How the Revolutionary War Almost Started in Salem MA

Leslie's Retreat and the Old North Bridge in Salem, MA

In 1774 Col. David Mason of Salem purchased 19 French cannons mounted to carriages. They were hidden at Captain Foster’s shop in North Salem.

Military Governor Thomas Gage in Boston heard rumors about the canons in Salem. Gage was already distressed that Captain John Felt had taken charge of the Salem militia, and the town had hosted the Massachusetts Provincial Congress led by John Hancock. They met in a building that once stood in front of the Daniel Lowe building on the corner of Washington and Essex Street.

The members of the Massachusetts Governor’s Council was elected by the king now and not a provincial assembly, so in response the Massachusetts Provincial Congress was erected. They would become the state’s official body outside of Boston. After leaving Salem they would set up in Concord.
On February 26 Gage sent Lieut. Col. Alexander Leslie with the 64th regiment by ship to Marblehead with instructions to march to Salem with 240 troops and seize the cannons and munitions of war. Col. Leslie was known by his fellow officers as “a genteel little man who lives well and drinks good claret.”

He quietly landed with his troops at Homan’s Cove on Marblehead Neck while everyone was at mass. As soon as the ships landed a guard ran to the door of the church and sounded the alarm on his drum. They left Marblehead for Salem and encountered problems entering town when the southern bridge had boards pulled up. Upon fixing the bridge they entered the town square with bayonets fixed playing martial music.

Local Tories explained to the Colonel where to find the canons near the North Bridge. David Masons ran from his house on the east side of what is now the hill in Mack Park to the North Church yelling “the regulars are coming!”

The congregation left the church for the old North Bridge. Mason rode his horse to check on the canons and his wife and daughter went about hiding the arsenal. Captain Timothy Pickering led the Salem Militia to the bridge. Pickering, whose manual An Easy Plan for a Militia would later be used as the Continental Army drill book. Citizens from the south of town rushed the drawbridge and raised it.

Leslie ordered it to be dropped once more. In response he was barraged with insults. In an effort to calm the situation the Rev. Thomas Barnard, an x- Tory, tried to get them to let down the bridge, but Captain Foster, the blacksmith scolded him, “We don’t know you in this business. When Felt orders it’twill be time enough.”

Leslie was damned if he was not going to cross that bridge. On the other side several was on top of the upraised leaf “like so many hens at roost.” The Colonel stamped and swore and insisted that he had orders to cross it, and he would if it cost him his whole troop.

The alarm sounded and as many as 10,000 Minutemen came from surrounding towns. A cavalry rode in from Danvers, but they reached the Salem distillery and decided it needed protection. Much like at Lexington the battle started in front of the tavern.

Captain Felt was standing next to Colonel Leslie and heard him say to fire on the people. Felt responded, “Fire? You had better be dead than fire! You have no right to fire without further orders. If you do fire, you will all be dead men!” The order was not repeated and the war will have to wait two more months.

Col. Leslie told Felt “I am determined to pass over this bridge before I return to Boston, if I remain here until next Autumn.” Capt. Felt answered, “Nobody would care for that.” Leslie replied, “By God I will not be defeated.” Felt coolly replied, “You must acknowledge that you have been already baffled.”

There was gondolas on the west side of the bridge and the town inhabitants feared Leslie would use them so they set to them with axes as regulars tried to stop them.

Felt, Barnard and Mason negotiating with Col. Leslie, who was at length persuaded into a compromise instead of standing there for a few more hours. The conversation went:

“So, you came all this way just to cross a bridge?”
“Well yes, and to get the guns.”
“We’ve hidden them where you can’t find them”
“Well how can I tell the Governor that I found no guns if he learns that
I never even got across the bloody bridge?”
“You want to tell the Governor that you crossed the bridge but discovered no guns?”
“Considering the circumstances, me thinks that will suffice.”

So the bridge was lowered and they crossed for 50 yards, about faced, and marched back across. On the way by a young nurse yelled out a window, “Go home and tell your master he has sent you on a fool’s errand, and broken the peace of our Sabbath.” a soldier raised his musket at her and she continued, “What? Do you think we were born in the woods to be frightened by owls? Fire if you have the courage, but I doubt it.”

