The Town of Ipswich devoted much manpower and resources during the first half of the 18th Century to the French and Indian Wars, and became a staunch supporter of the War for Independence. The development of the stagecoach maintained the prominence of the town for several decades. In 1793, the Hamlet was set off from the town and became the Town of Hamilton. The port of Ipswich was unable to compete with the larger harbors, and the town sank into period of economic decline began.
Ipswich in the 18th Century
Pingrey’s Plain, the gallows lot - Long before the intersection of Mile Lane and High Street became famous for the Clam Box, it was known as Pingrey’s Plain, and was where the wicked were hung.
Ipswich Village (Upper High St.) - This Ipswich neighborhood has historically had a close social connection with neighboring Rowley. Jewett's mill was created in the 17th Century, and historic houses still line the street.
Carted back to Ipswich, 1714 - It is said that the Rev. Belcher was dependent on his neighbors' kindness in his later life. Much to the supposed discredit of the parish, the story was often told that when he grew old and unable to preach, his parishioners cast him off and carted him back to Ipswich, his native place.
Haselelponah Wood - Obadiah Wood married 35-year-old widow Haselelponiah, whose scriptural name means "A shadow falls upon me," the only person in modern history with that name. Haselelpony Wood's tombstone is located at the Old North Burial Ground in Ipswich.
A romantic tale from the Great Snow of Feb. 21-24, 1717 - Snowstorms on the 20th and 24th of February 1717 covered the earth up to 20 ft. deep. In some places houses were completely buried, and paths were dug from house to house under the snow. A widow in Medford burned her furniture to keep the children warm.
Col. Doctor Thomas Berry, “Last of the Ipswich Aristocracy” - In the first half of the Eighteenth Century, Col. Thomas Berry was the most conspicuous citizen of the Town, "Autocrat of his time, Magistrate, Military leader, Physician and Statesman."
Death in a snowstorm, December 1, 1722 - On December 1, 1722, Daniel Rogers was returning to Ipswich from a court case in Hampton and took a wrong turn that led deep into Salisbury marshes. His body was found a few days later near Salisbury beach. Suspicion fell on one Moses Gatchel but no charges were filed, there being a lack of solid evidence.
The reluctant pirate from Ipswich, Captain John Fillmore - John Fillmore of Ipswich was taken prisoner in 1723 by the pirate Captain Phillips. After many months he and three other prisoners overcame their captors, seized command and sailed the ship into Boston. "Captain" John Fillmore became a legend in his own time.
Two Taverns for Two Susannas - In the 1700s two of the finer inns in town were run by women, a mother and daughter both named Susanna. Although the two houses are both on corners of County Street, they were separated by the river.
The Epes’ farm at Wigwam Hill - Symonds Epes bought a large tract in 1726 and built a substantial farm and orchards at Wigwam Hill, named for a group of destitute Indians who briefly camped there. The protecting pitch pines were later cut for lumber, and the farm became a large dune.
Great Sorrows, the Deadly “Throat Distemper” of 1735-36 - "What mourning Sighs, and loud Outcries comes from the Eastern Towns, Of Children crying, and others dying, which makes a doleful Sound."
Illegal Currency: Ipswich and the Land Bank scheme of 1740-41 - In September 1740, two Massachusetts Land Banks organized and issued 50,000 pounds of notes of varying amounts, without legal authorization of the Crown. An Act of Parliament declared all the transactions of the two Bank Schemes illegal and void.
The Devil’s footprint - Imprinted into the rocks in front of the First Church in Ipswich is the footprint of the devil, left there forever in a legendary encounter with the traveling English evangelist George Whitefield in 1740.
The story of Agnes Surriage, the Marblehead tavern maid - In 1742, the 26-year-old king’s collector visited Marblehead and fell in love with the young tavern maid, a poor fisherman's daughter ten years younger than himself.
Peg Wesson, the Gloucester witch - An old legend about the Gloucester witch Peg Wesson is often mentioned, but never was it told in such detail as in this story published in the Boston Evening Transcript, October 14, 1892. It was carried in papers throughout the country.
Lord Timothy Dexter - Lord Timothy Dexter of Newburyport was insane but profited from everything he undertook. He declared himself to be "the greatest philosopher in the known world." His book, "A Pickle for the Knowing Ones" is a collection of whatever entered his head at the moment, spelling as he wished, and devoid of punctuation.
Ipswich Hosiery - After the first stocking machine was smuggled from England to Ipswich in 1822, immigrants arrived in Ipswich to work in the cotton and hosiery mills, contributing to the town's diverse cultural heritage.
