Thomas Ellsworth, Ipswich Civil War hero

thomas_ellsworthCaptain Thomas Foulds Ellsworth was one of four soldiers who earned the Medal of Honor for heroism during the battle at Honey Hill, South Carolina, on November 30, 1864. Under a heavy fire he carried his wounded commanding officer, who had become trapped under his horse, saving his life and preventing him from being captured. .

Ellsworth was selected to serve as an officer of a company in one of the first regiments made up of “colored soldiers” in the Union Army, the Massachusetts 55th infantry, which along with the 54th Infantry was referred to as the ‘overflow unit’ for the infamous 54th of “Glory’ fame.

Brig. Gen, A. S. Hartwell was rescued by Captain Ellsworth, the act for which the medal was awarded. He later wrote a letter Ellsworth (partially copied below):

“Concerning your leaving the service for disability incurred in the line of duty, I desire, with my wishes for your future and my thanks for your valuable services. Since you left the ranks of the 2d Massachusetts infantry, and, with a fine name for bravery and good conduct entered the 552nd infantry as a second lieutenant,you have faithfully discharged every duty, and in addition to your regular promotion, have been promoted out of order for gallant and meritorious conduct in battle. It is impossible to express the gratitude I feel to you for doing what few men would, or could do for another, and for saving me, at the least, from being left to the rebels- I am deeply thankful that my safety was not bought at the cost of life or limb to you.  I remember your words when I said something to you about leaving me: `I will die first.’ I thought then you would, but I saw from your looks there was no use in arguing the point.”

After the war, Ellsworth worked as an officer of the Boston Custom House. In the 1890s, he moved to Pasadena, California where he and his son ran a contracting business. The Medal of Honor was awarded to Ellsworth in 1895.

Thomas Fouls Ellsworth was born in Ipswich on November 12, 1840. He was the son of Benjamin Noyes Ellsworth (1812-1902) and Laura Ann Titus. Benjamin Ellsworth was appointed the lighthouse keeper by Abraham Lincoln and served in that post for over 40 years. Ellsworth grew up in the lightkeeper’s house. In another incident during the Civil war in which a volunteer was needed to manage a dangerous river crossing, Ellsworth’s fellow soldiers called out, “Ellsworth can do it– he was born in a boat!”

Read more about this story, posted by Melissa Berry and Laurie Short Jarvis at AnceSTORY Archives

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to


Rank and Organization: Captain, Company B, Massachusetts Infantry.
Place and Date: At Honey Hill, S.C., 30 November 1864.
Birth:, Mass.
Date of Issue: 18 November 1895.
Citation: Under a heavy fire carried his wounded commanding officer from the field.

Posted in All | Leave a comment

Ipswich adopts Architectural Preservation District

Historic houses on High Street in Ipswich MA

Historic houses on High Street  are now protected through the APD

A Warrant article for the 2014 Fall Town Meeting on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 established an Architectural Preservation District (APD) for the most historic areas of the town.

TheAPD encompasses an area roughly defined as 220 acres beginning at the South Green, continuing along the river to the Town Wharf, East and High Streets to the High Street Bridge, North Main Street and Meeting House Green.

Map of proposed Architectural Preservation District. he current draft encompasses an area roughly defined as 223 acres beginning at South Green, continuing along the river to the Town Wharf, East and High Streets to the High Street Bridge, North Main Street and Meeting House Green.

Map of proposed Architectural Preservation District

View the APD article from the 2014 Fall Town Meeting warrant . (Note: references to landscape were deleted. The wording of the enforcement clause was also deleted and will be added at the next town meeting.

The bylaw exempts many home improvements, such as painting, installation/ replacement of storm/screen windows, removal/replacement of window and door shutters, and all interior alterations, from any consideration by the APD Commission.

