The right side of the house at 88-90 High Street in Ipswich is one of the oldest residences in town. It was the home of Col. Nathaniel Shatswell, famous for his command of Union troops during the Battle of Harris Farm during the Civil War.
John Shatswell came to join the Ipswich settlement in 1633 with his wife and four children. He was granted a piece of land and built his original small dwelling, which may still exist. Shatswell was appointed a surveyor of the land upon which other homes were built, and is the earliest person in Ipswich to whom the title of Deacon was given. The family name was often spelled Satchwell and Shatswell in the same documents.
The two adjoining halves of the building are entirely separate properties, and the actual date of construction for either of them is uncertain, with wildly varying historical records that cannot be reconciled. Susan Nelson’s comprehensive inventory (updated and corrected in 2006) for the Ipswich Historical Commission gives a date of 1690 – 1710, based on the 1978 Ipswich Historical Commission inventory for the house, written by Margaret Welden, available on the MACRIS site:
“This lot was owned by Simon Tuttle in the early 18th century, and several late first period features of the house date it to that period. These include unusual horizontal feather-edged wainscotting and West Anglian type framing. The roof has been raised in the rear, but the original rafters survive. One of the upstairs rooms contains mid-18th century raised field paneling on the fireplace wall. The west end of the house -was added by Capt. John Lord in the 1820’s, upon his marriage, completing the present elongated structure. Three families then occupied the house, sharing one narrow kitchen.”
The current owners of the northwest section of the Shatswell House believe that parts of the house at 90 High Street could be the earlier Shatswell House, constructed by 1646. The owners are currently reaching out to academic institutions and professionals in the historical community, and plan to have dendrochronology tests done that may verify their findings.
Oral traditions in the Shatswell family include the following, none of which have been substantiated:
- That the original house burned. (*Waters, Thomas Franklin: “Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony”)
- That the center of the house is the oldest, and the two ends were added later.
- (Antiquarian Papers)
- That the house remained in the family by inheritance from the time of the original grant. (Antiquarian Papers)
- That the north end of the house was constructed for Richard Shatswell in 1751 upon his marriage to Hannah Bradstreet (*Waters, Thomas: The Early Homes of the Puritans)
- That the north end of the house was added by Capt. John Lord in the 1820’s, upon his marriage, completing the present elongated structure. (*MACRIS).
An article about Joseph Smith [1783-1881] from the Ipswich chronicle, May 28, 1881, states that in 1806 Joseph Smith married Hannah Lord, took down the original Shatswell house, and just in front of where it stood, he built the left side of this building, adjoining the home of Richard Shatswell on the right. The old original Shatswell house is remembered as having a very flat roof, which was also the case with the Shatswell Planter Cottage, a small outbuilding that sat in the rear of the property, and is believed to be the original small home of John Shatswell. The 14′ x 15′ shed was removed from the rear of the yard around 1950 by Daniel S. Wendel to the Wendel estate on Strawberry Hill. He concluded based on superficial evidence that the shed had been the early home of John Shatswell, and it is now known as the “Shatswell Planters Cottage,” which Wendel dated as 1646. That building, including the roof line, is considerably altered from its appearance when Wendel acquired it.
The oldest section of the double house may have been built by 1671. John Shatswell died in 1646, and the estate with a house was left to his wife and his son Richard, valued at £100. Town records show that in 1671 Richard Shatswell was granted the right to fell 1000 ft. of board, although the purpose of the lumber is not stated. It could be that he was constructing or repairing the present house or the “Shatswell Planter’s cottage.
In his will, dated 11 Feb 1646/47 and proved 30 Mar 1647, “John Satchwell of Ipswich though weak in body” bequeathed to “my son Richard” all my houses and land, except part of the twenty-five acre lot from the upper end of the plowed land to the sea, and sixteen acres of pasture beyond Muddy River towards Rowley, which parcells of land I give to “Johan my wife” for her life and to her issue if she have any, and for want of such issue, then to return to Richard “my son his heirs and assigns.” “If Richard shall not marry with Rebecca Tuttle which is now intended then my wife shall have her being in the house … during her life unless she see good to dispose of herself otherwise.” If both Richard and Johan die without issue, then the land remaining should “be equally divided between my brother and sisters’ children that are here in New England.” The inventory of the estate of John Satchwell was not totalled, and included £307 in real estate: “one dwelling house and homestall with barn, cowhouse, orchard yard with the appurtenances.”
It appears that John Shatswell was first granted other lots, one in the vicinity of the South Green close to the home of Dr. Giles Firmin, another on East Street, but for undetermined reasons built his home at this location. Thomas Franklin Waters wrote about this house in the first volume of Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony:
“John Shatswell was one of the earliest grantees, and under date, April 20, 1635, he is mentioned as owning six acres of ground, where his house is built, between Mr. Wade’s house lot east and Mr. Firman’s on the west, Goodman Webster’s lot, northeast. I cannot identify this with the present Shatswell location. This early grant was on the north side of the highway wherever it was, and if another house lot bounded it on the northeast it could not be located on High St. as the lots on the other side of the highway are on the hill side.”
