Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Devil’s Footprint, 1740

Imprinted into the rocks in front of the First Church in Ipswich is the footprint of the devil, left there forever in a legendary encounter with the traveling English evangelist George Whitefield in 1740.


The devil’s footprint is embedded in the rocks of Meeting House Green in Ipswich, and the story of its hellish origin has an element of truth. It is probably a xenolith, confirming that 400 million years ago, Town Hill was in a chain of volcanic islands.

Young, energetic and extremely cross-eyed, the widely proclaimed Whitefield was on a tour of New England, and this was his second trip to the church in Ipswich. (View a Google map of the present-day church)

On that early fall day he preached a long and energetic sermon of such great intensity that his voice could be heard for miles around. Thousands flocked to the Green. The church being insufficient in size for such a gathering, he made the ledge outside of the church his stage.

Behind the pulpit in the church was a large curved mirror, the origin and purpose of which has never been known. Some folks believed that on Sunday mornings the Devil would hide behind it and glare at the people seated before him. On this day, the Reverend Whitefield’s resounding voice outside of the walls, complete with condemnation of Satan and threats of fire and brimstone must have infuriated Old Lucifer to the breaking point. The words were harsher than he could bear, and he burst forth before the startled masses gathered on the hill.

What happened next has been told with infinite variations since that fateful day, but it is agreed by all that the devil and the young Reverend went at it, wrestling like maniacs, pushing and shoving each other back and forth.


Whitefield gave chase and soon they were face to face at the pinnacle of the steeple with the horrified congregation watching below. The esteemed pastor uttered forth with his commanding voice, accompanied by a mighty push. The devil was hurled to the rocks below, landed on one foot and scrambled down the hill in terrified leaps and bounds, never to return.

This was apparently such a normal occurrence for the Reverend that he wrote modestly in his journal, “Tuesday, Sept. 30, Preached at Ipswich about 10 in the morning to some Thousands; the Lord gave me Freedom, and there was great Melting in the Congregation.” News of his evangelical prowess spread throughout England and America, and the “Great Awakening” was born, giving rise to the Methodists, who built a church on the green with an even more massive steeple.

The legend of the Devil’s Footprint has a symbolic truth–Town Hill’s hellish origin was a chain of volcanic islands that “floated” here due to continental drift.


Image from the Mural painted by Alan Pearsall at the Ipswich Riverwalk

This is where the story gets really weird!


The Reverend George Whitefield

Received so well, the Reverend Whitefield chose to make New England his home. He died on Sunday, September 30, 1770 in Newburyport and is buried there in a crypt under the pulpit at the Old South Church, the very church where he had planned to preach the next day. It is estimated that there have been well over 30,000 visitors to his crypt since it was relocated there in 1829. Visitors are invited to sign the log book located near the crypt.

Whitefield’s body was considered a sacred relic, and in 1829 a visitor from England managed to steal a bust of Reverend Whitefield, as well one of the arms from his skeleton. The thief was never apprehended, but the items were anonymously returned twenty years later in a small wooden box. Two thousand people joined the Newburyport procession for its return to the vault, with the exception of a mummified thumb which is on display at the Methodist Archives Center in Madison, N.J.


The plaster skull and bible casting shown above are at the Old South Church and were made from Rev. Whitefield’s skull in 1834 by William B. Fowle in Boston, who sent the skull anonymously to London to a leading phrenology expert. In a letter contained in the church archives to a committee overseeing the casting of Whitefield’s skull, Mr. Fowle remarked,

“Perhaps it will interest you to know that those of us who have studied the character of Whitefield, and compared it with his skull, find so great a coincidence that our belief in phrenology is much strengthened. By placing the skull in a natural position, and drawing a vertical line from the orifice of the ear to the top of the head, you will find, what you rarely find in the head of a great good man, that the larger part of the brain falls behind the ear. This indicates more feeling than intellect; and is not this the key to his wonderful power over others?”


This blog was written by Gordon Harris from

Harbortown Arts Market

Gloucester’s Harbortown Cultural District is excited to present a weekend of creative events that celebrate arts and culture in the heart of Downtown Gloucester over Memorial Day Weekend on Saturday May 28 and Sunday May 29.

