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.

19th Century: Religion divided the town - Revivalist Rev. John N. Maffit held a "protracted meeting" which was undoubtedly the most extraordinary episode in the history of the churches of Ipswich since the days of George Whitefield and Gilbert Tennent, preaching sixty nights to congregations which occupied every inch of the meeting-house.
Thomas Jefferson 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 with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes.” Yet Jefferson argued that given the choice between “a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government,” he wouldn’t hesitate to choose the latter.
Frozen Ipswich River 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. […]
Snowstorm in Ipswich circa 1900 The Great Snow Hurricane of October 9, 1804 - On 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. A schooner wrecked on Ipswich bar, and all 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, which is today's Rt. 1
Roads to Paradise, Ipswich MA Roads to Paradise - "The ancient way, now called not inaptly Paradise Road, winds through long stretches of woodland, where ferns and brakes grow luxuriantly, and every kind of wild flower finds congenial haunt in open glades or shaded nooks.”
“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."
The Cold Friday of January 19, 1810 - The Cold Friday on Jan. 19, 1810 brought terrible winds and frigid temperature. Many people froze to death while traveling along the highways. Houses were blown down or broken to pieces.
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, […]
The Great Newburyport fire, May 31, 1811 - Nearly 250 buildings burned, and upwards of ninety families lost their homes and the means of furnishing themselves with the necessities of life.
British ship Nymph in Portland The British attack on Sandy Bay - Rockport experienced one of the oddest invasions in U.S. history during the War of 1812 when the town's fearless residents stopped the British with rocks and anything they could get their hands on.
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 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 Great Storm of 1815 Jane Hooper, the fortune-teller - Jane Hooper was in 1760 a Newburyport "school dame" but after she lost that job she found fame as a fortune-teller. When the Madame made her yearly visit to Ipswich, the young and the old called on her to learn of their fates.
The year without summer in New England 1816, the year without summer - On June 5, 1816 a heat wave raised the temperature in Ipswich to 92° but that afternoon a cold front swept across New England and the temperature fell to 43° by the next morning. For the next four days there were severe frosts along the Eastern seaboard, and snow was recorded in some locations. By the 9th of June ice began to form on water left standing outside overnight. Rapid, dramatic temperature swings continued throughout the summer.
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. In 1817 the town voted to build a town poor farm on what is now Town Farm Road.
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.
Choate Bridge Ipswich MA Battles of the bridges - The Town proceeded to build the County & Green St. stone bridges is in contrast with its belligerent opposition to the earliest ones.
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.
Sundial on Plum Island, Massachusetts The Plum Island Salt Company - In the 1820's a Frenchman named Gilshenan organized an unsuccessful salt harvesting company on Plum Island with a 10' deep canal and a bull turning an overshot wheel like a hamster. A large sundial survived for a few decades, but no trace remains today.
Tied a millstone around his neck and drowned A tragic story from old Gloucester - In 1821, the Annisquam woods was the scene of a murder. A youth, Gorham Parsons, while chopping wood, struck and instantly killed a boy of 10 years, named Eben Davis with a hatchet.
Lafayette's visit to Ipswich 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.
An Amazing Coincidence on July 4, 1826 - John Adams died quietly at six o’clock on the evening of July 4, 1826 at the age of 91. His last words were: “Jefferson survives.” He did not know that on the same day in Monticello, Virginia, his long-time rival Thomas Jefferson had breathed his last at the age of 82.
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.
Ipswich mill worker immigrant families 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 - In 1881, a 45-foot cast iron lighthouse was erected at Crane Beach, replacing an earlier structure. By 1913, the sand had shifted so much that the lighthouse was 1,090 feet from the high water mark. Use of the light was discontinued in 1932 and in 1939 the Coast Guard floated the entire lighthouse to Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard.
Ships off Liverpool in the Great Storm of 1839 Awful Calamities: the Shipwrecks of December, 1839 - Three gales of unequaled fury and destructiveness swept along our coast carrying desolation and death in their stormy pathway, and overwhelming many families in the deepest mourning.
Ipswich MA train Depot 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.
Wreck of the Hesperus Wreck of the Hesperus, Dec.15, 1839 - "It was the schooner Hesperus, That sailed the wintry sea; And the skipper had taken his little daughtèr, To bear him company."
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.
Three-masted schooner at Glover's Wharf in Ipswich 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.
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 […]
Pigeon Cove The October Gale of 1841 - In the latter part of September, 1841, was a long, unbroken spell of uncomfortable weather, which culminated in a violent and cold storm of wind, snow and rain on the night of October 2, continuing four days.
Bob Cratchit “A Christmas Carol” – the Back Story - When Charles Dickens was twelve, his feckless father was imprisoned for three months in Marshalsea Prison in London for debt. The boy had to leave school and work in a boot blackening factory to support the family, a humiliation he never forgot. Nevertheless, Dickens rose to fame quickly as a young novelist becoming “an international celebrity, famous for humor, satire, and keen observation of character and society.”
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. A dozen of the crew and passengers are buried in a common grave at the Old North Burying Ground.
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. View his ink prints and a slideshow of over 200 cyanographs
Joseph Ross Ipswich MA Joseph Ross, 19th Century Ipswich bridge builder - Joseph Ross (1822-1903) is best known for designing the first movable span bridge in the country, which he patented in 1849 at the age of 26, and became the most common railroad bridge type in the Boston area. His corporation Joseph Ross & Sons was highly successful.
