100th Anniversary of The Salem Fire Ghost Story

Ghost story? What ghost story? Am I talking about all of those disposed ghosts who had to flee their burning homes in search of new haunts, no silly. Even though that is a good point. I mean do they now haunt invisible houses? Or, I know they get mad when you renovate a home, what do you think would happen when yo build a new home through theirs? No. I mean the famous one. The ghost story of the couple who was put to death in 1692.

Here is the facts we know about the Salem Fire of 1914:

  • The famous Salem Fire of 1914 was one of the largest fires in the history of Massachusetts. Burning about 253 acres or two square miles, the Salem blaze began in the early afternoon of June 25, 1914, at Korn Leather Co. factory at 55 Boston St. in the city’s Blubber Hollow section of town. It spread to 20 factories, most used for leather-working. The wind pushed the fire toward south Salem, spreading to wooden residences and crossing the railroad tracks into South Salem.
  • Thirteen hours later, after the fire had run its course, the damage was assessed: 20,000 homeless, 50 people injured, 1,000 buildings burned and total loss estimated at $12,000,000. Fifty-one streets were totally wiped out and 48 partially burned.
  • The 200 children from the Orphanage on Lafayette Street were removed safely to Salem Willows, as were some of the patients from the hospitals, though some were taken to Danvers Hospital.
  • Forest River Park and Bertram Field were both used for relief camps. Bertram Field had 152 tents with 470 occupants while Forest River Camp accommodated 1,500 people in 400 tents. The Salem Militia and the Red Cross set up and ran these and other food relief efforts.
  • One of the worst losses was St. Joseph’s Church, a twin-towered structure on Lafayette street erected only a few years before the fire. The fire house in Pigeon Park ironically burned down first. The church was rebuilt in 1949.

Now there was a even more famous church in this story. The First Church. Here is a quick fact sheet:

 

  • The First Church Unitarian, considered the oldest continuous Protestant congregation in America, was established in 1629. This was the church that persecuted the innocent Christians in 1692.
  • Between 1635-1673 the First Church congregation gathered for worship in a succession of meeting houses on or near the former Daniel Low building in Town House Square. In 1647 George Corwin Sr. (Sheriff Corwin’s father) and William Lord pay for the repairs to the church.
  • 1670 is the year in which the first building is given over to a new one. It is within the second building they persecuted the innocent of witchcraft.
  • The present church edifice at 316 Essex Street was built in 1836. This was the fifth building they erected on the site. This is the now famous Daniel Lowe Building.

So what happened to the first building? It was eventually moved to a rear portion of the Proctor Estate off Boston Street. So why was it moved there after they built the second building on Essex Street? John Proctor owned an estate with a tavern on Old Ipswich Road which now runs from Boston Street-Bridge-Goodhue-Mason-North Streets and up around to Danvers. His property went from around Proctor Street to the base of what was Felton’s Hill in Mack Park. While John Proctor was sitting in jail in Boston accused of witchcraft, the church confiscated his property. Years before, in 1672 the first building is handed over to the town to move and use to its liking. They added it to the Old Watch House and held a school within. Then in 1760 Thorndike Proctor removed the church from the old watch house and settled it on his ancestor’s lot which he regained from the church. This building was the one that was much loved by Sheriff Corwin’s father.  Sheriff Corwin was the man who had Martha Corey and John Proctor hanged.

Now the first building stood on that location till it was taken down in 1856 to be removed to its current home behind Plummer Hall next to the Visitor Center. During its stay on Boston Street it was used as a tavern, an inn, a garbage shack, and a horse stable. So it is safe to say that the First Church was full of horse shit for awhile.

In 1902 The Korn leather Factory opened for business on that location. Their building had multiple tenants employed in the art of cobbling. The Korn Leather company had on its site a chemical combination of cellulose and alcohol used to tip shoes. This caught on fire and spread up past the trees in which the innocent were hung upon.

