Thomas Low house, Ipswich MA

42 Heartbreak Road, the Thomas and John Low house (frame before 1684)

Thomas Low Sr. was born about 1605 in Boxford, Suffolk, England. He married first, Margaret in 1630. With their young child Thomas Jr., the family is believed to have sailed to Massachusetts with the Reverend Nathaniel Rogers party in June 1636, arriving in November. They are believed to have settled in Ipswich within a year. After his wife died, he married the widow Susannah Stone Kimball in 1648.

In 1647 Low purchased from Thomas Firmin, 10 acres “lying upon the Mile Brook south west,” adjoining ten acres that had been granted him. Described as being in “Chebacco” and “Candlewood,” the land was in the area of Fellows Rd., which he later transferred to his son John. John Low exchanged 8 acres of the Fellows Rd. property “with appertances” to Joseph Fellows in 1694 for land “elsewhere,” not discernable in the deed. Joseph Goodhue and William Hubbard also made transfers to Joseph Fellows at the same time.(Deeds book 10, page 7). We haven’t found a record of when Thomas or John Low obtained the present property on Heartbreak Rd.

From Candlewood by Thomas Franklin Waters:

“The William Fellows farm was bounded on the northwest by the lot of Mr. Saltonstall….Thomas Firman had sold to Thomas Low and Edward Bragg, Oct. 27, 1647 (Ips. Deeds 1: 35) and which had been conveyed or bequeathed by Thomas to John, his son. The deed of exchange conveyed to Joseph Fellows, 8 acres, bounded southeast by the Saltonstall 40 acres and the 3 acres he had bought of Low, southwest by Mile Brook and northwest by Low’s other land in consideration of a transfer by Fellows of an 8 acre lot, farther west. (10:7).”

The oldest part of the house at 42 Heartbreak Road appears to have been built before 1684 by his youngest son John Low, a carpenter, who inherited his father’s land and “half the house.” When Thomas Low died at age 72 in 1677, his wife received only “the room that I now lay in.” This suggests an arrangement in which John may have built the house for his father Thomas, a successful malster and farmer, who would own half the new house, and John owned the other half, with the understanding that the entire house would go to John upon his father’s demise, and John would care for his mother. John’s Sr.’s older brother Deacon Thomas Low was already established in Chebacco.

This exterior of the house is an example of an early First Period home, with an overhang at the gable end, formed with molded end girts like those that are on the side of the Whipple House, further decorated with shadow-molded sheathing and applied dentils above the projecting girt. The hewn overhang may be related to the plank walling system. The saltbox extension was apparently built in the 18th Century. The arched chimney foundation, while common in the 18th Century, is found as early as 1677 in an addition the the House of Seven Gables in Salem. The house abuts a former Colonial-era brickyard. In the rear yard is a rare mounded stone and brick vault.

The existence of collar beams is significant. In his landmark studies, “Massachusetts and its First Period Buildings” (1979), Abbott Lowell Cummings wrote that of “houses with principal rafter and purlin roofs, only a dozen of the earliest retain evidence of the use of collar beams, and many are found only on the part of the roof covering the oldest section. Roof framing above a later First Period addition usually lacked collar beams. Consequently, the presence of roof collars in the Low House, Ipswich, is the primary evidence of its First Period construction, as the internal frame is now boxed.” In the nomination for the house in the National Register of Historic Places, it is noted that the overhang is located at the gable end, formed with molded end girts, further decorated with shadow-molded sheathing and applied dentils above the projecting girt.

The house wаs completely restyled during the Federalist period by George Washington Heard. The combined evidence of the very wide chimney bay, wide summer beam boxes and the overhangs at the gable ends and the roof framing make it virtually certain that the concealed structure (and possibly finish) of the rest of the house is First Period in origin.

Saltbox colonial house framing
Roof framing visible in the attic of the Thomas Low house shows how the saltbox extension was added.
Similar roof framing in the 1678 Coffin house in Newbury

The only First Period features currently viewable in the house are a single chimney post with crude chamfer and the collar beams in the attic. Chimney bay dimensions, size of summer beam boxes, steep roof pitch and overhangs at the gable end in combination also indicate First Period construction. Massive chamfered summer beams appear to have been boxed in during the 18th or early 19th Century.

