The Thomas Knowlton house at 27 Summer Street is one of over 50 First Period houses still standing in Ipswich, and was built about 1688. The 2-story timber frame home has traditional English overhangs on the front and sides that were popular during New England’s post-medieval revival from about 1680 to 1710.
The lot on the corner of Summer St. and County St. was granted originally to Humphrey Bradstreet. He sold his house and land to Deacon Thomas Knowlton in 1646.
Deacon Thomas Knowlton Sr. (1607-1692) was a cordwainer who arrived in Ipswich about 1639 during the Great Migration from from Uxbridge, Middlesex, England, near London, accompanying his older brothers John and William. John Knowlton, also a cordwainer, died in 1654, and left his house and land to his wife Margery. Their children were John, Abraham and Elizabeth. William’s occupation was “bricklayer,” and he died one year after John, 1655. The children of William and Elizabeth Knowlton were Mary, Thomas, William, John, Samuel, Benjamin and Joseph.
Deacon Thomas Knowlton’s first wife was named Susannah, the family name unknown. He married second, Mary Kimball, daughter of Richard and Ursulla Scott Kimball who lived until 1686, but had no children by either marriage. Consequently, the latter Knowltons in Ipswich are descendants of one of Thomas Sr.’s brothers.
Deacon Thomas Knowlton was an educated man who, well into old age, was deeply involved in the early civic affairs of the town of Ipswich. He served as constable, tithingman, committee man, and administrator of many estates. In 1688 Thomas Knowlton Sr. passed his house and land at 27 Summer St. to his grand nephew Nathaniel Knowlton (1658-1726), also a cordwainer and a deacon, in a bond with the proviso that Nathaniel and his wife care for him for the rest of his life, which they did until his death in 1692.
During the time that Deacon Thomas Knowlton was planning and carrying out provisions for his old age, he had a new house erected on the property, and it is this house that survives today. Nathaniel and his family were already living with Thomas when the bond was made. His uncle Thomas Knowlton died in 1692. As the senior Thomas Knowlton was now 80 years old, the builder of this house was probably Deacon Nathaniel Knowlton’s brother (also named Thomas Knowlton, 1662-1750), a skilled carpenter.
An ecclesiastical history of Deacon Nathaniel Knowlton of Ipswich describes him as “a man of great distinction.” Upon his death in 1726, Nathaniel’s home passed at 27 Summer St. went to his widow Deborah and youngest son David (1707-1737). Deacon Nathaniel Knowlton is buried in the Ipswich Old North Burying Ground. In 1725 Deacon Nathaniel had gift-deeded part of his property to his son Abraham (1698-1751), on which the latter built his house still standing on County Street.
- Waters, Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony
- The Hammatt Papers: Early Inhabitants of Ipswich, Massachusetts
- The Christening Records of St. Margaret Parish, Uxbridge, Middlesex, England
- Vital Records to 1850
- Records and files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts Volume 1-8
- A Sketch of the Ecclesiastical History of Ipswich
- The Will, Bond and Agreement of Deacon Thomas Knowlton dated December 5, 1688
- The Will of Deacon Nathaniel Knowlton dated July 25, 1726
- The History and Genealogy of the Knowltons of England and America by Charles H. Stocking, 1897
- Errata And Addenda to The History and Genealogy of the Knowltons by George H. Knowlton, 1903.
- Elizabeth Knowlton