Fire_Map

Now on the night of the fire it was rumored through the lore of Salem that Giles Corey was seen laughing from his point of crushing in the Howard Street Graveyard near the old prison laughing at some nuns who were standing just outside. He was pressed to death in 1692 while Sheriff Corwin was trying to obtain a plea from him. His wife, Martha,  had hanged on the hill behind the Korn leather factory till she was dead.

Could it be said that the spectral apparition of John Proctor lit the flames in the factory, on the location the First Church’s building had once resided on, and Martha Corey fanned it up the hill and beyond the tree the two of them hung from while her husband laughed at nuns on the location of his execution. It can be said.

This is one of many ghost stories on the Salem Tunnel Tour.

Come on by and take a tour! A few years ago I went through them to recover the Golden Egg for the Boy Emperor of China before he started an international temper tantrum. Now that was an adventure!

~Mr. Zac

Mr. Zac looking down at you

 

To find out more about Mr. Zac and his journeys through the magical whimsical side of a quirky little town called Salem, visit The Salem Trilogy site. Then buy the three books; A Walk Through Salem, A Walk Under Salem, and A Walk Above Salem;  today and take yourself on a truly amazing adventure into the truly warped.

 

Benson, Frank Weston. Famous Painter From Salem.

Mr. Zac looking down at youOK I have seen many galleries in Salem. I have also seen nobody buying anything… They all close up. Salem lets all of the good ones go. Duke Ellington used to play at the Willows from 1924 to 1958. For three summers he played every Tuesday. Now who plays at the Willows? Do you know who the painters of today in Salem are? Many work for Heavy Metal, paint scenes for famous movies, illustrate children’s books, have their own comics, and have sold their paintings to celebrities like Madonna. Many would love your support. Why is it an artist has to be starving or filthy rich. Why can they not just have the same salary as a plumber, IT specialist, or librarian? They just need enough to raise a family and buy a house. So go out and buy some books and art…namely the books with me in it god damn it!

Here is a profile of one who became stinking rich…

Benson, Frank Weston

  • Frank Weston Benson was born in Salem in 1862 and died at age 91 on Nov.14, 1951. He lived in Salem most of his life, though he summered in Maine and Cape Cod. He attended the Museum School in Boston and painted under the tutelage of Otto Grunderson and Frank Crowninshield. Benson was both a founding member of the Copley Society and member of Boston Guild of Artists.
  • Benson’s work was very popular in his lifetime and he was successful financially as well. Benson was known for his portraits. His later work became more impressionistic and he often painted outside.
  • Benson’s work can be seen at most of the major art museums, including the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
  • Frank Benson lived on #14 Chestnut Street in Salem from 1925-1951 and had a studio he shared with another painter, Philip Little at #2 Chestnut Street. He also lived in the Hodges House on the corner of Essex and Orange Streets. You know the famous house with the tunnels attached to them…

Here is a few Paintings…

Frank Benson Painting www.salemhousepress.com
Now go buy some art or a book from one of our talented Salem locals. It is much more fun and less of a mess than hiring a plumber!
~Mr. Zac
To find out more about Mr. Zac and his journeys through the magical whimsical side of a quirky little town called Salem, visit The Salem Trilogy site. Then buy the three books; A Walk Through Salem, A Walk Under Salem, and A Walk Above Salem;  today and take yourself on a truly amazing adventure into the truly warped.

The #2 Pencil, Dixon, and Salem

Pencil_Kid copyOK. We all have used them. Some of us remember when schools provided them to us for free. We used them to take our S.A.T.s, to finish our homework, to take notes, and some us loved to doodle with them. The brand of course was Dixon. So who is Dixon. Well he was just this guy from Salem…

Joseph Dixon’s fascination with new technologies lead to many innovations such as a mirror for a camera that was the forerunner of the viewfinder, a patented double-crank steam engine, and a method of printing banknotes to thwart counterfeiters. Most notably, Dixon manufactured the first wood and graphite pencil in the country. Right in Salem.

In 1827, Joseph Dixon began his business in Salem, Massachusetts and, with his son, was involved with the Tantiusques graphite mine in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Dixon discovered the merits of graphite as a stove polish and an additive in lubricants, foundry facings, brake linings, oil-less bearings, and non-corrosive paints. He might of made his bread and butter from the industrial uses of graphite, but his fame came from his #2 Pencil that he first manufactured in Salem in 1829. Legend has it that Dixon started to make lead pencils by hand in the “Pencil House” on North Street, and went door to door selling them.

