Sunday, March 22, 2020

Video Walking Tour

Greetings, all --

Well, these are weird, uncertain times.  Not dark times ... not yet.  But right now, we all just have to calmly wait and see.  Wash your hands, stay home as much as you can, and above all Take Care Of Each Other.

I will still be updating the blog with photos and musings from/about the Charter Street Cemetery and anywhere else that appeals to me.  

Nobody knows what this all means for the tour industry here in town, probably nothing good; when I am not writing or performing, I am a tour guide here in town.  Because you aren't coming to Salem anytime soon, I have begun posting videos to bring the walking tour to you.  The first one is here:

And more will follow.  

Do you enjoy what I do?  Want to help out?  There are a few ways you can show some support, any and all of which would be hugely appreciated!.

The easiest way is to share the love -- tell a friend!  Tell an enemy!  Tell a random passer-by about this guy and his blog and his walking tours and his books in Salem! 

You can also buy a book!  Check with your local brick-and-mortar shop first, but failing that, hit up Amazon:    

Last but not least, there are a few tipjar-style options available: people don't generally tip novelists, but maybe we can start a trend ....

Venmo: Ko-Fi: Paypal:
Until we meet again ... and we WILL ... just be excellent to each other.


Monday, March 9, 2020

The Lynde Family Tomb

You might walk around the Lynde family tomb in the Charter Street Cemetery without giving it a second glance; many people seem to.  It is big, but plain, and there is no inscription anywhere, so you would have no way of knowing that there are, somehow, the remains of *eight* people, spanning three generations, entombed there.  And that one of them is connected to an important event in American history.   

The family patriarch, Benjamin Lynde, Sr., was a prominent lawyer and magistrate, born in Salem in 1666 and dying here in 1749.  He became Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (as would his son, Benjamin Junior, who is the real reason for our visit, and about whom more in a minute).

Benjamin Senior married Mary Browne (d. 1753, age 74); in addition to Benjamin Jr., the couple had another son, William.  William would die young at age 37 in 1752.      

Benjamin Junior married Mary Goodridge.  Their daughter, Hannah (1735-1792), was named after her great-grandmother on the maternal side.    

All of these folks are laid to rest in this tomb, and records indicate there are two more – a William Brown, with no “e,” who may be a relative of Mary, and a Primus Lynde, who died in 1787, with no age.  Primus was a “man” belonging to Benjamin Junior.  In other words, a slave.

Frank Cousins of course took a photograph pf the tomb:

Prof. Donna Seger of SSU has researched the women in the Lynde family, and her work is well worth your time.  I will refer you to her Streets of Salem blog, rather than just plagiarize her findings:

The 250th anniversary of the Boston Massacre was just last week, and Chief Justice Benjamin Lynde, Jr. presided over the trial of Capt. Preston and the redcoats accused of firing on civilians.  Three colonists were killed, and two more would later die of their wounds.  John Adams acted for the defense, winning acquittal for six of them; two others were convicted of manslaughter.  Those two claimed “benefit of clergy,” and were branded on the thumb. 

Lynde was described as “nervous,” and took extensive notes during the trial. 

Adams must have known that Salem was the Chief Justice’s hometown, as he would later remark:

The Part I took in Defence of Cptn. Preston and the Soldiers, procured me Anxiety, and Obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country. Judgment of Death against those Soldiers would have been as foul a Stain upon this Country as the Executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently.”         

Lynde Street in downtown Salem is named after Benjamin Senior.  When you pass by, follow the sign down to the Gallows Hill Theater and take in the show.        

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Catharine Andrews

Tucked away next to the gate connecting the Salem Witch Trials Memorial and the Charter Street Cemetery, you will find a small, unassuming stone marked "Catharine Andrews."  There is some simple braidwork decorating the edge of the stone, and that’s all.

Because it is so isolated and has nothing on it aside from her name, I admit I have occasionally passed by her stone with a tour and quipped, “I guess nobody liked Catharine.”  And that’s just a dumb thing to say, especially when walking over someone’s grave, and she deserves better.  So I decided to take a closer look and try to puzzle out her story in an effort to make it up to her.

