Sailors and Tales from Salem MA

Derby_Wharf_BoatsDid Viking sailors come to Salem? They have found Roman coins in Beverly and Manchester on the beaches either brought by Vikings or an earlier traveler. There are the tales of Lief Erikson’s brother Thorfin being murdered by Natives near Bass Rocks in Gloucester, the hotel there used to be named after him.

Then we have the stories of Prince Henry Sinclair sailing to Salem looking for Vinland and his knight Sir James Gunn who dies in Westford MA. Gunn is now known as the Westford Knight and his effigy still lies in Westford. The mascot for Salem State University is a Viking. On Baker’s Island, there is the Northman Rock.

Then we have Professor Eben Norton Horsford. Horsford was a Harvard professor who patented our current formula for Baking Powder. He believed Boston was Norumbega. To commemorate his beliefs he had the Lief Erikson statue erected in Boston and the Norumbega Tower built at the mouth of Stony Brook. Across from it was Norumbega Park. Most of it is now the Newton Marriott. Horsford also believed that the Dighton Rock in the Taunton River by Fall River had Viking runes on it. Now it is in Berkley, MA. The museum who owns the stone thinks it was Portuguese who were dropped to these shores by the Phoenicians who carved it. They might have been the guys who dropped the Roman coins… Longfellow was part of the original group to build the Lief Erikson Statue, on the Longfellow Bridge are Viking Ships.  In fact, many of the Transcendentalist believed they did.

Most of the sailors from Salem were scoundrels and smugglers who dug tunnels to avoid duties that went on to shape all the horrible parts of our government at its foundation, including a cession movement. Still, a few of them have some humorous stories that dance in and out of each other.

Jacob Crowninshield brought the Stoned Elephant to town. The privateer Fame was owned by many who decided to paint it pink… Just like the color of the Elephant, at times.

Captain West fought his wife and her brother Elias Hasket Derby Jr. (He extended the tunnels throughout the town in 1801) on Derby Wharf after their father left the wharf to West. Elizabeth Derby and Nathaniel West had the most infamous divorce in the nineteenth century.  Their mansion Oak Hill is where the North Shore Mall is now on Rt 128.

John Derby jumped ship first to tell England we started the Revolution and was the first to sail back to tell them it was over.

George Crowninshield Jr. (His father’s house is where the Custom House is. When they built the Custom House, not only did they leave the basement intact with the tunnels attached to it, they added a few more) built Cleopatra’s Barge. There was talk this ship helped Napoleon escape from his island prison. Who knows, there is a rumor that Napoleon visited his brother Joseph at Bordenton NJ at Point Breeze.

Joseph Napoleon’s mansion had several tunnels leading to the Delaware River. His park attached to his estate is the basis for Central Park designed by Olmsted. Olmsted is famous in Boston for the Emerald Necklace. He also designed Forest River Park and planted some trees in the Common. Henry Clay, John Quincy Adams, and Daniel Webster visited Point Breeze, I wonder if they compared the Tunnels in Salem that run around the Common to his. All these men were always walking through Salem’s tunnels.

Captain West is connected to the Bonaparte’s as well. The other side of the family. Before Joseph Bonaparte became king of Naples and Spain, his brother Lucien resided there who was openly against Napoleon. Captain West after the Embargo Act was lifted sailed to Naples. The Embargo Act was created by Jefferson to prevent American sailors and ships from being stolen during the Napoleonic Wars by the French and English. When it was lifted, West sailed his ship Minerva to Naples and was captured by Admiral Marat in Napoleon’s navy. He was set free if he would sail Lucien Bonaparte to Malta, but they were captured by the English and they were all made heroes once they sailed to Liverpool.

Three other ships Marat captured were owned by Joseph White, Joseph Knapp Sr., and Richard Crowninshield Sr. This would lead to the murder that influenced the game Clue and Edgar Allan Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart. Knapp and Crowninshield, who were Democrats, realized their folly and Jefferson’s wisdom and insulted White who was a Federalist. Add to this Knapp’s wife gave birth to a son named Joseph after he lost White’s baby, the ship Revenge. Mrs. White died leaving Joseph without an heir. In his own death, White had his revenge against his business partners by having their sons hanged for his own murder after having his nephew hire a man named Palmer to murder him. The nephew created the Whig party with Daniel Webster and Henry Clay of the Great Triumphant. Stephen White was behind John Quincy Adams failed election against Andrew Jackson.

