Stories from the North Shore
Essex County is the center of Puritan New England. In addition to the many stories and legends from Ipswich, the North Shore communities from Boston to Amesbury have legends and histories that are shared on this site.
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Anne Dudley Bradstreet, the colony’s first published poet - Often alone in Ipswich while her husband Simon was engaged in government, Anne Bradstreet wrote a collection of poems published in London in 1650 titled, "The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung up in America...by a Gentlewoman in these Parts."
“We walked in the clouds and could not see our way” - The wife of Rev. John Hale of Beverly participated in the witch trials until his wife was accused. Hale later published an analysis in which he asserted that Satan had tricked the Puritans, and made a plea for forgiveness.
Ipswich Manning house at the MFA - The frame of a 1692 house that once stood at the intersection of Manning and High Streets in Ipswich is on display in the "Art of the Americas" wing at the Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. Boston’s Great Molasses Flood, January 15, 1919 - On January 15, 1919, people in Boston's North End were startled by a loud rumbling noise. They watched in horror as a five-story tank broke apart, unleashing a wave of molasses 15 feet high and 160 feet wide. Boston Globe: The Tragedy that Boston forgot - On the night of November 7, 1916, a trolley packed with factory workers crashed through the gates of an open drawbridge in South Boston, killing 46. For decades it was considered the worst tragedy in Boston history. And then it was forgotten. Remembering Poe - Edgar Alan Poe Returns to Boston – A Halloween Reflection by Helen Breen Poe’s stories of horror and suspense, along with his melancholy poetry, are part of Halloween traditions in America. The writer, who was born in Boston in 1809, maintained a love/hate relationship with the city during […] 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 […] The Cape Ann Earthquake, November 18, 1755 - A series of earthquakes in the 17th and 18th Centuries gave rise to recurrences of religiosity through New England. June 1, 1638: Believed to have been centered along the Connecticut River Valley with a magnitude of about 6.5, this was the strongest known earthquake to hit New England: […]
A very old pear tree grows in Danvers - A pear tree in Danvers was planted before 1640 by the Massachusetts governor John Endicott. President John Adams enjoyed the flavor of its fruit, and Longfellow admired its longevity. The tree has survived hurricanes, earthquakes, cows, development and vandalism but continues to thrive and bear fruit. Glen Magna and the Joseph Peabody Family of Salem - The Glen Magna Estate is now managed as a non-profit by the Danvers Historical Society. Photo courtesy North of Boston magazine Article by Helen Breen Before the advent of the modern transportation, affluent city dwellers often built their summer residences within a few miles of home. Such was […]
Building a ship in Essex - By the early 1840s, Essex no longer had its own fishing fleet, but had turned to year-round shipbuilding fostering a symbiotic relationship with the successful fishermen in Gloucester 1793 and 1818: the “Burden of the Poor” divides Ipswich into 3 towns, Ipswich, Hamilton and Essex - As the people of the Hamlet were financially stable, the burden of taxation for the support of the poor in the old town of Ipswich was considered to be an unjust imposition. The leaders of the parish petitioned Ipswich to be allowed to incorporate as the new town of Hamilton. 25 years later, the men of Chebacco petitioned the Legislature for incorporation as a separate town, and to not be held for any part of the new establishment for the relief of the poor in Ipswich. The following year, Chebacco Parish became the Town of Essex The Great Colonial Hurricane and the wreck of the Angel Gabriel - In August 1635, the 240-ton Angel Gabriel sank in Pemaquid Bay after sailing into the most intense hurricane in New England history. Among the survivors were members of the Cogswell, Burnham and Andrews families, who settled in an area of Ipswich known as Chebacco. Choate Island and Rufus Choate - Choate Island was originally known as Hog Island, and is the largest island in the Crane Wildlife Refuge and is the site of the Choate family homestead, the Proctor Barn, the White Cottage, and the final resting place of Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Crane. There are great views from the island summit of the Castle Neck dunes and Plum Island Mount Agamenticus in Maine. 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. The Rev. John Wise of Ipswich - The concepts of freedom about which Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence originated from the pen of the Rev. John Wise of Ipswich: "The origin of civil power is the people...and when they are free, they may set up what species of government they please." Taking to the air in Ipswich, 1910-11 - In 1909, W. Starling Burgess joined with Augustus Moore Herring to form the Herring-Burgess Company, manufacturing aircraft under a license with the Wright Brothers, thus becoming the first licensed aircraft manufacturer in the United States. Burgess took the initial flight of his first plane in 1908 at Chebacco Lake in Hamilton, MA. […] 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.
