Featured image: “Ipswich Village” in the 1832 Philander map of the town of Ipswich.
The following narrative includes excerpts from Ipswich Village and the Old Rowley Road. by Thomas Franklin Waters in 1915.
“At the very beginning of the Town, High Street was the road to Newbury or ‘the pathway leading toward the River of Merrimac.’ No section of our Town has more substantial and picturesque interest than this quiet neighborhood. Its close connection, geographically and socially, with Rowley, separated it from Ipswich to such a degree that the Ipswich Town Clerk of the olden time made very incomplete entries of the births, marriages and deaths, which have been preserved fortunately in the Rowley church records. Though the name, “The Village” or “Ipswich Village,” as applied to this neighborhood, is of comparatively modern origin, the settlement itself dates from the beginning of the Town. At a very early period houses were built, and Jewett’s grist mill, on Egypt River, before the 17th century was ended. The annals of this little community are of singular interest.”
Long before the corner of Mile Lane and High Street became famous for the Clam Box, it was known as Pingrey’s Plain (alternatively spelled Pengry or Pingree) and was where the wicked were hung.
Alice Keenan wrote in “Ipswich Yesterday” that “Pingrey’s Plain was where the local hangman plied his macabre trade and was set up for the execution in 1700 of a Newbury lass (Esther Rogers) who had loved not wisely but too well. After being tried before Judge Samuel Sewall, he of witchcraft infamy, and found guilty of killing her illegitimate babe, the General Court in 1701 ordered “the erection of a gibbet” at Ipswich which was done forthwith.
In the customs of the times, she was brought before “lecture” following her sentencing and further reviled and shortly thereafter, dressed in her best clothes, was bumping along High street in the hangman’s cart while the cheering hundreds awaited her arrival at Pingrey’s Plain. Legend has it that passing a small hill “she raised her eyes and took great comfort” and that’s why they call it “Comfort Hill.”
A tougher nut to crack was Elizabeth Atwood, tried and found guilty for the same offense. Thomas Franklin Waters recorded the event: “About 1725, Elizabeth Atwood single woman of Ipswich was hung for murdering her child. She gave no signs of being properly affected by her crime or by the realities of eternity. She put on as many others in a similar condition have done a mock courage which set at defiance the retributions of both God and man. As an evidence of her callousness, tradition tells us that as it was customary for the executioner to have the clothes of those whom he executed she fitted herself out in the very worst of her apparel and on her way to the gallows she laughed so that a woman who attended her saw it and exclaimed, “How can you be so thoughtless on such an occasion?” and that she immediately replied “I am laughing to think what a sorry suit the hangman will get from me”.
Alice Keenan wrote that “the last public hanging at Pingrey’s Plain was held in 1795 when Pomp, “the half-daft negro slave” of Captain Furbush of Andover was hung for doing in his master while asleep. The Salem Gazette carried the tale of his execution on August 6th: “He was carried into the Meeting House at 11 o’clock. A solemn Prayer was made by Rev. Frisbee (Pastor of the First Church) and a judicious and well-adapted sermon by Rev. Mr. Dana (of the South Church) from the solemn denunciation `He that sheddeth man’s blood by man shall his blood be shed. Mr. Bradford of Rowley prayed at the place of execution. The negro remained unmoved throughout the entire scene. He was directed to pray in his last moments and prayed with great solemnity. Poor crazy Pomp, we wonder if he really knew what was going on.”
Read Dying Confession of Pomp, A Negro Man, Who Was Executed at Ipswich, on the 6th August, 1795, for Murdering Capt. Charles Furbush, of Andover, Taken from the Mouth of the Prisoner, and Penned by Jonathan Plummer.
