The Bull Brook Discovery

they lived in longhouses, a common building of the Iroquois Nation. Often up to 80 feet long and 20 feet wide, longhouses had openings at both ends covered with animal skins to keep out the cold. Poles were set in the ground and connected to horizontal poles on which large pieces of bark were sewn in place like shingles. Smoke from the central fire pit escaped through holes in the roof. Villages were made up of several longhouses housing multiple generations of each family.

The Agawam Indians were here at the time of European colonization and lived in villages of multiple longhouses, each up to 80 feet long and 20 feet wide and housing multiple generations of each family. This is a re-creation of a long house at Cuvilly School on Jeffreys Neck Road.

Native Americans began moving into New England after the retreat of the Wisconsin Glacier, around 12,000 BC. Artifacts discovered at Great Neck and along the riverbanks have been identified as belonging to the later Archaic period (8000-5000 years ago) and the Woodland period (2000 years ago). Evidence of a 3000-year old village was discovered along the Merrimack River in West Newbury.

Native Americans grouped in tribes and moved seasonally for agriculture, fishing and hunting. By the 1500′s, all of the many New England tribes shared the Algonquian language, with varying dialects, but they did not develop a written language. Within a century of the arrival of European settlers, our American Indian predecessors and almost all evidence of their existence had vanished.

In September 1882, Mr. I. J. Potter of the Ipswich Chronicle discovered a 100′ x 60′ shell heap on Perkins (Treadwell’s) Island that had never been disturbed. Its contents included crude stone points and knives, and human bones broken in a manner that suggested ritual cannibalism.

Gravel and sand excavation at the end of Paradise Road in Ipswich uncovered the oldest Paleo-Indian site in American, known today as the Bull Brook Site.

At about the same time, behind what is now Lane’s Farm on High Street, a plowshare uncovered a cache of forty finely-fashioned stone spearheads. A half mile behind that site, in the early 1950′s, a group of young amateur archeologists men now known as the “Bull Brook Boys” discovered one of the largest Paleo-Indian sites in North America along the banks of Bull Brook and the Egypt River in an area being cleared for a sand and gravel operation. Over 6,000 artifacts were uncovered in a large circle about the size of four football fields, and are on display at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. Two more discoveries were made in the late 1960′s, but the site is now a gravel pit.

The “Bull Brook Boys” William Eldridge and Joseph Vacaro

Radiocarbon dating at Bull Brook places the settlement at around 10 – 11,000 years ago, during or just after the cold Younger Dryas period. Glaciers had receded from the North Shore area but sea level was still low enough that the Bull Brook site would have been about ten miles from the coast. Calcified remains of caribou and the constricted valley of the Eagle River suggest that the location may have been ideal for drive-hunting.

New discoveries at a Central Texas archaeological site by a Texas A&M University-led research team prove that people lived in the region far earlier – as much as 2,500 years earlier – than previously believed, rewriting what anthropologists know about when the first inhabitants arrived in North America. That pushes the arrival date back to about 15,500 years ago.Read more at:

While new discoveries in central Texas push the arrival date of Paleoindians back to over 15,00 years ago, the Bull Brook site provides some of  the oldest physical evidence for large-scale Paleoindian gatherings in North America.

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Luther Wait, the Postmaster

Luther Wait House, East Street Ipswich MA

The Luther Wait house on East Street

The small yellow house at 35 East Street was built about 1810. It was once the Essex County jailor’s house, but is better known as the home of Luther Wait (1841-1924), who served two terms as postmaster.

Luther Wait’s formal education ended at age 12. As a young man he fished off of George’s Bank in the summer and repaired shoes in the winter. He and a large number of young Ipswich men enlisted to fight in the Civil War. Wait served on several town boards including the school committee and as town assessor.

Luther Wait, second from the right on the second row, worked at Daniel’s Shoe shop on County Street during the winters.

Wait was appointed postmaster in 1890 but relinquished the position in 1894 and joined tens of thousands in northwestern Canada looking to strike it rich during the Klondike Gold Rush. He returned to town, probably empty-handed, and resumed his appointment as postmaster from 1902 – 1914.

Luther Wait and his wife Elizabeth Heard Lord are buried at Locust Grove Cemetery. Photos of Luther Wait standing in the two previous locations of the Ipswich Post Office are shown below.

