CBS “Sunday Morning” takes us to Plum Island in Massachusetts, a winter home for owls.
In 1962, Jack Helfant’s houseboat wrecked on Sandy Point. He created a shack using driftwood, canvas and parts of his houseboat. Jack and his dog Prince were permanent fixtures on the island until the State burned down his shack in 1967.
In 1967, Ipswich was proposed as a site for an anti-ballistic missile base, and in 1970 opponents prevented construction of a nuclear power plant on Town Farm Road that eventually was built in Seabrook.
William Sargent embarked on a series of rambles from New Hampshire to Gloucester, and discovered a troubling new environmental catastrophe from the buildup of chemicals that have been steadily accumulating in the lungs of the planet–our oceans.
In the 1820’s a Frenchman named Gilshenan organized an unsuccessful salt harvesting company on Plum Island with a 10′ deep canal and a bull turning an overshot wheel like a hamster. A large sundial survived for a few decades, but no trace remains today.
Salt marsh hay is still gathered on the North Shore today. The grass that grows between the upland and the marsh is cut. Traditionally the hay was stacked on staddles to raise it above the high tides.
When the Town of Ipswich was established, ownership of a house and land within the town bounds carried with it the right of pasturage beyond the Common Fence. In 1788, the commoners resigned all their land interests to pay the heavy town debt incurred during the Revolution.
Grape Island was once a small but thriving community, and briefly a popular summer resort. In 1941, 3000 acres of Plum Island including Grape Island were purchased by the U.S. government to establish the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.
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.
Harry Maine — you have heard the tale; He lived there in Ipswich Town; He blasphemed God, so they put him down with an iron shovel, at Ipswich Bar; They chained him there for a thousand years, As the sea rolls up to shovel it back; So when the sea cries, the goodwives say “Harry Maine growls at his work today.”
In a northeasterly storm in December, 1786 Samuel Pulsifer and Samuel Elwell of Rowley were digging clams, got caught in the storm, and took refuge in a stack of salt hay for the night. In the morning they found they had been set afloat!
Nancy Virginia Weare spent 33 years at her family’s summer camp at Plum Island. In 1993, after Nancy retired, she wrote “Plum Island: The Way It Was.”
Featured image: Map from Plum Island: The Way It Was by Nancy V. Weare The Ipswich Bar has a long history of tragic shipwrecks. Its swift currents and shallow waters are especially dangerous during storms, and many ships have gone aground. In 1802 and again in 1852 the Merrimack Humane […]
The hotel at Ipswich Bluff on the southern tip of Plum Island was a favorite destination of locals in the late 19th Century, taking the steamer Carlotta from the Ipswich wharf with Capt. Nat Burnham.
(This article was written by Beverly Perna before the cottage was torn down, and has been updated.) An iconic Ipswich landmark, the last privately owned cottage on the Ipswich end of Plum Island, was turned over to the Fish and Wildlife Service and was taken down in 2016. Boaters and […]
The excursion boat Carlotta was built in 1878 at Rogers Point Boar Yard at the end of Agawam Avenue, and sailed from the Town Wharf to points on the Neck and Plum Island for 35 years. The small hotels at Ipswich Bluff on Plum Island were a favorite destination for tourists and locals.
An article from the July 16, 1945 Life magazine: Last Summer, as their forefathers had for 300 years before them, the people of Ipswich and Rowley were making a comfortable living out of the rich juicy clams from the briny marsh along the Parker River. Last winter they suddenly […]
These are photos of two and three-masted schooners, several of which wrecked at Steep Hill Beach, Crane Beach and Plum Island. Featured image: Wreckage on Steep Hill Beach believed to be the Ada K. Damon is frequently exposed by the changing tide and sands. Photo by Bruce Lord. Sand […]