Abraham Knowlton, “Workman of rare skill” - Ipswich is home to two groundbreaking masterworks of early eighteenth century America, a paneled wall and a pulpit. Both were made by Abraham Knowlton (1699- 1751), a woodworker who is less well known than he deserves to be.
Acadian exiles in Ipswich, 1755 - Massachusetts men played a conspicuous part in the French and Indian War, which resulted in wholesale destruction and deportation in French-speaking Nova Scotia. Surviviors were exiled to the Colonies, their children taken from them and distributed to English families as "nothing more than slaves."
The Cape Ann Earthquake, November 18, 1755 - At between 6.0 and 6.3 on the Richter scale, the1755 Cape Ann Earthquake remains the largest earthquake in the history of Massachusetts, and caused great alarm. The Rev. Leslie of Linebrook Church recorded the earthquake's effect: "Between ye hours of four & five in ye morning there happened a most surprising shock of ye earthquake, which was afterwards succeeded by several others, though non equal to ye first in ye Town of Ipswich. Much damage was done to many houses, yet through ye goodness of God no hurt was done either to ye lives or ye limbs of any persons. On Nov. 19 several shocks were heard, tho but small compared to ye first."
Bombshell from Louisbourg - Mounted securely to a stone post at the corner of Middle and Independent Streets in Newburyport, there was for many years a large cast-iron bombshell, thrown from a mortar at the Second Siege of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia in 1758.
The First Church Clock - As the parish records tell us, “A clock purchased by subscription was landed in Ipswich May 29, 1762. The Parish on May 31st voted their readiness to receive it into the steeple of this meeting house and September 16, 1762 they voted to be at the charge of putting it up there.”
Colonial boycotts - American economic sanctions in response to Russia's war on Ukraine have parallels with American Colonial non-importation agreements in the years leading up to the war with Britain.
The Choate Bridge - The American Society of Civil Engineers cites the Choate Bridge in Ipswich as the oldest documented two-span masonry arch bridge in the U.S., and the oldest extant bridge in Massachusetts.
Ipswich and the breach with Britain - On June 10th, 1776, the men of Ipswich, in Town-meeting assembled, instructed their Representatives, that if the Continental Congress should for the safety of the said Colonies declare them Independent of the Kingdom of Great Britain, they will solemnly engage with their lives and Fortunes to support them in the Measure.
Freedom for Jenny Slew - Jenny Slew was born about 1719 as the child of a free white woman and a black slave. She lived her life as a free woman until 1762 when she was kidnapped and enslaved by John Whipple. Jenny Slew is believed to be the first person held as a slave to be granted freedom through trial by jury. In November of 1766 the jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff and ordered Whipple to free Jenny Slew. She was awarded £4 in damages and £5 in costs.
The “Detested Tea” and the Ipswich Resolves - "Taking under consideration the Distrest State of Trade, by Reason of a Late Act of Parliament Imposing Duties on Tea....Voted, that we will abstain there from ourselves & Recommend the Disuse of it in our Families, Until all the Revenue Acts are Repealed."
The Massachusetts Circular Letter, February 11, 1768 - Dr. John Calef represented Ipswich in the Massachusetts Assembly and was one of only 17 members who voted to retract the Circular Letter opposing the Townshend Acts. An engraving by Paul Revere portrays Calef being pushed into Hell.
1769: Spinners of Liberty - In response to the Townsend Acts, the women of Massachusetts set themselves vigorously to the making of cotton and woolen fabrics in their homes, that there might be no sale for English goods.
Ipswich Pillow lace - In the late eighteenth century, Ipswich had 600 women and girls producing more than 40,000 yards of lace annually. Ipswich industrialists imported machines from England to mechanize and speed up the operation, which destroyed the hand-made lace industry.
Madame Shatswell’s cup of tea - Madame Shatswell loved her cup of tea, and as a large store had been stored for family use before the hated tax was imposed, she saw no harm in using it as usual. News of the treason spread throughout the town.
Reply by the Town of Ipswich to the Boston Pamphlet, December 28, 1772 - A document known as the “Boston Pamphlet” was distributed throughout the colony, asserting the colonists’ rights. Ipswich held a Town Meeting and established its own “Committee of Correspondence."
“A State of Nature,” Worcester in 1774 - "In Worcester, they keep no Terms, openly threaten Resistance by Arms, have been purchasing Arms, preparing them, casting Ball, and providing Powder, and threaten to attack any Troops who dare to oppose them....the flames of sedition spread universally throughout the country beyond conception.” -Gen. Thomas Gage
Smallpox - One of the most progressive citizens of Ipswich, Dr. John Manning opened a practice in 1760, and began inoculating members of his family for smallpox, incurring the wrath of the Town. An epidemic of smallpox spread through Boston during the British occupation of the city at the beginning of the Revolutionary War.
