Ipswich in the 19th Century

There was great excitement in Ipswich upon the visits of President George Washington and General Lafayette. Chebacco Parish withdrew from the town and became the Town of Essex. In 1828 the Ipswich Female Seminary was opened by Zilpah Grant and Mary Lyon. The Ipswich Manufacturing Company was established in that same year, later to become Ipswich Mills and now the site of EBSCO. The Eastern Railway sends its first passenger train through town in 1840. The Industrial age brought a resurgence of wealth to the town. Fires at Central Street and Depot Square in 1894 convinced the town to develop a public water and electrification system.

Thomas Jefferson Jefferson’s Warning to the White House - From an article by Nancy Gibbs,  Time Magazine, February 6, 2017:  Jefferson’s Warning to the White House During the campaign of 1800, a Federalist newspaper article stated that with Jefferson as president: “Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced, the air will be rent […]
19th Century: Religion divided the town - Excerpts from Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony by Thomas Franklin Waters The Congregational Church The Congregational Church, founded by the first settlers, maintained the old order for many generations in undisputed supremacy. From time to time, as the population increased, as has been noted, new Parishes within […]
Hammers on Stone, the story of Cape Ann granite - Kitty Robertson’s book The Orchard includes a sorrowful tale by old Mr. Patch about Mr. Brown and his team of horses who drowned in Ipswich Bay as he dragged a sled loaded with Rockport granite across the frozen surface. Whether itr happened, we may never know, but in searching for more information, I […]
The boy who fell beneath the ice - The Rev. Joseph Dana served the Second Congregational Church at the South Green from 1765 until his death in 1827 at age 85. Rev, Dana’s tombstone in the Old South Cemetery reads: “In memory of the Rev Joseph Dana D.D., for sixty-two years, Minister of the South Church. His […]
The Great Snow Hurricane of October 9, 1804 - At about nine o’clock in the morning of Tuesday, October 9, 1804, the temperature fell very suddenly, and a storm of rain and snow, accompanied by thunder and lightning, began. The following Wednesday morning revealed great sections of the woods so leveled that new landscapes and prospects were brought into view. The schooner Dove, of Kittery, was wrecked on Ipswich bar, and all of the seven persons on board perished.
The Newburyport Turnpike in Topsfield, early in the 20th Century Newburyport Turnpike opens, February 11, 1805: “Over every hill and missing every town” - In 1803, a group of Newburyport investors incorporated as the Newburyport Turnpike Corporation in a commercial venture to build a straight toll road from Boston to Newburyport (the highway we call Rt. 1).
Life in the Ipswich jails - The Ipswich stone jail on Green Street, built in 1806, was a notoriously cruel and inhospitable place. Sixteen British prisoners were kept hostage there during the War of 1812 and treated so cruelly that they were removed by the District marshal.
Roads to Paradise - Paradise Road follows a shallow peninsula bordered by Muddy Brook and the Egypt River. In 1807, the ancient path was laid out by the Town as a road from Pingrey’s Plain near the Clam Box, which served as the hanging grounds, to the Muddy River Bridge and the Egypt River. Thomas Franklin Waters […]
To the Inhabitants of the Town of Ipswich, from Thomas Jefferson - The Embargo Act of 1807 put New England ports at a standstill and its towns into a depression. The Ipswich Town Meeting petitioned the President to relieve "the people of this once prosperous country from their present embarrassed and distressed condition." The town found Jefferson's answer "Not Satisfactory."
Hannah and Samuel Loring, a Christmas romance and tragedy - On Christmas Day, December 25, 1809 Samuel wrote a poem to Hannah while "on Board the Jennifer at sea near Bermuda" over 700 miles away. Hannah and Samuel married two years later on Christmas Day, 1811. In 1843, Samuel Loring died at sea.
