The Orchard in Ipswich
August 25, 2015
There’s a little town on the north coast of Massachusetts about 15 miles north of Salem in Essex county called Ipswich, originally named Agawam by the aboriginal Indians that lived there before we did. If you drive out old Argilla Road towards Crane Beach and look to your left, you will see what remains of an apple orchard and a little summer cottage perched up on the hill overlooking the marsh with just a glimpse of the ocean behind it. This charming 150 year old cottage and the few remaining apple trees that surround it were what we were to call home for the last few weeks of our summer in Massachusetts.
I had never heard of Ipswich before but after several weeks of soaking up the sun, sand and the simple life of Cape Cod we were ready to be closer to town and in the heart of old New England and this seemed to be the perfect place. I for one was really looking forward to exploring the little New England seaport towns this area is known for and having the opportunity to experience a bit of my own country’s history.
The Orchard is as rich with history as Ipswich itself and it took my breath away the first time I drove onto the property. As I walked across the grass towards the cottage I breathed in the smell of the salt air that was all around me and I could feel that there was something very significant about the land I was standing on even before I knew the story behind it.
It turns out that a strong and very courageous woman named Adele Robertson, also know as Kitty, had lived here and worked her family’s farm entirely on her own during the 30’s in attempt to save it following her fathers passing. She survived the long hours, wrenching cold and all consuming poverty of the depression years relying solely on the kindness of strangers and the company of her great dane Freya to see her through.
It goes without saying that the woman is now my idol. I only know her story because her daughter came across her memoirs after her passing and had them published in the form of a sweet little book called The Orchard. I was able to read her book while actually staying on the property and found it profoundly moving on many levels. There are no words to describe what it felt like to read a few chapters and then sit for a spell on the front porch gazing out onto the property and the apple trees that she had loved so much and pondering what life must have been like for her. Or sipping my morning tea in the kitchen that had once been hers, perhaps even sitting in the very chairs that had supported her through that time.
I found the whole thing to be as fascinating as it was inspiring and I so wish that I could have known her. But honestly, I kinda feel like I do.
The town of Ipswich itself is also rather fascinating particularly if you are an American history buff. It’s one of the oldest Puritan towns in New England and was originally settled all the way back in 1633. There are more First Period Houses (1625-1725) still standing in Ipswich than anywhere else in America and they are really quite something to see.
But more than the old houses and architecture what interested me the most was the pure simplicity of life here. Not as heavily touristed as other places we’d been, life here seemed to be about just that. Life, pure and simple.
The Ipswich River runs right through the center of town and most evenings you will see the locals out enjoying it’s unspoiled beauty via kayak or canoe, maybe even a paddle board or two, but nary a jet ski to be found. It’s shoreline is speckled with houses here and there, but for the most part it appears to look much as it has for many years.
A question began to form in my mind as I watched some young boys bicycling along the riverfront one evening seemingly without a care in the world. Do you think they know? Do they appreciate how special what they have here is or are they dreaming about when life will take them elsewhere. I could’t help but wonder, nor could help but wonder what it is in me that is always calling me to new places and longing for the next adventure.
But for now, I was happy to be right where I was enjoying life, and ice cream. Because as we know, in New England there is always more ice cream and perhaps if you’re lucky, maybe even the simple pleasure of an adirondack chair to enjoy it in.
If you enjoyed this story and would like to see more photos of Ipswich you can find them here:
Until next week and a little more of New England ….
XOXO, from me and lu