The bylaw will require property owners to appear before the Commission and obtain their approval only in the following three instances:

  • Demolition of a building constructed between 1634 and 1900.
  • Construction of a new building or substantial addition to an existing building.
  • Substantial exterior alteration to a building constructed prior to 1900. (Substantial alteration is defined by the bylaw as an alteration to a building’s exterior which bears a cost that equals or exceeds 50% of the market value of the structure prior to renovation, or which significantly changes the shape, height and proportions, or scale of the building, and/or its relationship to surrounding structures.
Posted in All, Architecture, Preservation | Leave a comment

Haunted houses of Ipswich

Ghost Stories

The Jonathan Pulcifer house on Summer Street in Ipswich, built in 1718

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 an old article about him when he was a younger man. Something drew his attention to the head of the stairs, and there was the ghostly form of an old woman, staring back at him!

The Jabesh Sweet house on Water Street, built in 1713

People used to say that the ghost of Harry Maine haunted the house that once sat where the garage now stands at the “Jabesh Sweet” house at 32 Water Street. All the ministers of the Town assembled there one day and prayed, and the uncanny doings ceased. Harry Maine was a pirate who ran with a gang of outlaws called “wreckers.” They would build bonfires on the beach to lure ships to the shore at night, then plunder their wrecked ships. Legend says that as punishment Harry was chained to the Ipswich Bar and forced to shovel sand for eternity. When waves crashed over the Ipswich sand bar during storms, locals would say “The Devil is raising Old Harry”.

The “Wainwright-Treadwell” house on East Street, owned by Bill and Janet Craft, built in 1727.

I asked the “I Grew up in Ipswich” Facebook group if they knew of other haunted houses in Ipswich, and several people mentioned Bill and Janet Craft’s home, the “Wainwright-Treadwell house” on East Street. Catie Gallant-Como says she’s heard many ghosts stories from the house. An old story is told of a beautiful young Treadwell daughter who saw the ghost of her deceased evil sister in the well, and died of fright. Bill and Janet were careful not to frighten their kids with the stories, but a couple of odd things happened anyway. Soon after moving in, a lamp fell off a table in the “haunted room” in the middle of the night. They learned that this was apparently a tradition for new owners of the house! Their young son came into the kitchen one day and asked why there was a bloody skeleton lying on the floor in the front room by the fireplace!

Chuck Amerio recalls seeing ghosts at several places, “Yes the Craft house. Also there’s the old Johnson house across the street from my Grandfather’s house on East Street where an old captain kept his mentally challenged daughter in the attic. My sister and I both saw her.”

The Widow Fuller house on Summer Street, built in 1725.

Lynne Stevens commented, “Small world! I was chatting with a customer last night up here in NH and we got on this subject. He says he lived in the Widow Fuller house on Summer Street in the 80’s. He had some pretty spooky stories about ghosts in that house!

Susan Como Swoboda tells us that the house she was raised in on Ryan Avenue was haunted. “After we moved they were actually seen! I wanted to see them!” Shelly Higgins Mandel also says, “My old house on Ryan Ave!!!!” Gail Horsman Lull tells us that Mrs. Rice at Turner Hill has been seen many times!

Vance Auclair’s house on Sawyer Street

Colleen Kelley Sweeney told me to ask Vance, Richard or Robert Auclair about the house they lived in not far from the wharf. Sally Hulbert Arledge confirmed that “Vance’s old house on Sawyer Street was haunted, as well as the “barn” that was down the road. Richard E. Auclair Sr. also confirmed the haunting: “I lived in a haunted house on Sawyer Street, and I can tell you a few stories!”

The Treadwell – Hale house on North Main Street in Ipswich, built in 1769

Dale Spaulding witnessed a ghost at Donald Oakes’ old home, the Treadwell-Hale house on North Main Street: “She whispered by the top of the stairs back and forth towards the rear bedroom – I saw this many times- scared me half to death at first, but got used to her!” Donald says he never saw the ghost, but many people did!

Bob Kay says, “The little gift shop next to the police station is haunted.”

