The following is taken from “A Walking Tour and Brief History of Early Ipswich Massachusetts“ produced by the Ipswich Visitors Center, Marjorie Robie and William Varrell.
The Col. John Baker House was built in 1761 on land given to Nathaniel Rogers who was the second minister in Ipswich. John Baker took an active part in the leadership of the town, speaking out against the British Parliament in steps that led the Town into the Revolutionary War. The house has spacious rooms and its original handsome Georgian paneling. The Baker family played an important role in shaping the Green as it appears today. Aaron Smith, who built the house to the right of the Baker house married Lucy Baker. Her nephew David bought and tore down the old Compton Choate Inn that was located on the present site of the Whipple House. View MACRIS
This house is protected by a preservation agreement between the owners and the Ipswich Historical Commission. Protected elements include:
- Exterior front facade and two end gables of the original building
- Central frame including primary and secondary members
- Central chimney
- Wooden architectural elements in the front hall, front first and second floor rooms of the original building, including mantelpieces, doors, paneling, and other molded detail.
Shown below are two of the fireplaces in the house:
The last witchcraft trial in the United States
Lucretia Brown and her sister never married and lived with their mother in this house.. Lucretia had been an invalid since she injured her spine in a childhood accident, but when she was in her 50’s she became a disciple of Mary Baker Eddy
and was convinced that Christian Science had healed her. She even began calling on neighbors at the other end of the Green. When poor Lucretia suffered a “relapse” in 1875 Mrs. Eddy convinced her that Daniel Spofford of Newburyport, whom Mrs. Eddy had recently excommunicated, was exercising mesmeric powers upon her. Hearing of her illness and concerned about the charges being made against him, Mr. Spofford decided made a surprise call on his old friend, whereupon Miss Brown became agitated, believing he had come to do her further harm.
Mrs. Eddy became obsessed that Spofford was an enemy of her church and tried unsuccessfully to publish an attack against him in papers throughout the county. She directed twelve of her students to spend two hours each every day around the clock in concentrated thought against Mr. Spofford to prevent him from doing further harm to her patients. She had her lawyer in Lynn draw up a bill of complaint in Lucretia Brown’s name, setting forth the injuries that Spofford had supposedly inflicted and petitioning the court to restrain him from exercising his powers against her. The text stated that “the defendant practices the art of mesmerism and by his said art and the power of his mind influences and controls the minds and bodies of other persons for the purpose of injuring the persons and property and social relations of others”.
Mrs Eddy’s attorney refused to argue the case in court, so she ordered her student Edward Arens to do so and twenty of her followers to stand as witnesses. On June 3, 1875 they assembled at the railway station in Lynn for the train to Salem. The Boston Globe reported that one of the appointed witnesses approached Mrs. Eddy to complain that he knew nothing whatever about the case and would not know what to say, whereupon she assured him that he would be told what to say. At the courthouse in Salem, nearly two centuries after the witchcraft hysteria, the last charge of witchcraft in this country was brought to trial. Mr. Spofford did not bother to appear. When Mr. Arens rose before Judge Horace Gray and presented the bill of complaint, Mr. Spofford’s attorney Mr. Noyes objected. Judge Gray declared that it was not within the power of the Court to control Mr. Spofford’s mind. Mrs Eddy was not given any opportunity to argue that disease could be the work of mesmeric powers, and the case was dismissed due to “defects in the writ.”
The three Brown women continued their lives in the old house on the Green, always keeping it immaculately neat and tidy. Lucretia took crocheting orders from city dealers and gave out piece work to village ladies, who were instructed to make appointments and be punctual. She would receive the women from her sleeping chamber and it was reported that even while crocheting in her bed she kept it incredibly smooth with the covers turned back neatly. She remained a devout Christian Scientist and occasionally attempted to practice healing on Ipswich folks who to this day remain skeptical of anything new. She died from pneumonia in 1883 after having aired the house too thoroughly on a bitterly cold day. The family physician was called in, but Lucretia refused any medication, wishing to know only the diagnosis so that her Christian Science practitioner could heal her, but it was too late. Her final words were “Goodbye Mother, Goodbye Sister”, whereupon she smoothed the turned-back sheet one last time with her dainty hands and died.