Magistrates in the Massachusetts Bay Colony were alarmed by Quaker teachings of direct personal revelations from God. The courts passed a series of laws forbidding residents from housing Quakers. Quakers themselves were threatened with whipping, arrest, imprisonment, banishment, or death.
One of the first laws instituted by the Massachusetts Bay Colony was a bounty on wolves, and in early Ipswich, a rather disconcerting aspect of entering the Meeting House was the site of wolf heads nailed to the door. Even in 1723, wolves were so abundant and so near the meeting house, that parents would not suffer their children to go and come from worship without some grown person.
In 1673 the constable of Ipswich gave notice to William Nelson, Abner Ordway, and “an Irish man that married Rachel, Quarter Master Perkins’ maid” that the Town would not allow them to inhabit the Town unless they gave security to render the Town harmless from any charges by receiving them. In 1689, the Town refused to receive Humphrey Griffin as an inhabitant, or ” to provide for him as inhabitants formerly received, the town being full.”
Beginning in 1656, laws forbade any captain to land Quakers. Any individual of that sect was to be committed at once to the House of Correction, to be severely whipped on his or her entrance, and kept constantly at work, and none were suffered to speak with them. In Ipswich, Roger Darby his wife lived in High St, and were warned, fined and dealt with harshly.
Resistance by the citizens and leaders of Ipswich to a tax imposed by the Crown in 1687 is commemorated in the seal of the town of Ipswich, which bears the motto, “The Birthplace of American Independence 1687.”
During the Salem witch trials the Ipswich jail was filled with the accused. Elizabeth Howe of Linebrook Road was tried and hung. The ministers of the town opposed the trials as a delusion.
Cotton Mather related the tale of a doomed ship called “Noah’s Dove” which left Salem during the late 17th century for England. Among the passengers were “a young man and a passing beautiful girl pale and sorrowful, whom no one knew and who held communion with no one.” […]
This story of apparitions suggests that the colony was suffering from mass insanity. 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 alarm became so great that Major Samuel Appleton of Ipswich sent sixty men on the 18th of July. When the defender’s guns had no effect, the soldiers fell to their knees, calling out the name of God. Heaven rang with the howls of the angry fiends, and never again were the Spectral Leaguers seen in Gloucester.
In 1660, a group of Ipswich families settled in Quaboag which they renamed Brookfield. Indian attacks in 1675 resulted in its destruction.
On January 4, 1681, John T. Mason presented the King’s letter to the General Court, which ordered “all said tenants” to appear in Ipswich. If an ancient claim was confirmed, every land title would be worthless and a landed medieval system known as “quit-rents” could be grafted upon New England.