Benjamin Ellsworth was appointed keeper of the Ipswich Lighthouse by Abraham Lincoln in 1861 and remained in the post until his death in 1902. His daughter Susan lived with him and also tended to the light. The last keeper was LeRoy Lane, who lived at the station with his wife, Angie (Harris) Lane and their […]


On the cold icy morning of December 13, 1774, Paul Revere headed out on a 60 mile gallop along the Old Bay Road to warn the citizens of Portsmouth that British troops may be landing. Revere passed through Ipswich before noon, and arrived in Portsmouth about 4 pm, where he called on the members of the Portsmouth Council […]

The Ipswich Depot

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. The stagecoach era ended abruptly when the Salem tunnel opened, […]

publik notice

In 1659, a law was passed by the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony, imposing a five-shilling fine on any persons found  “observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way.” With its “story book” downtown, Ipswich would seem like the natural setting for a colonial-era […]


Christmas 1909 witnessed the heaviest storm in many years and is known by sailors on the Atlantic Coast as one of the most fateful days in the history of these waters. The “Great Christmas Snowstorm” struck the North Atlantic States hard as far south as Maryland. Philadelphia had 21 inches in 23 hours. The storm did […]

(This article was written by Paul McGinley and was published in the Ipswich Chronicle on June 6, 1991. It was modified  and updated for this post by Gordon Harris.) While High street was one of the town’s very earliest streets, laid out in 1634, Manning Street is relatively young. It was built in 1882 and is […]


Nathaniel Shatswell was born on Nov. 26, 1834  and grew up in the historic Shatswell home on High Street, built in 1690 and still standing, behind Dunkin Donuts. During the Civil War, he  was instrumental in forming the Ipswich companies, and rose to the rank of colonel. In the spring of 1861, Company A and L of […]


A new clothing store recently opened up in the old  building at 31 South Main Street, and I decided to research its history. Ownership of the property can be traced back to Isaac Fitts, a hatter, who petitioned for forty feet on the River bank in 1726, that he might set a dwelling thereon. The building […]


Seventy years ago, Life Magazine photographer Walter Sanders provided an unusual photo shoot at the Whipple House in Ipswich, featured  in an October 1944 LIFE Magazine. This was a titillating distraction for soldiers on the front, placed at the end of a publication featuring recent developments in the war.

Calvin Locke's Folly is on County Road facing the South Green

The House at 68 County Road was built in 1836 by Calvin Locke. Locke was an overseer in Augustine Heard’s lace factory, the Ipswich Manufacturing Company, which incorporated in 1828, but due to financial difficulties was sold to Dane Manufacturing in 1846. The size of the house and the tall Greek columns on the front exceeded Mr. […]

The Willcomb house on East Street

The Stanwood – Willcomb House at the corner of County Street and East Street was built in 1830. Stephen Stanwood erected the building for a wool – pulling (fulling) mill, a cleaning process which makes wool thicker. The sheep grazed on the bare hills above East and High Streets, where there were no trees other […]

Townspeople bowed to the aristocratic Dr. Berry when he passed by in his “chariot” with his long scarlet cloak waving in the wind.

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 […]

Puritan punishment  being re-enacted at the old First Church during the Ipswich 300th anniversary celebration, 1934.

As the young boys who arrived with the first settlers of Ipswich approached adulthood in the mid-17th Century, they developed a fondness for hard liquor and rowdiness, which frequently landed in court. The words of accusers, witnesses and defendants in the Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County provide a bizarre but most entertaining narrative. Mark Quilter: drunkard, temperamental, and a victim […]


In 1821, the Annisquam woods was the scene of a murder. Gorham Parsons, while chopping wood, struck and instantly killed a boy of 10 years, named Eben Davis, the act being done with a hatchet. The boy had given offense by singing a song. After committing the deed Parsons took the boy on his back […]

Northern Boulevard on Plum Island, 1940's

Thanks to the Historic Plum Island Facebook page for sharing a 1940’s photo of Northern Boulevard. I added a Google Maps view of the same spot more than a half century later.


