A quaint town filled with history and literature!
Salem, Massachusetts, is only around 40 minutes north of Boston.
It reminds me of Tombstone, a small town now a devoted tourist attraction. In other words, you must go! The town embraces its unsavory history by putting truth to the witch trials but also helps you understand the culture at the time. You understand why the young girls were able to get away with accusing innocent people of witchcraft for a few months.
The Witch House
The Witch House is not an actual witch house but has a dark connection to the Salem Witch Trials. It is the only standing building that has direct ties to the trials.
Jonathan Corwin, an heir to a large Puritan fortune, served as a judge during the Salem Witch trials. He was also the brother-in-law of John Hathorne (remember Hathorne!!).
The house has copies of documents from the witch trials, including ones pertaining to Tituba. If you read The Crucible you know that she’s the central person to the hysteria. The poor lady thought if she confessed they’d go easy on her.
The house included artifacts explaining how the Corwins lived but also how the Puritans took steps to protect themselves from witches and demons.
Old Burying Point
Then we walked to Old Burying Point/Charter Street Cemetery. It is the oldest graveyard in Salem with some prominent people.
Next to the cemetery is a memorial for those murdered during the witch trials. Giles Corey is the most sympathetic (besides quiet Rebecca Nurse) because they pressed him to death. Could you imagine being pressed to death? It took him two days to die.
In the cemetery is judge John Hathorne. I mentioned him above with Corwin.
Hathorne is a distant relative of great American author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Nathaniel added the w to his last name, which also changed the pronunciation to distance himself from his relative. So HAY-thorn became HAW-thorn.
So many headstones are faded and broken.
The House of the Seven Gables
I have degrees in literature and English. I specialized in Shakespeare, Renaissance, and medieval literature and history.
I do not like American literature except for Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allen Poe.
Maybe it’s Hawthorne’s use of symbolism that drives me wild. “Young Goodman Brown” never gets old.
But then we have Hawthorne’s novels. Everyone has to read The Scarlett Letter. But once you read The House of the Seven Gables you’ll wonder why The Scarlett Letter ever became his best known work. I find it overrated. It’s a great book but Hawthorne’s other writings are better!
What is a gable? It is “the vertical triangular end of a building from cornice or eaves to ridge.”
John Turner I built the house that will become known as The House of the Seven Gables in 1668. He made his fortune through trade in Salem Harbor, which was the top place in Massachusetts at the time. His son John Turner II inherited the house but had to sell it after he lost his fortune.
Enter Captain Samuel Ingersoll, a wealthy ship captain! The Ingersolls are cousins to Nathaniel Hawthorne.
But Samuel’s daughter Susanna is the most interesting character. She inherited the house after her parents passed away. She refused to get married because then all of her assets would become her husband’s. She didn’t want to lose her childhood home to her husband. Susanna went into real estate and grew her fortune on her own. She also adopted a son named Horace Connolly.
So Susanna worked as a single mom and made a fortune on her own. That’s so cool.
Nathaniel visited Susanna and listened to her stories from her childhood. He wrote The House of the Seven Gables.
Horace couldn’t afford the house so he sold it to the Upton family. The House of the Seven Gables became popular and people showed up wanting to tour the house.
The Upton family allowed this and held tours of the house!
The Uptons sold the property when they moved. It is now a protected park thanks to Caroline Emmerton. She purchased the home in 1908 to preserve it since so many people since the 1890s wanted to visit the house in the famous book.
Caroline also put built into the house some parts of the book. If you read the book you’d know the main character had a shop to make some extra money. Caroline added that off the kitchen. Silly me forgot to take a picture of it.
Yes, Caroline even added the secret staircase by the fireplace! (It was such a tight fit I couldn’t take pictures.)
The park also bought Hawthorne’s childhood home! A church wanted to tear it down for a parking lot. So the park bought the home for $1 and moved it to the property. It includes the room Hawthorne was born in!!
I LOVED being in the area and home of one of my favorite authors of all time.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.