Salem Massachusetts, 1890

SALEM is an old and cultured city in the southeastern section of Essex County, on Massachusetts Bay, and 16 miles northeast of Boston, with which it is connected by the Eastern Division of the Boston and Maine Railroad, and by another branch through Wakefield and Peabody. A line to Lowell gives it direct connection with the interior. It is bounded on the north by Beverly harbor, on the east by Salem harbor and Marblehead, on the south by Swampscott and Lynn, and on the west by Peabody. The assessed area is 3,802 acres. The harbor is safe and convenient, but not of sufficient depth for vessels of the largest class; so that the East India trade, for which this city was once famous, is carried on by Boston and New York. There are still a large number of substantial and convenient wharves, generally bearing the names of the original owners. "The Neck," a long northeast projection between Beverly and Salem harbors, has within a few years become a place of attractive residences and of summer resort. The middle of the western section is marked by many small hills, and the land in this direction is wild and rocky, and chiefly used for pasturage. About a mile west of the city proper, and overlooking it, is a beautiful eminence known as Gallows Hill and Witch Hill; being the place where so-called witches were hung in the disgraceful and monstrous witch-craft period. Other picturesque localities are The Neck, Winter Island, an eminence near Forest River, and the wooded hills in the vicinity of Spring Pond, a beautiful expanse of fresh water of about 30 acres on the Lynn border. The streets of the city are wide, well shaded with noble elms and maples, and kept in excellent order. Washington Street, under which the long tunnel of the Eastern Railroad runs, is the principal business thoroughfare. Essex Street, which was paved as early as 1773, extends entirely through the city, and is lined by many elegant stores and handsome buildings, among which are the First, North and Grace churches. Federal Street is broad and regular; Chestnut Street is very handsome; and Lafayette Street, in the southerly part of the city, has many elegant dwellings and pleasant gardens. The Common, in the northerly section of the city, comprises eight and a half acres, surrounded by an iron fence with gateways, and adorned with gravelled walks and graceful elms. Among the handsome public buildings are the State Normal School, of brick; the imposing station-house of the Eastern Railroad, of rough granite; the court-house, of granite, and lately remodelled at a cost of $14,000; the old town-hall and the city-hall; the Mechanic Hall the theatre of the city; Marine Hall, which shelters the Peabody Academy of Science with its extensive museum gathered from all parts of the world; and Plummer Hall, the home of the Atheneum Association Library, of some 20,000 volumes, and of the Essex Institute, an active organization chiefly for natural history and ethnological researches in near regions. A gift of $140,000 from Hon. George Peabody, of London, formed the basis for the academy; and the latter building was erected in 1856 by a bequest of Miss Caroline Plummer. The pretty domestic Gothic edifice of the First Church, and the granite Episcopal church, of Gothic architecture, with castellated tower, have the most interesting exteriors of this class of buildings. The church of the Immaculate Conception (Roman Catholic) has a handsome interior and a fine bell. The custom-house, at the head of Derby Wharf, a two-story brick building, with a storehouse in the rear, is not the important business centre it was in days gone by. Its annual receipts are now some $10,000, perhaps; though during the quarter ending with December, 1807, the duties received here amounted to $511,000. In those days Derby and neighboring wharves were lined with merchant vessels from many parts of the old and new worlds. Millions and millions worth of goods have been landed here; but the old wharf is now fast passing away, and the warehouses falling. Manufactures have largely taken the place of commerce, and the city is still wealthy.