During the 1860s, people typically wrote with quill pens and ink even though Dixon introduced graphite pencils in 1829. But the American Civil War created a demand for a dry, clean, portable writing instrument and led to the mass production of pencils. So for all of you entrepreneurs, just remember it took over 30 years for the pencil to become a success… So keep trying!

At the time of Dixon’s death in 1869, the Joseph Dixon Crucible Company was the largest manufacturer of graphite products in the world. By 1870, The Joseph Dixon Crucible Company was the world’s largest dealer and consumer of graphite. By 1872 the Dixon company was making 86,000 pencils a day.

So as you are absently minded doodling on a piece of scrap paper, take a moment out to thank Mr. Dixon. I do, since my father was a pencil and my mother was a set of watercolors….

~Mr. ZacMr. Zac from the Salem Trilogy written by Chris Dowgin and published by Salem House Press.

 

To find out more about Mr. Zac and his journeys through the magical whimsical side of a quirky little town called Salem, visit The Salem Trilogy site. Then buy the three books; A Walk Through Salem, A Walk Under Salem, and A Walk Above Salem;  today and take yourself on a truly amazing adventure into the truly warped.

Tales from Mr. Zac~ The Scurrilous Founding of One of America’s First Libraries

Have you ever felt guilty about never returning that book to the library when you were in college? Would you feel better when you realize one of America’s first libraries was filled of borrowed books that were destined to never be returned?

Richard Kirwan, Chemist. His library was stolen and became part of the Salem Athenaeum.The Kirwan Collection was part of the Philosophical Library which made up the oldest collections of the Salem Athenaeum. They were stolen from the Duke of Gloucester on the high seas.

The Philosophical Library was founded in 1781. The ship Pilgrim, a privateer sailing out of Beverly, captured the Duke of Gloucester on September 5 in the Irish Channel. The Duke of Gloucester had sailed for Bristol from Galway with the library of Richard Kirwan (1733-1812). Kirwan had recently been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for his research in chemistry, and anticipated re-locating indefinitely from his family estate, Castle Cregg in County Galway, to London. His library was captured with the ship and the 116 volumes were  auctioned on April 12, 1781 in Salem.

Reverend Joseph Willard of the First Church in Beverly learned of the Kirwan library and gathered a group of associates to pool resources to purchase the lot. Organized as the Philosophical Library, the volumes were circulated to members and remained at Willard’s residence in Beverly until he was elected President of Harvard College, at which time the collection was transferred to Reverend John Prince at the First Church, Salem. Over time, members added the latest scientific works and serials, increasing the collection threefold. The costly serial subscriptions kept the annual assessments high, and were a contributing factor to the eventual decision to merge with the Social Library to form the Salem Athenæum founded by Edward Augustus Holyoke who was the first dean of Harvard Medical School and looks like my friend’s grandmother in drag. Now that is a story for another time…

Edward Augustus Holyoke of Salem, MA. Who looks like Chris Dowgin's grandmother, Florence Dowgin, in drag.

So if you ever feel guilty about that, don’t. You might never know had they acquired them!

~Mr. Zac

To find out more about Mr. Zac and his journeys through the magical whimsical side of a quirky little town called Salem, visit The Salem Trilogy site. Then buy the three books; A Walk Through Salem, A Walk Under Salem, and A Walk Above Salem;  today and take yourself on a truly amazing adventure into the truly warped.Mr_Zac_Bicycle

Fast Cars at Salem MA: The speedy racers built in our city.

Imagine Electric cars racing past the trolleys in town during the Victorian age! Something out of a steam punk novel? Just another bizarre reality in Salem’s history.