The highlight of this weekend is the Harbortown Arts Market, an eclectic open-air marketplace to be held at I4C2 (65 Rogers Street) on Saturday, May 28th from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Harbortown Cultural District is proud to produce this event in collaboration with Gloucester’s own Rusty and Ingrid Creative Company and Mill Gypsies, an art market producer. This novel market brings the best of New England’s vibrant indie-maker scene to Gloucester’s inner harbor with over 30 designers, artists, and vintage curators from Cape Ann and across Massachusetts to sell their handmade wares and hip vintage finds. In addition to free on-site parking, this market will feature a gourmet BBQ food truck and an Asian-fusion food truck.


This weekend Arts Festival will also include numerous festive events hosted by downtown businesses and cultural organizations, including Music in the Courtyard with Henri Smith at Cape Ann Museum; the installation of monumental banner image of a painting by Laureen Maher on the harbor-side of 189 Main Street, which houses Trident Gallery and Wisdom’s Heart; an origami master class at Law & Water on Pleasant Street; the grand opening of Art @ The IceHouse at Cape Pond Ice; and, many more engaging activities for the whole family. The complete calendar of events is below.


The Harbortown Arts Festival is made possible by funding from the Cultural District Initiative of the Massachusetts Cultural Council.



10:00 am – 4:00 pm: Harbortown Arts Market. Free parking. 65 Rogers Street.

10:00 am – 4:00 pm: Sea Glass Jewelry-Making Demonstration. Premier Imprints. 48 Main Street.

10:00 am – 4:00 pm: Art @ The IceHouse OPEN HOUSE, Cape Pond Ice Company. 104 Commercial Street.

11:00 am – 1:00 pm: Music in the Courtyard with Henri Smith, Cape Ann Museum, 27 Pleasant Street.

2:00 pm – 6:00 pm: Origami Master Class – “Know When to Fold Them.” Law & Water Gallery. 18A Pleasant Street

5:30 pm – 7:00 pm: Talk and Talkback with Gloucester Photographer Nubar Alexanian. Trident Gallery, 189 Main Street.



9:00 am – 3:00 pm: Art @ The IceHouse OPEN HOUSE, Cape Pond Ice Company. 104 Commercial Street.

2:00 pm – 7:00 pm: Retrospective Exhibition of Gloucester Etchings with Lecture and Demonstration. Cornelius Sullivan Studio at The Fort, 27 Commercial Street.

2:00 pm – 5:00 pm: Celebrating Harbortown, Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church courtyard, 10 Church Street.

History of Peabody

As many towns North of Boston start thinking about their 400th anniversary we have one town that just turned 100. Peabody, or known by some ‘The Leather City’, was incorporated as a city in 1916.

The area was first settled as a part of Salem in 1629 and in 1752, the area was removed from Salem and incorporated as a part of Danvers. It then broke away from Danvers to become South Danvers in 1855. The name was changed to Peabody on April 30, 1868 after George Peabody, a famous philanthropist. It would then be incorporated into a city in 1916.

Below is the brief History of Peabody written by the Peabody Historical Society.


Early Settlement

PHS early_map.jpgThe settlement by the English of the area known today as Peabody began when the Massachusetts Bay Company established the Town of Salem in 1629.  As the population of Salem grew, emigrants began to settle to the north and west of the immediate coastal area.  These outlying areas of Salem were referred to as Northfields, The Farms or Brooksby, and would, through a series of mergers and name changes, evolve into what is today the City of Peabody.

In the 17th century Peabody was largely wilderness, with many meadows, large hills, swamps and pastures and an extensive network of rivers and streams.  The majority of the early settlers were farmers, but Peabody was also a center of industry.  The first industrial venture began prior to 1635 when Captain William Trask established a grist mill at the head of the North River, the location of present day Peabody Square.  In 1670, Joseph Pope opened the first saw mill, and in 1685 Jeremiah Meacham, a clothier, built a fulling mill for the preparation and processing of cloth.  A glasshouse opened in the Aborn Street area in 1638, possibly the first of its kind in America.  The leather industry, for which Peabody became famous, began as early as 1639, when Philemon Dickerson was granted land for tan pits and the dressing.