The Merchant Princes, Cyrus Wakefield and George Peabody - by Helen Breen Question: What Do Wakefield and Peabody Have In Common? Answer: Both renamed their Essex County towns in the mid 19th century to honor their “favorite sons” and benefactors – Cyrus Wakefield (1811-1873) and George Peabody (1795-1869). The 19th century “merchant princes” of Boston were ambitious, […]
Portrayal of the cold day and a Winter scene by George Henry Durrie The Cold Friday of 1810 – New England Historical Society - The Cold Friday on Jan. 19, 1810 brought terrible winds and frigid temperature talked and written about for generations. Tales of the killer weather event made their way into town histories, journals and court records long after it happened. They told of the many people who froze to death while traveling along the highways. Houses, barns and vast numbers of timber trees were blown down or broken to pieces.
The Great Newburyport fire, May 31, 1811 - A fire commenced about nine o’clock in a stable in Mechanic Row in Newburyport on the evening of May 31st, 1811. (The description below is from The Fireman’s Own Book by George P. Little, 1918.)
The Gerrymander is born in Essex County, February 11, 1812 - Marblehead's Elbridge Gerry served as governor of Massachusetts and vice-president of the United States, but his historic legacy will forever be tied to a political monster dubbed the "Gerrymander."
The British attack on Sandy Bay - On the wall of a building at Bearskin Neck in Rockport, MA is the sign shown below. Rockport experienced one of the oddest invasions in U.S. history during the War of 1812 when British sailors faced the town’s stubborn and fearless residents. I don’t know if the people of Rockport […]
The “Dungeons of Ipswich” during the War of 1812 - On October 7, 1813, the keeper of the Ipswich jail was given orders by the President "to "receive into his custody and safely keep in dungeons, in the gaol aforesaid, 16 British prisoners of war" as hostages.
The Great Storm of 1815 Jane Hooper, the fortune teller - This story is adapted from the Reminiscences of Joseph Smith and Reminiscences of a Nonagenarian and brings together no less than four incredible old tales. Jane Hooper was in 1760 a Newburyport “school dame” but after she lost that job she found fame as a fortune-teller and became known in our area as “Madam Hooper, the […]
1816, the year without summer - Featured image: View from Town Hill by George Dexter, circa 1900 The year 1816 was known as “The Cold Year,” and “The Year Without a Summer.” In our area it was called “Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death” and “the Summer of Mittens.” Throughout New England there was frost in […]
Photo of the Ipswich Town Farm by George Dexter The Ipswich Town Farm, 1817-1928 - Ipswich established its first poorhouse in 1717, and until then the poor and incapacitated were simply let out to the lowest bidder. There was a growing movement in Massachusetts during the early 19th century for establishing rural working town farms for the poor. In 1817 the town voted to buy the farm owned by John Lummus, on what is now Town Farm Road.
President Monroe’s brief visit to Ipswich - From the journal of Miss Eunice Jones, 1793-1825. Journal, July 12 1817: “This morning about nine o’clock the President of the United States, Monroe, passed through Ipswich. He was attended by a large concourse of people; they paid him all the honor possible. The gentlemen and ladies of […]
Old Graveyard 1680, Essex MA The Body Snatcher of Chebacco Parish - In 1819 the inhabitants of Chebacco Parish began noticing lights moving about at night in the graveyard. It was discovered that at least eight graves had been dug up and their coffins were empty.
Fox Creek Canal marker on Argilla Road The Fox Creek Canal - The Fox Creek Canal is the oldest man-made tidewater canal in the United States, dug in 1820. In 1938 it was dredged to accommodate ship-building at Robinson's Boatyard, where small minesweepers were constructed for World War II.
The Choate Bridge in Ipswich, photo by George Dexter Battles of the bridges - Excerpts from Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, by Thomas Franklin Waters The stone bridges which span the Ipswich river with their graceful arches are picturesque and interesting, but the readiness with which the Town proceeded to build the latter two stone bridges is in singular contrast with […]
The Fox Creek Canal - This article is by John Fiske, chairman of the Ipswich Historical Commission. Memorial Day, 2014: 76º, humid, hazy clouds, and the end of a long spell of unseasonably cool weather. Just the day for our first cruise of the season, puttering among the salt marshes in our little boat. […]
The Plum Island Salt Company - In the Publications of the Ipswich Historical Society I read the forgotten story of the Plum Island Salt Company. All traces of its existence have disappeared. In the  1820’s a Frenchman, Gilshenan by name made examination of many localities along the American coast to erect a salt works. Coming at last […]
A tragic story from old Gloucester - In 1821, the Annisquam woods was the scene of a murder. Gorham Parsons, while chopping wood, struck and instantly killed a boy of 10 years, named Eben Davis, the act being done with a hatchet. The boy had given offense by singing a song. After committing the deed […]
A “Revolutionary” Christmas dinner, 1823 - 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.
