The 128-acre Pony Express Farm is bordered by Chebacco, Essex and Candlewood Roads. The property includes a large polo field, open fields, woods, trails and wetlands along the western bank of the Castle Neck River. A proposal to purchase a portion of the property by the Town of Ipswich as part of the Open Space Program for youth playing fields was approved at a Special Town Meeting on Tuesday evening January 24, 2017. The Town will convert the existing polo field into four full-sized multi-purpose athletic fields, with the option to build an additional two fields in the future.
When the Open Space Bond was extended in 2011, Town Meeting renewed it as the Open Space and Recreation Plan, and instructed the Athletic Fields Study Committee and the Open Space Committee to identify acquisition of open space for active recreation opportunities as key objectives. The purchase meets those objectives and helps secure the remainder of the 128 acres, at no cost whatsoever to the town, as permanently protected open space for passive recreation and natural resource protection through Essex County Greenbelt and MA Fisheries and Wildlife.
The John Brown Farm
Until the mid-20th Century, the farm at this location was owned by John Brown and his descendants. John Brown Sr. is mentioned in the Ipswich Town Records as early as 1640, having first lived on Heartbreak Rd. Before 1660, Mr. Brown built a home on Fellows’s Lane at the corner with Candlewood Rd. Over the next 280 years, the Brown family extended and continued their ownership of the finest farm land in Ipswich along the east side of Candlewood Rd.
Thomas Franklin Waters wrote a history of the Brown family properties in his essay, “Candlewood, an Ancient Neighborhood in Ipswich, Massachusetts,” and in the two-volume book, Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.”
“On the Candlewood road, leading toward Hamilton, large tracts of farm lands were granted to the first settlers. John Fawn’s 25 acre lot, on the east comer of Essex Road and Candlewood Road, was sold to Robert Kinsman in 1652. He married Mary Boardman and proceeded to build his house and barns on the lot thus acquired.”
Adjoining the Kinsman farm, Thomas Howlett, one of the earliest settlers, acquired by grant and subsequent purchases, a hundred acre farm. Thomas Franklin Waters recorded the transfer of the early Fawn and Perkins lots to Thomas Howlett of the property, presently known now as Pony Express Farm:
“There was Granted to Thomas Howlett thirty acres of upland and ten of meadow at the head of Chebacco Creek, the meadow lying on both sides of the Creek and the upland on the West side of the meadow.”
“Granted to John Perkins Senior, thirty acres of upland and ten of meadow lying towards the head of Chebacco Creek, having Thomas Hewlett’s Land on the Southwest.”
“Memorandum, that John Perkins the Elder hath sold unto Thomas Howlett a parcel of Land of forty acres more or less meadow and upland lying at Chebacco granted unto the sayde John Perkins in the year 1636, bounded on the Northeast by a parcel of Land formerly granted unto Mr. Faune…and partly also on the same side …by a parcel of Land granted unto the said Thomas Howlett at the Northwest end thereof butting upon a highway leading to Chebacky at the southeast.” (23rd day of the second month, 1638″ (Town Records).
Thomas Bishop was in possession of the Howlett farm as early as 1652. In 1684, a farm of 60 acres with house and bam was conveyed to John Brown, and 36 acres with house and barn to Sergeant John Choate. John Brown bequeathed his farm to his sons, James and William in 1721.
Waters continued the history of the farm:
“The heirs of James Brown held the farm, and his daughter Elizabeth, wife of Capt. Robert Perkins, gained possession, but in December, 1779, their daughter, Elizabeth, became the wife of Joseph Brown, of the same family line, who built a new house on the farm. His son, Gardiner A. Brown, acquired possession, and bequeathed to his son, A. Story Brown (owner at the beginning of the 20th Century). “
For over two hundred and forty years after John Brown bought the farm, it remained by inheritance in the Brown family through successive generations.
Waters wrote that the Brown family extended the great farm on Candlewood beyond Chebacco Rd into Hamilton
“The great tract of land extending from Choate (Chebacco) Road to Red Root or Red Wood Hill, was included in the early part of the eighteenth century in two great pastures, known as Gould’s Pasture and Wilderness Hill Pasture on the slope of the noble hill, which was called by that name from the earliest times.
Gould’s Pasture was included for the most part in the farm of E. Newton Brown. James Brown owned a large portion of the Wilderness Hill Pasture before 1741 and it continued in the hands of his descendants to A. Story Brown in the early 20th Century.
Sources, and further reading:
- Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony
- Candlewood, an Ancient Neighborhood in Ipswich
- Genealogical Record of the Descendants of John Brown by Thomas Franklin Waters
- Descendants of John Brown of Ipswich by Sidney Perley
- 1832 Ipswich map
- The day Nute Brown crashed through the Choate Bridge
January 24, 2017 Special Town Meeting
- Frequently Asked Questions page
- Project map
- The Local.News
- Ipswich Chronicle at Wicked Local
- Athletic Fields Study Report, 2013
- Essex County Greenbelt projects: Pony Express Farm
- Special Town Meeting Scheduled for Pony Express Farm
- Pony Express Farm Narrative Appraisal Report
- Pony Express Athletic Fields Master Plan
A presentation by Thomas Franklin Waters to the Ipswich Historical Society, 1908