Little Steam Truck
1900

In 1900 David M. Little  built his steam truck  in his boatyard on a wharf off  Derby Street with the help of  Frank Cook. It had a one cylinder engine located under the seat beside a thirty gallon water tank and a ten gallon gasoline tank for the burner. Engine power was transmitted by chain to a sprocket on the rear axle near by the left wheel and the brake was by the right wheel. The steering was by an old boat tiller. It raced about at the lightning speed of 35 miles per hour.

Packard Electric

In 1896 Packard introduced their 4 seater electric car and then the three seater in 1898. Both automobiles were built by Lucius B. Packard at his shop on the corner of Liberty and Derby Streets. He was a wheelwright and a cabinet maker. Imagine an electric car built in the Victorian era. When will we ever learn? The three wheeler was destroyed in the 1914 Fire, the year of his death.

Locke Regulator Co.

Locke Regulator Company was originally a manufacturer of Steam Vehicle parts and fittings as well as copper or steel boilers in Salem.  In 1902, Lock Regulator Company built a four seater steam runabout named the “Puritan”.  Samuel Bolton financed the company for $500,000. Two passengers could sit in front of the driver with the front lid lowered for a foot rest. The frame was made of tubular steel with a 60 inch wheel base and 30 inch wheels. The engine was a Locke invention and the boiler was a tubular super heating type that could produce 350 pounds of pressure heated by a gasoline burner. The water tank held 32 gallons and the gas tank, placed forward, held 16 gallons, enough water and gasoline for 100 miles. It’s 6 horse power engine could reach break neck  speeds of 20 mph. It weighed 1000 pounds.

So it can be said amongst the various great achievements Salem has garnered; it also can lay claim to having the first “Masshole”. Here are some pictures displaying Salem residents great driving skills throughout the ages.

Car accident in the 1950s in Salem, MA

Car accident at Gulf Station in Salem, Ma

Car driving off Kernwood Bridge in Salem, MA~Mr. Zac

Mr. Zac looking down at you

To find out more about Mr. Zac and his journeys through the magical whimsical side of a quirky little town called Salem, visit The Salem Trilogy site. Then buy the three books; A Walk Through Salem, A Walk Under Salem, and A Walk Above Salem;  today and take yourself on a truly amazing adventure into the truly warped.

Tales from Mr. Zac~ The Stoned Elephant

The Stoned Elephant, the first elephant that was brought to America.So what is a stoned elephant. Well it definitely is not the one that had Edison’s acquaintance for the day. That was the shocking elephant. No, the Stoned Elephant was the first Elephant that was brought to America. Congressman Jacob Crowninshield once sailed the seven seas. On a trip to Calcutta India in 1796 he purchased an elephant and forgot to read the care and feeding sheet. On the way home the ship was running out of water, so they kept the water for the sailors and gave the baby elephant the remaining dark ale. By the time they reached port in NYC the elephant was stone cold drunk and suffered from malnutrition. So much so that she looked quite pink.  Some drunken wharf rats had seen her and the phrase has stuck with us ever since.

Well Old Bett became so fond of beer she would uncork a bottle and drink your ale for .25 cents. For a dollar she would drink a cask for you. To tell the truth I think she would of drank your beer for free… Crowninshield purchased her for $450 and then sold her for $10,000. The Elephant toured NYC before coming to MA to tour Marblehead, Salem, and Beverly. Reverend Bently notes he had seen Old Bett at the Market House in Salem in August 30, 1797.

The first elephant in America walked inn Salem, MA.

Statue of Old Bett the Stoned Elephant that came to Salem, MA.The Stoned Elephant was eventually acquired by Hackaliah Bailey, who got together the first American circus and became the Bailey of Barnum and Bailey Circus fame. Bailey Circus consisted of four wagons, a trained dog, several pigs, a horse, and of course the elephant. Bailey toured the country for several years with Old Bet as his chief attraction, and when he returned to Somers in 1824, he built the hotel that is still standing, known as the Elephant Hotel. A statue of Old Bett now stands above a tall column in front of the hotel. In 1922, about a century after Old Bet’s alleged death, “Old John,” the star performing elephant of the herd of Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus, took a wreath on his trunk and placed it on the monument of Old Bet at Somers Village.Flying pigs on Derby Street in Salem, MA..