Lafayette returns to Ipswich - When the First Provincial Congress met in Salem Massachusetts on Friday October 7, 1774, Ipswich was represented by General Michael Farley. At 56 years of age, Farley was “too advanced in years to take the field” but rendered great services to the town and the new country throughout […]
Adams and Jefferson died on July 4, 1826 An Amazing Coincidence on July 4, 1826 - by Helen Breen (Header photo courtesy: examiner.com) Regarding the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams wrote from Philadelphia to his wife Abigail in Braintree, Massachusetts: “It ought to be celebrated as a day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty … with pomp […]
Ipswich Female Academy The Ipswich Female Seminary - The Ipswich Female Seminary was established in April 1828 by Zilpah Grant and 24-year-old Mary Lyon for the secondary and college-level education of young women. It was the first endowed seminary for women and the first to give diplomas to its graduates.
A town of immigrants - Puritans founded Ipswich during the “Great Migration” of the early 17th Century. Many residents of the town descend from immigrants who arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to work in the mills.
Boston Irish Long Remembered the 1834 Charlestown Convent Fire - Featured image: Woodcut image of the 1834 burning of the Ursuline Convent in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Catholics and fair minded Bostonians were dismayed by the tragedy. by Helen Breen This week marks the 183th anniversary of the burning and ransacking of the Ursuline Convent in Charlestown, Massachusetts on August 11, […]
Benjamin Ellsworth at the Ipswich Lighthouse The Ipswich lighthouse - Benjamin Ellsworth was appointed keeper of the Ipswich lighthouse by Abraham Lincoln in 1861. With his daughter Susan, he remained at the station until his death in 1902. In 1837 the U.S. government erected two 29′ towers for guidance to the mouth of the Ipswich River along with […]
Wreck of the Deposit in Ipswich Bay Wreck of the Deposit, December 23, 1839 - Dec. 23, 1839 two days before Christmas a storm caught the schooner "Deposit" on her passage out of Belfast, Maine. Capt. Cotterall was lost, and several of the crew were buried at the Old South Cemetery.
The Railroad comes to Ipswich, December 20, 1839 - The stagecoach era ended abruptly when the Salem tunnel opened, and two days later on December 20, 1839, a train from Boston made its first passage through Ipswich. The opening of the railroad and the end of stagecoach travel led to the decline of Ipswich as one of the most important towns of Massachusetts.
Ships off Liverpool in the Great Storm of 1839 Awful Calamities: the Shipwrecks of December, 1839 - Featured image: Ships off Liverpool in the Great Storm of 1839, painted by Samuel Walters. From: “Awful calamities: or, The shipwrecks of December 1839: “It has probably never fallen to the lot of the citizens of New England to witness or record so many terrible disasters by sea in the […]
Wreck of the Hesperus, January 6, 1839 - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem was inspired by the Blizzard of 1839, which ravaged the North Shore for 12 hours, starting on January 6, 1839. Twenty ships and forty lives were lost during the storm. The probable subject of the story is the schooner Favorite, which sank on a rock called […]
Patronage and Scandal at the Ipswich Customs House - In 1829, the position of Ipswich Customs Collector was granted to Timothy Souther, a man of prominence and one of the old line Democrats who held office there under President Andrew Jackson. Souther resigned in August, 1840 after being charged with graft.
