Sitting elegantly across the harbor from the Ipswich town wharf is the Martha Newmarch-Hannah Spiller house, built in 1798.
Thomas Franklin Waters wrote in Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, “The tract on the south side of East Street bounded by the Lane called Agawam Avenue and the River was apportioned among the earliest settlers. John Manning received a small house bounded by Thomas Howlett’s lot north and Thomas Hardy east.”
Thomas Hardy arrived as an indentured servant but soon gained his freedom. His was reportedly the first frame house to be built in Ipswich. The small foundation, just past this house by the river was still discernible at the turn of the 20th Century. In 1653 Hardy moved to Rowley and John Newmarch succeeded him in ownership of the property. John Newmarch and his twin sons John Jr. & Zaccheus (born in 1653) eventually acquired the lots originally assigned to Mannin, Andrews and Howlett, as well as Hardy’s.
This house at 8 Agawam Ave. was built by Zaccheus Newmarch, who like many young men in Ipswich served under Major Appleton’s command in King Phillip’s War. Waters writes, “Zacchaeus Newmarch quitclaimed to Tobias and Silvanus Lakeman land at the east end of the orchard and so up a straight line to the west end of said Lakeman’s, then southerly to ye River, to ye middle of ye well commonly called Hardy’s Well.” The site of this well, which is believed to have been the first in Ipswich, was in front of the house next door, between Agawam Avenue and Spiller’s Lane. The still-intact well was filled in a few decades ago by the owner.
Abraham Hammatt notes in “The Early Inhabitants of Ipswich, MA, (1854) “If we stop a moment at the Choate shipyard, we shall find that Thomas Hardy, once a servant of Gov. Winthrop, has supplanted the first rude shelter by a strong frame house and dug a well; the same old well which gives living waters to-day.” Read more about the Thomas Hardy property and the well. Ipswich artist Carl Nordstrom is said to have painted a picture of the well.
Zaccheus Newmarch died in 1731. Hannah Newmarch Spiller was Zaccheus’ grandaughter and wife of Thomas Newmarch, who is assumed to have built this house. They both died in the 1840′s. Waters writes that in 1816 the estate was bequeathed by Hannah’s sister Martha Newmarch (who was unmarried, to Hannah Spiller, daughter of her late sister.) I have not reconciled the discrepancies in dates.
The Newmarch and Spiller families both had a long history as seafarers. In the mid-19th Century Captain David Spiller was master of the “Challenge”, the “Charles Cooper”, the “Clara Rankin”, and the “Hortense.” The 1832 Ipswich Village Map shows this house owned by Thomas Spiller, and the house on the corner of East Street is owned by Samuel Spiller.
Jonathan Spiller of Georgetown conveyed the house and six acres to Isaiah Albert Rogers in 1851. The 1872 village map shows the house still owned by A. Rogers. In the early 20th Century two ancient abutments from old wharves could still be seen along the river in front of the house. I found this passage in the Acts and Resolves of the General Court of Massachusetts:
An Act to authorize Augustus C. Carey to build a Wharf.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled and by the authority of the same as follows:
- Augustus C. Carey is hereby authorized to build and maintain a wharf extending from his lot of land and adjoining land of Isaiah Rogers and Isaiah A Rogers in the town of Ipswich, one hundred feet and shall have the right to lay vessels at Mid-eighteenth Century “accordian” plaster lath was found in the dining room ceiling during renovations.the end and sides of said wharf and to receive wharfage and dockage therefor provided that this grant shall not interfere with the legal rights of any person or persons. This act shall take effect from and after its passage. Approved by the Governor April 19, 1856, Chapters 119 -120 .
The current owners hired the late James Whidden to shore up the foundation and the central beam, which caused the middle of the house to sink six inches. While working on the house they discovered a short but massive wooden beam supporting the brickwork of the fireplace, a beehive oven, and “accordion plaster lath” in one of the ceilings. Handmade reed molding that decorates the Federal-style living room fireplace has been cut and rejoined in the middle, suggesting that it once wrapped a larger, early Georgian central fireplace.