Ipswich, Massachusetts

Ipswichis a coastaltowninEssex County,Massachusetts,United States. The population was 13,175 at the 2010 census.Home to Willowdale State Forest andSandy Point State Reservation, Ipswich includes the southern part ofPlum Island. A residential community with a vibranttourismindustry, the town is famous for itsclams, celebrated annually at the IpswichChowderfest, and forCrane Beach, abarrier beachnear the Crane estate.


John Whipple House

Ipswich was founded byJohn Winthrop the Younger, son ofJohn Winthrop, one of the founders of theMassachusetts Bay Colonyin 1630 and its first governor, elected in England in 1629. Several hundred colonists sailed from England in 1630 in a fleet of 11 ships, including Winthrop's flagship, theArbella. Investigating the region ofSalemandCape Ann, they entertained aboard theArbellafor a day, June 12, 1630, a native chief of the lands to the north,Chief Masconomet.[2]The event was recorded in Winthrop's journal on the 13th, but Winthrop did not say how they overcame the language barrier. The name they heard from Masconomet concerning the country over which he ruled has been reconstructed asWonnesquamsauke, which the English promptly rendered into the anglicized"Agawam". The colonists, however, sailed to the south where some buildings had already been prepared for them at a place newly namedCharlestown.

That winter they lost a few hundred colonists from malnutrition and disease. They also experienced their firstnor'easter, which cost them some fingers and toes, as well as houses destroyed by the fires they kept burning day and night. Just as Winthrop was handing out the last handful of grain, the supply shipLyonentered Boston Harbor. John now sent for his family in England, but his then wife, Margaret, her children, and his eldest son, John, whose mother was the elder John's first wife, Mary Forth, did not arrive until November, on theLyon.

John the Younger resided with his father and stepmother until 1633, when he resolved to settle in Agawam, with the permission of theGeneral Court of Massachusetts. CaptainJohn Smithhad written about the Angoam or Aggawom region in 1614, referring to it as "an excellent habitation, being a good and safe harbour." There is no record of any native resistance to the colonization either at Charlestown or at Agawam, even though estimates of the earlier populations run into the thousands. Aplagueof 1616–1618 and again in the early 1630s, perhapssmallpoxbrought from abroad, had apparently devastated the once populousIndiantribes. The fields stood vacant. The colonists encountered but few natives.

Ipswich Library

John the Younger and 12 men aboard ashallopsailed into Ipswich harbor and took up residence there. Two men continued up the river (now River Road) to a large meadow, which they called New Meadows, nowTopsfield. Agawam was incorporated on August 5, 1634,as Ipswich, afterIpswichin the county ofSuffolk,England. The name "Ipswich" was taken "in acknowledgment of the great honor and kindness done to our people which took shipping there."Nathaniel Ward, an assistant pastor in town from 1634 to 1636, wrote the first code of laws for Massachusetts and later published the religious/political work,The Simple Cobbler of Aggawam in Americain England.

Pioneers would becomefarmers,fishermen,shipbuildersor traders. The tidalIpswich Riverprovidedwater powerfor mills, andsalt marshessupplied hay forlivestock. Acottage industryinlace-making developed. But in 1687, Ipswich residents, led by the ReverendJohn Wise, protested a tax imposed by the governor, SirEdmund Andros. As Englishmen, they argued,taxation without representationwas unacceptable. Citizens were jailed, but then Andros was recalled to England in 1689, and the new British sovereigns,William and Mary, issued colonists another charter. The rebellion is the reason the town calls itself the "Birthplace of American Independence".

Town hall

Greatclipperships of the 19th century, however, bypassed Ipswich in favor of the deep-water seaports atSalem,Newburyport,Quincy, andBoston. The town remained primarily a fishing and farming community, its residents living in older homes they could not afford to replace—leaving Ipswich with a considerable inventory of early architecture. In 1822, astockingmanufacturing machine which had been smuggled out of England arrived at Ipswich, violating a British ban on exporting such technology, and the community developed as amill town. In 1828, theIpswich Female Seminarywas founded. In 1868, Amos A. Lawrence established the Ipswich Hosiery Mills beside the river. It would expand into the largest stocking mill in the country by the turn of the 20th century. What may be the last witchcraft trial in North America was held in Ipswich in 1878. In theIpswich witchcraft trial, a member of theChristian Sciencereligion was accused of using his mental powers to harm others, including a spinster living in the town.

