. The ministers of the town opposed the trials as a delusion.
Four-year-old Dorothy Good is jailed for witchcraft, March 24, 1692 - On March 24, 1682. a child, Dorothy Good of Salem was taken custody, and interrogated by the local magistrates for two weeks. Hungry, cold and missing her mother, Dorcas broke down and told the inquisitors what they wanted to hear, that her mother was a witch, and consorted with the devil.
The Spectre Leaguers, 1692 - This story of apparitions suggests that the colony was suffering from mass insanity. In the midst of witchcraft accusations in 1692, Gloucester was invaded by a spectral company for a fortnight. Their speech was in an unknown tongue, and bullets passed right through them. The alarm became so great that Major Samuel Appleton of Ipswich sent sixty men on the 18th of July. When the defender's guns had no effect, the soldiers fell to their knees, calling out the name of God. Heaven rang with the howls of the angry fiends, and never again were the Spectral Leaguers seen in Gloucester.
Mathison painting, "Examination of a Witch" trial of Elizabeth Howe of Ipswich 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.
John Hale, a Modest Inquiry into Witchcraft. “We walked in the clouds and could not see our way” - In 1690 the governor of Massachusetts William Phips asked the 54-year-old pastor Rev. John Hale of Beverly to accompany the campaign against the French in Quebec as chaplain, and Hale willingly agreed. Hale returned home in 1690, but a crisis soon erupted that would test his convictions. It was January 1692 that […]
The Amazing Story of Hannah Duston, March 14, 1697 - Featured image: “Hannah Duston Killing the Indians” by Junius Brutus Stearns, (1847); Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville Maine. Hannah Duston of Haverhill was born in Ipswich on High Street in 1657 while her mother was visiting her relatives the Shatswells. In 1879, a bronze statue of Hannah Duston […]

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