As far as we know, the Grammar School Trust in Ipswich is the oldest charitable trust in the United States.  The John Clarke Trust makes that claim too, but with a date of 1676, it comes 16 years after William Paine died on October 10, 1660, leaving the following instructions in his will:

“I give unto the free scoole of Ipswitch the little neck of land at Ipswitch commonly knowne by the name of Jefery’s neck.  The which is to bee and remaine to the benefit of said scoole of Ipswitch forever as I have formerly Intended and therefore the sayd land not to be sould nor wasted.”

In the old days, there were not as many lawyers to wrap shades of meaning and vagaries around such instructions.  As a result, they are plain and unambiguous.  As is the law: unless there is some reason why his instructions can not be carried out, they must be carried out, regardless of what other people might think is a “better deal”.

To put things into perspective, the Grammar School Trust pre-dates the Declaration of Independence by over 100 years.  It survived the Civil War and the Great Depression.  At one point, it owned land all over the county, including “all that neck of land beyond Chebacco River, and the rest of the ground (up to Gloucester line) adjoining to it”.  That is, most of Essex.  Imagine what the Ipswich Schools could be if the Trust still owned assets of that magnitude.

With all that history, how does one go about getting one’s head around it and understanding how we got into the situation we find ourselves in today, on the verge of selling the last tangible asset of the Grammar School Trust?  This paper by Kathleen Brill provides the most compact historical perspective that I have seen, so I suggest starting there:

History – 20100519 – Kathleen Brill Paper

If that whets your appetite, then you can dig deeper into the full collection of Bob Weatherall, Sr. and his 127 items about the Town Committee on the Feoffees which has been completely converted into digital form at the links below.

Weatherall – Town Committee Index

Weatherall on Feoffees 1-22

Weatherall on Feoffees 23-47

Weatherall on Feoffees 48-64

Weatherall on Feoffees65-85

Weatherall on Feoffees86-104

Weatherall on Feoffees105-117

Weatherall on Feoffees105-117

Weatherall on Feoffees118-127

And lastly, you can click on the “History” link under “Categories” to find posts related to some of the more historic events.

Of course, if you have any documentation of the history that you don’t find here, click on the Contact link and let us know.  This site is definitely a work in progress.