The Old Parsonage, North Main St., Ipswich

This house was built by John Heard for his daughter in 1799. Dr. Thomas Manning and other members of his family lived in the house until 1858 when it became a parsonage.

This house is protected by a preservation agreement between the owners and the Ipswich Historical Commission. Protected elements include:

  • Exterior front and side facades
  • Central frame including primary and secondary members
  • Wooden architectural elements including stairway, doors, paneling and other elements of the front and rear halls and the first floor right rear room.

In the 1960’s Donald Fowser purchased this rundown Federalist period house and restored it. The land between the house and the rive had become a veritable dumping ground. He restored the house with authentic moldings and a curved veranda overlooking a beautiful garden.

The Rev. Kimball of First Church became pastor in 1805 and served for over 40 years. He was a staunch abolitionist whom William Lloyd Garrison referred to as “zealously affected in our cause”. H built his home, still standing facing the north side of the church, and the Thomas Manning house became the new parsonage after Rev. Kimball’s retirement.

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There is an old Ipswich legend that a tunnel once emerged along this bank between the Ipswich River and the Thomas Manning house at 19 North Main Street.

By 1838 the anti-slavery movement was gathering strength in Ipswich. The Anti-Slavery Society held its meetings in the Methodist vestry. The Ipswich Female Anti Slavery Society met at Mrs Jabez Farley’s house and at the home of Lucy Caldwell at 16 Elm Street, the house which is now featured at the Smithsonian. The Methodist Church allowed anti-slavery meetings but the more ardent Abolitionists split away to form the Methodist Wesleyan Church, meeting in Mr. Hammatt’s Hall on North Main street. The churches reunited several years later

The cellar of the Thomas Manning house is very large and includes a number of brick storerooms. According to oral histories, one of the rooms had a door to a tunnel leading downhill to the Ipswich River. Slaves would be taken after dark to the river behind the house, where they would take small boats to the wharf and board freight ships to Nova Scotia.

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Map of the Underground Railroad by Wilbur H. Siebert

These were called “slave tunnels” during the Underground Railroad era. “The Underground Railroad in Massachusetts” by Wilbur H. Siebert identified three underground routes starting from Salem and diverging northward: one through Danvers, Andover and South Lawrence; another through Danvers, Georgetown and Haverhill; and a third through Beverly, Ipswich, Newburyport and Amesbury. There are legends in Newburyport of “an intricate tunnel system” under the Old Burying Ground beneath the center of town to the wharf area, and indeed an old tunnel was discovered recently during an excavation.

The Thomas Manning house is protected by a preservation agreement between the owners and the Ipswich Historical Commission.

The Thomas Manning house in the 1800’s. The Ipswich Female Seminary is on the right.
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The Old Parsonage, photo courtesy of the LocalNe.ws

Read more at Melissa Berry’s blog anceSTORY