“On the 21 May, 1685, John Day bought one and a half acres and the line was laid, “from said Daye’s fence corner by his brick house,” near Mr. Tuttle’s and Richard Shatswell’s. The Day lot, which still shows the refuse bricks of an ancient brickyard, is probably included in the western part of Mr. John Cogswell’s pasture on the Linebrook Road. It touched on the land of Shatswell and Tuttle.”
“Shatswell may have been in possession many years at this time. The estate was divided between the sons John and Richard in 1695, and it was bounded by Brewer’s land east and Mrs. Tuttle’s west. Its later history is given under that of the adjoining lot. The lot, called Mrs. Tuttle’s, adjoining Shatswell on the west was sold by “Stephen Minot of Boston, Stephen Minot, Jr., son of Stephen by Sarah, his wife late deceased, eldest daughter of Francis Wainwright deceased, and Samuel Waldo of Boston and Lucy his wife, youngest daughter of Francis Wainwright,” being “the house and land 2 acres, inherited from Simon Tuttle,” to Francis’ Goodhue, Dec. 6, 1732.”
“Goodhue sold it to Joseph Fowler, Feb. 19, 1745 and the heirs of Fowler sold an acre and a half, probably the whole of the same lot, to Nathaniel and Moses Shatswell, March 25, 1807. It is still owned by the Shatswell heirs. The east end of the house was sold to Capt. John Lord, in 1824. The family tradition is that the original house was burned. When Capt. John, great-grandfather of the John and Nathaniel of today, was to be married, the western end was built, and the three families, who then occupied it, made common use of the single long and narrow kitchen, with its one capacious fireplace. In later years, the three houses to the west have been built on the Shatswell land.”
Alice Keeton in her book “Ipswich Yesterday” (1981) gave an unsubstantiated date of 1658 for the Shatswell house:
“(This house) is one of our particular favorites, the old 1658 Shatswell House — and what a fascinating hodge-podge of 17th, 18th and 19th century joining and construction this old place has gone through and endured. The northerly end of the house is considered to be of very early 17th century construction and the old place has been enlarged, raised and pounded into “a very unusual structure growing out of complicated growth” — which is an understatement if we ever heard one. The mid-18th century paneling of “the excellent walls of the right hand and middle chambers” is considered “noteworthy” and all in all the old house is a treasure trove of architectural goodies.
Hannah Dustin of Haverhill, that fearless heroine of the Indian Wars was born here while her mother was visiting her relatives, the Shatswells. Later she would become famous as that prisoner of the Indians who somehow or other managed to overcome a half-dozen or so of her savage captors, scalp them all, and return to Haverhill to collect a considerable bounty. The mighty Daniel Webster was a descendent of the Shatswells and we’ve all heard of the feisty Madame Shatswell who threatened to blast that nosy Committee of Correspondence to kingdom come for harassing her family and questioning their loyalty during the Revolutionary War. Surely a house of history.”
John Shatswell’s son Richard married his next door neighbor Simon Tuttle’s daughter Rebeckah. Mark Quilter and his wife Francis lived nearby in a small single-room house. Quilter made his living as a cow-keeper in the common land on the north side of town and seemed to be the object of public insults, which caused Quilter to be overly protective of his authority at home. One March morning in 1664 Rebeckah Tuttle arrived to “sit and work” with Goody Quilter and “to bear her company,” leaving us with an amusing story that has been handed down for generations.
Photos from inside the northwest section of the house during renovation:
Remnants of a stick and mud chimney?
In 2016 the owners of the oldest northwest oldest part of the house gutted the downstairs bathroom and exposed the timber floor frame, which sits just above the soil level, unlike the front of the house. In the inside corner adjoining the main house they discovered what appeared to be a foundation composed of mud, clay, small stones and short sticks that had been cut to a uniform thickness and length.
This may be the remnants of a chimney from the early Shatswell cottage. Primitive chimneys constructed in the first few years of Ipswich settlement were often of the “mud and stick” variety. Clay was thickly applied to a rude frame filled with a mud and stick compound. The clay chimneys were impermanent to water but highly susceptible to fire, and were thus replaced as soon as practicable by brick or stone. Very few mud-and-stick chimneys survive today.
Even more curious was that the excavated area in the lower left corner of the photo below contained at least a bushel of animal bones, for which we have no convenient explanation. DNA testing may help sort out this mystery.
In his will, dated 11 February 1646 and proved 30 March 1647, “John Satchwell of Ipswich though weak in body” bequeathed to “my son Richard” all my houses and land, except part of the twenty-five acre lot from the upper end of the plowed land to the sea, and sixteen acres of pasture beyond Muddy River towards Rowley, which parcels of land I give to Johan my wife.”
