Perhaps this will be helpful to you, if you’re a new resident of Ipswich, or if you’re considering becoming a resident of Ipswich. More helpful than a map of the town. More helpful than an org-chart diagramming the spider’s web of relationships between selectmen, school and finance committees, and Feoffees. To really understand Ipswich in your heart — to fully appreciate this unique and wonderful place — what you need most of all, I think, is a big-picture view. I mean a cosmic perspective. Something on the scale of Creation itself.
So here it is:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The heavens were the Crane estate. The earth was the Clambox. And God called everything in between the two “Ipswich.” And he saw that it was good.
And John Winthrop sent his son, John Winthrop, Jr., to find clams. He found the clams, and brought his boats upriver as far he could, before the river twisted so tightly that even a canoe couldn’t make the turn, and he called it Choate Bridge. Later, a guy named Choate actually built a bridge there. And a pub.
Up the hill, the Indian king Masconomet looked on with amusement at the traditions of these strange settlers — like floating fires down the river one night a year, and losing small children in the corn fields at Marini Farm. These were a peaceful people, settling scores not by violence but by comparing chowder recipes.
But the land was too great, and land was divided, and given to other tribes. And thus Ipswich found itself surrounded — by Rowley to the north, by Topsfield and Hamilton to the south, by Boxford to the west, and by Essex to the east. Yea verily, there was no route of escape, except unto the Great Water. (Unless you count Plum Island, but it’s actually a peninsula, and we share it with Newbury.) To make sure the way to the water is still clear, once a year the town’s children skip school and flock to the beach. At least those children who are not still trying to get out of the corn maze at Marini’s from the year before.
Thou shalt not tear down a house, but shall post a plaque on the front of it. And so that you will know that you live in an extraordinary and excellent place, this shall be a sign unto you: “Amos Jewett House 1780.” “Thomas Morse House 1817.” “Clarence Hornrow House 1698 maybe 1702 some say 1703 moved from original location on Meetinghouse Green 1783.” Which is how 58 houses built prior to 1725, more than in any other town in America, are still standing and occupied today, some of them perhaps by the original owners.
And thus it is, to this day. The people shall gather in “Town Meetings,” and shall not return unto their homes until the early morning hours. And when they line up for dinner at the Clambox, their numbers stretching down 133 shall be as the sands of the sea. And the seasons of Ipswich — fall colors, snow plowing, spring flooding, and mosquitoes — shall never cease.