The History of the town and city of Gloucester, Cape Ann, Massachusetts was written by James Pringle in 1892 and is online at FRONT PAGE CHAPTER I, Norsemen and other travelers, page 9 CHAPTER II. Cape Ann Visited by the Chevalier Champlain in 1606, page 14 CHAPTER III. Foundation of the Massachusetts Colony, page 18 […]

A typical sloop from the Colonial era, often commandeered by pirates.

John Fillmore was born in Ipswich in 1702, the son of mariner John Fillmore Sr. who died at sea in 1711.  His widowed mother was Abigail Tilton, whose two brothers Jacob and Daniel famously overcame and killed several Indians who took them hostage after boarding their fishing schooner in 1722. After sailing the ship back to Ipswich, their story was published as […]


In 1972 Harold Bowen was asked to write a column for a newspaper called “Ipswich Today”. Harold wrote the columns for about ten years. Tales of Olde Ipswich was republished in three volumes. Below are some of the stories–(thanks to Bruce Lord for the web pages.) Churches Burning of the Old North Church The Red […]

The Ipswich Mills Tearoom on South Main Street, across from the Visitor Center

Madeline Linehan operated the Ipswich Mills Tea House in the former Ipswich Mills boarding house at 57 Main Street. The Tea House was popular with tourists who came there to hear about the history of the town. Mrs. Linehan, who lived in the “Philomen Dean house” next door, was a noted home economist and a graduate of […]

Hannah Duston, painting by Junius Brutus Stearns

Hannah Duston of Haverhill was born in Ipswich on High Street in 1657 while her mother was visiting her relatives the Shatswells. In 1879, a bronze statue of Hannah Duston was created by Calvin Weeks in Haverhill in Grand Army Park, honoring her escape from Abanaki captors.  The following are excerpts from a post on Rootsweb. On March 14, 1697 […]


The oldest section of the Tuttle – Lord – Shatswell house at 88 High Street in Ipswich is believed to have been built by 1690 by John Shatswell who immigrated to Ipswich MA in 1633.  He was granted this piece of land and built his original house near the existing one. John Shatswell’s son Richard married his next […]


“A&P” was written by John Updike in 1961 when he lived on East Street and worked above what is now the Choate Bridge Pub. It appeared in The New Yorker on July 22, 1961. The location is the A&P store that was on Market Street. The store later opened in the building at Lords Square […]

Seaside Goldenrod
Rev. Nathaniel Rogers was pastor of the First Church and died in 1775.

The following photos are graves from the Old North Burial Ground in Ipswich, and houses or other places associated with those persons. A complete list of burials is in the book Memento Mori, published by the Ipswich Historical Society in 1935. To view thumbnails and a full screen slideshow, click here, or download as Powerpoint


John Gee, a fisherman from Boston, arrived in Martha’s Vineyard in 1661. Gee was lost at sea on Dec. 27, 1669, a sad Christmas surprise for his wife and five children. He left a 35-year-old widow bearing the extraordinary name of Haselelponah, a scriptural name meaning “A shadow falls upon me.” The name occurs just once in the […]


A series of earthquakes in the early 18th Century gave rise to recurrences of religiosity in Ipswich. On October 29, 1727 a severe earthquake occurred on a Sabbath night between ten and eleven o’clock. People became so frightened that a very powerful revival of religion followed in the Ipswich parishes and throughout New England. An urgent demand for reformation among the churchgoers […]


Sightings of the giant squid or “Kraken” have been reported for centuries but the creature was long considered to be mythological. In the 18th Century, Erik Pontoppidan, bishop of Bergen in his book “The Natural History of Norway” claimed that the kraken was sometimes mistaken for an island and that ships could be sunk by the whirlpool left in […]


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.” Many people in Salem supposed them to be demons or spirits. […]