On their way back to Marblehead their band played The World Turned Upside Down the song heard years later when Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown. The song that was played at the beginning of the struggle wold be the last they played.

On April 18th everyone will remember the Battle of the North Bridge, with the shot heard around the world, but Salem’s stand at the North Bridge is mostly forgotten. Timothy Pickering? He would become aide de camp for Washington, the Secretary of State for him and Adams, write the Alien & Sedition Acts, and spend the rest of his life trying to give New England back to the British…

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For more tales like this about how Salem MA has shaped American History read Sub Rosa by Christopher Jon Luke Dowgin available at Barnes & Nobel, Amazon.com, and your favorite local independent book seller.
Ask for it by name!

Salem Secret Underground and The Salem Smugglers’ Tour

Chocolate and Peanut Butter

Chris Dowgin Leading the Salem Smugglers' Tour

So what is down there? Within the pages of the book Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City I tell you. The book is filled with pictures of the tunnels in the city. On the Salem Smugglers’ Tour I take you where the photos were taken and show you them on my tablet while going over the history of the people who built them.

So are any of these smugglers important today, or even then? Well lets take a look…

Joseph Story Smuggler in Salem MA

Man who shaped the Constitution, Associate Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story.

George Peabody in Salem MA

George Peabody orchestrated several economic panics with Rothschild in England. His bank is now called JP Morgan which orchestrated the 2008 Financial Collapse.

 

Timothy Pickering in Salem MA

Timothy Pickering was Secretary of State for Washington and Adams. He wrote the Alien & Sedition Acts which are now very similar to Homeland Security and the Patriot Act.

So these men were the politicians who shaped our country. Pickering was Washington’s general and Secretary of State who helped ratify the Constitution. Joseph Story shaped the Constitution with Daniel Webster. Both were in Stephen White’s pocket defending the Second Bank of the United States and their attempts to create what we call the Federal Reserve today. George Peabody founded the Rockefeller Foundation, sold the majority of shares in our national bank to foreign investors, collapsed our economy several times, founded what became JP Morgan bank, and bailed out the local museum which was renamed after him. He owned the Eastern Railroad that built the Gothic railroad station in town.

Elias Hasket Derby Jr.

Elias Hasket Derby Jr. spent the 10th Largest fortune in American history and extended 3 miles of tunnels in town.

 

Elias Hasket Derby

Elias Hasket Derby America’s first millionaire and tenth richest man in American history.

Who else? Elias Hasket Derby was America’s first millionaire and the tenth richest man in American history to this day. Beyond Gates and Buffet put together. He built a tunnel from his wharf, to his home, and to his cousin’s Hodges house who founded the Peabody Essex Museum. His son Eias Hasket Derby Jr. who extended the tunnels so 159 politicians and businessmen could avoid paying Jefferson’s duties. Thomas Perkins who’s opium empire spurred on the wealth of the Forbes, Russells, and Sturgis families. In fact the Russells purchase his land in New Haven and erect the Skull & Bones crypt on it. Russell will create the fraternity with Alphonso Taft who is President Taft’s grandfather.

How do I know these tunnels exist? Because I have been in them!

Chris Dowgin in Tunnel in Salem MA

Chris Dowgin in Tunnel in Salem MA

Chris Dowgin in Tunnel in Salem MA

Chris Dowgin in Tunnel in Salem MA

Chris Dowgin in Tunnel in Salem MA

Can I get you in…no! One day though so keep checking back, but for now there is so much more about this tour than witches. Stuff that still effects you today! Plus the tour is filled with vintage photos of town from the 1800’s, old car crashes, comedy, ghost stories and a famous murder!!!

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Also you will learn how Stephen White who had the East India Marine Hall in the Peabody Essex built got away with murdering his uncle with the involvement of Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story and Secretary of State Daniel Webster. A murder that empowered them to murder presidents Harrison and Taylor to secure the Third Bank of the United States so George Peabody could sell more of our country away to the Rothschilds.

President Taylor. Second to president to be murdered because of the Third Bank of the United States.

President Taylor. Second president to be murdered because of the Third Bank of the United States.

 

President Harrison. Murdered by people in Salem.

President Harrison. The first president murdered by people in Salem.

Daniel Webster Murdered Two Presidents.