Lowell Offering, publication of mill workers in Lowell MA The Lowell Offering - The Lowell Offering was a monthly periodical, first published in 1840, which featured poetry and fiction by female workers at textile mills in Lowell, MA. Known as the Lowell Mill Girls, they often wrote about situations in their own lives, including labor unrest in the factories. The Offering ceased publication in 1844 but was revived […]
Glover’s Wharf and the Ipswich coal industry - John S. Glover opened a wharf on Water St. in 1847, receiving shipments of coal and cement, along with maritime salvage. His wharf was a short distance from the home be built on East St. around 1872 across from the present-day Town Wharf, which was demolished recently.  The business was sold to Charles Lovell […]
Pigeon Cove The ”October Gale” of 1841 - A strong hurricane stayed offshore of the Carolinas in early October, 1841  As it continued moving north, it pulled cold air into its circulation and intensified as an extra-tropical storm, with a direct hit on New England on October 3. The Georges Bank fishing fleet was destroyed with the loss of 81 fishermen’s lives. […]
Tombstone at the Old North Burying Ground in Ipswich from the wreck of the Falconer in Ipswich Bay Wreck of the Falconer, December 17, 1847 - On December 17, 1847 the brig Falconer, loaded with bituminous coal, wrecked at Crane Beach during a fierce winter storm. In the cold and wet, fifty-three men, women, and children were confined as in a tomb. 36 were rescued, but a dozen of the crew and passengers are buried in a common grave at the Old North Burying Ground in Ipswich.
Photograph by Clarence White of Arthur Wesley Dow Arthur Wesley Dow - Ipswich artist Arthur Wesley Dow (1857 – 1922) was one of the town's most famous residents. During summer, Dow and his wife ran the Summer School of Art from the historic "Howard house" on Turkey Shore Road. The Ipswich Museum owns the largest collection of works by Arthur Wesley Dow.
Joseph Ross Ipswich MA Joseph Ross, 19th Century Ipswich bridge builder - Joseph Ross (1822-1903) began his working life as a house carpenter in Ipswich, his native town. He is best known for designing the first movable span bridge in the country, which he patented in 1849 at the age of 26. According to his obituary, “he has been engaged […]
Victorian Ipswich - In the mid to late 1800’s Ipswich was undergoing an economic renaissance with hundreds of people employed in the mills and bankers doing quite well. North Main Street and the neighboring area became the fashionable place to build your new “in-town” house. The second half of the 19th […]
1854: Anti-immigrant Know Nothing Party sweeps Massachusetts elections - In 1854, the "Know Nothing" American Party carried local elections in Boston, Salem and other New England communities. They swept the state of Massachusetts in the fall 1854 elections.
Winslow Homer, the Christmas Tree How Christmas came to Ipswich - Puritans shunned Christmas for its pagan roots, allowing only Thanksgiving as a time for feasting, and imposed a five-shilling fine on any persons found “observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way.” A Cambridge Unitarian minister's family had the first Christmas tree in Massachusetts.
“Hatchet Hannah” leads raid on Rockport liquor establishments, July 8, 1856 - In 1919, the manufacture and sale of all alcoholic beverages was prohibited by the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It was repealed by the 21st Amendment 14 years later. Rockport, MA remained a dry town until 2005, and liquor stores are still not allowed. On the morning of […]
Isinglass Mill in Ipswich MA The Mill Road Bridge and the Isinglass Factory - The triple stone arch Warner Bridge that connects Mill Rd. in Ipswich to Highland St. in Hamilton was designed by architect Henry Hubbard. Thomas Franklin Waters wrote that it was first constructed in 1829, and Ipswich town history records that it was “rebuilt” in 1856. In 1931, the roadway was raised; stone parapets and the […]
Asbury Grove Methodist Camp Meeting, Hamilton MA - The Asbury Grove Methodist Camp Meeting on Asbury St. in Hamilton is listed in the National Register of Historic Districts, and has a collection of historic buildings that were built between 1870 and 1960. The land is owned by the Association, while the houses owned individually by the residents. 12,000 people, […]
