The small cottage at 12 Warren Street in Ipswich is listed on the town assessors site as having been built in 1700, but the Historical Commission does not provide a date. The front section is the oldest.
Nathaniel Bishop was among the original settlers of Ipswich and was granted a 10-acre lot that extended from North Main Street to today’s Central Street. He moved back to Boston, and in 1652 sold to John Wyatt, who had been granted a lot on today’s Washington Street but was living in Bishop’s house “by rental.”(Source: The Hammatt Papers). Wyatt died January 15, 1664-5 and left a wife Mary, and house and lands valued at £177. Thomas Franklin Waters in the Book Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Volume 1, page 350, wrote that Wyatt gave this property to his grandson John Kimball, who sold it to Theophilus Wilson. The large lot was divided over the years and now is the has several smaller lots and homes, including this one.
There is an oral tradition that the building once served as a one-room school house, but this may be erroneous. In the 1832 village map, the animal pound exists at this location. Thomas Franklin Waters wrote that the old log Alms House, which once stood nearby, may have been used briefly as a school house:
“The Alms house, a large log house, built in 1719, about 40 feet long, 16 feet wide and 6 feet high, near the Pound on Loney’s Lane, was larger than its inmates needed, but the pride of the Town forbade the removal of its famous Grammar School thither. But when William Stone, a poor fisherman, sick and unable to earn an honest living, and unwilling to become a burden to the Town, petitioned for a disused room that he might keep a reading and writing school, the Town readily consented and granted him the use of the “westerly middle room” in 1725.”
In the 1856,1872, and 1884 Ipswich Village maps, there are two small houses at the rear of this lot, facing Loney’s Lane, belonging to J. Wells, and S. Wells/ Mrs. Wells. Warren St. does not at this time extend past Loney’s Lane, and this house is not yet shown on the corner. Nor does it appear in the 1893 Birdseye Map, even though Warren St. exists. In the 1910 Village map this house appears on the corner, owned by A. P. Hills.
Based on historic Ipswich maps, I concluded that early in the 20th Century, this small building was probably moved from another location.
Thomas Franklin Waters wrote about the two owners of this lot in his two-volume set, Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony:
“Jonathan Wells enlisted in Capt. Abraham Dodge’s company on May 3, 1775, and took part in the battle of Bunker Hill on June 17th. He enlisted again January 1st, 1776. He was a seaman in the brigantine five months and fourteen days in 1777, being discharged July 31st. He was in the privateer “Fair Play” in December, 1777, in the “Black Prince” in July, 1778 and in the “Gen. Wadsworth’ ‘ in February, 1781. It is a family tradition that Mr. Wells was wounded during his first enlistment. While at home, recovering from his wound, he went one day to the Meeting House Green, where recruits were being enrolled, and was so fired with enthusiasm, that he re-enlisted and marched away with his arm in a sling. Entering the navy, he passed from ship to ship, without being allowed an opportunity to return home and see his family. He used to say that he thought he had seen war before he became a seaman in the navy, but his land service was not to be compared with the fight between the “Bon Homme Richard” and the “Serapis.” He stood at his gun when nine men and a boy lay dead around him. He always expressed great admiration for John Paul Jones, telling how small a man he was, and of his brilliant ability and dauntless courage. On his return home after this battle, his house was besieged for days with friends and neighbors, who desired to hear from his own lips the story of the great sea-fight. His wife picked the powder from his face with a fine cambric needle.”
Albert P. Hills
In the 1910 Village map, the house belongs to A. P. Hills, and behind it on “Wells Court” is the home of A. D. Wells. Waters notes that during the Civil War, many families made precious contributions to the Army and the Navy, including Albert St. Hills and his son, Alpert P. Hills, who was still a boy and served as the company drummer.
- Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony by Thomas Franklin Waters
- Hammatt Papers, Early Inhabitants of Ipswich, Massachusetts