[The State Normal School, Salem]

According to the last State census, there were in the city 54 shoe factories, employing in June, 1885, 1,322 persons, and making goods in that year to the value of $2,021,685; a cotton mill employing 1,060 persons; two jute mills, employing 118 persons; the textiles made by these amounting to $1,612,378; and 57 leather establishments, employing about 1,500 men; the goods made being valued at $4,162,563. There were iron and brass founderies, several machine shops, a lead mill, and a tin-ware factory employing some 300 men; one or more cooperages, employing 27 men; 5 ship-yards, 7 stone-yards, a brickyard and a glue factory. Other goods made were braided straw and other articles of clothing, boxes, artisans' tools, electrical apparatus, cement, oils and illuminating fluids, beverages and other food preparations. The aggregate value of goods made was $9,845,681. The value of the product of the 26 farms was $77,206. The fisheries, consisting of lobsters, herring, clams and mackerel, named in order of value, brought in $22,300. Engaged in this business were 4 schooners, a sloop and 30 dories. The capital stock of the seven national banks amounted to $2,015,000; and the deposits in the two savings banks, at the close of business last yeas, amounted to $9,975,548. A co-operative bank here, just instituted, has started a fair amount of business. The number of legal voters was 6,036. The assessed land of the city amounted to 3,802 acres. The valuation in 1888 was $26,351,328, with a tax-rate of $16 on $1,000. The number of taxed dwelling-houses was 4,075.

The post-office is Salem, there being carrier delivery. The outlying villages are Carltonville and North and South Salem. Street railroads connect the various parts and adjacent towns. An excellent carriage bridge, 1,484 feet in length, connects the place closely with Beverly. Efficient water-works supply the city with excellent water from Wenham Pond. An important feature of the rural scenery is Harmony Grove, a fine cemetery, lying near the border of Peabody. Salem has excellent schools, graded as primary, grammar and high; and here, also, is a State Normal School; this and the 16 city school-houses being valued at upwards of $400,000. There are several libraries, in a degree open to the public, some of which . have been mentioned; the number of volumes being in the aggregate 102,640. "The Evening News" and "The Evening Times" are the local daily newspapers; the "Gazette" and the "Register" are semi-weekly; and the "Essex County Mercury," the "Observer" and the "Public" are weekly journals. "The Fireside Favorite" is issued monthly. The Congregationalists have three churches here; the Baptists and the Roman Catholics each the same number; the Unitarians four; the Episcopalians and the Methodists each two; and the Friends, the New Jerusalem Church and the Universalists, one each.

Salem is one of the court towns of the county. This town and Plymouth were the first towns permanently settled in the State. Breaking up his "fishing plantation" at Cape Ann, Roger Conant and his companions came to Naumkeag in the autumn of 1626; and though surrounded by perils and perplexities, the stouthearted leader gave his "utter denial to goe away." John Endicott, with his company, arrived on the 6th of September, 1628; and he was followed the next year by eleven ships, bringing 1,500 passengers, among whom were Francis Higginson, Deputy-Governor Thomas Dudley, Mr. Isaac Johnson and his accomplished wife Lady Arbella, daughter of the Earl of Lincoln. Many of these immigrants soon removed to Charlestown and Boston. In a letter written soon after his arrival, Mr. Higginson said, "When we first came to Nehumkek, we found about halfe score houses, and a faire house newly built for the governor; we also found aboundance of come planted by them very good and well-liking. And we brought with us about two hundred passengers & planters more, which, by common consent of the old planters, were all combined together into one body politicke, under the same governour. There are in all of us both old & new planters about three hundred, whereof two hundred of them are settled at Nehum-kek, now called Salem; and the rest have planted themselves at Massathulets Bay, beginning to build a town there, which wee do call Charton, or Charles-Town. We that are settled at Salem make what haste we can to build houses, so that within a short time we shall have a faire town."

During this year (August 6,1629), the first complete church organization ever made in this country was effected here; and the Rev. Francis Higginson was appointed pastor. John Massey was the first child born in the place. His birth occurred in 1629, and his death in 1709. In 1703 the old church Bible was presented to him as "the first town-born child." His cradle is still preserved. In 1636 the quarter court was held in this town, which then embraced what is now Manchester, Beverly, Danvers, Peabody, Middleton, with parts of Lynn, Topsfield, and Wenham. In 1661 eighteen Quakers were publicly punished here; and in 1692 occurred the remarkable delusion in respect to witchcraft, for which many persons in this and in the neighboring towns were tried, and as many as nineteen executed. The Curwin house, in which some of them were examined, is still standing on Essex Street. (See Danvers.)