The Richards house at 8 Kimball Avenue was moved to this location from Lords Square in 1940

Jane Moon Madden says, “Call me crazy but we lived in a house at 8 Kimball Avenue and I am sure we had a tall man who used to pull the blankets off my oldest daughter. She keep saying it was the tall man with the hat on. Every night it was the same thing. I thought she was kicking them off until I saw it happen with my own eyes. Never anything violent, just play stuff. Doors that were latched opening up!” This is the old Richards House that once sat at Lords Square. In 1940 the home was moved over the High Street bridge to this location and Mutual built a new service station which now houses Tick’s Auto Service. Bonnie Burns Giangrande also experienced  hauntings while babysitting for Jane’s daughter and two other families who also lived in the house. She says the hauntings always happened in the attic. Dina Chiappini experienced these occurrences with her, and “we would never sit alone in that house!” Valerie Frederick and Linda Harrington both lived in the house and said they never saw anything ghostly.

The William Spiller house on High Street just past the Clam Box, built on or before 1860

Bonnie Burns Giangrande tells me that a ghost haunts the William Spiller house just north of the Clam Box on Rt. 1A at 248 High Street. Tim Gillette’s psychic friend told him that she once felt oddly drawn to a corner of the basement,  where she uncovered a small box buried in the ground with personal items. Valerie Frederick adds, “My family lived in the Spiller house for years, and yes there are ghosts there. Weird things use to happen. My grandmother never believed my dad until the time she got up in the middle of the night and saw something going across from one room to another.”

The Poly Dole house on East Street was built in 1720 and is where John Updike lived for a decade.

Robbin L Muise commented, “I have stories about the Polly Dole house. Haunted? Yes, indeed! There is a woman in white that only stays upstairs. My Mom (who’s clairvoyant) saw a Patriot soldier walk down the stairs and into the living room. I used to hear whispering all the time upstairs. Most importantly though, my son’s room (which is the smallest bedroom next to the bathroom) was the habitation of a young girl appoximately 12-14 yrs. old. She had blond braided hair, in Victorian garb (High collared white blouse that buttoned down the back, long skirt, and shoes that laced up. She would frequent his Lazy boy, or sit on the end of his bed. Also, I used to stand at the top of the stairs and sang (for the acoustics were awesome). One day, I’m singing, and a loud stomp of a boot sounded right behind me. Needless to say, I stopped singing and booked it down stairs, lol. That was the only time I was scared. It’s a great old house.”
Pam Foley Hiner says, “The two houses I lived in were both haunted. The Oleks’ house on Green Street, and the house on High Street. I saw ghosts in both places. A lot of old houses, a lot of ghosts!”

The Aaron Jewett house on upper High Street, built in 1780

Margot Fisher Sherwood heard ghost stories about the “brown saltbox on outer High Street” where the Stevens used to live, just before the Rowley line. This is the “Aaron Jewett House“. Joe Prosser agrees: “The Stevens house definitely has a ghost. I stayed there many times since our families were close friends. I remember locking the attic door myself and getting up in the night and seeing it open and then close by itself. It was a friendly ghost! I Love that house!

The Corporal John Foster House, corner of Linebrook Road and Rt. 1 was built in 1790.

Jeff Bourgeois says, “I think that old brown house at Linebrook Road and Route 1 (The John Foster House) is haunted. I swear I saw someone in the window with the white curtains.” The story of the John Foster house was told as an entertaining story by travelers far and wide: “His title was corporal, his trade blacksmith, his business landlord and his sign read: ” I shoe the horse, I shoe the ox, I carry the nails in my box, I make the nail, I set the shoe And entertain some strangers too.” At times he would not reply when questioned unless addressed by his title. He was as obliging and generous as he was eccentric.”

The Sherborne Wilson – Samuel Appleton house on South Main Street was built in 1685.

JoAnn Wentworth wrote that the Sherborne Wilson-Samuel Appleton house on South Main Street next to the Choate Bridge is haunted. “I lived in one of the front appartments and Sarah Appleton was very active to both myself and my neighbors across the hall. There were rocking chairs rocking, lights on and off,and once via Ouija board she told us she died of a “crag”….one definition I found was describing a respiratory infection.

The Captain McMahon house at the corner of Turkey Shore and Labor in Vain Roads

A sea captain named McMahon built the large late 3rd Period (Federal era) house at 2 Labor in Vain Road on the corner with Turkey Shore Road in 1832.  Some people say the house is haunted.