Anti-Immigrant Know Nothing Party "American Patriot" 1854: Anti-immigrant Know Nothing Party sweeps Massachusetts elections - Prejudice disguised as patriotism repeats itself in American politics. In 1854, the "Know Nothing" American Party formed in opposition to Irish immigration and carried local elections in New England communities. They swept the state of Massachusetts in the fall 1854 elections but were defeated two years later.
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.
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 constructed in 1829, and rebuilt in 1856. The isinglass mill sat on the downstream Ipswich side of the bridge.
Hannah Jumper leads raid on Rockport liquor establishments, July 8, 1856 - On the morning of July 8, 1856, two hundred women, three men and their supporters gathered in Rockport's Dock Square and unfurled a banner with a black hatchet, determined to destroy all the alcohol in the town. The leaders of the mob was a 75-year-old seamstress named Hannah Jumper.
Asbury Grove entrance 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. 12,000 people, most from Boston, attended the first camp meeting in 1859.
Washington St. in Ipswich Washington and Liberty Streets - For two centuries it was known as Gravel Street for the two gravel pits on the hillside, and took a right turn to what is now Lords Square. After the 100th Anniversary of the War for Independence, Gravel Street became Washington Street, and the remaining section of the old Gravel Street took the name Liberty Street.
Lynn Shoeworkers Strike, Feb. 22, 1860 - Excerpt from 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. […]
County Street bridge and factories, Ipswich MA County Street, Sawmill Point, and bare hills - The town voted in 1861 to build County Street and its stone arch bridge, connecting Cross and Mill Streets. A Woolen mill, saw mill, blacksmith shop and veneer mill operated near the bridge.
Pemberton Mill Collapse Pemberton Mill in Lawrence collapses and burns, killing workers; January 10, 1860 - The collapse of the Pemberton Mill in Lawrence is the worst industrial accident in Massachusetts history. On Tuesday afternoon January 10, 1860, hundreds of men, women, and children were buried alive in the ruins.
Joseph Manning of Ipswich in Civil War battlefield 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. in November, 1863.
Revere trainwreck 1871 The Great Revere Train wreck, August 26, 1871 - The Eastern Railroad's Portland Express slammed into the rear of a stopped local train in Revere, Massachusetts. Some trapped passengers were burned alive as coal-oil lamps ignited the wreckage. Approximately 29 people died..
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 to another, leaving a smoldering pile of rubble between the Common and the waterfront.
The Game of Cycling, Parker Brothers Salem MA The North Shore and the Golden Age of Cycling - The invention of the Columbia Safety bicycle in 1886 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.
The Ipswich steamship Carlotta The steamship “Carlotta” - The excursion boat Carlotta was built in 1878 at Rogers Point boat yard, and sailed from Town Wharf to the Neck and Plum Island for 35 years. The small hotels at Little Neck, Ipswich Bluff and Grape Island were favorite destinations for tourists and locals.
Lucretia Brown Ipswich MA Mary Baker Eddy Lucretia Brown and the last witchcraft trial in America, May 14, 1878 - 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 was exercising mesmeric powers upon her.
Bialek Park, Ipswich MA 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 the two private lots that had been the ballpark, constructed a public playground, and removed the fence.
Kiss of death in New England textile mills “Kiss of Death” at New England textile mills - The weaver, after loading thread into a shuttle, drew the loose end through the hole with her breath. No one connected this habit with the observation that weavers were dying of consumption, known now as tuberculosis.
Discovery of native American shell heap on Treadwell’s Island, 1882 - In1882, a shell heap on the shore of Treadwell's Island was observed to contain nearly two quarts of human bones, broken into short pieces.
Burke Shoe Factory Ipswich Ma Hammatt Street, Brown Square and Farley Brook - 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 Brook running through it.
Attacked by a swordfish in Ipswich Bay Killed by a swordfish in Ipswich Bay, August 19, 1886 - Captain Franklin D. Langsford sailed from Cape Ann in pursuit of swordfish. After harpooning one in Ipswich Bay, the fish turned and thrust its sword through the boat and the Captain. 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 60 inches of snow on parts of the Northeast.
A Chronology of Ipswich Public Works: Telegraph, Telephone, Gas, Water, Electricity, Trash, Sewer, Wind and Solar - The history of public utilities in Ipswich starting in 1847. Downtown fires in 1894 prompted construction of the water and electrical systems. Today the Ipswich Electric Department promotes and utilizes renewable energy sources.
Coal found on Steep Hill Beach Wrecks of the coal schooners - Walking near Steep Hill Beach, you might be surprised to see lumps of anthracite coal lying on the sand. This would be a mystery were it not for the tragic history of brigs and schooners transporting coal in the 19th century.
1894 Central Street fire, Ipswich MA Central Street in ashes, January 13, 1894 - Early in the morning of Jan. 13, 1894, several businesses on Central Street went up in flames. Three months later the other end of Market St. burned, and the town finally voted to build a water system.
Egypt River, Dow Brook, Bull Brook Dow Brook, Bull Brook and the Egypt River - Bull Brook originates in Willowdale, crosses Linebrook Rd. and merges with Dow Brook at the Ipswich Utilities site on Rt. 1A. From that point the combined stream becomes the Egypt River.
1894: the Year that Ipswich Burned - At about 1:30 am, Police gave the alarm that Central Street was on fire.The citizens of Ipswich tumbled out from their beds and faced as wicked a night as the town has ever seen. Four months later the other end of downtown burned.
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.
Georgetown-Ipswich trolley 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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