The Federal-style Patch House at 232 Argilla Road was built between 1760 and 1800. It is a short distance from Castle Hill, which was bequeathed to Ipswich founder John Winthrop Jr. In 1644 Castle Hill was sold by Winthrop to Samuel Symonds, who sold it in 1660 to his stepson Capt. Daniel Eppes, and it was passed on to his only son, Samuel Eppes who sold the property to John Patch in 1741.
Sometime after Patch bought Castle Neck he moved into the Ipswich village, apparently living in what is now known as the Patch – Burnham House on Turkey Shore Road, but he continued farming and other operations on his growing Argilla Road estate.
From Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony we read: “Mr. Patch was prominent in Town affairs and it is said that his ventures in the privateers proved very profitable. He enlarged the estate by the purchase of the farm on Sagamore Hill in 1785. He died in 1799 leaving twelve children but only one son. He divided his property by will; the Sagamore Hill farm to his grandson Tristram Brown who built the present dwelling. The Island as it was called went to his son Nehemiah. The Island farm passed to John, son of Nehemiah then to his son John and later to Dr. E.A. Crockett.”
The Essex Memorial for 1836 lists a “public house” on the way to the beach, operated by Tristam Brown. It continued to be used as a county boarding house until Dr. Eugene A. Crockett bought the property along with its dairy and hay farm in November 1897. This was also the home of author Adele Crockett Robertson, his daughter. A smaller house at 228 Argilla Rd. is still in the Crockett family and is on property that was part of the original farm. You can read more about the tragedies of that family on page 120 of Kitty Crocket’s memoir, “The Orchard.”
Sidney Shurcliff wrote in his history of Argilla Road:
“In 1890, Smith’s Boarding House, now the Crockett House, was in full flower. Being situated near the top of a hill, it commanded a magnificent view of marshes and dunes and was very popular with sportsmen, nature-lovers, and artists. It was run by Mr. Frank Smith. According to Waters’ History, it was owned by Mr. Aaron Kinsman, who lived about a mile nearer the village. But Mr. David Charles Crockett says that this is incorrect, and that it was owned by the Congregational Church of Ipswich, to whom it had been left many years ago by John Patch.
In 1890 or thereabouts, Miss Frances Flint of Boston was introduced to the Argilla Road region by an artist-friend who had visited there many times. Miss Flint soon became well-acquainted with Smith’s Boarding House and the Argilla Road region as a whole; she invited her sister Gertrude Flint Townsend and her brother-in-law, Dr. Charles Wendell Townsend to see for themselves what an attractive region it was. (per GT).
Dr. Townsend was delighted with the beach, dunes, marshes, and creeks, and became a frequent visitor at Smith’s. Several other Boston medical men, including Dr. Eugene A. Crockett, Dr. Mark Richardson, Dr. Herman F. Vickery, Dr. Joseph L. Goodale, and Dr. Francis B. Harrington, also became frequent visitors.
Dr. Crockett was the first of these to decide definitely to buy and settle here. Suddenly in 1895, he bought Smith’s Boarding House itself. His purchase included the entire area now known as Crockett’s Hill (called “The Island” by the Patch family who owned it 75 years before); also the smaller hill now occupied by Dr. Burwell; also much marshland_. In short, it included the tracts now owned by Crockett, R.M. Smith, Eliot, Burwell, Robertson, Moritz, Sibley, Prince, Chace, and Currier.”
All this was bought by Dr. Crockett for $4,000.