Salem exhibited a noble patriotism during the Revolution; and when, after the closing of the port of Boston, Gen. Thomas Gage removed to this town, the citizens presented him an address (June 11, 1770), in which they magnanimously said : "By shutting up the port of Boston, some imagine that the course of trade might be turned hither, and to our benefit; but Nature, in the formation of our harbor, forbids our becoming rivals in commerce to that convenient mart. And, were it otherwise, we must be dead to every idea of justice, lost to all feelings of humanity, could we indulge one thought to seize on wealth, and raise our fortunes on the ruins of our suffering neighbors."

Col. Leslie, with a British regiment, landed privately at Marblehead, February 26, 1776, with the intention of taking some military stores in the north part of Salem; but Col. Timothy Pickering, with a band of followers, raised the draw of the North Bridge, and prevented the advance of Leslie's men. An attempt was then made to cross North River in a gondola; but this the Americans scuttled. Col. Leslie then proposed that, if permitted to pass thirty rods beyond the bridge, he would desist from his undertaking. This he was allowed to do; and, having done it, he returned, according to his word, to Boston.

During the late war, Salem responded promptly to the calls of the country; and as many as 82 of its soldiers were killed in battle or died in consequence of exposures in the service.

The growth of the city has been gradual, but certain and since attention has been largely turned to manufacturing, its progress has been more rapid, and its gains more evenly distributed. The population in 1762 was 4,123; in 1790, 7,921; in 1800, 9,457; in 1810, 12,613; in 1820, 12,731; in 1830, 13,895; in 1840, 15,082; in 1850, 20,264; in 1860, 22,252; in 1870, 24,117; in 1880, 27,563; and in 1885, 28,090.

Salem has the honor of having given to the world a large number of distinguished men, among whom may be mentioned Rev. Peter Thacher, M.D. (1651-1727), Hon. Benjamin Lynde (166~1747), Rev. George Burroughs (d. 1692), Hon. Stephen Sewall (1704-1760), Gen. Israel Putnam (1718-1790), Gen. John Glover (1732-1797), Hon. William Browne (1737-1802), Mr. Elias Hasket Derby (1739-1799), Mr. Stephen Higginson (1743-1828), Col. Timothy Pickering, LL.D. (1745-1829), Jonathan Mitchell Sewall (1745-1808), Joseph Orne, M.D. (1747-1786), Hon. George Cabot (1752-1823), Gen. Elias Hasket Derby (1760-1826), Nathaniel Bowditch, LL.D., F.R.S. (1773-1838), John Pickering, LL.D. (1777-1846), Mr. Benjamin Peirce (1778-1831), Joseph Barlow Felt, LL.D. (1789-1869), Josiah Willard Gibbs, LL.D. (1790-1861), Francis Calley Gray (1790-1856), William Hickling Prescott, LL.D. (1796-1859), Henry Felt Baker (1797-1857), Stephen Clarendon Phillips (1801-1857), Charles Dexter Cleveland, LL.D. (1802-1869), Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), Nathaniel Ingersoll Bowditch (1805-1861), John Goodhue Treadwell, M.D. (1805-1856), Nehemiah Adams, D.D. (1806), Benjamin Peirce, LL.D. (1809), Charles Davis Jackson, D.D. (1811), Charles Grafton Page, M.D. (1812-1868), Henry Wheatland, M.D. (1812), Charles Timothy Brooks (1813), Jones Very (1813), William Wetmore Story (1819), William Frederick Poole (1821), Samuel Johnson (1822), Gen. Frederick West Lander (1822-1862), George W. Searle (1826), Maria S. Cummins (1827-1866), John Rogers (1829), J. Harvey Young (1830), Frederick Townsend Ward (1831-1862), an admiral-general in the service of the Chinese emperor.


pp. 573-578 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890