Ipswich Massachusetts, 1890

Ipswich is a pleasant seaboard town in Essex County, 27 miles northeast of Boston by the Eastern Division of the Boston and Maine Railroad. It is of triangular form, with the base on the sea. Rowley lies on the northwest, Gloucester, Essex, Hamilton and Topsfield on the south, and Boxford on the west.

Its extreme length, on a straight east and west line, is very near 10 miles, and its width on the sea about 6 miles. The assessed area is 15,290 acres; of which, 1,314 acres are woodland.

Ipswich River forms a part of the southern line; so also does Miles River farther east, then enters the Ipswich. The latter continues northeastward through the midst of the town to Plum Island River coming down from the north; the two forming Ipswich Harbor. The chief channel of this passes between Castle Neck in Ipswich, on the south, and Plum Island Bar on the north. The Ipswich is navigable for small vessels to the grain-mill, some two miles up the river. Castle Neck River also forms a part of the southern boundary line. Between Ipswich inner harbor and Plum Island River is Great Neck. North of this are four marshy islands, the northernmost of which is named " Holy Island." Bull and Muddy brooks run from the central part northeastward to Rowley River, which forms the eastern half of the northern line of the town. At the western angle Prichard's Pond adds its attractions to the scenery. There are nearly 4,009 acres of salt marshes and several fresh of small extent, yielding considerable crops of salt hay and of cranberries. The surface of the town is somewhat diversified by hills, -- none of which, however, are of much altitude, though several afford wide views. On the southwest side are Bear, Turner's and Scott's hills; about the centre are Bush, Turkey and Town hills; north of the centre, on the border. is Jewett's Hill; at the east, on Great Neck, is North Ridge; and in the south-east are Heartbreak and Tilton hills, -- the last a station of the State Survey.

The geological formation of the town is sienite and trap, large masses of which are visible near the central village. The soil is favorable to fruit-growing; and has about 25,000 fruit trees; the product of these, with the berries and nuts, having, in the last census year, the value of $12,068. The value of the entire farm product was $243,905. The manufacture of hosiery and of boots and shoes and dress trimmings is quite extensive, employing about 1,000 persons. The value of the textiles made is given as $660,195; and of the boots and shoes, $138,649. There are also manufactured artisans' tools and other metallic goods, carriages, leather, glue, boxes, bricks and various domestic articles and food preparations. The aggregate value of goods made in the census year of 1885 was $1,018,532. The fisheries (consisting chiefly of clams and lobsters) yielded $21,784. The savings bank, at the close of last year, had deposits to the amount of $325,968. The number of dwelling-houses in 1888 was 780. The valuation of the town in the same year was $2,283,250; with a tax-rate of $13 on $1,000. The population was 4,207; of whom 1,016 were legal voters.

There are a good town-hall and a public library building which cost $20,000, containing upwards of 10,000 volumes. The Manning School Library contains about 600 volumes. The public schools have a fund of about $50,000. They include all the grades, and occupy ten buildings valued at upwards of $25,000. Ipswich, the central and chief village, railway station and the town post-office, is compactly built, and presents an air of quietness and comfort. On the right bank of the river stands a Congregational church, quite near the site of the first one erected in the town. On the left bank, on rising ground, are an American Episcopal, a Methodist Episcopal, and another Congregational church. A Roman Catholic church (Saint Joseph's) is also in this place. At Linebrook, in the western part of the town, is still another Congregational church. This village was the original seat of the Howe family of Ipswich.

The Indian name of the town territory was Agawam, signifying a " fishing station." This place is supposed to be the first spot in Essex County visited by a white man. As early as 1611, Captain Edward Harlie and Nicholas Hobson came to Agawam, and were kindly entertained by the Indians. Three years later, Captain John Smith thus describes it : " Here are many rising hills; and on their tops and descents are many cornefields and delightful groues. On the east is an isle of two or three leagues in length, the one-halfe plaine marish ground, fit for pasture or salt ponds, with many fair high groues of mulberry-trees. There are also okes, pines, walnuts and other wood, to make this place an excellent habitation."

John Winthrop, junior, with twelve others, began the settlement in March, 1633; and the town was incorporated August 5, 1634, under its present name, from the town so called in Suffolk County, England. This company of freemen, designated "Commoners," granted lots to those who wished them for settlement. In 1788, the Commoners made a grant of all their personal and real property to the town for the purpose of paying its debts. A grist-mill was built in 1635, and a saw-mill in 1656. Hamilton and Essex were formerly included in Ipswich. The town records run back to 1634. Until 1850, it was a shire town. In 1771, a post-office was established here; and in 1642 free schools were created.

The original settlers were mostly intelligent and of good family. They chose for their first regular pastor, the Rev. Nathaniel Ward, author of the witty tract " The Simple Cobbler of Agawam," and the compiler of the " Body of Liberties," the first code of laws of the Massachusetts Colony. Rev. William Hubbard, the historian, was settled here in 1656. The South Church was organized in 1747; that of Linebrook in 1749, and the Methodist church in 1822. A school called the " Ipswich Female Seminary" was established here in 1828 by Miss Zilpah F. Grant and Miss Mary Lyon. In 1827 a cotton factory was erected, and in 1864 a woollen mill. Shipbuilding was commenced in 1668, and was, for a time, a leading industry. Ipswich sent 348 men into the army and navy of the Union during the war of the Slaveholders'Rebellion, -- losing as many as 65. A granite monument has been erected by the town to their memory at an expense of $2,800.

The following eminent persons were natives of Ipswich : Fitz-John Winthrop (1638-1707), a governor of Connecticut; Nathan Dane (1752-1835), an eminent statesman; Joseph McKean, D.D. (1776-1818), an eminent divine; Joseph G. Cogswell, LL.D. (1786-1871), an able author; Daniel Treadwell, A.A.S. (1791-1872), an inventor; J. C. Perkins (1809), an able legal writer.

pp. 393-395 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890