Over Three Hundred & Fifty Years of Ipswich History was compiled for the 350th Anniversary Committee of the Town of Ipswich Massachusetts in 1984. The authors were Elizabeth H. Newton, Alice Keenan and Mary P. Conley; it was revised by Lee and William Nelson and reprinted in 2001.
This history to honor our 350th anniversary began as an attempt to present a listing of the important dates in Ipswich’s three and a half centuries of existence. However, as we set to work, we found that so many of the bare-bones dates needed explanations that the project grew beyond our original objectives and the time allotted for its completion. Now, in its simple format, we hope that our history will serve as a handy reference work.
Heeding the well-known admonition that a committee cannot write a book, we decided that each author should work in her field of experience. Thus, Elizabeth Newton has contributed the history of the 17th Century; Alice Keenan and Mary Conley collaborated on the 18th Century; Alice Keenan produced the voluminous facts covering the 19th Century; and Mary Conley struggled to record only the salient facts of the 20th. If you find your favorite date and fact missing, please know that making choices was very difficult.
We would like to acknowledge with appreciation the assistance given us by Lovell Thompson in publishing, by Faith Bryan in researching, and by Sharon Josephson in typing.
Traces of inhabitants in the Ipswich area ten thousand years ago have been found in the vicinity of Bull Brook near the end of Paradise Road. Later Indian sites include Eagle Hill, Jeffreys’ Neck, Castle Hill in areas adjoining rivers, creeks and beaches. Agawam, which has been variously translated as “resort for fish of passage” and “fresh meadows,” lay between the Merrimac and North Rivers. Inhabitants confronted by Massachusetts Bay colonists were of the Algonquin linguistic family, as were most of the natives of what is now New England. Masconomet was the Sachem of Agawam with whom the colonists dealt.
In 1614 Captain John Smith’s book about his voyages along these shores was published. Of Agawam he said “here are many rising hills: and on their tops and descents many corn-fields and delightful groves”. About 1617 a white man’s disease, possibly smallpox or measles, almost exterminated the Indians in the area. When Massachusetts Bay colonists arrived Indians offered little opposition to their settlement.
There were scattered settlements by “adventurers” before the arrival of the Massachusetts Bay Company with its charter. William Jeffreys operated a successful hunting and fishing operation near the mouth of the river for some years and was immediately asked to leave by the new arrivals. Colony records for 1630 say “a warrant shall presently be sent to Aggawaam to command those that are planted there forthwith to come away”. Jeffreys retreated but left his name at Jeffreys Neck and on Jeffreys Neck Road.
1630 – 1692 The Town is founded and flourishes as one of the leading towns of the Colony
1700 – 1800 The Town gives its wealth and manpower to fighting the long French and Indian Wars, then staunchly supports the War for Independence and the founding of the Nation.
1800 – 1850 The Town is plunged into mourning when George Washington dies in December. Mourning bands are worn, pictures are draped, and the town observes a long period of “solemn observances”. The Town, having lost Hamilton in 1793 and Essex in 1819, is beset by economic troubles.
1850 – 1900 Ipswich endures the ordeal of sending 350 men to the Civil War, but comes into more prosperous times with the commencement and expansion of the Ipswich Hosiery Mills.
1900 – 1950 The Town confronts the problems of War, Depression, and Governmental Reform
1950 – 1975 Growth, Social and Environmental Change.
1975 – 2000 Ipswich continues into the Modern Age while protecting its historic and natural resources.
Read also: History of the Ipswich Public Schools
View also: History category at Stories from Ipswich