essex_sealThe inhabitants of the part of Ipswich known as Chebacco (now Essex) established their own parish in 1679, but were still residents of the town of Ipswich. Among its early residents were many of the most important and influential people in Ipswich history.

On April 6, 1818, two hundred and six men of Chebacco petitioned the Legislature for incorporation, and the town of Essex as they named it, came into existence on Feb. 5, 1819.

Take the Essex Walking Tour.

ess_23 Historic houses of Essex, Massachusetts - The inhabitants of the part of Ipswich known as Chebacco (now Essex) established their own parish in 1679, but were still residents of the town of Ipswich. Among its early residents were many of the most important and influential people in Ipswich history.On April 6, 1818, two hundred and six men of Chebacco petitioned the Legislature for incorporation, and the town of Essex … Continue reading Historic houses of Essex, Massachusetts
The Perkins-Hodgkins house on East Street Mehitable Braybrooke burned down the house, but which one? - From Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony: “From the Lakeman place to the corner of the Road to Jeffries’ Neck, there were two original lots, John Sanders, next to the Lakeman place, and then John Perkins, the elder, but Perkins bought of Sanders, his lot, an acre and three rods, in 1639. John Perkins, “Taller” … Continue reading Mehitable Braybrooke burned down the house, but which one?
samuel_belcher_inscription Carted back to Ipswich, 1714 - In the Old North Burying Yard on High Street in Ipswich lies the body of the Reverend Samuel Belcher. Born in Ipswich in 1639, he graduated from Harvard College in 1659, and studied for the ministry, and was preaching at Kittery, Me., as early as 1663. In 1668 he married Mary, daughter of Rev. Thomas Cobbett of Ipswich. In … Continue reading Carted back to Ipswich, 1714
burgess_ipswich Taking to the air in Ipswich, 1910-11 - In 1909, W. Starling Burgess joined with Augustus Moore Herring to form the Herring-Burgess Company, manufacturing aircraft under a license with the Wright Brothers, thus becoming the first licensed aircraft manufacturer in the United States. Burgess took the initial flight of his first plane in 1908 at Chebacco Lake in Hamilton, MA.  Burgess had been offered $5,000 by Charles Parker … Continue reading Taking to the air in Ipswich, 1910-11
fried_clams Invention of the fried clam, 1916 - (This article is from the New England Historical Society.) On July 3, 1916, Lawrence ‘Chubby’ Woodman invented the fried clam. It was a hot, steamy day in Essex, Mass. Chubby Woodman and his wife Bessie had opened a small concession stand on Main Street two years earlier. On weekends they sold small grocery items, homemade potato chips … Continue reading Invention of the fried clam, 1916
choate_house_e_choate_kane Choate Island and Rufus Choate - Featured image: Painting of the Choate homestead by E. Choate Kane, courtesy of Joyce Patton John Choate was born in Groton, Boxford, Colchester, England and came to America in 1643 at the age of nineteen. By 1667 he and his wife had begun buying property and built a small farm on 300 acre Hog Island … Continue reading Choate Island and Rufus Choate
The Georgetown-Ipswich trolley The trolley comes to Ipswich, June 26, 1896 - Electric trolleys occupied the streets of Ipswich in the early 20th Century. A trolley line from Beverly through Hamilton to Essex and Gloucester opened in 1895, and on June 26, 1896, the first car on the branch that followed Candlewood Road to Ipswich arrived in town, greeted by a large crowd at Market Square. On that day, … Continue reading The trolley comes to Ipswich, June 26, 1896
