Ipswich, MA had seen the likes of George Whitefield once before. An early leader in the Methodist movement, he had been on a tour of New England when he made his second visit to the First Church of Ipswich on September 30, 1740, a night that would forever find a place in New England folklore.
Whitefield (also spelled Whitfield) was cross-eyed, high energy and could deliver a powerful sermon. He drew thousands of people to church, collected large sums in donations and was said to bring listeners to the heights of joy and sadness all in the same sermon. Whitefield became a trained preacher in England and first traveled to the American colonies in 1738. After spending time in Georgia, he decided that the colonies were in need of an orphanage, especially for African-American children, and dedicated his life to the task. Whitefield moved back to England but returned to the colonies in 1740 and began delivering a series of sermons that became known as the Great Awakening. These sermons allowed him to gain funding for the orphanage which would eventually be built in Nazareth, PA (now known as the Whitefield House).
On the evening of September 30th, Whitefield began yet another long and insightful sermon. He drew a very large crowd and because of its excessive size, he preached from a ledge outside of the church to allow for extra seating. A large, curved mirror in the church was said to be the home of the Devil and on Sundays the Devil would allegedly sit behind it and watch parishioners. Whitefield’s powerful sermon was filled with fire and brimstone as well as personal threats towards the Devil and it caused the Devil himself to jump from the mirror and stand before the awestruck congregation.
Almost immediately, Whitefield and the Devil found themselves in a brawl. They pushed and shoved and wrestled and fought until the Devil made a sudden dash for the steeple. Whitefield gave chase and the two found themselves eye-to-eye high above the worshippers below. Whitefield shouted at the Devil and lunged forward, pushing him off the steeple, and as the Devil hit the ground he landed on one foot on the rocks below before running away into the woods. Next to the church, forever forged into the rocks, visitors can now find the Devil’s footprint.
According to legend, Whitefield simply dusted himself off and returned to his sermon, barely shaken by the event. In fact, it wasn’t even mentioned in his journal entry that evening. Whitefield continued to preach between England and the New World until his passing in 1770. He made a total of seven voyages to the Americas and greatly impressed many of his listeners, including Benjamin Franklin. Whitefield was one of the first preachers to give sermons to slaves and was said to have the vocal strength to be heard by crowds as large as 30,000. He would ultimately deliver an estimated 18,000 sermons to as many as ten million people in his lifetime.
Just down the street from the Devil’s footprint lies the Ipswich Ale Brewery who have been serving up brews across New England since the early 1990s. With each can, bottle and pint they preserve the heritage of their home as well as refresh the local populous with concoctions like Ipswich Hellbound Barleywine. The Devil’s footprint can also been seen in other rocky areas around Massachusetts including in the towns of Auburn, Easton, Holliston, Medfield, Norton, Rochester and Seekonk.
From the Brewer: Our take on an American barleywine goes down smooth but packs a devilishly bold punch. It’s slightly sweet with lingering hints of raisins and caramel.
ABV 11.8%, IBU 35
Rob Martin - President
The Devil’s Footprint - just outside of the First Church in Ipswich