Alice Keenan noted that “one of the neighbors, then a young girl, used to tell in her very old age that Mr. Bradford prayed so loud that they could hear him in Rowley and the day, the thousands who gathered to witness the hanging, haunted her still. Happily, this was the last scene of horror in Ipswich and “the cheering crowds of thousands” had to look elsewhere for their peculiar form of entertainment. The area was still known as Gallow’s Lot well into the 20th Century and the rumor that it’s haunted still persists – it certainly deserves to be.” Read more in the Wicked Puritans of Essex County.”
Waters writes that “The early farm of Mr. Charles Day was on the ancient way, now called not inaptly Paradise road, for it is a very beautiful road, winding through long stretches of woodland, where ferns and brakes grow luxuriantly, and every kind of wild flower finds congenial haunt in open glades or shaded nooks.”
It was apparently a choice location earlier than Waters could have imagined, for in the early 1950’s, a group of young amateur archaeologists now known as the “Bull Brook Boys” discovered one of the largest Paleo-Indian sites in North America, along the banks of Bull Brook and the Egypt River in an area being cleared for the sand and gravel operation at the end of Paradise Road. Over 6,000 artifacts were uncovered in a large circle about the size of four football fields, and are on display at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem.
Waters wrote about a similar discovery in the late 19th Century: “Some rods back from the highway at the Village, on the farm of John W. Nourse, a few years ago, the ploughshare disclosed a cache of finely-fashioned stone spearheads, some forty or more, the buried treasure, perchance, of an Indian brave, or some armorer of the centuries past.” The Nourse land is now known as Lane’s Farm, directly west of the Bull Brook site, suggesting that the 11,000 year old Paleo-Indian encampment may have extended farther than the gravel bed.
Nehemiah Jewett’s Grist mill on the Egypt River
Waters wrote that Nehemiah Jewett owned land abutting the Egypt River, and “conceived a scheme of building a dam and setting the river at work.”
“In the spring of 1673, Mr. Jewett appealed to the Town for the privilege of flowing the land and establishing a mill. Many years elapsed however before the mill was built, and his son Nehemiah, who was born in 1683, grew to man’s estate and associated himself with his father in the undertaking. His deed of his interest to his brother, Benjamin, in 1714 narrates the unforeseen and disastrous difficulties that were encountered. The mill had been wrongly located. At much larger expense than was anticipated, a trench had been dug by burning the rocks and breaking them up and the mill had been built, but when all was done it was found that the builder has miscalculated his levels, and the water could not be brought to the water wheel.The mill was removed, and in its new location it was a valuable accessory to the neighborhood.”
Mr. Nehemiah Jewett (2) had larger interests than his father’s grist mill. He was bitterly opposed to the Andros government and was present at the meeting at Lieut. John Appleton’s in August, 1687, when Rev. John Wise counselled resistance, and stood with him that night and at the Town Meeting next day, for which he suffered arrest. In 1689 he was chosen Representative to the General Court, and served almost continuously until 1709, and was Speaker of the House in 1693, 1694 and 1701. He was a Justice of the Sessions Court in 1711 and 1712
Near the location of the old grist mill is the Ipswich power plant and water pumping station, built in 1894 after a pair of disastrous Ipswich downtown fires destroyed businesses at both ends of Market Street and an entire block of Central Street.
Muzzey, Pengry and Jewett
Robert Muzzey (Muzzy, Mussey), whose name still attaches to the noble hill, on the slopes of which his lands lay, received a grant from the Town of a hundred acres, bounded by the North River. Joseph Jewett, one of the most prominent men of Rowley, bought lots in 1656, near the Egypt River, together with 16 acres of land that lies within the common fence. On that property, a house was then occupied by Aaron Pengry, son of Deacon Moses Pengry, the salt maker. John Pengry and Faith Jewett were married on May 20, 1678. He had been enrolled as a soldier in King Philip’s war in 1675, and was chosen a member of the “Jury for Tryalls,” for the trial of the last of the unfortunates who were charged with witchcraft. Three were found guilty and sentenced to death.
