Stories from Gloucester and Rockport

*Gloucester Harbor, circa 1880. Photo by “E. Adams” courtesy of Donna Whipple

The area that is now Gloucester MA was inhabited briefly by European settlers around 1626. The settlement was abandoned, but people returned slowly, and the town was founded as Gloucester in 1642, taking its name from a city in South-West England.

Gloucester shares the Cape Ann peninsula with Rockport, and both communities became important fishing ports due to their proximity to Georges Bank. Rockport was set aside from Gloucester and incorporated in 1843.

Stories from Gloucester

Pigeon Cove 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 Oceanside Hotel in Gloucester MA The grand hotels of Gloucester and Cape Ann - 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.
Peg Wesson the Gloucester witch 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 published in the Boston Evening Transcript, October 14, 1892. It was carried in papers throughout the country.
Cape Ann earthquake The Cape Ann Earthquake, November 18, 1755 - At between 6.0 and 6.3 on the Richter scale, the1755 Cape Ann Earthquake remains the largest earthquake in the history of Massachusetts, and caused great alarm. The Rev. Leslie of Linebrook Church recorded the earthquake's effect: "Between ye hours of four & five in ye morning there happened a most surprising shock of ye earthquake, which was afterwards succeeded by several others, though non equal to ye first in ye Town of Ipswich. Much damage was done to many houses, yet through ye goodness of God no hurt was done either to ye lives or ye limbs of any persons. On Nov. 19 several shocks were heard, tho but small compared to ye first."
Tied a millstone around his neck and drowned 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.
Spectral leaguers, Gloucester MA 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.
Courage boulder at Dogtown 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.
Hoax photo of an Ipswich sea serpent by George Dexter 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.
Ships off Liverpool in the Great Storm of 1839 Awful Calamities: the Shipwrecks of December, 1839 - Three gales of unequaled fury and destructiveness swept along our coast carrying desolation and death in their stormy pathway, and overwhelming many families in the deepest mourning.
Sketches of Cape Ann - From Gloucester and Cape Ann by S. G. W. Benjamin, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, September 1875
Wreck of the Hesperus, January 6, 1839 - It was the schooner Hesperus, That sailed the wintry sea; And the skipper had taken his little daughtèr, To bear him company.

Stories from Rockport

Pigeon Cove 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.
Attacked by a swordfish in Ipswich Bay Killed by a swordfish in Ipswich Bay, August 19, 1886 - Captain Franklin D. Langsford sailed from Cape Ann in pursuit of swordfish. After harpooning one in Ipswich Bay, the fish turned and thrust its sword through the boat and the Captain. Not yet realizing that he was wounded, he seized the sword and exclaimed, "We got him anyway!"
Wreck of the Watch and Wait 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.
Hannah Jumper leads raid on Rockport liquor establishments, July 8, 1856 - On the morning of July 8, 1856, two hundred women, three men and their supporters gathered in Rockport's Dock Square and unfurled a banner with a black hatchet, determined to destroy all the alcohol in the town. The leaders of the mob was a 75-year-old seamstress named Hannah Jumper.
Ships off Liverpool in the Great Storm of 1839 Awful Calamities: the Shipwrecks of December, 1839 - Three gales of unequaled fury and destructiveness swept along our coast carrying desolation and death in their stormy pathway, and overwhelming many families in the deepest mourning.
Sketches of Cape Ann - From Gloucester and Cape Ann by S. G. W. Benjamin, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, September 1875
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.

Gloucester and Rockport (MA) (Images of America)

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