The Federalists hated Jefferson and his Embargo Act so much they refused to fight the War of 1812. Most of New England refused to fight the war. Salem did build one ship for the war, but it fought in the Pacific instead of the Atlantic where the war was going on. Admiral Porter attacked whaling ships, had a genocide or two on Polynesian islands, and got caught during a civil war in Chile headed by an Irish man. In fact, Timothy Pickering from Salem and his Essex Junto lead the cession movement that ended at the Hartford Convention. Members of the convention went to Washington afterward to tell them about them siding with the British, but Andrew Jackson defeated the army that defeated Napoleon at Waterloo and John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay had signed the peace Treaty in Ghent before they arrived with their demands. During the war, the Federalist group East India Marine Society (Founders of the Peabody Essex Museum) debated if they should visit the corpse of Admiral Lawrence who was killed in the war. Lawrence was from the same town Joseph Bonaparte lived in NJ.

Elias Hasket Derby Jr. lost his share of the 36th largest estate in American history in 2 years which prompted him to extend the tunnels in town and be paid for by all of the future smugglers. He ends his carrier as a sheep farmer after having a failed voyage to Europe which ended well as Napoleon’s forces headed by his brother Joseph scared 2,000 sheep around his feet on a mountain in Spain. So thanks to the man who built underground tunnels, America did not have to have scratchy underwear anymore since merino wool was a lot smoother.

Aaron Burr worked with Timothy Pickering in his cession plots, as did Hamilton. Some say Hamilton’s falling out with the Essex Junto led to their duel. Burr jumped ship from the group and decided to become the king of western America, but was caught by Jefferson. Cleopatra’s Barge? She was sold to the King of Hawaii. When asked how open the King was to religion one said,

“If you want to know how Religion stands at the Islands I can tell you — All sects are tolerated but the King worships the Barge.”

So that is a few tales of the sailors from Salem. More tales like this can be found in the books Sub Rosa, Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City, and Murder on the Common.

Murder on the Common is the newest from Salem House Press. The tale of how everyone’s favorite immortal solves the murder of the most notorious case in the nineteenth century. The first novel of the Sinclair Narratives published in Arkham: Tales from the Flipside.

By the way, Blackbeard’s skull is in Salem, even though he never came here during his life…

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Colossal Victorian Divorce

America’s First Family in Disarray…

West Vs. West Divorce with America's first Millinaire FamilyMany of us living on the North Shore of Boston know of the mall called…The North Shore Mall. Some of us know the stories of the various graves that dot the property in the hedges before you walk into JC Penny’s and other locations or the  stories of the church that resides in the basement; very few know of the mansion that resided on this location and the nasty divorce that got the home pulled apart and reassembled in various places.

So lets back up a bit; who were the couple who built the mansion known as Oak Hill. Well Elizabeth Derby West was the daughter of Elias Hasket Derby who was America’s first millionaire and on some lists is described as the 10th wealthiest man in American history. Imagine that a millionaire who had more wealth than today’s billionaires? Inflation… Elizabeth married Nathaniel West, a man her father declared a scullion. Well in time Captain West won over his father-in-law and was confided in business decisions more often than not than his own children. So much so that the father willed to his son-in-law Derby Wharf which was the largest and most profitable in town. This little act led to  a no holds bar fist fight between Elias Hasket Derby Jr. and Elizabeth against her husband. later she would probably have such a fight with her brother after he inherited the family mansion on Derby Square which he soon squandered away.

In 1803 the scandal opened in court. Here is a few words from Rev. Bentley (diarist and friend of John Hancock):

Never could Johnson’s words better [be] applied, when a man marries a fortune it is not all he marries. The woman became all that is execrable in women from vanity, caprice, folly, & malignity…

He was an enterprising seaman with no uncommon advantages of education or nature, but his ambition led him to address the eldest daughter of the late E.H. Derby…The mother of Elizabeth was a Crowninshield and well known for vanity which she exposed to constant & deserved ridicule. E. possessed the rigid temper of her father, with all the weakness of her mother.”

and

“…after every quarrel with all her relatives she waged open war against her husband & this day, aided by the unfeeling perseverance of her malignant Br[other] Gen. E.H. D[erby] who has a private quarrel to avenge, she displayed in open court, to prove the incontinence of Capt. W[est], all the sweepings of the Brothels of Boston, & all the vile wretches of Salem, Marblehead, Cape Ann.

The mansion. It remained in Elizabeth’s hands during her life, but she was to die 10 years later. Then one of her daughters gave it to her father, against the wishes in the mother’s will… It was torn apart; a parlor is in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, some rooms were on display at the Peabody Essex Museum a few years ago, a summer house is on the Glen Magna estate, and a portion is added to the Phillips House on Federal Street in Salem.  So Oak Hill remains no more, in its entirety, but you can visit the ghost of Captain West at the Salem Inn. Most of the time his spirit can be felt by his bottle of port which you are welcomed to share a glass with him. Plus if you are in the Christmas spirit…you can shop for many gifts at the North Shore Mall on the location of this once famous mansion.