Ephraim Jewett came into ownership, and in 1709 married his friend and playmate, Elizabeth Hammond. Ephraim gave his wife the improvement of the whole estate until his son, Ephraim, a lad of sixteen, came of age, when he was to receive two-thirds of the real estate, and the remainder at his mother’s death. The dower of the widow was set off, a tract of woodland, pasture, tillage and meadow, beginning at the highway near Egypt river bridge,thence to the corner of the fence about 3 feet to the northward of the great Spring near the dwelling house,” final and conclusive evidence that here was the old home of two generations of Jewetts and presumably of Joseph Muzzey.
Tragedy in Paradise
Waters wrote about a diphtheria epidemic that swept the Village in 1736:
Nehemiah Jewett (3) the carpenter, married Katherine Garland, a native of the Isle of Wight, on October 8, 1709. There is a family tradition that his father saw the young maid in Salem and was so enamored of her charms that he straightway wished her for a wife for his son. The young man was dispatched to Salem forthwith and lost his heart but “won his bride. In the year of 1736, sorrow settled heavily upon the household. No doubt the deadly throat distemper was the cause. Patience, eighteen years old, died on May first, and Mary the day after; Mehitable, twenty-five, her mother’s companion, the staff and stay of the family, followed on May 10th, Jane on the eleventh, and on the second of June, twelve-year-old Joanna.
In 1720,Thomas and Sarah Boardman conveyed the farm at the head of Paradise Rd. to their son, John, who had married Abigail Choate a month before. The young bride went to her new home joyfully and hopefully, and it was well the future did not reveal its secrets. On one black and awful day, November 3,1736, three children died, Lucy, four, Mary seven, and Sarah, nine years old; and on the following day, baby Francis, fifteen months old, was taken. The older children, John, fifteen, Abigail, fourteen and Thomas, twelve, were spared. Happily, another Sarah was born a year later, and another Mary in 1742, and grew to womanhood. Daniel Noyes, schoolmaster, postmaster, Register of Probate and one of the most prominent men of the town, came to the old farm house for Sarah in 1763.
Young John Boardman stayed by the farm, and when his wedding day was close at hand, his father conveyed the farm to him. He soon brought his bride, Mary Baker. Twelve prosperous years were allotted them. Five children were born, and John, now Lieutenant John, had attained a goodly estate. But on March 10, 1755, two months before his thirty-third birthday, he was “cast on shore on Castle Hill Beach and Perish’d with the Cold and Snow.” The young widow mourned her husband for three years, and then John Potter came a wooing, and they were married in the middle of June, 1758. There were four children by this marriage. (The home built by Asa T. Potter at 288 High St in 1860 is on the site of the earlier Potter home).
Katherine Jewett, the unmarried daughter of Nehemiah’s son Purchase, built a dwelling on the lot she received from her father. In 1830, the homestead was sold to Oliver Bailey of Rowley, cordwainer who built a new house on the lot, and took down the old dwelling. A 30-acre pasture on Muzzey Hill was sold to Oliver A. Bailey in 1862. Oliver Bailey was born November 7, 1794. and died January 6, 1878. He was a son of Pierce Bailey and Salome (Bailey) Bailey of Ipswich Village. A memorial to veterans of the Civil War in the Ipswich Town Hall includes his name. Oliver Bailey married Judith Howe of Rowley. One of their sons Eban Howe Bailey lived to be 100 years old, dying in 1943. Eban is well-known for his popular spiritual musical compositions, and this house is therefore also known as the Eban Howe Bailey House.
