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.
Ipswich in the 19th Century
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.
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). The intent was to bypass Salem and promote Newburyport as a commercial destination. Proponents claimed […]
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, September 2, 1808 - The people of Ipswich were united in their opposition to the Embargo Act of 1807, and petitioned Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States.
Hannah and Samuel Loring, a Christmas romance and tragedy, 1809 - Hannah Gwinn Loring (1791 – 1847) kept a diary when she was living in Salem, Massachusetts with her parents, Thaddeus and Mercy Gwinn. In September 1807, Hannah wrote: “I left school with regret. My parents think it is time for me to commence assisting in domestic affairs for they think […]
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 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 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 June 17,1812, President Madison declared war with England. The New England states were bitter in their opposition, because of the trade embargo and their vulnerability to British war ships. The Town of Ipswich adopted a resolution on June 25, 1812 declaring its alterable opposition to the embargo and “Mr. […]
The Gerrymander is born in Essex County, February 11, 1812 - Elbridge Gerry was born in Marblehead in 1744 and spent almost all of his life in government service. He promoted colonial opposition to the British Parliament’s colonial policies, and served in the Second Continental Congress from February 1776 to 1780. Gerry was elected as a Massachusetts representative to […]
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 […]
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. Caring for the poor in Ipswich became […]
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 […]
The Body Snatcher of Chebacco Parish - The Old Burying Ground in Essex was established in 1680 for inhabitants of Chebacco Parish, the former part of Ipswich which broke away and became the town of Essex in 1819. It was in that year that people in the parish began noticing lights moving about at night […]
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 […]
The Fox Creek Canal - The Fox Creek Canal is the oldest man-made tidewater canal in the United States, dug in 1820. The following was written by Thomas Franklin Waters: “As early as 1652 a move was made toward cutting a passage way for boats through the marshes from Ipswich River to the […]
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 of the town who had served in the War of Independence. An account of this notable gathering is preserved in the handwriting of General Pierce. The oldest attendee was Ammi Andrews, born in […]
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 […]
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 […]
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. Girls were prepared for careers as teachers and provided with rigorous studies in academic subjects and "standards of personal conduct and discipline." 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, […]
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 […]
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 […]
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. It arrived about 9 o’clock on a Friday morning with 50 passengers, taking only 34 minutes from Salem. Townspeople were […]
Wreck of the Deposit, December 23, 1839 - Three hurricanes swept the New England coast in 1839, two days before Christmas. The second of these storms caught the schooner "Deposit" unaware on her passage out of Belfast, Maine. Aboard the "Deposit" on Dec. 23, 1839, was Capt. Cotterall, with his wife and crew.
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.
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 […]
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. […]
“A Christmas Carol” – the Back Story - Featured image: Bob Cratchit and his son Tiny Tim represented the London poor with whom Charles Dickens sympathized. (painting by Jessie Wilcox Smith) by Helen Breen LONDON 1843 “Marley was dead to begin with,” the opening line of “A Christmas Carol,” was conceived by Charles Dickens as he walked […]
Wreck of the Falconer, December 17, 1847 - On December 17, 1847 the brig Falconer, loaded with bituminous coal, wrecked at Crane Beach (known then as Patch’s Beach), bound for Boston from St. John, New Brunswick. 36 crew members were rescued but 17 were lost at sea. Captain Joseph Rowlinson and his son, master Charles Robinson […]
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 […]
Arthur Wesley Dow - Ipswich artist Arthur Wesley Dow was born on April 6, 1857 in the Matthew Perkins house on East Street. He was one of the town’s most famous residents and a founding member of the Ipswich Historical Society. The Ipswich Museum owns the largest single collection of works by Arthur […]
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.
“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 […]
The Mill Road Bridge and the Isinglass Factory - Library of Congress records state that the triple stone arch Warner Bridge that connects Mill Rd. in Ipswich to Highland St. in Hamilton was built in 1856, 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 […]
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.
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 […]
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 […]
Pemberton Mill in Lawrence collapses and burns, killing workers; January 10, 1860 - On Tuesday afternoon January 10, 1860, the Pemberton Mill in Lawrence buckled and crashed, killing dozens instantly and trapping the workers inside. Rescue teams rushed in, only to find “faces crushed beyond recognition.” Around 9:30 p.m. an oil lamp was knocked over, and flames spread quickly, leaving only […]
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. […]
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 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.
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 and the last witchcraft trial in America - In 1875, the last charge of witchcraft in this country was brought to trial in Salem. Lucretia Brown, an invalid living on the South Green in Ipswich was a disciple of Mary Baker Eddy, and when she suffered a “relapse” in 1875, Mrs. Eddy convinced her that Daniel Spofford of […]
“Newburyport and its Neighborhoods,” Harpers Magazine 1875 - Excerpt from “Newburyport and its Neighborhood” by Harriet Prescott Spofford, July 1875, the New Harper’s Monthly Magazine. “The history of Newburyport, and of her mother Newbury, much of which has become incorporated with herself, is replete with striking facts and marvels. She had not only the first of […]
Adrift on a Haystack, 1876 - A remarkable northeasterly storm on the 4th of December, 1786 caused most of the salt hay along the North Shore to be set afloat and lost in the tide. Samuel Pulsifer and Samuel Elwell, both of Rowley were digging clams on the flats in Plum Island Sound and got caught […]
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 North Shore and the Golden Age of Cycling - The American popularity of bicycles originated in Boston, which held the first U.S. bicycle race on May 24, 1878. In 1883, Abbot Bassett of Chelsea set out on the first recorded 100 mile bike ride, meandering on an adult tricycle along the North Shore to Ipswich and back […]
“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 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 […]
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, 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 […]
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 […]
Central Street in ashes, January 13, 1894 - Three Business Blocks and Three Dwellings Destroyed in Ipswich January 14, 1894,© The New York Times. Flames were discovered soon after 1 o'clock this morning in the photograph rooms of George Dexter, in the upper portion of the Jewett Block, on Central Street. The wind was blowing a […]
The Green Street Bridge - The Green Street bridge in Ipswich was built in 1894 by Joseph Ross of Ipswich and designed by Charles A. Putnam of Salem. Robert Cronin, who recently shared his collection of photos by 19th /early 20th Century photographer George Dexter, wrote the following: “Among the lost prints was an […]
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.