The lack of info made me think that maybe this was in fact a footstone.  For those of you who are not familiar with footstones, the footstone is a small, plainer stone placed roughly six feet behind the headstone.  People often say that they want to read the inscription on a headstone and admire the carvings, but they feel disrespectful standing on someone’s grave.  But traditionally, in older New England cemeteries, the body is buried on the side opposite the carving, so that you can read the stone without standing on the grave itself.  Next time you are reading a headstone, look over the top and you will often see a small stone some feet behind it, sometimes plain and sometimes with initials or the name; that’s the footstone.               

Turning once again to William Carlson’s “Charter Street Cemetery Burial Records,
Salem, Massachusetts, Genealogical and Historical,” my suspicion was confirmed – “her headstone is missing, only the footstone survives,” he tell us.  He also thanks an Andrews descendant for helping him with the family history.   

Catharine was the daughter of Captain Nehemiah Andrews and Catherine Seamore.  Nehemia was master of a schooner, Thomas.  In 1794 Nehemiah and the schooner were “detained under embargo at Bordeaux.”  I am not entirely clear on the story, but he ended up filing a claim with the US Treasury for his detention. 

Their daughter Catharine was born on October 21, 1772.  The couple also had a son they named Nehemiah; the son would go on to marry an Elizabeth Ledbeter, and they would have a daughter they likewise named Catherine.  I am not a professional genealogist, or even an amateur one, and recycling given names makes tracking family history tricky.  (And seeming to switch freely back and forth between "Catherine" and "Catharine," and "Andrew" and "Andrews" isn't a real help, either.) 

“Our” Catharine evidently never married, and died too young at age 25.  Carlson’s book says that the inscription on her now-missing headstone read, “In Memory of Catherine Andrew, daughter of Captain Nehemiah Andrews obt July 5 1797,” and included a short verse:

Farewell my friends,
Dry up your tears,
I must be here
Until Christ appears.

My apologies, Catharine.  I will never again make a stupid quip at your expense.  May you rest in peace.      

Monday, November 25, 2019

Captain John Turner

Captain John Turner was born in Salem on September 8, 1644.  His father was an indentured servant who had completed the terms of his indenture, and his mother's maiden name was Freestone.  Like many Salem men, he became involved in the maritime trade with the East Indies, and I have also found mention that he was "a successful hat and shoe merchant."  He was soon one of the wealthiest men in town.  

Around 1668 he bought some land from a widow, Anne Moore, to build a house for himself and his new bride, Elizabeth (calling her "new" may be a bit of a stretch; there seems to be no agreement on when they were married, with possible dates ranging from 1660 to 1669).  Widow Moore already had a house on the property, but Turner deemed it unsuitable and tore it down and built a new house on the site.  This new house was a typical two-over-two design, with two rooms downstairs and two rooms upstairs, build around a gigantic central chimney.  It would have had a gable end roof, and may have looked something like the Witch House.  

Growing fortunes and a growing family (the Turners had six children) meant putting an addition (and "ell") on the house, adding another gable ... and another ... and another.  The house grew into a mansion as Turner renovated, upgraded, and remodeled.  Eventually, the house would have seven gables.    

His son, John Turner II, would continue to expand the mansion.  His grandson, John Turner III, was evidently a wastrel who would lose the mansion his family had lived in for three generations.  It was bought by the Ingersoll family, who started making their own changes to the house ... like removing some of the gables.  Susanna Ingersoll lived there in the 19th century and on one of his visits, her cousin, Nathaniel Hawthorne, began to think about a novel.   

There is a lot more to write about the House of the Seven Gables (Caroline O. Emmerton deserves her own *book,* not just a measly blog post), but I want to get back to the captain.  When he died in 1680, and the young age of 36, he was laid to rest in the Charter Street Cemetery.  One source says he died at sea but offers no details.  


His epitaph simply reads:

Here lieth the 

Body of 
Aged 36 years 
who departed this life 
the 9th of October 
in the year of our Lord

His box tomb is on the eastern side of the cemetery, what I always think of as the left-hand side, over by the Salem Wax Museum.

But ...

As you enter the cemetery from the gate on Charter Street, you will see a (bronze?) map mounted on a slab of granite, giving the locations of the "Graves of Greatest Historical Interest."  The map went up sometime in the early 1990s.  According to the map, the captain is in a completely different location .... 