The Pearson family
John Boynton and David Nelson sold the 33 acre lot with all the buildings to Jonathan Pearson of Rowley, February 20, 1750. He was the son of Lieutenant Stephen Pearson of Rowley, and Hannah, daughter of Jeremiah Jewett of the Muzzey farm. He had married Sarah Longfellow April 16, 1740. The coming of this fine family was a notable event in the annals of the village, and as the years passed, and the children grew to mature life, they found places of use and dignity. Hannah became the wife of Aaron Jewett, her neighbor, in 1769, and the mother of eight sons and daughters. Stephen was a
soldier of the Revolution in Col. Nathaniel Wade’s regiment. Deacon A. Everett Jewett preserves with pride, the gun he took from the side of a dead Hessian, and the knapsack he wore with its initials, S. P. The family tradition is that he was one of the boat’s crew which rowed Benedict Arnold to the Vulture.
Jonathan Pearson died on January 16, 1796 in his eighty-second year, his venerable wife surviving him. He devised the farm to his sons, Nathan and Steven. Nathan’s daughter, Abigail ,was the first wife of Moses Jewett, Jr. Of the next generation, Stephen married Ruth Jewett in 1787, and after her early decease, Sally, daughter of Daniel Nourse, who became the mother of seven. The homestead was retained and occupied by Emily, wife of Oliver A. Bailey, the last surviving daughter of John N. Pearson.
Marriages of the Nourses
Daniel Nourse of Boxford, bought the Ephraim Jewett farm on April 10, 1790. Mr. Nourse and his wife Eunice Perley moved in with their six daughters. Waters writes about the incredible opportunity this presented to the neighborhood’s young men:
The sixteen year old twins, Hannah and Huldah, were reckoned of fit age for matrimony at that period. The young swains of the neighborhood hailed the advent of such an extraordinary family with ill-concealed rapture, for there seems to have been a great dearth of eligible or attractive maidens. Straightway a new and festive social life was inaugurated. With six ingenious sisters to plan and execute, neighborhood merry-makings of every kind were possible. The Nourse mansion became the Mecca of love-lorn pilgrims, and the inevitable began to happen. Uncle Hervey Nourse, of beloved memory, used to say these buxom girls went off like hot cakes. Three were married in 1792, two years after their arrival, including Sally to the widower Stephen Pearson of the neighborhood.
Aaron Jewett, Jr. of the neighborhood, waited for Hannah to grow five years older and married her in 1795. The son, Daniel, not to be outdone, yet making no haste, married Hannah Jewett, daughter of David, in 1801 when he was thirty-one, and Jeremiah, brother of Aaron, had come for Huldah, the other twin, in February of the same year. Fanny, the youngest, became the wife of David Pay son of Rowley, in 1806. After all this marrying and giving in marriage had been finished, Mr. Nourse set himself the task of building a new house, and completed it in 1809, the comfortable and substantial dwelling under the shade of the great trees still stands.
The Moses Jewett house at 307 High Street was built in 1759. The land was originally granted to Robert Muzzey, who arrived with the original settlers of Ipswich in 1634. In his will dated 1642, he granted the farm to John, his eldest son. Another son, Robert was also owned land, “twenty acres on both sides of the river called the North River” which we now call the Egypt River. The land passed on to his son Benjamin, who spelled his name Muzzey. In a deed dated July 22, 1651, he conveyed to Joseph Muzzey (2) a house and land at this location. Muzzey sold a farm with 100 acres to Joseph Jewett, who had built a house and barn on the property when he died in 1660. Several generations of Jewetts divided the land, and eventually came into the possession of Aaron Jewett, who built the house at 321 High Street in 1780, and Moses Jewett, who built this home in 1759. Waters wrote about Moses Jewett:
Moses Jewett was a man of courage and enterprise. He built a new dwelling in 1759, according to the family record, which was owned later by Daniel Boynton, and is known by many as the Boynton house, a comfortable and attractive mansion still. He was Captain of a Troop of Horse in Col. John Baker’s Regiment, which marched on the Lexington alarm, April 19, 1775 and also marched to Gloucester on November 29th of the same year. Nehemiah Jewett, Nehemiah, Jr. and Aaron, son of Captain Moses, were all members of this Troop.
