Ipswich Massachusetts, Bridging History

The Devil’s footprint at Meetinghouse Green


The “devil’s footprint” is circled with green paint on the rocks below First Church in Ipswich.

In front of the First Church in Ipswich is the footprint of the devil, proof of a legendary encounter with the charismatic English evangelist George Whitefield in 1740.

This was Whitfield’s second trip to the church in Ipswich, and thousands flocked to the Green to hear him. The church being much to small for such a crowd, he began preaching from the granite ledge below the church steeple. His sermon was of such great intensity that his voice could be heard throughout the town.

There was a belief among the parishioners that the devil watched them on Sunday mornings, hiding behind a large mirror beside the pulpit. On this day, with the crowd listening to the Reverend Whitefield’s resounding condemnation of Sin and Satan, the words were harsher than old Lucifer could bear, and he burst forth from his hiding place in the church before the startled masses gathered on the hill.

It is agreed by all that the Devil and the energetic young Reverend went head to head, wrestling like maniacs. Whitefield chased the Devil into the church and up the steeple, with the horrified congregation watching below. Just as Satan appeared to be taking the upper hand, the Reverend yelled with a thunderous voice, accompanied by a mighty push, and the devil was hurled to the rocks below. One of his feet hit the granite ledge with such force that it left an imprint that can still be today!

Taking the unusual event in stride, the rarely modest Rev. Whitfield wrote 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.”

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

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

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