The map places his tomb over on the right, not far from the map itself.  And there are Turners buried there, including a John Turner, but he is not *that* John Turner.  I spent a few minutes trying to parse the vagaries of Turner genealogy, and so far, I can't tell if those Turners are related to the captain.  I also briefly entertained the notion that the captain had originally been in the spot the map indicates and got relocated after the map went up, but no, the map is simply wrong.  One John Turner got confused with another. 

Visit the captain's tomb, and then head down Derby Street to take a tour at the House of the Seven Gables (it's a good tour, and the organization does a lot of good work).  Both things are well worth your time. 

On a personal side note: I have tried to read The House of the Seven Gables *three times* and can't finish it.  H. P. Lovecraft may have called it "the immortal tale -- New England’s greatest contribution to weird literature," but I find it a chore and a bore.  However, I did enjoy the 1940 film version, starring Vincent Price.     

Friday, November 15, 2019

Nathaniel Richardson

Nathaniel Richardson was a leather tanner who, at the time of his tragic death on January 25, 1794, ran the most successful tannery in the county, located just off the Common.  His simple headstone informs us that "His death was instant, from the pressure of a building he was assisting to remove.  He was an industrious man in the full prosperity of Life."  He was only 54.  His stone has an unusual border (in her great book "Our Silent Neighbors," Betty Bouchard describes it as "resembling the crimping of a pie crust," and it certainly does) that I have not seen elsewhere. 

Although not seen too often today, moving a building was a fairly common practice in the old days.  He and others were moving a house down Daniels Street, toward the water, when it slipped, falling on Nathaniel and killing him instantly.     

Fate had not been kind to the rest of the Richardson family, either; Nathaniel and his wife, Eunice (nee Putnam, 1751-1846), had a daughter, Betsey, who died just a few weeks short of her first birthday (though their five other children would live into adulthood).  Betsey is buried right next to her father: 

Betsey's stone is inscribed at the very bottom:

Sleep on, my babe, & take thy rest
God called thee home, & tho' it best.

And then Nathaniel's brother, Joshua, killed himself in 1774 at the age of 28.  He is also nearby.

The bottom of Nathaniel's the stone reads, "Ux Et Fil Vi Pos."  I don't speak Latin, but fiends of mine do, and they tell me that the phrasing is kind of odd, but it looks like it translates as "Placed by wife and six children," evidently including Betsey.  Which is sweet, in a Wordsworth's "We Are Seven" kind of way.  

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Hot Potato

The Charter Street Cemetery was reopened on Monday, November 4th, as promised.  That’s good.  I am glad to see that; I was worried that once it was locked, it could remain so indefinitely.  But obviously I was wrong. 

People naturally discussed the situation on social media like facebook and instagram during the month of October.  Most of the comments I saw were supportive of the closing, saying it was the right thing to do to protect the cemetery, and that it was great that the city was stepping up to preserve our irreplaceable history, finally making it a priority.  It seems that, in general, this was viewed as a win for historic preservation. 

But I am not sure that’s really how the story goes.  I think a lot of well-meaning folks are seeing what they want to see here.  I, at least, am seeing a pretty different story.

I don’t have official stats in front of me, but I would estimate that the cemetery can easily get a thousand or more visitors on a busy day in October.  That’s a hell of a lot of foot traffic, especially in a space that’s not designed for it.  And while the vast majority of people are respectful, there are always a handful of people who misbehave.  Clearly, one great solution would be to staff the cemetery with volunteers, like a museum (because the cemetery is the functional equivalent of a museum).  And that’s what Destination Salem did for a couple of years, going a step further by limiting the number of people allowed into the cemetery at a time, capping it at 100. 

This worked well, as far as I could see.  It allowed people to visit the cemetery, and there were monitors on hand to keep an eye on things and tell people not to sit on headstones and whatever else.

But Destination Salem chose not to continue staffing the cemetery for 2019.  Talking with someone familiar with the situation, I was told that DS felt it was more than they could or should have to handle, and that it was really the city’s responsibility anyway.  And those are fair points. 

That put the ball back into the Department of Public Works’s court.  Now DPW has a lot on their plate throughout the year – filling potholes, fixing water-main breaks, snow plowing, and a ton of other things – and they are especially busy during October.  Over-busy.  You may have heard me say that visiting downtown on November First, you won’t find so much as a gum wrapper on the sidewalk.  And that’s thanks to the hard-working folks at the DPW. 