The town government was reformed in 1950 with the acceptance of the Town Manager Charter. This charter was rescinded by the voters, regained, lost again, and the present Town Manager-Selectmen Charter was adopted by the voters in 1967.

In 1910, Richard T. Crane, Jr. ofChicago, thebusiness magnateowner of Crane Plumbing, boughtCastle Hill, adrumlinon Ipswich Bay. He hiredOlmsted Brothers, successors toFrederick Law Olmsted, to landscape his 3,500-acre estate, and engaged the Boston architectural firm ofShepley, Rutan & Coolidgeto design anItalianRenaissance-Revival stylevillaon the summit. A grandealle, 160 feet wide and lined withstatuary, would run the half mile from house to sea. But his wife, Florence, loathed the building. Crane promised that if she still didn't like it in 10 years, he would replace it. True enough, in 1928 a new 59-roommansiondesigned by Chicago architectDavid Adlerin the EnglishStuartstyle stood in its place, called the Great House. At Mrs. Crane's death in 1949, the entire property was bequeathed toThe Trustees of Reservations, which uses it as a venue for concerts and weddings.


Ipswich is drained by theIpswich RiverandPlum IslandSound, which join at their mouths and empty through a narrow but navigable channel at the foot ofCastle HillaroundSandy Pointinto Ipswich Bay adjoining theAtlantic Ocean. The southern portion of Plum Island falls within the area allotted to the town, making up the town's ocean shore along with Castle Neck, south of the Sound. The northeastern part of town is marshy, where theRowley River,Roger Island River, andEagle Hill Riverdrain into Plum Island Sound. South of Castle Neck, the Castle Neck River separates the town from neighboringEssex. A large portion of the western end of town is dominated by Willowdale State Forest, and other portions of the town are also protected land, includingCrane Wildlife Refugeon Castle Neck, theParker River National Wildlife RefugeandSandy Point State Reservationon Plum Island, as well asHamlin Reservation, Heartbreak Hill Reservation, Bull Brook Reservoir,Greenwood Farmand a portion ofAppleton FarmsSanctuary, which extends intoHamilton.

Ipswich is located in central Essex County and is 11 miles south ofNewburyport, 12 miles northwest ofGloucester, 13 miles north ofSalem, 20 miles east ofLawrence, and 28 miles northeast ofBoston. It is bordered byRowleyto the north,Boxfordto the west, andTopsfield,Hamilton,Essexand Gloucester to the south. (The border with Gloucester lies across Essex Bay, and as such there is no land connection between the two.)


There is no interstate highway which runs through Ipswich;Interstate 95passes through neighboring Boxford and Topsfield.U.S. Route 1, known as the Newburyport Turnpike, passes through the western end of town.Massachusetts Route 1AandRoute 133pass through the town, entering concurrently from Rowley and passing through the center of town before splitting south of the town center; Route 1A heads towards Hamilton and Beverly, while Route 133 leads to Essex and Gloucester.

Ipswich has astationalong theNewburyport/Rockport Lineof theMBTA Commuter Rail, providing service between Newburyport and Boston'sNorth Station. There is no air service within town; the nearest small airports are in Newbury and Beverly, and the nearest national service is Boston'sLogan International Airport. TheIpswich Essex Explorerprovides summertime weekend shuttle service connectingIpswich MBTA train stationwithCrane Beach,EssexandAppleton Farms.

Little Neck c. 1920

As of thecensusof 2000, there were 12,987 people, 5,290 households, and 3,459 families residing in the town. Thepopulation densitywas 398.6 people per square mile. There were 5,601 housing units at an average density of 66.4 persons/km2(171.9 persons/sqmi). The racial makeup of the town was 97.60% White, 0.39%African American, 0.08%Native American, 0.80%Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.33% from other races, and 0.79% from two or more races. 1.04% of the population wereHispanicorLatinoof any race.

There were 5,290 households out of which 30.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.0% weremarried couplesliving together, 8.4% have a woman whose husband does not live with her, and 34.6% were non-families. 28.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 3.00.

Grape Island c. 1910

In the town the population was spread out with 23.0% under the age of 18, 5.1% from 18 to 24, 28.3% from 25 to 44, 28.1% from 45 to 64, and 15.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 89.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.2 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $57,284, and the median income for a family was $74,931. Males had a median income of $51,408 versus $38,476 for females. Theper capita incomefor the town was $32,516. 7.1% of the population and 4.1% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 7.8% are under the age of 18 and 13.0% are 65 or older.