Heartbreak Rd. map ipswich
On the 1832 Ipswich map, the house at 42 Heartbreak Rd. was owned by George Washington Heard, the son of John Heard and brother of Augustine Heard.
Thomas Low House, 42 Heartbreak Road, Ipswich MA
Entrance to what appears to be an 18th or 19th Century root cellar or cistern at 42 Heartbreak Rd.
Entrance to what appears to be an 18th or 19th Century root cellar or cistern at 42 Heartbreak Rd.
Root cellar at the Thomas Low house
Inside the root cellar

Thomas Low Sr.

Thomas Low Sr. came to New England with the Rogers’ party from Gravesend, England in 1636, and arrived at Ipswich in 1637. He first settled in Chebacco Parish, where he was a malster (malted grains to make beer and spirits). He is first mentioned in the records of Ipswich on April 6, 1641, when he was granted ten acres of upland at Chebacco next to his existing ten acres. It appears that late in life Thomas Low Sr. moved to this property on Heartbreak Road and lived with his wife in the house built by his son John.

The will of Thomas Low Sr. is dated 20 Apr. 1677, (Essex Probate Files 17242) and mentions wife Susanna and children John, Thomas, Margaret and Sarah and grand-children Thomas Low, Margaret Davisson, Sarah Safford and Sarah Low:

“I give & bequeath unto Susannah my Loving wife what goods she brought with her and also I give her the use of that room which I lye in & the free use of those things that are in it and also the use of one cow which she liketh best & will is that my Sonne John shall maintain it wintere & summer & also my will is that if the Cow come to any casualty hee shall find her another Cow & maintain it likewise as beforesaid.

Also I give unto my wife one-fourth part of her labor that she hath spunn both Lening & wollen & also she shall have her beere as she hath now & also free use of the fire: & also John shall reare her one Sheoate yearly for sume meate for her & also a little ground to sow half a peck of flax seede yearly. And also to give unto her thirty shillings yearly to be paid by my executor in such things as she shall stand in need of during her natural life.

Moreover I give unto my loving wife five pounds to dispose of as she shall thinke good, and my will is that in case my wife shall thinke meete to remove from my sonne John, then my will is that John Low pay or cause to be paid to her forty shillings yearly & every yeare during her natural life in such pay as she needeth. And I also give her the Cowe to be her owne & John to send the pay to Boston or CharlesTown.”

To John: “all my housing and all my lands in Ipswich, both meadow and upland, including half the house and half barn, the malt house and the things belonging to it.” Among other goods, one sword, belt, powder, and bullets.”

To son Thomas (living in Chebacco) he gave £30, to daughter Margaret £40 and to daughter Sarah £40, to be paid within two years of his death. To grandchildren Thomas Low £5, Margaret Davison £5, Sarah Safford £5, and Sarah Low £5, to be paid when they were twenty-one or on their marriage days. The estate totaled £290.11 and the residue went to his son John, executor. (Probate Records of Essex County).

In 1708 John Low Jr. and his wife Sarah Thorndike, now living in Portsmouth, sold eight acres and “the homestead of my father, John Low deceased” to his brother Thorndike Low in (36:218).

John’s Sr.’s older brother Deacon Thomas Low lived in Chebacco, where he bought land of Daniel Ringe in 1664. He married Mary Todd, and was deacon of the Chebacco church from 1679 until his death, acting as parish clerk during the absence of Rev. John Wise in the Quebec expedition under Sir William Phips. He and his wife signed the petition in favor of John Proctor and his wife, accused of witchcraft, in 1692. Deacon Thomas Low of Ipswich, maltster, made his will June 17, 1708, and it was admitted to probate May 5, 1712.


Thomas Low house, from the MACRIS site
Thomas Low house, from the MACRIS site

10 thoughts on “42 Heartbreak Road, the Thomas and John Low house (frame before 1684)”

  1. this is my 7th Great Grandfather Love any information or name of Books about them any further family information

    1. I am a direct descendant of Thomas Low Sr and his son Deacon Thomas Lowe. My father, Edward Lowe, researched our family genealogy for decades.

      1. Hi Linette. As I am also a direct descendent it would be great to get additional nformation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s