Lynn Shoeworkers Strike, Feb. 22, 1860 - Mass Moments On February 22,  1860, thousands of striking shoe workers filled Lyceum Hall in Lynn. By choosing to begin their protest on Washington’s birthday, the strikers were invoking the memory of their revolutionary forefathers. Lynn had been a shoe making town since the early 1800s. Hard times […]
Gravel Street in Ipswich became Washington Street and Liberty Street Washington and Liberty Streets - Gravel Street and the gravel pits are shown in the 1832 Philander map of Ipswich. One of the older established ways in town, Washington Street may have started as a footpath for Native Americans long before John Winthrop and the first settlers arrived. Today’s Washington Street was called once called Bridge […]
County Street Bridge Ipswich MA County Street, Sawmill Point, and bare hills - Green Street was once called Green Lane and was anciently known as Bridge Lane. There was apparently a foot bridge that crossed the river, where the Island in the middle of the span on which the present bridge stands. County Street, or Cross Street, as it was called, originally […]
Hay Scales - By the time of the Civil War, Fairbanks’ scales were the best known American product in the world. Erastus and Thaddeus Fairbanks were now joined by their younger brother, Joseph. The modest one-building operation expanded to 40 buildings with more than 20 acres of floor space by 1910. […]
Ipswich Civil War Veterans at the Choate Bridge Joseph Stockwell Manning, a Civil War hero from Ipswich - Private Joseph Stockwell Manning grew up on High Street in Ipswich, and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on December 1, 1864, a year and two days after an incredible act of bravery at Fort Sanders, Tennessee.
Thomas Ellsworth, Civil War hero Thomas Foulds Ellsworth - Thomas Foulds Ellsworth grew up in the Ipswich Lighthouse Keeper's house, and was one of four soldiers who earned the Medal of Honor for heroism during the Battle at Honey Hill, South Carolina, on November 30, 1864.
Revere trainwreck 1871 The Great Revere Train wreck, August 26, 1871 - On the evening of August 26, 1871, the Eastern Railroad’s Portland Express slammed into the rear of a stopped local train in Revere, Massachusetts. It is reported that the night was very dark and the engineer of the express thought the lights on the rear car of the […]
The Great Fire of Boston, November 9-10, 1872 - The Great Boston Fire of 1872 occurred on November 9-10, 1872 and destroyed the city’s business district, burning uncontrolled for more than 12 hours with such heat that it created a raging firestorm. Starting in a building at the intersection of Summer and Kingston Streets, the flames leaped from one wooden roof […]
Lucretia Brown of Ipswich, Christian Scientist, last witchcraft trial in America Lucretia Brown and the last witchcraft trial in America -  Lucretia Brown, an invalid living on the South Green in Ipswich was a disciple of Mary Baker Eddy,. When she suffered a “relapse” in 1875, Mrs. Eddy convinced her that Daniel Spofford of Newburyport was exercising mesmeric powers upon her.
The Ipswich steamship Carlotta The steamship “Carlotta” - The excursion boat Carlotta was built in 1878 at Rogers Point Boar Yard at the end of Agawam Avenue, and sailed from the Town Wharf to points on the Neck and Plum Island for 35 years. The small hotels at Ipswich Bluff on Plum Island were a favorite destination for tourists and locals.
The Parker Brothers Game of Cycling, Salem MA The North Shore and the Golden Age of Cycling - In 1886 Boston businessman Pope introduced the Columbia Safety, a modern two wheel "safety" bicycle, priced at over $100 apiece, which enabled a cyclist from Newton to ride round-trip to Ipswich on the Newburyport Turnpike (Rt. 1) in 9 hours 50 minutes, setting a new record for a 100 mile ride. Pope advertised his bikes in a Boston publication called "The Wheelmen" and by 1890 the city had become the home of "Bicycle Fever".
“Kiss of Death” at New England textile mills - The weaver, after loading a new pirn wrapped with thread into a shuttle, drew the loose end through the hole with her breath. Certainly no one connected this habit with the observation, made sometime in the nineteenth century, that weavers were dying of what was then called consumption at a higher rate than the general public.
