Topsfield Massachusetts, 1890

Topsfield is a pleasant old farming town in the central part of Essex County, 25 miles from Boston on the Danvers and Newburyport line, Western Division, Boston and Maine Railroad, which passes through the midst of the town, north and south. Ipswich bounds it on the northeast, Hamilton on the east, Wenham on the southeast, Danvers on the south, and Middleton and Boxford on the west.

The assessed area is 7,380 acres; of which about 1,000 consist of pine forests. The surface of the town is agreeably diversified with swelling hills and pleasant valleys. Many oaks, hickory, maple and ash trees, often of large growth, are found along the village streets. and about the fine old mansions and neat farm-houses which are scattered along the town highways. Pingree's Hill, River Hill, Town Hill and Bear Hill are names of the chief elevations. Some of these afford sea-views; and the last looks down upon Pritchard's Lake (otherwise Hood's Pond) in the northwest part of the town, about 60 acres in extent. It is a favorite summer resort. From it proceeds Pye Brook, an affluent of Mile Brook; which, with Howlett's Brook, drains the northern part of the town, then enters Ipswich (or Agawam) River. This flows eastward across the middle of the town, then turns northward along the border, resuming its-former course at the northeast corner. The geological formation is sienite and greenstone, having some traces of copper and other-minerals. The soil is clay and loam.

The product of the 81 farms in 1885 was valued at $140,551. Large sales were made of milk, apples and cranberries. Pears and blueberries and many other berries and small fruits were a source of profit. There are two shoe factories; the largest of which employs about 50 persons, mostly natives of the town. A butcher's establishment employs 9 men. Metallic articles, carriages, clothing and leather goods were made to a limited extent. The total manufactures or the town amounted to $193,925. The population was 1,141; of whom 322 were legal voters. The valuation in 1888 was $1,055,300, with a tax-rate of $10 on $1,000. There were 237 dwelling-houses taxed.

Topsfield has a good town-hall, and four public school-houses, the latter valued at nearly $4,000. The town library contains about 3,000 volumes. There are a Congregationalist and a Methodist church. The post-office is Topsfield (centre); and Lake Village and Springville are the other villages. The old Bradstreet Farm, given by Governor Bradstreet to his son Simon, covers one of the eastern hills, its fair fields sloping down to the broad meadows.

The level lands along the Agawam (or Ipswich) River were occupied as early as 1635. Mary Esty and Sarah Wildes of this place were mercilessly hung as witches in 1692. Great annoyance was endured in the early period from bears and wolves. There was a garrison house here, but no account of Indian depredations exist. The town was originally a part of Ipswich, and the old village bore the name of New Meadows. It was formally set apart and named "Toppesfield," October 18, 1648; and on October 18, 1650, it was made a town, a small parish in England probably furnishing the appellation. The Indian name was Shenewemedy. A. church was formed, and the Rev. Thomas Gilbert ordained in 1663.

Topsfield lost 22 soldiers in the Union cause in the late war. The town is the birthplace of Nathaniel Peabody (1741-1823), statesman, physician and soldier; Jacob Kimball (H.U. 1788), a musical composer; Daniel Breck, LL.D. (1788-1852), an able jurist and M.C.; Elisha Huntington, M.D. (1796-1865), eight years mayor of Lowell, and a lieutenant-governor of the Commonwealth; Elisha Lord Cleveland, D.D. (1806-1866), an able divine; and Nehemiah Cleveland, LL.D. (1796-1877), a distinguished professor of natural science in Bowdoin College.

pp. 642-643 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890