Daniel Webster who murdered two presidents in a failed attempt to create the Third Bank of the United States.

Here are some of the cool tunnels in Salem you will see in the book and on the tablet on the tour.

Crypts

Green-House-Tunnel-Stairs2

DSCN0255

From_Street

Registry_Tunnel

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Downing_Block_Me_Jail_Cell_Door2

Door that led to compartments runaway slaves could sleep in on the tunnel route in Salem, MA.

13.Downing_Block_Jail_Cell_Door2

Joshua_Ward_House_Far_Left_Tunnel_edited

Tunnel_Between_Buildings_Front

So book a tour today at http://www.salemtunneltour.com and head over to Barnes & Noble to buy Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City. If you buy the book on the tour you will save $5 and will have it signed and doodled in by the author for no extra cost! What a deal!!

Derby Square and the Tunnels of Salem MA

Home of the Engineer and Playboy

Derby Mansion Derby Square Salem MA

Old Town Hall

32 Derby Square

This was the site of Col. William Browne who was a loyalist during the Revolutionary War who fled to Canada. In consequence the state of Massachusetts confiscated his property in 1784. Through Derby’s wife he inherited Brown’s property including Castle Hill which Hawthorne called Brown’s Folly. Castle Hill will be torn down by the Massachusetts Rock and Stone Company. This mansion was designed by Charles Bulfinch and later modified by Samuel McIntire. Charles Bulfinch built the Capital Building in Washington D.C. , the Essex Bank Building in Salem, and the tunnels entrances that connect them. In between the years 1795 and 1799 the mansion was under construction. Soon after the construction was over Elias Hasket Derby dies.

Elias_Hasket_Derby_Jr_2

After returning from sea, Elias Hasket Derby Jr. inherits the mansion and retires into it for 10 years. Did Elias Hasket Derby Jr. build the tunnels leading from the mansion or were they already there? If they preexisted his return to Salem, did these tunnels inspire him to connect other buildings in town? Either way he will spend the next 10 years filling in the Commons and building an extensive network of tunnels to the old colonial system.

At the end of his ten years with his finances faltering, Elias Hasket Derby Jr. returns to the sea and comes back with a 1,000 Merino sheep. Soon afterwards he moves to Londonberry, N.H. and sells the estate to John Derby III and Benjamin Pickman. The house had been left abandoned for years because of the high cost of sustaining it. Elias Hasket Derby Jr. has the mansion demolished before he sells it.

Old_Town_Hall_Right_Side

In 1816 John Derby III and Benjamin Pickman Jr. offer the foundation of the house to the town to have a market place and town hall on the property forever. The town accepts and they have Joshua Upham build Old Town Hall from plans drawn by Charles Bulfinch. Also brick stalls were added to the walkway leading to New Derby Street. These would be demolished at some point and rebuilt in the 1970’s which today houses Artist Row. The opening of Old Town Hall was graced with the appearance of James Monroe as he visited Salem. This will be one of many buildings Monroe would visit that was connected by the tunnels in town. Old Town Hall served as the city seat till 1836 when the new city hall was built.

Now when you sit in the men’s room as the train goes through the tunnel on Washington Street, 2 buildings away, you can feel the wind come through a vent in the back of the stall along with the sound of the wheels running on the track. The back wall of the men’s room is in the middle of the building. Access to the front of the basement towards Essex Street is prohibitive. As well as the back corner of the basement facing Lawrence Place. There are several manholes surrounding the property reading “S’, “Sewer”, and “Drain”. Staff on the city electrical building say it is connected to the current Bank Plaza Building and Daniel Low’s old Warehouse which used to house the Goddess Treasure Chest now.

In 1816 John Derby and Benjamin Pickman Jr. also built the Pickman Building at 22-26 Front Street and 15 Derby Square. 15 Derby Square houses Maria’ Sweet Something and the former location of Fiddelhead. The building in which Front Street Coffeehouse and the needlework shop is in was a later addition. The next row of buildings attached to these two were original along with a third building which stood where the air conditioning unit stands behind the fence.

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Get the book everyone digs before its sequel comes out!
Salem Secret Underground:The History of the Tunnels in the City!
Available at Barnes & Noble, Remember Salem, and Wicked Good Books in Salem on Essex Street. Also on Amazon.com!