Taking care of cemeteries is part of DPW’s bailiwick, but in Hallowe’en season they have a lot of other stuff to do, so babysitting a centuries-old cemetery might not have been top priority (even though it is in the description of what the DPW does on their website).  But they did have options here.  The could have asked DS to lend them some volunteers (I heard that the info booth downtown had more people than they knew what to do with this year), they could have hired a police detail.  I am told that DS gave DPW plenty of notice, so they had time to figure something out.

Unfortunately, they took the easiest, laziest approach, which was locking the cemetery up and keeping people out (or at least trying to; I saw people sneaking in there during the month). 

I also need to point out that in my opinion, this process was not handled particularly transparently.  I attended the September meeting of the Cemetery Commission, where the closing of the cemetery was first brought before the commission.  One of the members asked the fellow from the DPW if the public guides in town knew about this proposal (many tours, including mine, include the cemetery), and he assured them that the guides were all well-informed.

“I’m a public guide,” I put my hand up.  “And I first heard about this yesterday.”

The two other guides in the room likewise stated that they had only heard about this in the last 24 hours.                  

The guy from the DPW offered apologies, saying that he could have sworn we all knew what was going on.  And none of us did. 

I’m skeptical.  The whole thing reminds me of the way the PEM handled the Phillips Library move – decide what you’re going to do, keep quiet about it, and by the time the public finds out, it’s too late to do anything else.  DPW apparently had months to figure out what to do here, and they waited until August.   Until pretty much the last minute.  One of the other guides at the meeting tells me she made numerous attempts at following up with the guy from DPW, and he never returned a single phone call or email.    

The Cemetery Commission also bears blame here. They voted to let it happen, and the only real discussion I heard, sitting in those meetings, was one commissioner explaining that she hated how Salem wasn’t the same as it had been when she was growing up.  Now it was all about tourism, and the wrong kind of tourism at that.  Destination Salem's Kate Fox, to her credit, pushed back against the anti-tourism grumbling.

I have a hard time seeing this as the city stepping up to preserve our sacred historical treasures.  I have a hard time seeing it as the city pushing back against the nonstop carnival that downtown becomes every October. 

I can’t help but see this as a failure.  The cemetery got tossed around like a hot potato, with departments crying, “Not IT!”  There was time to come up with a plan but in the end, the laziest choice was made – lock it up and walk away.  The cemetery wasn’t locked in the name of preservation.  It was locked because nobody could be bothered to do anything else

And I agree that downtown can be overwhelming in October.  Heck, I’m trying to steer a tour group through the thick of it.  Yes, commercialized tastelessness abounds, and I am the first to roll my eyes at the guy who wants a dollar for a picture of him putting a noose around your neck.  But the cemetery is full of genuine, first-hand history, and you can visit it without spending a dime.  If you hate the people in cheap costumes spending money in t-shirt shops and asking where the Hocus Pocus house is, I am not sure how you can support denying access to a site of real historical significance that can be visited and appreciated for free.          

The Charter Street Cemetery absolutely IS an important, irreplaceable treasure, and it deserved better. 

Zacheus Barton

Zacheus Barton has a small but impressive stone which has held up well though the years.

He was the fourth of six children.  Sidney Perley tells us that his father, John Barton, was “a physician and an apothecary.  He married Lydia Roberts of Marblehead June 7, 1675; and on a voyage from England the vessel touched at Barbados, where he was called on shore to attend a case of yellow fever.  He took the fever and died there in December, 1694.  His widow subsequently conducted a store; and died May 13, 1713.”   

Zacheus was a tobacco merchant, or at least he tried his hand at being one.  He handed over a cask of tobacco to a Captain Lewis Hunt, having an "agreement to dispose of the same and remit the net proceeds."   He died a month later, on October 14th, 1707.  He was 25 years old, never married, and his cause of death is not known (at least not by me).     

The death’s head is very detailed, with great feathered wings, and the are acanthus leaves filling in the borders.  The rest of the stone is so nicely done that the hourglass(?) at the top sticks out like a sore thumb.  It seems very crudely done, compared to the rest of the workmanship here, and it is barely recognizable as an hourglass; I might not even know what it was supposed to be if I hadn’t seen hourglasses on other stones.  I assume “JG” is the carver, but I do not know who he is.