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. The Spectre Leaguers, July 1692 - In the midst of witchcraft accusations in 1692, Gloucester was invaded by a spectral company for a fortnight. Their speech was in an unknown tongue, and bullets passed right through them. The reluctant pirate from Ipswich, Captain John Fillmore - John Fillmore of Ipswich was taken prisoner in 1723 by the pirate Captain Phillips. After many months he and three other prisoners overcame their captors, seized command and sailed the ship into Boston. "Captain" John Fillmore became a legend in his own time. Dogtown, its history and legends - Dogtown is a five square mile area of Gloucester and Rockport strewn with glacial boulders. Visitors to Dogtown find cellar holes of abandoned houses, and boulders emblazoned with inspirational messages. 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. The Cape Ann Sea Serpent - The earliest recorded sighting of a Sea Serpent in North American waters was at Cape Ann in 1639. In 1817, reports spread throughout New England of a sea serpent sighted in Gloucester Harbor. Sketches of Cape Ann - From Gloucester and Cape Ann by S. G. W. Benjamin, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, September 1875 Peg Wesson, the Gloucester witch - An old legend about the Gloucester witch Peg Wesson is often mentioned, but never was it told in such detail as in this story, written by Sarah G. Daley and published in the Boston Evening Transcript, October 14, 1892. It was carried in papers throughout the country. The grand hotels of Gloucester and Cape Ann, 1905 - At the beginning of the 20th Century, Cape Ann was a popular destination for tourists. Gloucester’s grand hotels were the subject of “The Summer Hotel Guide,” published in 1905. Images and text are available through Archive.org: “This little book will rejoice in the thought that it has accomplished […] 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 Cape Ann Earthquake, November 18, 1755 - A series of earthquakes in the 17th and 18th Centuries gave rise to recurrences of religiosity through New England. June 1, 1638: Believed to have been centered along the Connecticut River Valley with a magnitude of about 6.5, this was the strongest known earthquake to hit New England: […]
1793 and 1818: the “Burden of the Poor” divides Ipswich into 3 towns, Ipswich, Hamilton and Essex - As the people of the Hamlet were financially stable, the burden of taxation for the support of the poor in the old town of Ipswich was considered to be an unjust imposition. The leaders of the parish petitioned Ipswich to be allowed to incorporate as the new town of Hamilton. 25 years later, the men of Chebacco petitioned the Legislature for incorporation as a separate town, and to not be held for any part of the new establishment for the relief of the poor in Ipswich. The following year, Chebacco Parish became the Town of Essex The clock tower at Hamilton First Church - In 1843, the Hamilton meetinghouse was turned 90 degrees to face the Bay Road, and the present bell was installed in the belfry. In 1888 a clock manufactured by E. Howard & Company of Boston was added to accompany the bell. The Bones of Masconomet - On March 6, 1659 a young man named Robert Cross dug up the remains of the Agawam chief Masconomet, and carried his skull on a pole through Ipswich streets, an act for which Cross was imprisoned, sent to the stocks, then returned to prison until a fine was paid. Ipswich to Marietta, December 1787 - In December 1787, a group of Revolutionary War veterans and adventurers set out from Ipswich on an 800-mile journey through the wilderness by horseback and rafts to establish the first settlement in the Ohio Territory. 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. Nancy’s Corner - Google Maps used to show "Nancy's Corner" at the intersection of Highland Street and Cutler Road in Hamilton. I wondered who Nancy was and discovered an amazing story. 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.
January 12, 1912: Lawrence Bread and Roses strike - On January 12, 1912, the labor protest later known as the "Bread and Roses" strike began in Lawrence, MA. Violent methods were used to suppress the protest, but the strikers maintained their solidarity.
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 […]
Marblehead Historic Images (Facebook site)
Moll Pitcher, the fortune teller of Lynn and Marblehead - Soon after her marriage she was known as a fortune-teller, her clients increasing during the fifty years that she afterwards lived. Her fame reached every fireside in New England, and her successful predictions were the themes of many midnight vigils and story-tellers. 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. Marblehead is established, May 6, 1635 - Featured image: Marblehead, by Arthur Wesley Dow, circa 1900 A story at Mass Moments In May 1635 the General Court ordered “that there shall be a plantation at Marble Head” and gave the inhabitants the right to do whatever they pleased with the land, even though it was […] The Marblehead smallpox riot, January 1774 - In 1773, the attention of the inhabitants of Marblehead was occupied by danger from another source than British Parliament. The selectmen ordered all houses where the disease had appeared to be closed, and dogs to be killed immediately. The fears of the inhabitants increased when permission was granted to build a smallpox hospital on Cat Island.
Gathering salt marsh hay - Salt marsh hay is still gathered on the North Shore today. The grass was stacked on staddles to raise it above the high tides, and was hauled away on sleds over the frozen marsh in mid-winter. A romantic tale from the Great Snow of Feb. 21-24, 1717 - Snowstorms on the 20th and 24th of February 1717 covered the earth up to 20 ft. deep. In some places houses were completely buried, and paths were dug from house to house under the snow. A widow in Medford burned her furniture to keep the children warm. John Eales, Beehive Maker - The inhabitants of Newbury perceived bee-keeping as a new and profitable industry, but needed someone with experience. John Eales, an elderly pauper who had been sent away to Ipswich, was returned by the Court to Newbury to assist them in their efforts. The Town was instructed how much to charge him for his upkeep.