The Salem Commons and the Tunnels of the City

Secrets of the Commons

Old Map of Salem Common

The Commons had a creek that ran into the ocean. It started where the basketball court is and ran parallel to Washington Square East and turned and ran down what is now Forrester Street towards the Ocean. Land on the north side of Forrester was also land held in common to the town. The creek had five ponds in total attached to it. There was Flag pond that formed after heavy rains to the southeast; then opposite Southwick’s School House was Southwick Pond; opposite Captain Mason’s was Mason’s Pond; then to the east of that was Cheever’s Pond across from Cheever’s tannery; and one near the school house by Forrester Street was Lang’s Pond. Also it had included several hills and hillocks. This area was used to graze unfenced livestock, gather berries, cut flags and hoops. Ducks, horses, cattle, geese, hens, and stray pigs ran free in the Commons. It had several names including “pen”, “Town Swamp”, “Training Field”, “Washington Square”, and “Salem Common”.Previous to 1714 there were disputes between cottagers and commoners who had rights to the swamp. The Rev. John Higginson had a house on thenorth of the Commons and Col. Nathaniel Higginson had a house where the Hawthorne Hotel is now. In 1714 the Commons was voted to be forever a training field for the use of Salem’s militia in front of Higginson’s house.

In 1772 an almshouse was built on the northeast corner on Washington Square South. Also there were a powder house, engine house, and a tavern owned by Beadle. This street was home to the Phillips School House and the Southwick School House.

Winter Street Tunnel Hole Salem MA

On Washington Square East there was the Captain Francis Boardman house built in 1782. The land was owned by John Hodges. Next was the house of Joseph Vincent with his rope walk in the rear running to the Cove and next north of that a two story house owned and occupied by Thomas Briggs. Then an old building which had been occupied by Benjamin Brown as a bake house. Briggs street was not then opened. It was first a Court extending about two thirds the length of the street. Briggs’s Rope Walk commenced at the place now occupied by Hon. Nathaniel Silsbee’s house (Knights of Columbus) and extended to the Cove. Andrew street was not opened till after the Common was leveled. The field extending from north of Briggs’s Rope Walk (to the north of the house which was owned by William B. Vincent which was built in 1799) was owned by Col. William Browne who bought it from Capt. Joseph Gardner who was slain in the battle with the Narragansets in 1675. Col. William Browne will have all of his property in Salem confiscated after fleeing to Canada during the Revolutionary War, including what would become Derby Square. Elias Hasket Derby’s wife was a relation so she inherited most of his property. Vincent’s grandson Jonathan A. Vincent carried on the tanning and currying business there until it was sold in 1791 to another William Browne and his son who continued the tannery until they opened Andrew Street and sold it off as house lots. The Full-Spychalski Funeral Home stands where Dr. Hardy Phippen house was and earlier to that it was Benjamin Ives tan yard and bark house. This site was also the ropewalk owned by Joseph Vincent which stretch to Collins Cove as well. In 1785 a school was built on the commons. In 1788 the Beverly Bridge was opened and Pleasant Street was extended from the commons to meet Bridge Street. Also after the opening of the bridge Winter Street and Bath Street (Forrester Street) was created. Hay scales were erected on Winter Street in 1789 in front of a pond next to Robert Upton’s house half way up the road. On Washington Square North was the Samuel Cheever house who had a tannery in the rear. Then there was James Wright’s bakery. On the corner of Oliver was Mr. Austin’s brass founder shop. After that was Jeremiah Shepard’s grocery store, behind that runs an alley to Rev. John Higginson’s mansion. Next was Jonathan Mason’s shop (the mason William Roberts lived in this home after it was moved to Federal Street) followed by Frederick Coom’s Bakery, The Collins house, Tutle’s Rope Walk, Henry Williams on Williams Street, Thaddeus Gwinn ropewalk, Nehemiah Adams cabinet maker, and the East Church (Witch Museum). On Hawthorne Blvd. was a school house and the Gardner-Pingree Mansion.

