The John Chapman house at 49 North Main Street in Ipswich
The John Chapman house at 49 North Main Street in Ipswich

The John Chapman house at 49 North Main Street in Ipswich was built in 1770. John Chapman was a “leather breeches maker,” possibly the only one of that trade in the town at the time, and he felt his business warranted building a spacious home. Richard Sutton also practiced the trade.

Breeches were a standard item of 18th Century gentlemen’s clothing with separate coverings for each leg stopping below the knee or to the ankles. They were fastened about the leg by buttons, draw-strings, straps, buckles or brooches. They fell out of use in the early 19th Century in favor of pantaloons and trousers.

John Chapman married Ruth Giddings on September 13,  1773 and two days later sold the new house and land to Capt. Thomas Dodge. Captain Dodge lived in the house for the next 26 years, then sold it to Captain Ephraim Kendall in 1797.

Thomas Franklin Waters wrote about Capt. Abraham Dodge:  “Sailing from Ipswich for the West Indies in Feb. 1770, his schooner grounded on the bar and vessel and cargo were reported a total loss. One of the crew was drowned, and the rest were near perishing before they were discovered and taken off. A year later, he had the schooner “Elizabeth” and his arrival from Cape Nicholas Mole is noted in April. When he arrived in Ipswich in May, 1774, he brought in the Master, chief mate, four sailors and four indentured servants of the brig “Two Brothers,” picked up at sea in an open boat.  These men abandoned their ship secretly, leaving sixteen persons on board, who probably perished.

This photo of an elm tree in front of the John Chapman house is from Harold Bowen’s book Tales of Olde Ipswich

At the battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, Capt. Nathaniel Wade’s company and Capt. Abraham Dodge’s were in the line in Col. Moses Little’s regiment.

Captain Ephraim Kendall arrived at Ipswich in the schooner “Falmouth,” in August, 1769, in 26 days from the West Indies. He sailed regularly to St. Lucia, St. Eustatia and other West India ports and occasionally to Canso and Nova Scotia.” He and his wife housed several students from the Ipswich Female Academy.

In 1822 Captain Kendall sold the house to Ebenezer and Daniel Russell. Throughout the rest of the 19th Century the house stayed in the Russell family, and it was occupied by Dr. William H. Russell, Daniel Russell’s grandson at the beginning of the 20th Century. (information from Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony by Thomas Franklin Waters).

The photo on the right is from Harold Bowen’s book Tales of Olde Ipswich. The tree has grown around an iron bar that hung kerosene lights before gas and then electric lighting came to Ipswich. The elm tree is long gone.

The John Chapman house is on the left. The old Dodge house was replaced in the late 19th century by an elaborate Victorian house.