To read more about how Salem shaped American history read Sub Rosa by Chris Dowgin published by Salem House Press.

www.salemhousepress.com

 

Salem Fagin

The First Boy’s Club and Tunnels…

The First Boy’s Club in the country was held in a building attached to this tunnel. In fact the three locations that the club first resided in were all attached to the smuggling tunnels in Salem MA. The first was the Downing Block next to the Peabody Essex Museum. The second location was in the Salem Lyceum that previous housed a lecture series where Alexander Graham Bell introduced his phone publicly at. The third location was in the old Essex County Bank building built by Charles Bulfinch who became the Architect of D.C. who built all the tunnels under our capitol.

The Boy’s Club learned an important early lesson; keep the kids in a brick building. For the one time they were housed in a wooden building, the Lyceum, they burned it down.  The location where James Russell Lowell introduced the Dante Club’s translation of The Inferno was burned to the ground by these children.

So why was it so important to have these economically challenged children in building attached to the tunnels? Were they helping the sailors and captains smuggle in town? Were they assisting in the runaway slaves attempts at gaining freedom? Or were they run by a Salem Fagin who had them act like the Artful Dodger and break into the homes that also were attached to the tunnels?

Who is to say, but it makes you think…

For more info read Sub Rosa to find out how Salem shaped America and your lives! Available at Remember Salem, Jolie Tea, Wicked Good Books, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.com. Also to learn more stories like this first hand, book a tour with the Salem Smugglers’ Tour!

Salem House Press
http://www.salemhousepress.com

Vintage Salem Morning!

Old Town Hall built on William Brown’s mansion property. William Brown was a Tory and ran to Newfoundland during the Revolutionary War. His kin Lucy Brown Derby inherited it and gave it to her father in Law Elias Hasket Derby Sr. This became America’s first millionaire’s 4th mansion in town. He only got to live in the mansion for a year before he died. Then Lucy got the mansion when her husband Elias Hasket Derby Jr. inherited the property. After spending his portion of the 10th largest estate in American history, Elias started selling off the mansion and grounds little by little.  In 1814 he will sell the property to the town to build Old Town Hall. Tunnel designers Samuel McIntire and Charles Bulfinch worked to create the building. One tunnel leaves the back of the building and connects to the Old Naumkeag Trust Building. It was helpful a few years ago to run cable for internet between the two buildings…

For more info read Salem Secret Underground:The History of the Tunnels in the City and Sub Rosa by Chris Dowgin available at Remember Salem, Jolie Tea, Wicked Good Books, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.com.

Vintage Salem Morning!

Greenlawn Chapel and Greenhouse Salem Ma

Greenlawn Cemetery, Chapel, and Greenhouse. Under this chapel 4 tunnels meet. One heading out to Orne’s Point where the Widow Orne sold bricks to keep her property to be used to create the tunnels in Salem. Her kin Secretary of State Timothy Pickering bought 40,000 bricks from her in one order when a house only needed 8,000 bricks.

For more info read Sub Rosa by Chris Dowgin available at Remember Salem, Jolie Tea, Wicked Good Books, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.com.

I am Henry Clay

I was one of the three most powerful senators, but you don’t remember me

I first came to Salem to advise a rope maker on the advantages of hemp. Once in town I met John Quincy Adams and became his Secretary of State. I also met Daniel Webster who was one of the Triumphant of senators with me. We plotted and got away with assassinating 3 presidents trying to make the third national bank.

For more info read Sub Rosa to find out how Salem shaped America and your lives! Available at Remember Salem, Jolie Tea, Wicked Good Books, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.com.
Salem House Press
www.salemhousepress.com

The Real Beginning to the Revolutionary War

Leslie’s Retreat

Painting of Leslie's Retreat at the Old North Street Bridge

America’s first armed conflict in the Revolutionary War. First blood was spilled in the war when a man bared his chest to a Regular and was scraped by a bayonet. Before Lexington and Concord, General Leslie was ordered to secure the cannons which would later end up in Lexington. Salem rallied and raised the Old North Street Bridge and prevented them from crossing. A large group climbed the bridge and taunted the British, even more were coming but they thought it was more important to guard the distillery instead on the way to Salem from Danvers. The stand off came to an end when Salem allowed Leslie to follow out his orders, to cross the bridge. So he did and went back to Boston the way he came.

To find out more read Sub Rosa by Chris Dowgin and find out how Salem shaped American history and your lives!