The Powder Alarm of 1774 - A mob of tens of thousands marched on Boston in 1774 upon hearing a rumor that the city had been destroyed by the British.
The Intolerable Acts of 1774 - Despite the failure of the Stamp Act and the Townshend Acts, the British Parliament responded to the "Boston Tea Party" by passing even more restrictive acts to punish the American extremists.
The Marblehead smallpox riot, January 1774 - In 1773, the selectmen ordered all houses where the disease had appeared to be closed, and dogs to be killed immediately. The fears of the inhabitants increased when permission was granted to build a smallpox hospital on Cat Island.
The stagecoach - The fascinating history of stage and railroad travel was written in 1878 by Cyrus Mason Tracy in the "Standard History of Essex County."
Paul Revere’s not so famous ride through Ipswich, December 13, 1774 - On the cold icy morning of December 13, 1774, Paul Revere headed out on a 60 mile gallop from Boston along the Old Bay Road through Ipswich to warn the citizens of Portsmouth that British troops may be landing.
1774: Ipswich mob attacks Loyalist Representative Dr. John Calef - Dr. John Calef was among a handful of members of the Massachusetts Assembly who voted to retract the "Massachusetts Circular Letter" which was adopted in response to the 1767 Townshend Acts. Ipswich citizens' anger at Calef lingered as war with England approached.
General Michael Farley - In 1774, the Town of Ipswich chose Michael Farley, a tanner, as a delegate to the Provincial Congress. He was appointed major-general of the Militia of Massachusetts in 1777. Farley is buried at the Old North Burying Ground beside his wife Elizabeth. The site of his home is now the Richdale store on Market St..
A Revolutionary Guest: John Adams’ letters from Ipswich - John Adams visited Ipswich many times during his tenure as the Boston representative to the colonial legislature from 1770 to 1774.
The Ipswich Convention and the Essex Result - Delegates from 67 towns arrived in Ipswich on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 1774 and began deliberations regarding a Constitution for Massachusetts. "Surely a state of nature is more excellent than that in which men are meanly submissive to the haughty will of an imperious tyrant."
John Adams’ long walk at Great Neck, 1774 - "I feel unutterable anxiety. God grant us wisdom and fortitude! Should the opposition be suppressed, should this country submit, what infamy and ruin! God forbid. Death in any form is less terrible!"
Account of the soldiers of Chebacco Parish at Bunker Hill - Of the men from Chebacco parish who were in the battle at Bunker Hill, the names of six are known: James Andrews, Benjamin Burnham, Nehemiah Choate, Aaron Perkins, Jesse Story Jr., a minor who was killed, and Francis Burnham who was wounded. Two Chebacco boys, Aaron Low and Samuel Proctor, belonged to a Gloucester company which reached Cambridge on the afternoon of the 16th.
The Great Ipswich Fright, April 21, 1775 - A rumor spread that two British ships were in the river, and were going to burn the town. The news spread as far as New Hampshire, and in every place the report was that the regulars were but a few miles behind them, slashing everyone in sight.
Leslie’s Retreat, or how the Revolutionary War almost began in Salem, February 26, 1775 - In our struggle for Independence, the British military received its first setback from the inhabitants of Salem in an episode that could not have been more ludicrous or entertaining if it had been written for Monty Python.
Lieutenant Ruhama Andrews and the 1775 Battle of Quebec - On Christmas Day 1823, Gen Benjamin Pierce of Hillsborough, NH held a reunion of twenty-two citizens who had served in the War of Independence. The oldest attendee was Ammi Andrews, born in Ipswich, MA, aged 89 years.
The Arnold Expedition arrives in Ipswich, September 15, 1775 - A memorial sits in the intersection between the South Green and the site of the former South Congregational Church in Ipswich. It reads, “The expedition against Quebec, Benedict Arnold in command, Aaron Burr in the ranks, marched by this spot, September 15, 1775."
The Loyalists - An angry mob surrounded the Haverhill home of Col. Richard Saltonstall, a Loyalist, who opened his door and stated that that he was bound to discharge the duties of the office.
The Revolutionary letters of Joseph and Sarah Hodgkins - Throughout the Revolutionary War, Joseph Hodgkins sent letters home from the battlefronts to his wife, Sarah, detailing the desperate troop conditions and longing for home. The physical letters are preserved and are offered here online, transcribed with grammatical corrections for readability
Abigail Adams to John Adams: “All men would be tyrants if they could.” - March 31, 1776, Abigail Adams to John Adams: "In the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors."