Lord Timothy Dexter - Lord Timothy Dexter of Newburyport was insane but profited from everything he undertook. He declared himself to be "the greatest philosopher in the known world." His book, "A Pickle for the Knowing Ones" is a collection of whatever entered his head at the moment, spelling as he wished, and devoid of punctuation. Bombshell from Louisbourg - Mounted securely to a stone post at the corner of Middle and Independent Streets in Newburyport, there was for many years a large cast-iron bombshell, thrown from a mortar at the Second Siege of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia in 1758. The Newburyport Tea Party - When Parliament laid a tax on tea, the British locked all the tea that had arrived in Newburyport into the powder house. Eleazer Johnson led a group of men who shattered the door and burned the tea in Market Square. 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 tragic story of Rebecca Rawson, 1679 - Rebecca Rawson of Newbury became one of the most popular young ladies in Boston society. She married a charming but cunning young man who left her desolate in London. On her return to America, the ship was swallowed by a tsunami. Postcards from Newburyport - (Click on any image to begin a slideshow. Press the X in the top left corner or the Esc button to leave the slide show). Joppa Flats, Newburyport - In the late 19th Century, clam shacks proliferated along a stretch of the Merrimack River in Newburyport known as Joppa Flats, providing clams to the Boston area. Photos in this slideshow were provided by Laurie Jarvis Short. Visit her Joppa Flats page on Facebook. Newburyport and its Neighborhoods, 1874, by Harriet Prescott Spofford - 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 […]
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. Sketches of Cape Ann - From Gloucester and Cape Ann by S. G. W. Benjamin, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, September 1875 Cape Ann photographs by Andrew Borsari - Photographer Andrew Borsari shows us why Cape Ann is cherished by its residents and envied by the rest of the world, and his books make wonderful presents. Ipswich: A Celebration of Light, Land, and Sea Rockport, Massachusetts: A Village by the Sea Cape Ann: Photographs by Andrew Borsari 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. 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 […] 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!" Wreck of the Watch and Wait, August 24, 1635 - Many ships and lives were lost in the Great Colonial Hurricane, including 21 passengers who had set out from Ipswich on August 21, 1635 on a small bark named "Watch and Wait." As they rounded Cape Ann they were suddenly met by the force of the winds.
Clam Battle! - Life Magazine, July 16, 1945: The government had taken over the lands for a Wildlife Refuge, and the clam battle was on. Ipswich hunters were afraid of losing their private hunting reserves. Ipswich farmers were afraid of losing their land. Along the Old Bay Road - In 1639, the Colony ordered that a road be laid out from Boston to Portsmouth, to be constructed by each town along the way. The Bay Road made Ipswich an important stagecoach stop. Several milestones to indicate distances are still standing. The Agawam Diner - The Agawam Diner on Rt. 1 in Rowley was built by the Fodero Dining Car Company in 1954, and was originally located on Market St. in Ipswich. Two Strand diner cars preceded it at that location. Adrift on a Haystack, December 1786 - In a northeasterly storm in December, 1786 Samuel Pulsifer and Samuel Elwell of Rowley were digging clams on Plum Island, got caught in the storm, and took refuge in a stack of salt hay for the night. In the morning they found they had been set afloat! Ipswich Village (Upper High St.) - This Ipswich neighborhood has historically had a close social connection with neighboring Rowley. Jewett's mill was created in the 17th Century, and historic houses still line the street. The Jewel Mill and Stone Arch Bridge - In 1642, a dam and fulling mill were built on the Mill River in Rowley. The stone arch bridge on this property was constructed between 1850 and 1870. Flight from Rooty Plain - The story of the Great Ipswich Fright on April 21, 1775 was widely told, and memorialized by John Greenleaf Whittier. Mrs. Alice P. Tenney in 1933 provided an amusing story of the fear that struck Rooty Plain, also called “Millwood,” a thriving little mill community along today’s Rt. 133 […] Pearson-Dummer house, Rowley - A lot of history and even more character are everywhere in 1714 Pearson-Dummer home in Rowley. Continue reading: Gov. Dummer lived here in Rowley, by Barbara Forster for the Ipswich Chronicle MACRIS Pearson, Capt. John House, Glen St, Rowley Year Constructed: 1714 Architectural Style(s): Colonial; Federal The Capt. […] 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 […] The Muster Murder of 1787 - During the Boston Muster of 1787, Daniel Foster of Rowley participated in the customary celebration of shooting musket balls into the air, and accidentally killed Amos Chapman of Ipswich. A jury ordered his execution, but Governor John Hancock opposed capital punishment and pardoned Foster.
