Dr. Manning built and operated the mill and dam at Willowdale at the site of Foote Brothers Canoes. He invested in the Lace Factory on High St. and played a prominent role in town events. He died on February 3, 1854, at the age of eighty, bequeathing the greater part of his estate to the Town for the purpose of establishing “a High School in the town of Ipswich, which should be free to the youth of the town of both sexes.” His son, Joseph E. Manning, contested the will on the ground that his father was incompetent to make such an instrument, in which he failed to receive his proper share, and the will was disallowed. But in order to fulfil his father’s wishes in part, he conveyed in 1857, securities of an estimated value of $10,000 to the Trustees of the School.
Members of the Manning family lived in the house until 1858, when it became the First Church parsonage. Rev. Robert Southgate Succeeded Rev. David Kimball in 1851 and remained the Pastor until 1868. The ladies of Ipswich under the leadership of Mrs. Southgate and Mrs. Lucretia Perkins formed an association at the beginning of the Civil War, forwarding supplies to the hospitals for care of the wounded through the United States Sanitary Commission (USSC) and the United States Christian Commission (USCC), civilian relief agencies established to coordinate aid for Union troops. Augustine Heard, the brother of Margaret Heard Manning, gave $10,000 with his nephews for the relief of soldiers.
Thomas Franklin Waters described this house in the two-volume Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, published in 1905:
“The Arthur Abbott homestead was inherited by his son Philip Abbott, who sold the house and land, to Robert Wallis, Jan. 17, 1799 (171: 65), and he to Dr. Thomas Manning, who built the mansion, now used as the Parsonage of the First Church, Jan. 17, 1799 (185: 146).” (Vol. 1)
“Mr. Augustine Heard conveyed to the Parish on June 11, 1858, the family mansion of the late Dr. Thomas Manning, which he had recently purchased from Joseph E. Manning, son of the deceased. He prescribed in the deed of conveyance that it should be used only as a Parsonage, and that there should never be any building erected “between the dwelling now standing thereon, and the said land of said Cowles and within seventy feet of said Main Street.'” (Vol. 2)
In the 1960’s Donald Fowser purchased this rundown Federalist period house and restored the house with authentic moldings and a curved veranda overlooking a beautiful garden.
The Rev. David Kimball of First Church became pastor in 1805 and served for over 40 years. He was a staunch abolitionist whom William Lloyd Garrison referred to as “zealously affected in our cause.” He built his home, still standing facing the north side of the church. The New England Anti-Slavery Convention assembled at Boylston Hall on May 27, 1834. William Oakes, Esq., Ipswich’s famous botanist, was appointed vice president, and the Rev. David Kimball, was named an officer. The Thomas Manning house became the new parsonage after Rev. Kimball’s retirement.
By 1838 the anti-slavery movement was gathering strength in Ipswich. The Anti-Slavery Society held its meetings in the Methodist vestry. The Ipswich Female Anti-Slavery Society met at Mrs. Jabez Farley’s house and at the home of Lucy Caldwell at 16 Elm Street, the house which is now featured at the Smithsonian. The Methodist Church allowed anti-slavery meetings but the more ardent Abolitionists split away to form the Methodist Wesleyan Church, meeting in Mr. Hammatt’s Hall on North Main street. The churches reunited several years later
The cellar of the Thomas Manning house is very large and includes a number of brick storerooms. A trap door in the floor of a small room in the rear of the house has a ladder where you can descend into a small chamber. A steel door opens into another small chamber, which has a small square opening in the foundation that leads to the back yard. Fugitive slaves were hidden from bounty hunters and would be taken after dark to the river behind the house, where they would float down to the wharf and board freight ships to Nova Scotia.
. “The Underground Railroad in Massachusetts” by Wilbur H. Siebert identified three underground routes starting from Salem and diverging northward: one through Danvers, Andover and South Lawrence; another through Danvers, Georgetown and Haverhill; and a third through Beverly, Ipswich, Newburyport and Amesbury. The names of the Underground Railroad agents in Ipswich are not known, but it is apparent that Dr. Manning was working with them. Ipswich legend is that they made their escape on the River behind the house, but there are records of escapees being taken on the Bay Road to the Parker River bridge in Newbury, where they were transferred to Richard Plummer of Newburyport and hidden underneath bags of grain in his cart. There are legends in Newburyport of “an intricate tunnel system” under the Old Burying Ground beneath the center of town to the wharf area, and indeed an old tunnel was discovered recently during an excavation.
This house is protected by a preservation agreement between the owners and the Ipswich Historical Commission. Protected elements include:
- Exterior front and side facades
- Central frame including primary and secondary members
- Wooden architectural elements including stairway, doors, paneling and other elements of the front and rear halls and the first floor right rear room.
- MACRIS: Old Parsonage, Dr. Thomas Manning house
- T.F. Waters, Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, vol. I, p. 333,
- T.F. Waters, Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, vol. II, pp. 449, and 518.
- T. F. Waters, Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony Vol. II: Willowdale Mill
- 19 North Main Old Parsonage Preservation Agreement
- The New England Quarterly: Underground Railroad