Salem Cadets

Other facts of the Commons. In 1769 custom agents Thomas Row and Robert Wood were tarred and feather on a Liberty Tree for informing on the Salem privateers to the Crown. Salem never liked paying duties… Then in 1801 Elias Hasket Derby Jr. commanded the Second Corp. of Cadets to fill in the ponds and grade the Commons. The Commons was leveled by the Spring of 1802. Derby had raised a subscription of $2,500 to do so and planted rows of poplars and surrounded it with a whitewashed oak fence. The poplars came from the nursery owned by Joseph Franks on what is now Winter Street.

The bills was:
ESTIMATE OF THE COMMITTEE
1,5000 feet of lumber for railing and posts at $10 per hundred is
$156.00
Labor on the above one man 60 days at 9s
$90.00
Ditto one man for digging post holes Ac 60 days at 6s
$60.00
Poplar trees 10 feet apart at 1s apiece
$100.00
Expenses for Drink
$20.00
1 lb of paint will paint 3 square yard twice over 3s 1733 square ft.
577 lb White Lead is equal to 5 ewt at $13 per ewt
$65.00
10 Galls boiled Oil at 8s per GaM
$14.00
20 days work for painting at 6s par day
$20.00
For Leveling say
$1,000.00
For Gravel Walk say
$1,000.00
Stone Gutter
$100.00
Total:$2,625.00

They received a loan from Benjamin A. Gray that 159 subscribers to the Commons improvement* paid back. Some gave twice when funds fell short. The biggest contributors were William Gray, Elias Hasket Derby Jr., George Crowninshield & Sons Co., and Joseph Peabody. Now out of this list we have two subscribers who were block and pump makers, two who owned hardware stores, two were auctioneers to fence the goods, a carpenter who opens up a coffee shop in Boston afterwards, several people working for the Customs Agency (Bartholomew Putnam Surveyor of Port, Henry Tibbets Inspector of Customs, C. Cleveland Deputy Collector, Elijah Haskell Inspector of Customs, James Cheever Officer in the Customs House, Benjamin Crowninshield Collector of Marblehead, Penn Townsend Revenue Agent, Henry Prince’s son captained a Revenue Cutter, Joseph Hiller Customs Collector), 3 presidents of insurance companies, 4 store owners, 5 distillers smuggling molasses again, 4 tavern keeps, 4 politicians, 2 judges, 3 dry good store owners, 2 hardware store owners, 2 ropewalk owners, 4 grocers, 4 in local government, 2 butchers, 2 die at sea, 1 murdered, 2 Clerks of Courts, several Masons, several merchants and captains, several relatives of Hodges, Derby, Peabody, and Crowninshield.So you have a group of captains and merchants who need to smuggle goods pass a series of bribed Customs employees and politicians. Then convince a group of merchants to construct new homes to attach to the tunnels on the Commons to move money and goods through. These tunnels will need to be pumped out of water so carpenters, muscle provided by the several militias, and masons could create them utilizing hardware and rope from other subscribers. These tunnels will smuggle goods into several stores to sell dry goods and food, molasses to the distillers to make spirits, flour and spices to the bakers, liquor for the taverns to sell, auctioneers to sell your big ticket items, and banks to hide your money away tax free. In 1802 the selectmen changed its name to Washington Square. 1803 a bath house was placed on Bath Street (Forrester Street). In 1817 the popular trees gave place to elms and a new wooden fence was put in.

Car Accident on the Salem Common

In 1850 the iron fence was installed at the cost of $7,000 by Messrs. Denio, Cheney and Co. of Boston. After these improvements in 1801 Derby started getting his accomplices to build 2 brick Federal Style mansions set apart from each other the distance between the Derby House on Essex Street and the Hodges House on Orange Street. The industrial and agricultural appearance of the Commons became opulent. These house were to be used to run the tunnels through town to the jail, courts, each others homes, banks, and the businesses downtown. There is even rumors that the tunnels lead under the Commons. There is a square iron cover over a cement shaft in front of the Knights of Columbus and a round manhole cover in front of the 1926 Gazebo. Who knows…

Commons_Trapdoor_2

Get the book everyone digs before its sequel comes out!
Salem Secret Underground:The History of the Tunnels in the City!
Available at Barnes & Noble, Remember Salem, and Wicked Good Books in Salem on Essex Street. Also on Amazon.com!