schooner Essex shipyards and the age of the Gloucester schooners - Over 4000 wooden vessels were launched from Essex, including many schooners that sailed from nearby Gloucester, once the largest fishing port in the United States. View below, “Legacy: Shipbuilders, Fishermen and the Age of the Gloucester Schooners” (58 minutes).
poor 1793 and 1818: the “Burden of the Poor” divides Ipswich into three towns - The increase in the size of ships and the consequent decline of the fishing industry in Ipswich during the latter half of the 18th Century deprived many families of their means of support and compelled an increasing number of the inhabitants to ask relief from the Town.  The town responded by ordering the Sheriff to serve … Continue reading 1793 and 1818: the “Burden of the Poor” divides Ipswich into three towns
Gloucester-arrival-by-Steve-Borichevsky-24-August-2011-0021-1024x1006 Building and launching the schooner Ardelle in Essex - The 55-foot pinky schooner Ardelle was designed and built by Harold Burnham of Burnham Boat Building in Essex MA using locally harvested wood and hand tools and similar techniques to those that Colonial-era shipbuilders used. Hundreds of spectators watched from the Essex Shipbuilding Museum in 2011 for the launching of the Ardelle into the Essex River.
angel_gabriel_plaque The Great Colonial Hurricane and the wreck of the Angel Gabriel, August 25, 1635 - Featured image: Pemaquid Point plaque commemorating the wreck of the Angel Gabriel On the last Wednesday of May, 1635, the Angel Gabriel, a 240 ton ship set out from England, bound for New England. The ship had been commissioned as the Starre for Sir Walter Raleigh’s last expedition to America in 1617. It was stout … Continue reading The Great Colonial Hurricane and the wreck of the Angel Gabriel, August 25, 1635
Women build a meeting house in Chebacco Women build a Meeting House, March 21, 1679 - In 17th Century New England,  the church was the center of government. Chebacco was the section of Ipswich that is now Essex, and its inhabitants were expected to make the ten-mile round trip every Sabbath, Lecture Day, Training Day or Town Meeting day to the Meeting House in Ipswich. Chebacco residents petitioned the town of … Continue reading Women build a Meeting House, March 21, 1679
essex_cemetery_sign The Body Snatcher of Chebacco Parish - The Old Burying Ground in Essex was established in 1680 for inhabitants of Chebacco Parish, the former part of Ipswich which is now Essex. In 1819 people in the parish began noticing lights moving about at night in the graveyard. It was soon discovered that the body of 26-year-old Sally Andrews who had died of … Continue reading The Body Snatcher of Chebacco Parish
Building the frame at the Story shipyard Building a ship in Essex - This very entertaining mid-20th Century documentary is shown at the Essex Shipbuilding Museum, just a short drive from Ipswich. Viewing time: 12 minutes.
john_wise_tercentennary_sign The Rev. John Wise of Ipswich - The concepts of freedom about which Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence came from the pulpit and pen of the Rev. John Wise of Ipswich, Massachusetts. “The first human subject and original of civil power is the people…and when they are free, they may set up what species of government they please. The end of all good … Continue reading The Rev. John Wise of Ipswich