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. Ipswich and the Salem witchcraft trials - During the Salem witch trials, Elizabeth Howe of Linebrook Road was tried and hung. The Ipswich jail was filled with the accused, but the ministers of the town opposed the trials as a delusion. Residents blocked the bridge to prevent the accusing girls from being brought into Ipswich. The Spectre Ship of Salem - On the fourth day after the ship left port, the sun came out and in the distance could be seen the same ship sailing effortlessly back into port directly into the wind. As the Noah’s Dove approached, its passengers including the young couple were visible but ghost-like. Glen Magna and the Joseph Peabody Family of Salem - The Glen Magna Estate is now managed as a non-profit by the Danvers Historical Society. Photo courtesy North of Boston magazine Article by Helen Breen Before the advent of the modern transportation, affluent city dwellers often built their summer residences within a few miles of home. Such was […] Hannah and Samuel Loring, a Christmas romance and tragedy - On Christmas Day, December 25, 1809 Samuel wrote a poem to Hannah while "on Board the Jennifer at sea near Bermuda" over 700 miles away. Hannah and Samuel married two years later on Christmas Day, 1811. In 1843, Samuel Loring died at sea. “We walked in the clouds and could not see our way” - The wife of Rev. John Hale of Beverly participated in the witch trials until his wife was accused. Hale later published an analysis in which he asserted that Satan had tricked the Puritans, and made a plea for forgiveness. The witchcraft accusations against Sarah Buckley and Mary Witheridge - On May 23, 1692, a complaint for witchcraft was filed against Sarah Buckley and her widowed daughter Mary Witheridge. The "bewitched" girls of Salem Village claimed that the women's specters had attacked them. Held in shackles in the cold crowded jail, both were acquitted in January,1692 Postcards from Salem - Click on any image to begin the slideshow. To leave the slideshow and return to Stories from Ipswich hit the Esc button or click on the X in the top left corner. Legendary ships of Salem - The photos and text below are from Old-time Ships of Salem, published by the Essex Institute, 1917. “From the year of its settlement in 1628 until the middle of the 19th century, Salem, in the Massachusetts Bay, was a maritime port surpassed in size and importance by only two or three […] The Great Salem Fire, June 25, 1914 - A raging fire a half-mile mile wide and a mile-and-a-half long burned a swath through the city. Almost half of the population of 48,000 people lost their homes.
Death in a snowstorm, December 1, 1722 - On December 1, 1722, Daniel Rogers was returning to Ipswich from a court case in Hampton and took a wrong turn that led deep into Salisbury marshes. His body was found a few days later near Salisbury beach. Suspicion fell on one Moses Gatchel but no charges were filed, there being a lack of solid evidence.
Ipswich and the Salem witchcraft trials - During the Salem witch trials, Elizabeth Howe of Linebrook Road was tried and hung. The Ipswich jail was filled with the accused, but the ministers of the town opposed the trials as a delusion. Residents blocked the bridge to prevent the accusing girls from being brought into Ipswich. The plantations at New Meadows, now Topsfield - Large allotments of land in today's Topsfield were granted in the early 17th Century by the colony's leaders, comprising more than one-half of the town's present acreage. The persons who were awarded the lots, sometimes referred to as "king's grants" were merchants and men of influence and power who had joined the Massachusetts Bay Company. Daniel Hovey - At the foot of Hovey Street along the Ipswich River is a plaque dedicated to the memory of Ipswich settler Daniel Hovey, whose home and wharf were across the river on what is now Tansey Lane. Linebrook Parish - This remote area was originally known as Ipswich Farms. After the residents began pressing for their own church, the Massachusetts General Court on June 4, 1746, created the Linebrook Parish, the boundries of which were defined by 6 brooks and lines connecting them. The community had a church, store, school and its own militia. The Bay Circuit Trail in Ipswich - The Bay Circuit Trail in Ipswich enters Willowdale State Forest and continues north through the town-owned Dow-Bull Brook preservation land. A branch continues from Willowdale through Bradley Palmer S.P to New England Biolabs. The Grand Wenham Canal and the Topsfield Linear Common - The Topsfield Rail Trail is a “Linear Common” following the former Danvers to Newburyport rail line, which was officially abandoned in 1981. A plaque at the trailhead in downtown Topsfield details the former railroad’s history.The trail connects to the Danvers Rail Trail as part of the greater Border to […]
Carted back to Ipswich, 1714 - In the Old North Burying Yard on High Street in Ipswich lies the body of the Reverend Samuel Belcher. Born in Ipswich in 1639, he graduated from Harvard College in 1659, and studied for the ministry, and was preaching at Kittery, Maine as early as 1663. In 1668 he married Mary, daughter […]