History of Salem, Massachusetts
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Salem, seat of Essex County, is located on the northeast coast of Massachusetts at the mouth of the Naumkeag River. It is best remembered for the witchcraft hysteria that gripped the area in the closing years of the 17th century.
Salem was founded in 1626 by Roger Conant and a group of immigrants from Cape Ann. At first the settlement was named Naumkeag, but the settlers preferred to call it Salem, derived from the Hebrew word for peace. In 1628, they were joined by another group, led by John Endecott, from the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
The events for which Salem is best remembered began in 1692. A local physician diagnosed several teenage girls as bewitched, which resulted in the hanging of 19 persons and one being crushed to death. When the hysteria had played itself out the following year, an edict was issued that released all people from prison who had been accused of witchcraft. Since then, no one has been hanged for witchcraft in the United States. The history of that period can be explored at the Salem Witch Museum. Numerous original papers from the trials are kept at the Peabody Essex Museum.
The first provincial assembly of Massachusetts was held in Salem, in 1774. During the War of Independence and the War of 1812, Salem was a sanctuary for privateers. During peacetime, Salem ship captains took their vessels to distant ports and earned great wealth for their city. The tall ship Friendship, a replica of an East Indiaman merchant ship built two centuries earlier, is the largest wooden sailing vessel built in New England in more than 100 years. It is berthed at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.
Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804, at the peak of Salem's sailing prosperity. A house believed to have inspired him to write The House of Seven Gables is maintained and open to the public, along with Hawthorne's nearby birthplace.
At the center of Salem is Washington Square, an eight-acre common dominated by a statue of Roger Conant, the city founder. It is surrounded by magnificent 18th-century homes. Chestnut Street is home to a large concentration of historic mansions as well.
Salem Normal School opened in 1854 to train young women to be teachers. Over the years, it transformed its mission and eventually became Salem State College in 1968.
In 1874, a Salem philanthropist donated $25,000 and a mansion on Charter Street for the establishment of the city's first hospital. Salem Hospital opened on October 1, 1874, with 12 beds. It was heavily damaged in the great Salem fire of 1914, and new facilities were built on Highland Avenue.
The Salem Atheneum was formed in 1810 by the union of the Social and Philosophical libraries. By 1837, it boasted a collection of around 9,000 volumes. The Salem Public Library is located in the Historic District of Salem, in an 1855 renovated brick mansion originally owned by sea merchant John Bertram.
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The Great Salem Fire of 1914 by Barbara Pero Kampas.
The Great Salem Fire of 1914 started on June 25 at 1:37 PM, following a long June dry spell at the Korn Leather Factory at 57 Boston Street. The fire ...
Hawthorne's Haunts in New England by John Hardy Wright.
Loosen the latchstring and peer into the places where Nathaniel Hawthorne passed back and forth from nineteenth-century New England to the fertile cou...
A Delusion of Satan: The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials by Frances Hill, Karen Armstrong.
This acclaimed history illuminates the horrifying episode of Salem with visceral clarity, from those who fanned the crisis to satisfy personal vendett...
In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 by Mary Beth Norton.
In 1692 the people of Massachusetts were living in fear, and not solely of satanic afflictions. Horrifyingly violent Indian attacks had all but emptie...
The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent.
Martha Carrier was hanged on August 19th, 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, unyielding in her refusal to admit to being a witch, going to her death rather...
The Devil in Massachusetts by Marion Lena Starkey.
The reign of terror that swept Salem Village in 1692 is still the most celebrated of all witch hunts. It was a tragedy of individuals, which underline...