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Ipswich, Massachusetts
Town
Ipswich riverfront c. 1906
Ipswich riverfront c. 1906
Official seal of Ipswich, Massachusetts
Seal
Nickname(s): Birthplace of American Independence
Location in Essex County and the state of Massachusetts.
Location in Essex County and the state of Massachusetts.
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Essex
Settled 1633
Incorporated 1634
Area
 • Total 42.5 sq mi (110.1 km2)
 • Land 32.1 sq mi (83.2 km2)
 • Water 10.4 sq mi (26.9 km2)
Elevation 50 ft (15 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 13,175
 • Density 309.93/sq mi (119.66/km2)
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC-4)
ZIP code 01938
Area code(s) 351 / 356 / 978
FIPS code 25-32310
GNIS feature ID 0619448
Website www.ipswichma.gov

Ipswich is a coastal town in Essex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 13,175 at the 2010 census. Home to Willowdale State Forest and Sandy Point State Reservation, Ipswich includes the southern part of Plum Island. A residential community with a vibrant tourism industry, the town is famous for its clams, celebrated annually at the Ipswich Chowderfest, and for Crane Beach, a barrier beach near the Crane estate. Ipswich was incorporated as a town in 1634.

History

John Whipple House
John Whipple House

Ipswich was founded by John Winthrop the Younger, son of John Winthrop, one of the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 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, the Arbella. Investigating the region of Salem and Cape Ann, they entertained aboard the Arbella for a day, June 12, 1630, a native chief of the lands to the north, Chief Masconomet. 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 as Wonnesquamsauke, 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 named Charlestown.

That winter they lost a few hundred colonists from malnutrition and disease. They also experienced their first nor'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 ship Lyon entered 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 the Lyon.

John the Younger resided with his father and stepmother until 1633, when he resolved to settle in Agawam, with the permission of the General Court of Massachusetts. Captain John Smith had 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. A plague of 1616–1618 and again in the early 1630s, perhaps smallpox brought from abroad, had apparently devastated the once populous Indian tribes. The fields stood vacant. The colonists encountered but few natives.

Ipswich Public Library
Ipswich Public Library

John the Younger and 12 men aboard a shallop sailed 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, now Topsfield. Agawam was incorporated on August 5, 1634, as Ipswich, after Ipswich in the county of Suffolk, 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 America in England.

Pioneers would become farmers, fishermen, shipbuilders or traders. The tidal Ipswich River provided water power for mills, and salt marshes supplied hay for livestock. A cottage industry in lace-making developed. But in 1687, Ipswich residents, led by the Reverend John Wise, protested a tax imposed by the governor, Sir Edmund Andros. As Englishmen, they argued, taxation without representation was 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".

IpswichMA TownHall
Town hall

Great clipper ships of the 19th century, however, bypassed Ipswich in favor of the deep-water seaports at Salem, Newburyport, Quincy, and Boston. 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, a stocking manufacturing machine which had been smuggled out of England arrived at Ipswich, violating a British ban on exporting such technology, and the community developed as a mill town. In 1828, the Ipswich Female Seminary was 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 the Ipswich witchcraft trial, a member of the Christian Science religion 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.

A view from Castle Hill, Ipswich MA
A view from Castle Hill

In 1910, Richard T. Crane, Jr. of Chicago, the business magnate owner of Crane Plumbing, bought Castle Hill, a drumlin on Ipswich Bay. He hired Olmsted Brothers, successors to Frederick Law Olmsted, to landscape his 3,500-acre (14 km2) estate, and engaged the Boston architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge to design an Italian Renaissance-Revival style villa on the summit. A grande allée, 160 feet (49 m) wide and lined with statuary, 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-room mansion designed by Chicago architect David Adler in the English Stuart style stood in its place, called the Great House. At Mrs. Crane's death in 1949, the entire property was bequeathed to The Trustees of Reservations, which uses it as a venue for concerts and weddings.

Geography

Appleton Farms Livestock
Appleton Farms Livestock

Ipswich is drained by the Ipswich River and Plum Island Sound, which join at their mouths and empty through a narrow but navigable channel at the foot of Castle Hill around Sandy Point into Ipswich Bay adjoining the Atlantic 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 the Rowley River, Roger Island River, and Eagle Hill River drain into Plum Island Sound. South of Castle Neck, the Castle Neck River separates the town from neighboring Essex. 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, including Crane Wildlife Refuge on Castle Neck, the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and Sandy Point State Reservation on Plum Island, as well as Hamlin Reservation, Heartbreak Hill Reservation, Bull Brook Reservoir, Greenwood Farm and a portion of Appleton Farms Sanctuary, which extends into Hamilton.

Ipswich is located in central Essex County and is 11 miles (18 km) south of Newburyport, 12 miles (19 km) northwest of Gloucester, 13 miles (21 km) north of Salem, 20 miles (32 km) east of Lawrence, and 28 miles (45 km) northeast of Boston. It is bordered by Rowley to the north, Boxford to the west, and Topsfield, Hamilton, Essex and Gloucester to the south. (The border with Gloucester lies across Essex Bay, and as such there is no land connection between the two.)

Transportation

There is no interstate highway which runs through Ipswich; Interstate 95 passes through neighboring Boxford and Topsfield. U.S. Route 1, known as the Newburyport Turnpike, passes through the western end of town. Massachusetts Route 1A and Route 133 pass 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 a station along the Newburyport/Rockport Line of the MBTA Commuter Rail, providing service between Newburyport and Boston's North Station. There is no air service within town; the nearest small airports are in Newbury and Beverly, and the nearest national service is Boston's Logan International Airport. The Ipswich Essex Explorer provides summertime weekend shuttle service connecting Ipswich MBTA train station with Crane Beach, Essex and Appleton Farms.

Demographics

See also: List of Massachusetts locations by per capita income

This article describes the town of Ipswich as a whole. Additional demographic detail is available which describes only the more densely populated central settlement or village within the town, although that detail is included in the aggregate values reported here. See: Ipswich (CDP), Massachusetts.

Little Neck Cottages, Ipswich, MA
Little Neck c. 1920

As of the census of 2000, there were 12,987 people, 5,290 households, and 3,459 families residing in the town. The population density was 398.6 people per square mile (153.9/km2). There were 5,601 housing units at an average density of 66.4 persons/km2 (171.9 persons/sq mi). 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 were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 5,290 households out of which 30.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.0% were married couples living 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, Plum Island River, Ipswich, MA
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. The per capita income for 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.

Points of interest

  • Appleton Farms (1638)
  • Brown Stocking Mill Historic District
  • Castle Hill (1928)
  • Choate Bridge (1764)
  • Crane Beach
  • John Heard House/Ipswich Historical Society (c. 1800)
  • John Whipple House (1642/1677)
  • South Green Historic District

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