Pottery Industry

PHS paigepottery_copy.jpgDuring the eighteenth century Peabody became a center for the production of redware, a type of earthenware pottery produced from the iron-rich clay found in abundance on the banks of the North and Waters Rivers.  The clay is gray, but takes on a distinctive red color after firing.  Early potters produced redware by “throwing” the clay on a potter’s wheel and baking it in a kiln that had been dug into the earth.  The first pottery in Peabody was established by Jonathan Kettle in 1731 on Andover Street.  In 1736, Joseph Osborn opened the first of several potteries run by the Osborn family in the Central Street area.  Over the next century, the Osborns became the leading producers of redware in the region.  Redware made in the Osborn shops became known as “Danvers Pottery.”

By 1775, seventy-five potteries were operating in the two towns of Danvers and Peabody.  During the first half of the nineteenth century, demand for redware decreased because of an increase in the availability cheap imports.  By 1855, only two potteries remained in Peabody.  One was owned by Joseph Reed, who had purchased a pottery on Central Street from the Osborn family.  In 1876, Reed sold the pottery to Moses B. Paige.  Paige Pottery was the last establishment in Peabody to manufacture redware.  Paige Pottery remained in operation until the 1950s when it was destroyed by fire.

Image: Paige Pottery, Central Street, Early 20th Century

Leather Industry 

PHS leather_workers_copy.jpgBeginning in the late 18th century, Peabody experienced a tremendous growth in industry and manufacturing.  The most far-reaching and lucrative of these ventures was the production of leather.  By 1855 there were 27 tanneries in South Danvers and 24 currying establishments (which processed finished leather to make it more flexible and waterproof).  Railroad tracks crisscrossed downtown Peabody as trains from Boston and beyond carried leather hides into the city to be tanned and exported all over the world.  In 1919, Peabody was recognized as the world’s largest producer of leather, and was widely referred to as “The Leather City.”  At this time, there were 91 establishments dedicated to the production and processing of leather.  The industry began to decline with the onset of the Depression.  A major leather-worker strike in 1933 further crippled the industry as well as devastating fires throughout the 20th century. By the 1970s, most of the remaining companies moved overseas, while others closed due to increasing state and federal environmental regulations. Today the Travel Leather Company is the only tannery still operating in Peabody.  In 2009, the City of Peabody opened the Peabody Leatherworkers Museum on Washington Street (adjacent to the George Peabody House) to celebrate the rich history of the leather industry in Peabody.

Peabody Today

Though the loss of the tanneries was a blow to Peabody’s economy, the city has been able to compensate, in part, by other forms of economic development.  In 1930, the Eastman Gelatin Corporation took over the American Glue Company factory on Washington Street to produce the gelatin used in Kodak film.  Eastman was a boon the city during the Great Depression, and the factory continues to operate today.  Centennial Industrial Park, which was developed by the Peabody Community Development Authority in the mid-1980s, is the headquarters of many medical, technological and manufacturing firms.  The retail industry has thrived in Peabody since the opening of the North Shore Mall in 1958, which was then the largest shopping center in New England.

But Peabody’s main resource continues to be its people. Every September the city celebrates the diversity of its heritage with the annual International Festival in Peabody Square, where thirty-six nationalities and cultures are represented through exhibits, art, and cuisine.  In 2012 we were among the 100 Best Cities to Live by Money Magazine and in April 2009, Forbes Magazine listed the City of Peabody as Number 14 on its list of most livable cities in America, signifying that Peabody remains a vibrant and flourishing community.

Timeline for the Evolution of Peabody

1629 – Settlement of Salem.  Peabody was referred to as Northfields, The Farms or Brooksby.

1710 – Formation of the Middle Precinct of Salem consisting of the area between Salem Village (now Danvers) and Salem Town.

1752 – Founding of the District of Danvers.  The Middle Precinct became known as the South Parish of Danvers.

1757 – Official separation from Salem and incorporation of the Town of Danvers.  Peabody was still known as the South Parish of Danvers.

1855 – Official separation from Danvers and incorporation of the Town of South Danvers.

1868 – Change in name from South Danvers to Peabody.

1916 – Incorporation of the City of Peabody.

See the full History here