Pingreys Plain Ipswich map

Pingrey’s Plain, the Gallows Lot

Long before the corner of Mile Lane and High Street became famous for the Clam Box, it was known as Pingrey’s Plain, where the wicked were hung. The story was written by Alice Keenan in Ipswich Yesterday: “Pingrey’s Plain was where the local hangman plied his macabre trade and was set up for the execution in … Continue reading Pingrey’s Plain, the Gallows Lot

William Franklin of Newbury, hanged for the death of an indentured child in 1644

Children in the 17th and 18th Century New England colonies generally arrived with their families, but hundreds of English children were taken from the streets and unwillingly taken without their parents to be indentured as servants. Although the practice was more common in the Southern colonies, Joshua Coffin in his History of Newbury shared a … Continue reading William Franklin of Newbury, hanged for the death of an indentured child in 1644

Bundling

Bundling

As settlers moved west into the cold New England frontier away from the Puritan strongholds, it was not uncommon for unmarried persons to be invited to sleep in the same bed for warmth. The definition of bundling evolved and developed over time into a ritual of courtship.

Samuel Symonds, gentleman: complaint to Salem court against his two servants, 1661

Philip Welch and William Downing, both children, were kidnapped from Ireland in 1654, and sold to Samuel Symonds in Ipswich. After 7 years they refused to continue working on his farm and demanded their freedom. They were arrested and brought to trial.

Flight from Rooty Plain

The story of the Great Ipswich Fright on April 21, 1775  was widely told, and memorialized by John Greenleaf Whittier. Mrs. Alice P. Tenney in 1933 provided an amusing story of the fear that struck Rooty Plain, also called “Millwood," a thriving little mill community along today's Rt. 133 in Rowley: "News arrived in Rooty Plain … Continue reading Flight from Rooty Plain

The hanging of John Williams and William Schooler, July 1637

In 1637, two men convicted on separate counts of murder were executed in Boston on the same gallows.  John Williams was convicted of killing John Hoddy near Great Pond in Wenham on the road to Ipswich. William Schooler was tried in Ipswich and found guilty of killing Mary Scholy on the path to Piscataqua.

Stagecoach Ipswich MA

The stagecoach in Ipswich

The first stagecoach in Essex County, drawn by four horses, was established in 1774 and connected Newburyport with Boston via Salem and Ipswich. By the early 1800's, up to seventeen stagecoaches and four post chaises passed through town each day, most of them full to overflowing. In 1803, the Newburyport Turnpike Corporation built a straight toll road … Continue reading The stagecoach in Ipswich

The Great Dying--Native Americans in the early 17th Century

The Great Dying 1616-1619, “By God’s visitation, a wonderful plague”

Featured image: Drawn by a French missionary of Abenaki in Maine during a smallpox epidemic in 1740 The arrival of 102 Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower at Plymouth in 1620 and the settlements by the Puritans in Boston, Salem and Ipswich a decade later were accompanied by the demise of the native population of North America. “Within … Continue reading The Great Dying 1616-1619, “By God’s visitation, a wonderful plague”

Ipswich woodcut,1838 attributed to S. E. Brown.

Governing Ipswich

Ipswich was established in 1634, and was one of the most influential towns in Colonial America. The early town records, the actions of Town Meeting, and the deliberations of the courts are preserved.

Tomstone of Elizabeth and Mary Berry, daughters of Dr. Thomas Berry, who both died in 1735.

Great Sorrows: The Deadly “Throat Distemper” of 1735-36

Featured image: Tombstone of the daughters of Dr. Thomas Berry: Elizabeth age 5 years, and Mary, age 18 months, who died in December 1735 of the "throat distemper." Photo by John Glassford An epidemic of "throat distemper" raged in New England between 1735 and 1740. The contagion struck first in New Hampshire, killing almost 1% of the … Continue reading Great Sorrows: The Deadly “Throat Distemper” of 1735-36

Patronage and Scandal at the Ipswich Customs House

In 1829, the position of Ipswich Customs Collector was granted to Timothy Souther, a man of prominence and one of the old line Democrats who held office there under President Andrew Jackson. Souther resigned in August, 1840 after being charged with graft.