Richard Shatswell moves in with the Tuttels and is taken to court
- Symon Tuttle attorney to his mother Joanah Tuttle executrix to her late husband John Tuttle v Richard Shatswell for non-payment of rent due by covenant under his hand bearing date Mar 14, 1653-4 and for not delivering several particular goods in a note annexed dated Mar 19, 1651 signed by Robert Lord f for the court and served by Robert Lord, marshal of Ipswich.
- Agreement dated Mar. 18 1653-4 between Mrs/ Joanna Tuttell and Richard Shatswell for her house and land at Ipswich, the said Joanna Tuttell being attorney to her husband, Mr. John Tuttell now living in Ireland: That from the fourteenth day of the present month said Shatswell should for two years enjoy the dwelling house, barns, orchard, and outhouses of said Tuttell; also all her meadow, marsh and broken up ground within the common fence, paying to said Joanna at her now dwelling house in Ipswich 24li per year in corn at each year’s end; also two and one cow, all of which should be in good condition at the expiration of the time etc. There were also two plow chains and a share and colter, two yokes and half a harrow of which said Shatswell was to have the use. Witnesses: Richard Martyni and Thomas Bornum.
- Richard Brabrocke deposed that being at the barn of Richard Shatswell with Goodman Bridges and John Apellfford deponent, saw that the bullock was bruised. Richard Shatswell his master said to Wiliam Delower, Now William, you may see the fruits of cruelty. Delower agreed to pay for half of the beast, and said he hoped it would be a warning to him not to beat any so again. Sworn in court Mar. 29, 1659
Richard Shatswell left the house with his two sons John and Richard while he was overseas, but when he returned, he took back control of the property from John, and in 1694 wrote a will stating that if the brothers couldn’t reconcile their differences, the dissenting brother would “take that part of the homestead next Mr. Brewer’s.” This refers to the southeast half of the present structure.
The course of the Bay Road
Sue Nelson wrote that the deed mentions that the house was 32-36 ft from the street, although the house is much closer to High Street now. In the 17th Century this section of High Street, then called the Road to Rowley and the Bay Road may have been centered between the houses on either side of High Street. It continued over what is now Locust Street to Avery Street and Mitchell Road, extending to the end of today’s Paradise Road and joining current High Street Pingrey’s Plain, the location of the Clam Box restaurant.
The curves and hills of High Street were eliminated, and the road was re-routed straight through the wetland where the High School and shopping center are located before 1795, when a map shows the Post Road following today’s High Street. The curve in the road returned when the first bridge was built over the rail tracks.
The Antiquarian Papers by Augustine Caldwell provides yet another family history.
Col. Nathaniel Shatswell and the Battle of Harris Farm
Nathaniel Shatswell was born on Nov. 26, 1834 and grew up in the Shatswell home on High St. During the Civil War, he was instrumental in forming the Ipswich companies, and rose to the rank of colonel. In the spring of 1861, Company A and L of the First Massachusetts Heavy Artillery Regiment were assembled with Ipswich soldiers, and were assigned to protect the forts around Washington, D.C. When the Confederates attacked at Harris Farm during the part of the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, the First Regiment went into battle. Rebel bullets began to fly, and before long many Union soldiers were dead or injured.
Colonel Shatswell was glazed by a bullet to his head early in the battle, but returned to take command. With blood saturating his coat, Shatswell inspired his fellow soldiers. Although 398 men from the First Regiment were killed early in the battle, Shatswell’s troops drove the Confederates into the cover of the woods. Every time they emerged, the first battalion charged and drove them back, eventually ending with a Northern victory. The Harris Farm battle claimed 1,598 Confederate and Union lives.
After the war, Col. Shatwell worked for a while as the assistant superintendent of the Ipswich House of Correction, but in 1890 Shatwell became the curator of the museum of the Department of Agriculture in Washington D.C. Nathaniel Shatwell died on December 14, 1905, and is buried in the Old North Burial Ground, alongside his wife, Mary White.
Sources and further reading:
- Town records for 1671
- “Ipswich Yesterday” by Alice Keenan (1981)
- Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County …, Volume 2
- Susan Nelson’s comprehensive inventory
- The Shatswell family at Miner Descent
- Hammatt, Abraham: Early inhabitants of Ipswich, Mass. 1633-1700
- Waters, Thomas Franklin: “Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony”
- Waters, Thomas: The Early Homes of the Puritans
- Antiquarian Papers
- Last Will and Testament of John Shatswell, Probate Records of Essex County, 1646
- Last Will of John Shatswell (Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony) 1646
- Probate Records of Essex County, Massachusetts; 1635 – 1681, Vol. 1: John Satchwell
- The Ancient Records of the Town of Ipswich: From 1634 to 1650, Volume 1: Shatswell