Captain Moses Jewett died July 31, 1796, bequeathing to his five daughters, with other portions, “equally my silver tankard,” and to his son, Aaron, all his estate, real and personal, not otherwise bestowed.
Aaron found his bride in the family of Jonathan Pearson of the farm on the opposite side of the road and he and Hannah were married on April 20, 1769. He built a new dwelling on the north end of the farm, about 1780. This is known now as the Cate house, and has taken on a new lease of life as the comely “Rose Tree Inn.” Aaron Jewett died without making a will, and in June, 1826,the goodly farm of 145 acres, part of which had passed continuously for generations from father to son, was cut up into lots and assigned to the numerous heirs. Mark F. Cate and Eliza made their home in the house still called by the family name.
Amos Jewett and the Old School House
The house at 311 High St. was constructed in 1834 by Amos Jewett.He sold a lot 33 feet wide in 1854 to the town for the #5 District schoolhouse, which was moved there from an earlier location. The old schoolhouse repaired and improved, was used until 1877, when a new building was erected. The new school building was removed around 1900 to the yard of the Paine school, and now serves as the gatehouse to Highland Cemetery.
The village Divides
Waters provides a history of how the most northerly sections of Ipswich Village, which had originally been part of the town Ipswich, were eventually annexed to Rowley:
In the year 1730, the Village folk began their contention to be set off from the old First Parish of Ipswich and annexed to Rowley Parish. From the beginning their affiliations had always been with Rowley.The first petition in 1738 to be allowed to join the Rowley Parish failed. In March, 1746, Samuel and Daniel Dresser, Purchase and Moses Jewett, Captain Moses Davis, John Harris and Nathaniel Bradstreet again sought relief, and the General Court, in spite of the protest of the Ipswich people allowed these men and the estates of Francis and John Pickard to be annexed to the Rowley First Parish.
On May 5, 1784, David Hammond, Moses Bradstreet, Hannah Bradstreet, Timothy Harris and Nathaniel Bradstreet petitioned that they might be incorporated with the town of Rowley, with all the land north of a stone wall on the north side of Muzzy Hill. Their petition was granted and the new line of division between the two towns was located. Captain Moses Jewett and others petitioned to be set off to Rowley in 1791 but the Town Committee reported adversely.
Waters ends the book Ipswich Village and the Old Rowley Road with the following:
The old homesteads, the busy mills on Egypt River have disappeared. The later dwellings, from which James Jewett went to die at Louisburg and Stephen Pearson to his heroic service in the War of the Revolution have passed away. The home of Captain Moses Jewett, from which he rode to lead his company of horsemen to Lexington and Concord, is the only survivor. The humble Dow’s brook has come to greater honor than Egypt river ever knew. The comely pumping station renders more beneficent service than the old saw mill and grist mill and Shatswell’s scheme of a fulling mill, had it been realized. Its modern engines, never resting, provide water and light for all the needs of the whole Town. A State Highway with smooth macadam finish has supplanted the old road. The family horse, with saddle and pillion, the plodding farm wagons, the ancient post rider and the later stage-coach, have given way to trolley cars and flying automobiles. The days of solitude have passed. The most secluded dwelling may be linked with the busy world by its line of telephone and the daily coming of the rural mail. The naive simplicity, which characterized the good dame of the village, who watched the newly erected telegraph wire sharply, and exclaimed after weary days of fruitless vigil, “They can’t be doing much business for I haven’t seen a single message go by,” has felt the touch of cosmopolitan life.
The great fireplaces and roaring fires, the looms and spinning wheels, tallow dips and homespun clothes are scarce remembered. The toil of home and farm has been lightened wondrously. The farmer rides to plough and harrow, mow and rake. The good wife may be a patron of the great department store in the distant metropolis and the parcel post will bring her purchase to her door. The Village has become part and parcel of the world.
T. F. WATERS, REPORT TO THE IPSWICH HISTORICAL SOCIETY FOR THE YEAR ENDING DEC. 1, 1912