Historic Essex houses

The following First Period, Georgian and Federal era houses in Essex are listed on MACRIS, The Massachusetts Cultural Resources Information System. Dates for other historic houses on the interactive map below are from the Town of Essex Patriot Properties property database and are not confirmed. View at Google Maps

Russell, Richard House, 1705
Apple St
Perkins, Isaac House, 1765
Apple St
Story, Jacob House, 1831
1 Apple St
Story House, 1830
18 Apple St
Brown, Joseph – Cleveland, John House, 1713
23 Belcher St
Giddings, George House, 1690
66 Choate St
Giddings, George Barn, 1700
66 Choate St
Butler, Simon House, 1690
Conomo Dr
22 Eastern Ave, 1745
5 Grove St, 1768
Andrew, John House, 1768
68 Grove St
Cross – Proctor House, 1760
Harlow St. ESS.80
Choate, Francis House, 1730
Hog Island
Powder House, 1816
John Wise Ave
Giddings, Lt. Samuel House, 1678

143 John Wise Ave


Titcomb, Benaiah House, 1700
189 John Wise Ave
Butnam, Archer House, 1730
King’s Ct
16 Main St, 1830
Center School, 1835
Main St
First Congregational Church, 1746
39 Main St
Lamson, Dr. Josiah House, 1830
16 Main St
Griggs House, 1832
18 Main St
Cavies, John House, 1725
22 Main St
Story, Epes House, 1828
25 Main St
148 Main St, 1830
Proctor – Pankhurst House, 1780
166 Main St
Lyman, James House, 1820
21 Martin St
Goodhue House, 1775
113 Martin St
Burnham, John and David House, 1685
57 Pond St
Preston, David House, 1737
182 Southern Ave
Cogswell’s Grant, 1728
60 Spring St
Crafts House, 1791
Story St
14 Story St, 1790
Story, McKensi House, 1770
38 Story St
38 Story St
Story, Elisha House, 1784
49 Story St
Webster, Rev. Josiah House, 1795
7 Western Ave
Pickering, Rev. Theophilus House, 1730
9 Western Ave
Pickering, Rev. Theophilus converted barn, 1725
11 Western Ave
Cogswell, William House, 1771
17 Western Ave
Lowe, Winthrop House, 1718
18 Western Ave
Congregational Church Parsonage, 1824
19 Western Ave
Andrews, Col. House, 1806
21 Western Ave
98 Western Ave, 1750
Burnham, Francis House, 1790
135 Western Ave
Allen, Joe Gill House, 1727
246 Western Ave

Historic sites on the Essex walking tour

  • ESSEX TOWN HALL AND T.O.H.P. BURNHAM LIBRARY This exuberant Shingle Style building with a working clock tower was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
  • FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH Housed in the steeple is an original Paul Revere bell, cast in 1797. The first minister, Reverend John Wise, was one of the earliest to speak out against the Salem Witchcraft Delusion of 1692. Additional History
  • OLD BURYING GROUND AND HEARSE HOUSE Laid out in 1680, the Old Burying Ground was the site of the notorius grave robberies of 1818. The Hearse House still stands and is believed to be one of only three left in America. Additional History
  • CENTRAL SCHOOLHOUSE, VETERAN’S HALL AND MUSEUM For 55 years, this building was a two-room schoolhouse for 60 pupils in grades one through eight. It later became a meeting hall for veterans and today house Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum exhibits and archives. Additional History
  • SHIPBUILDING IN ESSEX For over 300 years, close to 4,000 wooden vessels – more two-masted vessels than any other town in the world – were built and launched in Essex. The majority of vessels were fishing schooners. At its peak in 1851, sixty vessels launched from 15 shipyards. Additional History
  • ESSEX SHIPBUILDING MUSEUM Preserving American maritime history in the heart of Essex at the site of the historic Story Shipyard, established in 1813. Additional History
  • THE ESSEX CAUSEWAY, “GREAT BRIDGE” AND SPAR POND This main roadway served the needs of Essex shipyards and brought together two parts of a town. Upstream, a spar pond held logs used for masts and booms so they would not dry out. Additional History
  • THE ESSEX BRANCH OF THE EASTERN RAILROAD Built in 1870 to transport ice cut from Chebacco Lake, the railroad later carried Boston picnickers to Centennial Grove. Additional History
  • OLD SOUTH ESSEX ENGINE HOUSE In the mid 1800’s, this building was the second firehouse built in South Essex. Additional History
  • ESSEX RIVER AND CLAM FLATS This tidal waterway is central to Essex’s economic vitality – from the early days of shipbuilding to shellfishing, boating and recreation today. Additional History
  • THE GREAT MARSH AND ESTUARY The largest contiguous acreage of salt marsh north of Long Island, extending from Cape Ann to Salisbury, Masssachusetts. Additional History
    ESSEX ANTIQUE SHOPS Regarded as “America’s Antique Capital”, Essex has long been a collector’s, dealer’s and decorator’s paradise. Additional History
  • BURNHAM’S CORNER This part of town, South Essex, was home to several small shops and one large shoe factory at the end of the 19th century.
  • METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH This Federal-style structure was the gathering place of several different congregations – spanning nearly 200 years.