Barton Stone, end of an era - Barton Stone and Monuments on Brown Square,  was the oldest business in Ipswich . A.J. Barton & Son Inc. was started in 1889 by August Barton Sr., and continued under his son Augustus Barton Jr., known as “Gus.” Gordon Player, Phillip Lepage and Scott Kershaw  each owned the company […]
Play Ball! Bialek Park - Baseball's popularity grew quickly after the Civil War, and Bialek Park was once the town's semi-professional ballpark, In 1912 the town purchased two private lots that had been the ballpark, constructed a public playground, and removed the fence. In 1977 the park was named to honor the late John S. Bialek, who co-founded the Ipswich Little League.
Discovery of native American shell heap on Treadwell’s Island, 1882 - Early in September 1882, Mr I. J. Potter, owner and publisher of the Ipswich Chronicle, called the attention of the officers of the Peabody Academy of Science to a shell heap which he had observed on the shore of Ipswich River on Treadwell’s Island, formerly known as Perkins […]
Ipswich Chronicle Report on the 250th Anniversary of the founding of Ipswich Massachusetts Ipswich Chronicle Report of the 250th Anniversary Exercises, August 16, 1884 - In March 1872, Edward L Davenport and Frederick W Goodwin began publication of the Ipswich Chronicle. Several years later, I.J. Potter became the proprietor. He and his brother J. M. Potter created a chain of papers which included the Ipswich Chronicle, Amesbury Villager, Lynn Reporter, Lynn Bee and the Yankee Blade […]
Burke Shoe Factory Ipswich Ma Hammatt Street and Brown Square - Until the second half of the 19th Century, much of the area bounded by Central Street, Washington Street, Mineral Street and Market Street was a wetland with an open sewer known as Farley’s Brook running through it. Brown Square developed as an industrial area beginning around 1885. The railroad came to Ipswich […]
Killed by a swordfish, August 19, 1886 - Captain Langsford sailed from Cape Ann in pursuit of swordfish. After spotting one in Ipswich Bay, the fish fish quickly turned thrust sword up through the boat, causing the captain to fall backward. Not yet realizing that he was wounded, he seized the sword and exclaimed, "We got him anyway!"
The Great White hurricane, train surrounded by snow The Great White Hurricane, March 11, 1888 - The Great White Hurricane of 1888 struck on the night of March 11 and continued furiously for two days, dumping as much as 60 inches of snow on parts of the Northeast. It was one of the worst blizzards in U.S. history, killing 400 and paralyzing the East […]
A Chronology of Ipswich Public Works: Telegraph, Telephone, Gas, Water, Electricity, Trash, Sewer and Wind - 1847: Telegraph Samuel Morse obtained a patent for his telegraph invention in 1838. It came into practical use about 1843. The first use of the telegraph was to coordinate the arrival and departure of trains. The Boston line was extended to Portland in 1847 and brought Ipswich into faster […]
Wreck of the Lucy M. Collins, August 19, 1891 - When you’re walking on Crane Beach near Steep Hill  Coal, you might be surprised to see lumps of coal lying on the sand. This would be quite a mystery were it not for the tragic history of brigs and schooners transporting coal in the 19th century. Wreck of the Lucy […]
Green Street Bridge painting by Theodore Wendel The Green Street Bridge - Twenty years after building the County Street Bridge, construction began for the Green Street Bridge. The original structure was made of wood but was later replaced by an arched bridge of stone on May 14, 1894. This was the fifth bridge built on the Ipswich River in the Town of Ipswich.
Central Street in ashes, January 13, 1894 - Early in the morning of Jan. 13, 1894, the businesses on Central Street from the corner of Market St to Wildes Court went up in fire. Three months later the Damon Block burned, and the town finally voted to build a water system.
Dow Brook and Bull Brook - Featured image: Dow-Bull Brook Trail, from the Essex County Trail Association site. Remnants of the old grist mill and saw mill dam on the Egypt River, originally constructed by Nehemiah Jewett, are behind the Ipswich power plant transformer station on High St. Jewett’s Grist mill on the Egypt River […]
The Year that Ipswich Burned - The Central Street Fire, January 13, 1894 Late in the night on January 13, 1894 townspeople were awakened to the church bells sounding the alarm that downtown was on fire. Firefighters struggled with their equipment in gale-force winds as the temperature dropped to 16 degrees below zero. The […]
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.

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