CHEBACCO MEETINGHOUSE

This second parish of Ipswich was once a neighborhood accessible by a mere grassy cartpath off the County road to Salem, and began in 1636 with the Whites, the Bradstreets and then the Cogswells who had been granted farms away from the village despite the town's own 1635 ban against residing more than a half mile from the meetinghouse. Outlyers were expected to have a townhouse as well as a farmhouse, and for those on Chebacco farms, it was an 8 mile roundtrip every Sabbath, Lecture Day, Training Day or Town Meeting.

Over the next forty years, the path was rerouted and widened to a road when Haffield's Bridge was built in 1656. The bridge across the Chebacco River, at the site of the old ferry, was rebuilt upriver at the town landing by 1700.

Due to the high water table, clay deposits and rock ledge, there was little arable land hereabouts, but plenty of timber. With the free water power available at the Falls, some settlers built sawmills. They were of seafaring stock and used some lumber to build their own boats. Soon they found a market for their "Chebacco pinkies" in the quick growth of the coastal fishing fleet, and so became shipbuilders. The town granted an acre in 1668 on the river by Cogswell's for a shipyard. The horsebridge at the old ferry downstream was rebuilt in 1700 just upstream from the town landing and the shipyard.

Eventually, there were the forty families needed to support a minister, and weary of the Sabbath trek, some dreamed of a Chebacco Parish with it's own meetinghouse, after all, a village without a meetinghouse was only a hamlet. In February 1677, the neighbors met at William Cogswell's house and decided unanimously to petition the next town meeting for a second parish. The petition was heard but not voted on, so it was carried to the General Court who recommended a further application to the town who would answer it at the next town meeting. Thus it was in October 1677, and in March 1678 the town voted that the Selectmen confer with the petitioners who chose William Goodhue, William Cogswell, Thomas Low and John Andrews as representatives. No progress they made, but leave was granted January 19, 1679 to call Mr. Jeremiah Shepard to preach among them, and a Sabbath service was held in a private home. The crowd was so big, they thought of building a house by leave of the town or Court but before they could act, Mr. Shepard got a letter from Ipswich expressing such displeasure that he stopped preaching, eventually leaving Chebacco in July, 1679 for Lynn.

The citizens then made a second petition to the town February 4, 1679 to no effect, and on March 15 the Selectmen made a petition and address to the Court charging transgressions to the people of Chebacco, whereupon, they replied May 28, 1679 that they were good citizens and defended their actions. Still, the Court ordered them to desist pending resolution with the town.

Up on Cogswell's Grant, William must have mulled over the impass, feeling stymied because if he defied the Court, he could risk his farm which was granted to his father John by the same Court. He was nearly 60 and his family had been making the 9 mile round trip, fording creeks summer and winter every Sabbath for now 40 years. They had but three horses, and even if the ladies would ride, they still went with armed guard. For the last 20 years Haffield's Bridge helped, but with the recent Indian war, roaming wolves and pirates at sea...

So, he fostered the idea by hosting meetings, representing the cause, and offering to deed a parcel for the meetinghouse, and another for a burying place. The sills for the meetinghouse had already been laid in the northwest corner of the grant with the timber ready to raise, near the old cabin his father John had first built.

It fell to three energetic and executive women, Abigail Varney, Hannah Goodhue and Sarah Martin to accomplish the rest. Gathering the women at Madame Varney's they met and decided to use the excuse that the Court forebade only the "men of Chebacco" from raising the meetinghouse, so the women proceeded just as they would with any barn raising, and solicited the help of men of Wenham, Gloucester and Manchester who, technically speaking, were outside the ban. Sure enough, one fine morning the volunteers arrived and in a day, it was up! After a hearty repast, they all went home feeling good and there stood a Chebacco meetinghouse for all to see.

