Isaac Cummings of Ipswich and Topsfield

The Hobbs-Bell house on East Rd. in Topsfield, MA is said to have been the home of Isaac Cummings.

Isaac Cummings is believed to have been born in Mistley, Essex, England about 70 miles northeast of London, on the eastern coast of England. He was baptized on April 5, 1601 in Easthorpe, Essex, England. the son of John Commin and Amy Greene. The family immigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in October 1635. In 1636 he is mentioned in the records of Watertown, as receiving a grant of 35 acres in the earliest general land grants in 1636 referred to as “The Great Dividends.”

Cummings moved to Ipswich, as town records show that he owned a planting lot near “Reedy Marsh” in Ipswich by July 25, 1638. Thomas Franklin Waters identified this as the “fine park-like meadow, now owned by the heirs of the late John Heard Esq., owned by Averill in 1655, was the property of Isaac Comings previously.” The location is now the site of Sally’s Pond, abutting on the Whipple House. Town records also show Cummings as a commoner, owning lot on East St. opposite the wharf in 1639, adjoining John Winthrop. An old record is quoted in Essex C0. Hist. Gen. Register to wit: “Whereas Isaac Comings Sold Andrew Hodges of this town all the said seven acres of land, more or less, lying near highway to Jeffries Neck.

Isaac Cummings was the owner of a lot on East St. across from the wharf but it is unknown if he built a house on that location. He also had a planting lot in the “Reedy Marsh” that is now Sally’s Pond adjacent to the Whipple House in Ipswich.


In 1652, Isaac Cummings for £30, bought of Samuel Symonds, 150 acres of land, “being the Northeast corner of his farm called Ollivers.” This lot of land was in Topsfield and bounded on the west and north-west by land lately of John Winthrop, on the south and west by land of Francis Peabody, and on the south by land of Daniel Clarke. This farm began at what is now known as the Hobbs-Bell place, and continued down both sides of what is now called Howlett’s brook, one hundred acres lying on the westerly side, and fifty acres on the easterly side.

Isaac Cummings served in the capacity of Constable in Topsfield, was chosen grand jury man in 1675 and was moderator of the Town Meeting in 1676. He was deacon of the church in Topsfield for many years. In a deposition made March 1666, he gave his age as 65, and died in 1677. The name of his wife is not known, and she was apparently not alive when his will was made on May 8, 1677.

Isaac Cummings Jr.

Cummings son Isaac and wife Mary testified that Elizabeth Howe had “cursed the horse with oil and brimstone.” Howe was condemned, and executed in July 1692.

John Winthrop Jr.

In the”History of Topsfield” is an explanation for the ownership of land by Samuel Symonds and John Winthrop. The General Court gave Winthrop land in lieu of reimbursing him for purchasing Agawam from the Native American sachem Masconomet. They reimbursed Bradstreet and the Payne brothers and Samuel Symonds with land in Topsfield as well. These men were already wealthy and were undoubtedly funding the Colony to some extent out of their own pockets. The Colony had no treasury, so they were rewarded quite generously with these great tracts of land, which they then sold for a profit. It is doubtful that Winthrop or Symonds actually created a farm on the land, because in 1650 Winthrop sold his farm land on Argilla Rd. to Samuel Symonds and left Ipswich for Connecticut. We have a detailed description of the plans for Symonds’ house to be built on that location.

In an attempt to persuade John Winthrop to stay in Ipswich, Argilla Farm was bequeathed to him in 1634. But in 1637, Winthrop conveyed the land to Samuel Symonds. After his death the land came into possession of Symonds’ son-in-law Thomas Baker of Topsfield, (1636 England – 1717/8 Topsfield) who in 1672 married Symond’ daughter Priscilla (1648-1733/4). Thomas Baker’s father was John Baker (b. 1598 England, d. 1680 Topsfield) who in 1638 was a freeman in Ipswich. He is said to have owned an extensive tract of land in Topsfield. When he acquired it is not clear. In 1661 he conveyed a 150-acre farm and buildings there, “bounded on Baker’s (now Hood’s) pond” to his son Thomas (a decade before Thomas married Priscilla Symonds). This conveyance was made upon condition of the payment of ten pounds paid annually to him and his wife during their lives, and also to his daughter Elizabeth.

Samuel Symonds

From the History of Topsfield:

“Samuel Symonds, one of the Assistants, sitting among the Magistrates when the petition came up for consideration, owned five hundred acres of land at the New Meadows. He had come from Toppesfield, a small parish in the county of Essex, about thirty miles north of London. Undoubtedly it, was his influence that led to the adoption of the name Toppes-field to be given to the New Meadows settlement. Moreover, we must not lose sight of the fact that John Winthrop jr., in 1643, when selling his three-hundred acre grant to Edward Parke in London, had described the lands as being in the “Hamlett Village or place called Toppesfield.” This was full five years before the Magistrates took official action and it therefore seems likely that the name Toppesfield had been in use more or less for some time. Samuel Symonds, gent., had lived at an ancient messuage in Toppesfield, called “Olivers,” about three-quarters of a mile from St. Margaret’s, the parish church, where twelve of his children had been baptized, and when the town of Ipswich granted him five hundred acres having its western bounds on Pye brook, at the New meadows, he promptly named the grant “Olivers” after his old home in England, and so the name still appears in the Ipswich records.”

We have found no confirmation for the name Olivers for Symonds’ farm in Topsfield, MA, which was the name of his estate in Toppesfield, England. The following is from the Ancestry of Priscilla Baker:

“SAMUEL SYMONDS, founder of the family in America, fourth son of Richard of Great Yeham, Essex, was born in that parish in 1595, and baptized 9 June of that year. He was a Cursitor in Chancery, and married at Great Yeldham, 2 April, 1617, Dorothy, eldest daughter of Thomas Harlakenden, of Earl’s Colne, Essex, where she was baptized 12 December, 1596. He owned the estate of Olivers in Toppesfield, next parish to Great Yeldham, and lived there twenty years. They had twelve children born at Toppesfield, four of whom died there young. His wife was buried there 3 August, 1636. In the next, year he moved to New England, and settled at Ipswich, and was made Freeman of the Colony of Massachusetts in March, 1638 .”

Sources and Further Reading

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