In 1969 the Ipswich police received a call about a domestic dispute between a couple residing at 5 Spring Street. As they ascended the stairs to the second floor apartment where the couple had been arguing, they were met by a barrage of bullets from the man, who barely missed them.

The “Henderson” house at 5 Spring Street in Ipswich, site of a shootout with the police in 1969.

A shootout ensued, but the shooter finally was finally removed from the home, sent to the State Hospital, and no one was seriously injured. The man apparently had mental health and alcohol problems, and is no longer living. Heather Titilah Vieira lived in the house later and felt that it was haunted. “I always heard noises  along the side of the house facing #3, rapping noises, thumping noises, creaks on the inside stairs. – we’d look out the door and windows to see if someone was there and never saw anyone!”

Posted in All, Houses, Stories | 1 Comment

The old grain elevator

wirthmoreBeing a carpenter by trade, I often find myself in the old Wirthmore Feeds grain elevator at Tedfords Lumber, which is where they vertically store finish lumber.

The building had a long history of use by several businesses for grain storage including Wirthmore Feeds, William G. Horton, C.M. Jewett @ Co., and Chaplain’s Grain Storage. It was moved from its original location near the Town Wharf and the top section was added at the new location at Brown Square. It also survived a monstrous fire that destroyed Canney Lumber and the Burke Heel Factory fire in June of 1933.

Credit for several of the black and white photos below goes to William G. Varrell and his books “Ipswich” and “Ipswich Revisited.”

The silo at Tedfords Lumber on Brown Square

The old grain elevator at Tedfords Lumber on Brown Square

This system of pulleys was used to transport grain and flour in the building

This system of pulleys was used to transport grain and flour in the building

The silo is in the upper left corner in this old photo, with the Burke Heel Factory in the background.

The grain elevator is in the upper left corner in this old photo, with the Burke Heel Factory in the background.


The grain elevator was known as William G. Horton Grain, Flower and Feed in the 1930’s. Between it and the Burke Heel Factory was Canney Lumber, which was destroyed in the 1933 fire. The grain elevator was apparently unharmed.

BIOGRAPHY OF WILLIAM G. HORTON— To the rural interests in the vicinity of Ipswich, Massachusetts, the name of William G. Horton stands, in a business sense, for supplies of a high quality which meet the requirements of the agriculturist and stock grower.

Mr. Horton was born in Ipswich on January 14, 1857, and is a son of Joseph and Lucy (Robinson) Horton. He received a thorough grounding in the essentials of  education at the public schools of the town, then, when a very young lad, even before leaving school, worked as a helper around the farm. Continuing thus until seventeen years of age, he then branched out for himself in an independent business along the line of hay and grain. Beginning in a small way, he developed the business and broadened its scope until for years he has been one of the leaders in this field of mercantile endeavor, taking care of many of the needs of the farmer, including fertilizers and seeds, farming tools of various kinds and the supplies always in demand by poultrymen.

While interested in every phase of public progress, Mr. Horton takes an active part in few matters outside his business, but has for a number of years been a director of the Ipswich Savings Bank. He is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and attends the South Congregational Church. Mr. Horton married Caroline Burnham, daughter of Foster and Helen Burnham.

Jewett and Co also used the building as a grain silo.

C.M. Jewett and Co  preceded William g. Horton in using the building as a grain silo. A chute on the back of the building loaded grain directly from railroad cars seen in the background on the left.

The Wirthmore Feeds grain  elevator was originally located at Choate's Wharf, and was moved through town to Brown Square to become Chaplin's grain storage.

The grain elevator was originally located near the Edward M. Choate shipbuilding yard at “Roger’s Point”off of Agawam Avenue, and is the tall three-story building in this photo taken from near the Green Street bridge., with the Newmarch-Spiller house to the left of it. Some time before the Twentieth Century the building was moved through town to  a location near the tracks at Brown Square and was converted to become Chaplin’s grain storage.

Posted in All, History | Leave a comment