The Constable (Thos. French?) arrived the next Tuesday, with a warrant for Abraham Martin, his wife and his hired man, John Chubb, and also the wives of William Goodhue and Thomas Varney. They were all taken to Ipswich Court who judged them guilty and bound them over to the Court in Salem. The defendants apologized to the Salem Court, repented and were forgiven. Whereupon, the Salem Court decreed that the meetinghouse was good enough to stand, and that Ipswich and Chebacco should make peace.

Accordingly, by December 10, 1679, Mr. John Wise became the minister, moved into the new parsonage, near the spot shown as Jos Low, opposite the Lane on the map. The meetinghouse was dedicated April 1680, and William Cogswell hosted the Ecclesiastical Council, that met at his house Aug. 12, 1683, to organize the church and formally ordain Mr. John Wise as their first pastor with John Burnham and Thomas Low as deacons.

Rev. Wise was a native of Roxbury, Harvard graduate, and a wrestler. When he won a match in Chebacco by throwing his opponent over a stone wall, the man asked Wise to throw his horse over too! His house, erected in 1703, still stands. His unshakable belief in religious and political ideals provided sanctuary in times of flux. He was arrested for sedition, defended the accused in the witchcraft hysteria and was Chaplin in the war. The Wises settled at the parsonage. In 1703 he built the present house nearby. So, life went on until the 1740s when the Davenport schism arose and the congregation split again.

Abigail (Proctor) and Thomas Varney lived across the road, west of where the meetinghouse was erected. She was about forty and a capable horsewoman. He was about forty-four and a Corporal in the local militia, their daughter Mary was about ten. The Proctor farm was at Hardy's Creek, a couple miles away, and her brother, John Proctor was later tragically executed as a witch in Salem during the hysteria in August 1692, despite this parish's spirited attempt, lead by Rev. John Wise, to save his life by petitioning the Court. His wife Elizabeth, also convicted, was spared by her pregnancy until the hysteria subsided. Later, a conference was held and thenceforth, spectral evidence was denied in the courts.

The Goodhues were longtime friends of the Cogswells, having been shipwrecked together in Maine upon arrival there from England. They lived just north of the Lane by Soginese Creek shown on the map as W. Marshall, Hannah (Dane) and William were married in 1666 and by 1679, they were both thirty-four and had five children, four boys and a girl. The girl, also named Hannah, married Lt. John Cogswell, William's son. Capt. William Goodhue served in the local miltia and later proved a rebel too, when arrested in the 1687 revolt against Gov. Andros, along with Rev. Wise, Maj. Samuel Appelton and other locals. In response to Andros' rule, Rev. Wise coined the phrase "Taxation without representation is tyranny" popularized later in the Revolution of 1776.

Mr. Abraham and Sarah Martin lived near the new bridge by the shipyard and town landing. They came from Hingham in the Plymouth Colony, and later moved to Salisbury?. The "Mister" recognizes his Harvard degree. Their daughter, Mary, and our Joseph Cody published their intentions to marry October 20, 1722, when he was 22. He was a cooper and they lived between the Martins and the road. They were all members of this congregation and their first child was baptised in here in 1727, and four more by 1736. They followed his family to Hopkinton after selling out in 1732, and Mary was admitted to the church April 29, 1733 and their baby Isaac was baptised there June 3, 1739.

The map below shows Chebacco Parish situated south of Ipswich, north of Manchester, and between Gloucester on the east and The Hamlet (Hamilton). The orange line is the old road, crossing Cogswell's Grant, the yellow line is the road to the new bridge by the town landing. Nathaniel Rust started the school in June, 1695 in his home, shown on the map as the W.H. Mears residence, a school building was erected in 1702 for fifty pupils. So, at the close of the seventeeth century Chebacco Parish in Ipswich had a population of about 300 souls, a meetinghouse with a settled pastor, a public school, a military company, 3 bridges and 2 causeways, shipyards and five sawmills. Farming, fishing and boatbuilding were the business of the day. Since 1819 Chebacco has been renamed Essex.


















































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