In Congress, July 4, 1776 - When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
Meeting House Green plaque commemorates Lafayette’s visit to Ipswich - In 1824 citizens of Ipswich heard with "unfeigned pleasure" that General LaFayette, "the undeviating defender of rational freedom and the rights of man, the illustrious friend of America" would be passing through our area. The town prepared the most elaborate tribute it had ever paid to a visitor.
The Price Act, passed at Ipswich, February 1777 - In 1777, the Ipswich Selectmen and the Committee of Correspondence and Safety, acting under the authority of the General Court, issued a schedule of prices covering all articles of food, clothing, wages of labor of every kind, entertainment at hotels, shipping rates etc.
The Essex Junto - In 1778, a number of prominent Essex County men gathered in Ipswich, and became the backbone of the Massachusetts Federalist Party. President John Adams, also a Federalist coined the name "Essex Junto" for the adversarial group.
The hanging of Ezra Ross and Bathsheba Spooner, July 2, 1778 - In 1778, sixteen-year-old soldier, Ezra Ross of Ipswich was condemned to death for the murder of Joshua Spooner of Brookfield. Spooner's wife Bathsheba became the first woman executed in the newly-created United States of America. Ezra Ross is buried in an unmarked grave at the Leslie Road Cemetery.
1779: the “Commonwealth” - "Commonwealth" is defined as a state in which authority is vested in the citizenry. In the 17th Century it was the radical philosophy the work and the proceeds thereof should be shared by the people.
The Dark Day, May 19, 1780 - At noon, a "midnight darkness" had fallen on Essex County. Candles were lighted, and fowls went to roost. By the next morning, dark ash lay four or five inches thick.
George Washington returns to Mount Vernon, Christmas Eve 1783 - The house was festooned with greens, the tables were laden with food and wine, the burning tapers reflected in the sparking silver and crystal. The War was over and the father of the family had returned safely.
How Ipswich celebrated the end of the Revolutionary War - The manner in which residents of Ipswich celebrated the end of hostilities was recorded in "The Life, Journals and Correspondence of Rev. Manasseh Cutler."
Shays’ Rebellion, 1786 - On the last Tuesday of August, 1786 some 1500 armed insurgents took possession of the Northampton Court House, initiating a brief war known as Shays' Rebellion.
Adrift on a Haystack, December 1786 - In a northeasterly storm in December, 1786 Samuel Pulsifer and Samuel Elwell of Rowley were digging clams on Plum Island, got caught in the storm, and took refuge in a stack of salt hay for the night. In the morning they found they had been set afloat!
Nathan Dane - Nathan Dane, a native of Ipwich was a Massachusetts delegate to the Continental Congress, where he helped draft the Northwest Ordinance, which was enacted in 1787. Dane’s amendment banning slavery in the territory, which would become five new states was accepted into the Ordinance. His amendments to the Articles of Confederation helped lead to adoption of the United States Constitution and a Bill of Rights.
The Muster Murder of 1787 - During the Boston Muster of 1787, Daniel Foster of Rowley participated in the customary celebration of shooting musket balls into the air, and accidentally killed Amos Chapman of Ipswich. A jury ordered his execution, but Governor John Hancock opposed capital punishment and pardoned Foster.
Ipswich to Marietta, December 1787 - In December 1787, a group of Revolutionary War veterans and adventurers set out from Ipswich on an 800-mile journey through the wilderness by horseback and rafts to establish the first settlement in the Ohio Territory.
The Constitutional Convention and establishment of the Electoral College - Many of our founding fathers had little trust in the instincts of the common man. John Adams observed that "Pure democracy has also been viewed as a threat to individual rights," and warned against the “tyranny of the majority.” Alexander Hamilton, one of the three authors of the "Federalist Papers" defended the system of electors by which we choose a President today.
President Washington visits Ipswich, October 30, 1789 - On October 30, 1789, Washington passed through Ipswich on his ten-day tour of Massachusetts. Adoring crowds greeted the President at Swasey’s Tavern (still standing at the corner of Popular and County Streets) where he stopped for food and drink.
Dr. Manning’s windmill - In 1792, Dr. John Manning erected a factory at the corner of South Main and Market Street beside the Choate Bridge and began manufacturing cloth and blankets. On the roof squatted a great octagonal tower, inside of which was a horizontal windmill.
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
“Dying Confession of Pomp, a Negro Man Who Was Executed at Ipswich on the 6th August, 1795” - On Aug 6th 1795, Pomp an African-American slave was hung for chopping off the head of his master. He was confined in Ipswich jail, and a sentence of death was passed. He was held there until the day of his execution, which was attended by a "cheering crowd of thousands" after a sermon by Rev. Dana.