Rest assured, I’m partisan about Ipswich. Great town; I chose it. Moved my family here. Love this town.
But I gotta say, mistakes have been made.
What I mean is, we are too small. Oh, I know Ipswich is the biggest town by area in all of Essex County. Well, I think that’s appropriate. We were here first. Or so close to first, it’s hardly consequential. When we European white people arrived, and started co-opting land from the locals, we had a chance to have it all. But somehow, between then and now, we’ve lost a lot.
Ipswich is too small. And it’s our own fault.
For example. When John Winthrop Jr. sailed up the Ipswich River in 1634, he didn’t stop at Choate Bridge Pub. He kept going — to what is now Topsfield. Topsfield! How did we lose Topsfield? We could own that big annual fair today; all those corn dogs could be ours. And that annual strawberry festival — that, by all rights, should be Ipswich’s. Alex’s Beef & Seafood? Ought to be ours! The Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary isn’t even in Ipswich. Why not? Somebody, at some point, gave up some of our land.
I don’t think I’m being unreasonable. People might think I’m biased in favor of land acquisition because I lived more than two decades in one of America’s sprawlingest counties: Maricopa County, Arizona, is literally the size of New Hampshire. Now I’m not saying Ipswich should take over New Hampshire. (Massachusetts should take over New Hampshire; but that’s a matter for Gov. Patrick.) All I’m saying is that somewhere along the line, Ipswich got robbed. Today we’re down to barely 42 square miles, almost 10 of which is water. That is barely enough room to elbow your Town Manager.
By the first week of May in 1635, we were lopping off land to the north for a place called Newbury, which later followed suit by lopping off land to the north for a place called Newburyport. Big mistake to let these dominoes start falling. We could have had all of Plum Island, every last greenhead, to ourselves. By 1639 we let ourselves be bought off by people who wanted to start a place called Rowley. (“Rowley”? Really?) For 800 British pounds, in a single transaction, we lost the Agawam Diner, Bradford Tavern, and Spud’s. Not to mention Winfrey’s Chocolates. This was not a good trade.
Thanks to a couple nasty church splits, we lost not only Essex (their First Congregational Church was originally Ipswich Second) but also Hamilton (their First was our Third). Which means we could have had both Down River Ice Cream — the sinful pleasure of gooey dessert by the ton — and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, to get us back in God’s good graces!
But no. We gave it all up. Today you have to leave the place you love just to get a Big Mac.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. We have champions. We have five tough selectmen. I think they could take a hard line with neighboring towns and get the borders re-drawn. I think they could get us, at the very least, the UPS Store on Route 1 and White Elephant Antiques on 133.
I believe if anyone could do it, it would be our selectmen. I’ve seen them tackle tough challenges. They’ve wrestled Feoffees.
If you agree that Ipswich is too small, let your voice be heard. Cast your vote here: TakeBackRowley@dougbrendel.com. After this initial conquest, we can go to work on Newbury, Essex, Hamilton, and points west.