The Marblehead smallpox riot, 1773

From The History and Traditions of Marblehead" by Samuel Roads. Featured image by Charles Green. During the year 1773, the attention of the inhabitants of Marblehead was for a time occupied in considering their danger from another source than the oppressive acts of the British Parliament. In June the wife of Mr. William Matthews was … Continue reading The Marblehead smallpox riot, 1773

The Choate Bridge in Ipswich, photo by George Dexter

Battles of the bridges

Excerpts from Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, by Thomas Franklin Waters The stone bridges which span the Ipswich river with their graceful arches are picturesque and interesting, but the readiness with which the Town proceeded to build the latter two stone bridges is in singular contrast with the belligerent opposition to the earliest ones. The … Continue reading Battles of the bridges

19th Century: Religion divided the town

Excerpts from Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony by Thomas Franklin Waters The Congregational Church The Congregational Church, founded by the first settlers, maintained the old order for many generations in undisputed supremacy. From time to time, as the population increased, as has been noted, new Parishes within the Town limits had been established, in … Continue reading 19th Century: Religion divided the town

Jake Burridge, the sailor

Featured image: 2014 photo of Jake Burridge, courtesy Ipswich Chronicle. Original color photo by Kirk Williamson. In October, 2016 I was privileged to speak with Jake Burridge, a legendary 99-year-old Ipswich native. His wife Marsha graciously shared photos for this story. Jake grew up on Linebrook Rd., where he received his earliest education at the one-room Linebrook School. … Continue reading Jake Burridge, the sailor

“Dying Confession of Pomp, a Negro Man Who Was Executed at Ipswich on the 6th August, 1795”

On Aug 6th 1795, Pomp an African-American slave was hung for chopping off the head of his master, Captain Charles Furbush while he slept beside his wife. He was confined in Ipswich jail Feb. 12 of that year, and after sentence of death had been passed, was held there until the day of his execution.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge by Richard jack

William Clancy, WWI hero

Featured image: The Battle of Vimy Ridge by Richard Jack Harold Bowen wrote in Tales from Olde Ipswich that William Clancy's family lived in the Old Post Office on North Main Street. Thomas Franklin Waters spoke about historic actions by William Clancy in a 1917 address to the Ipswich Historical Society, reprinted from the Publications of the Ipswich … Continue reading William Clancy, WWI hero

Peg Wesson witch of Gloucester

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, written by Sarah G. Daley and published in the Boston  Evening Transcript, October 14, 1892. It was carried in papers throughout the country. It was March, 1745, and the company raised in Gloucester to join the … Continue reading Peg Wesson, the Gloucester witch

The wolf in colonial America

Killing wolves

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.

Puritans drinking

Strong drink

Colonial liquor licenses were granted to Ipswich men of highest esteem. They were bound “not to sell by retail to any but men of family, and of good repute, nor sell any after sunset; and that they shall be ready to give account of what liquors they sell by retail, the quantity, time and to whom.”

Lucretia Brown and the last witchcraft trial in America

In 1875, the last charge of witchcraft in this country was brought to trial in Salem. Lucretia Brown, an invalid living on the South Green in Ipswich was a disciple of Mary Baker Eddy, and when she suffered a “relapse” in 1875, Mrs. Eddy convinced her that Daniel Spofford of Newburyport, (whom Mrs. Eddy had recently excommunicated) … Continue reading Lucretia Brown and the last witchcraft trial in America

The shipwrecks at Ipswich Bar

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 Society of Newburyport constructed shelters at Sandy … Continue reading The shipwrecks at Ipswich Bar

Revere trainwreck 1871

The Great Revere Train wreck, August 26, 1871

On the evening of August 26, 1871, the Eastern Railroad's Portland Express slammed into the rear of a stopped local train in Revere, Massachusetts. It is reported that the night was very dark and the engineer of the express thought the lights on the rear car of the stopped local train were from the station's … Continue reading The Great Revere Train wreck, August 26, 1871

“Dalliance and too much familiarity”

William Row v. John Leigh, Mar. 28, 1673: “For insinuating dalliance and too much familiarity with his wife and drawing away her affections from her husband, to the great detriment both in his estate and the comfort of his life.”

Roads to Paradise

Paradise Road follows a shallow peninsula bordered by Muddy Brook and the Egypt River. In 1807, the ancient path was laid out by the Town as a road from Pingrey’s Plain near the Clam Box, which served as the hanging grounds, to the Muddy River Bridge and the Egypt River. Thomas Franklin Waters wrote: “The early farm of Mr. Charles Day … Continue reading Roads to Paradise

The Muster Murder of 1787

During the Boston Muster of 1787, Daniel Foster of Rowley participated in the customary celebration of shooting musket balls into the air, and accidentally killed Amos Chapman of Ipswich. A jury ordered his execution, but Governor John Hancock opposed capital punishment and pardoned Foster.