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Mason’s Claim

Early political cartoon showing Mason and Gorges dividing up a map of New England.

The spring of 1683 brought an issue of great concern for the residents of Ipswich. If an ancient claim was confirmed in Boston court, every land title would be worthless and a landed medieval system known as “quit-rents” could be grafted upon New England.

In 1622 Capt. John Mason had obtained title to all land between the Naumkeag and Merrimack Rivers (Salem to Newburyport) as a principal partner in a stock company known as the Plymouth Council for New England. The company charter was surrendered in 1635 with the condition that the land be divided among its members, primarily Mason and Sir Ferdinando Gorges, founder of the “Province of Maine.” Neither man ever set foot in America.

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Ipswich First Period Houses

Ipswich, Massachusetts has 59 houses that were constructed or begun in the First Period (1625- 1725) of English settlement.

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Women build a Meeting House


This photo is from a barn-raising in an Amish community in the 1800′s, but the practice of an entire community coming out to frame a church building in a day was common in early New England.

In 17th Century New England,  the church was the center of government. Chebacco was the section of Ipswich that is now Essex, and its inhabitants were expected to make the ten-mile round trip every Sabbath, Lecture Day, Training Day or Town Meeting day to the Meeting House in Ipswich.

Chebacco residents petitioned the town of Ipswich in 1677 that they be allowed to build their own meeting house, and after considerable delay, Ipswich leaders answered that the Chebacco residents were free to do so as long as they continued to tithe to the Ipswich church. Undeterred, Chebacco folks started meeting in private homes and asked the Rev. Jeremiah Shepard to join them. The Ipswich church ordered him to stop preaching, and the Rev. Shepard found a less controversial appointment as the pastor at Lynn.

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“Wording it over the sheep”

sheepSamuel Hunt came to Ipswich after arriving with his Puritan parents in New England at the age of four in 1636. For 200 years what we call Great Cove downstream from  the County Street Bridge was known as “Hunt’s Cove”.

Samuel often had words with his neighbor John Lee Sr. over the handling of cattle and sheep, and in 1668 the two landed in court for disturbing the peace. Both, feeling entirely justified, would not admit to any wrong.

Great Cove was once called “Hunt’s Cove”

A witness testified that John’s son Joseph hit Samuel with a club as they “were wording it over the sheep” and that Samuel took Joseph by the collar and tripped him up. At this point John Sr. appeared with a pitchfork and struck Samuel twice. If the younger John Lee  hadn’t interfered, Samuel would have been killed.

Another person testified that he heard Samuel Hunt had said he had pulled the hair from Joseph Lee’s head.  In response, Samuel owned that he had and added, “had it not been for the old man, I would have pulled them all out!” The three fighters were fined and bound to good behavior. Four months later they were released from the bonds apparently having behaved themselves. Read the entire story by Louella Jones Downard

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Paying the Pastor

Rev. David Kimball’s home, still standing at Meeting House Green

From Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony:

In 1806 Rev. David Tenney Kimball, a graduate of Harvard in the class of 1803, was introduced to the people of the First Church of Ipswich as pastor. The church oversight committee recommended that the Parish offer Rev. Kimball the sum of $600.00 /year, to be regulated according to the price of the necessaries of life, and to rise and fall according to the price of said necessities. In case of his being unable by the Providence of God to perform said duties & services that sum to be reduced to four hundred dollars.  It was agreed by the Parties that the said Salary is always to be paid in Cash. The committee and Rev. Kimball agreed on the following articles and prices:

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The defiant Samuel Appleton

The Reverend John Wise and Major Samuel Appleton gathered with other Ipswich men to organize opposition to taxes imposed by Sir Edmund Andros.

Image from the Ipswich Post Office Mural portrays Reverend John Wise and Major Samuel Appleton gathered with other Ipswich men in 1687 in opposition to taxes imposed by Sir Edmund Andros.

On April 18, 1689 leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony reclaimed control of the government from the crown-appointed governor, Sir Edmund Andros. Major Samuel Appleton of Ipswich was given the honor of handing Andros into the boat which conveyed him to prison on Castle Island in Boston Harbor, and was appointed to serve on the new ruling council.

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