88-92 High Street, the Shatswell house (before 1690)

88-92 High Street, the Shatswell house (before 1690)

The oldest section of the Tuttle – Lord – Shatswell house at 88 High Street in Ipswich is believed to have been built before 1690 as the home of John Shatswell, who came to join the Ipswich settlement in 1633 with his wife and four children. He was granted this piece of land and built the original small dwelling near the existing one. 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. This house is one of the oldest residences in town and remained in the family by inheritance from the time of the original grant. 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.


The Shatswell-Tuttle Lord house in 1980 from the MACRIS site

Thomas Franklin Waters wrote about this house in the first volume of Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony:

Diagram of land assignments to the early settlers, showing the John Shatswell lot

“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.”


Early photo of the John Shatswell house. It was at one time owned by three families, who made common use of a single kitchen.

“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.”


Closeup from the 1910 Ipswich village map shows the Shatswell house at 88-90 High St., with two auxiliary structures behind it and one just to its southeast in the larger lot. That structure was apparently the early Shatswell Planters Cottage, which was moved to Jeffreys Neck Road in 1946. 

The following is from Alice Keeton in her book “Ipswich Yesterday” .

“(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.”


An old sketch of the Shatswell house

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:

Gunstock post in the rear lean-to section on the north side

Gunstock post in the rear lean-to section on the north side

Attic framing shows where the roof was raised when the lean-to was added

Attic framing shows how the roof was raised when the lean-to was added. The original and “new” rooflines are both visible.

Ceiling in the front room, north side

Ceiling in the front room, north side

Original paneling in the front room, north side

Original paneling in the front room, north side

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.


A building that may be the original Shatswell planters cottage was moved to the Wendell Estate on Jeffreys Neck Road from the Shatswell property in the early 1940’s along with the Lord-Collins house from South Main St. Dated before 1646, the Shatswell Planters Cottage is believed to be the oldest structure in Ipswich. Recent excavations at the Shatswell house at 90 High St. may have revealed the remnants of a stick and mud chimney from the early building.

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.”

Further reading:

L.A. in Ipswich

Written by the owners about their disoveries while restoring this 17th century home

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1 reply »

  1. This is meant to be a comment on the “88-92 High Street, the Shatswell House” blog. The current owners have certainly put a lot of effort into uncovering and preserving First Period details.

    It is also distressing to see how vulnerable this house and others like it are to the heavy traffic just 12 feet from their door. It is to be hoped that more attention will be paid by the people who should have the welfare of the town’s past and present at heart.


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