The Proximity Fuze: How Ipswich women helped win WW II

The former Ipswich Mills, now owned by EBSCO, was the site of one of the most closely guarded secrets of the Second World War. The VT proximity fuze (variable time fuse) resembled tubes found in radios, and made it possible to detonate antiaircraft shells in the proximity of their target, rather than on impact. Fearing that the secret of the invention might fall into … Continue reading The Proximity Fuze: How Ipswich women helped win WW II

Acadian exiles in Ipswich, 1755

A lesson for our times: The French and Indian War, as it is now known, began in 1754 and ended with the French defeat in 1763. Expeditions were planned against the French strongholds on Lake George, Fort Niagara; and against the Acadian settlers in Nova Scotia. Massachusetts men played a conspicuous part in the war along with … Continue reading Acadian exiles in Ipswich, 1755

Haunted houses of Ipswich

These ghost stories were shared on Facebook. A friend of mine mentioned that a few years ago a realtor was getting ready to go out the front door at the Jonathan Pulcifer house on Summer Street, when he noticed a stack of old publications sitting on the bottom step, and oddly enough, on top was … Continue reading Haunted houses of Ipswich

President Washington visits Ipswich, October 30, 1789

President George Washington's visit to Ipswich is portrayed in the Ipswich History Mural by Alan Pearsall for EBSCO, created in 2006. Washington had announced that during his presidency he would personally tour every state, and in the autumn of 1789 he spent four weeks traveling through New England. Samuel Adams escorted Washington into Boston on the 24th, but Governor John Hancock … Continue reading President Washington visits Ipswich, October 30, 1789

Ecclesiastical Ipswich by Agnes Edwards

Ecclesiastical Ipswich

Featured image from the book "The Romantic Shore" by Agnes Edwards, 1915. In the preface she writes, Of all the thousands of miles of our inspiring coast-line, east and west, there is no part more rich in romance, more throbbing with legendary and historical associations than the North Shore of New England. Try to imagine … Continue reading Ecclesiastical Ipswich

The “Dungeons of Ipswich” during the War of 1812

On June 17,1812, President Madison declared war with England. The New England states were bitter in their opposition, because of the trade embargo and their vulnerability to British war ships. The Town of Ipswich adopted a resolution on June 25, 1812 declaring its alterable opposition to the embargo and "Mr. Madison's War." Ironically, the reputation of the … Continue reading The “Dungeons of Ipswich” during the War of 1812

To the Inhabitants of the Town of Ipswich, from Thomas Jefferson, September 2, 1808

The people of Ipswich were united in their opposition to the Embargo Act of 1807, and petitioned Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States.

Historic women of the North Shore

Colonial Ipswich was a patriarchal society, and its history is all-too-frequently written by and about men. On this site, read dozens of stories about the women of Ipswich and the North Shore area. featured Image: Mary Lyon, co-founder of the Ipswich Female Seminary

The steamship “Carlotta”

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. William J. Barton wrote about the Carlotta: “From Brown’s Wharf, the steamer Carlotta, a local steamboat owned by Nathaniel Burnham … Continue reading The steamship “Carlotta”

The first jailbreak in the Colony, March 30, 1662

On the morning of the 30th of March, 1662, the Ipswich jailer found that a prisoner had escaped, the first offence of this nature committed in the country.

Central Street in ashes, January 13, 1894

Three Business Blocks and Three Dwellings Destroyed in Ipswich January 14, 1894,© The New York Times. Flames were discovered soon after 1 o'clock this morning in the photograph rooms of George Dexter, in the upper portion of the Jewett Block, on Central Street. The wind was blowing a gale, and the temperature registered nearly at … Continue reading Central Street in ashes, January 13, 1894

Early Ipswich, “A paradise for politicians”

Thomas Franklin Water gave us in Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony a history of the early formation of the government of the Town of Ipswich. THE DEVELOPMENT OF OUR TOWN GOVERNMENT Tercentenary sign near the South Green"It was an easy matter, we imagine, for the little handful of original settlers to talk over their … Continue reading Early Ipswich, “A paradise for politicians”

Col. Doctor Thomas Berry, “Last of the Ipswich Aristocracy”

Thomas Franklin Waters wrote that in the first half of the Eighteenth Century, Col. Thomas Berry was the most conspicuous citizen of the Town, "Autocrat of his time, Magistrate, Military leader, Physician and Statesman." Born in Boston in 1695 and a graduate of Harvard, he married Martha Rogers, daughter of the Rev. John Rogers of Ipswich in … Continue reading Col. Doctor Thomas Berry, “Last of the Ipswich Aristocracy”