I say alleged death. There were a handful of  various rumors of her death in the most tragic of ways throughout the years, no one can confirm any of them.  She may still be out there somewhere drinking in a downtown bar. So if you see her, buy her a round from me! It possible, especially in a town where pigs fly….

~Mr. Zac

Mr. Zac looking surprised.

To find out more about Mr. Zac and his journeys through the magical whimsical side of a quirky little town called Salem, visit The Salem Trilogy site. Then buy the three books; A Walk Through Salem, A Walk Under Salem, and A Walk Above Salem;  today and take yourself on a truly amazing adventure into the truly warped.

News from Mr. Zac~ Who the Hell is Moses Farmer?

Farmer, Moses G.

So who the hell is he. Well he’s this Salem guy….

Moses Farmer of Salem, Ma who was the first to iluminate his house with electricity.Moses Gerrish Farmer (1820-1893) was an inventor who perhaps was the first person to have a room in his house lighted by electric incandescent sources. He lighted a room in his house at 11 Pearl St. Salem every night during the month of July, 1859. Now my friend Don and his son Andy live in the house. Its still filled with energy with a painter and drummer living there… Moses  used a galvanic battery in the cellar which current passed by wires up to his parlour where on the mantelpiece were two lamps. He discontinued it after a month because the acids and zinc in the battery made the lights cost 4x as much as his gas lights.

Moses started early. So did I, but I was telling my sister to stick a paperclip into the outlet…  She still has an amazing hairdo. At age 26, Moses had built an electric railroad and two years later improved the telegraph. At 30 he invented and constructed the fire alarm system with water powered dynamos and within 5 years, he discovered the means of duplex and quadrulex telegraph. In 1893 he went to the Chicago World Fair to help install the Tower of Light which was the show piece for General Electric. It was 82 feet tall with thousands of red, white, and blue bulbs. At the top was an 8 foot tall Edison bulb. Also at the fair was an exhibit showing Moses in his illuminated house in Salem. Unfortunately he caught pneumonia while attending and died…

Tesla was also at the Chicago World Fair. Could Moses and Nikola have met each other before the fair? There is a rumor that Tesla was in Salem and had built a small power Station for Pequot Mills (Shetland Park). Could the two have met in Salem? Hell, GE was in Lynn, could Edison, Farmer, and Tesla have sat in a restaurant in Salem and discussed electricity over a cup of coffee? Who is to say, but it is possible!

Naumkeag Steam Mill in Salem, Ma with small building in which Tesla built to power the mill.

The small building to the right might of been built by Tesla to power the mill.

His daughter, Sarah Farmer was the founder of  Green Acre conference facility in Eliot, Maine in 1894. The name Green Acre came from poet John Greenleaf Whittier, a personal friend of the Farmer family. As a member of the Bahá’í faith she would be instrumental in helping Teddy Roosevelt settle the Sino-Russian War between the Chinese and the Russians. She had offered Green Acres  as a peaceful setting to hold talks before the official summit at the Navy Base in Kittery Maine. The funny thing about the Navy, none of their bases are in the town they are named after….

Treaty of Portsmouth postcard in which Teddy Roosevelt preceded over.So that is who that Salem guy was. A truly shocking story, but not as shocking as that elephant that met Edison acquaintance.

~Mr. Zac

Mr. Zac from the Salem Trilogy written by Chris Dowgin and published by Salem House Press.

To find out more about Mr. Zac and his journeys through the magical whimsical side of a quirky little town called Salem, visit The Salem Trilogy site. Then buy the three books; A Walk Through Salem, A Walk Under Salem, and A Walk Above Salem;  today and take yourself on a truly amazing adventure into the truly warped.

Great Musicians and Salem, Ma

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Hello,

Woo Who! Did you know that Salem was once the summer home for Duke Ellington. From 1926 to 1927 he toured New England and lived in the New Brunswick Hotel in Salem. Charlie and Sy Shribman were promoters for Duke.  Charlie owned the Charleshurst Ballroom down at the Willows. While in town Duke got along so well with people that Lieutenant Bates of the Salem Police Force (later mayor and a congressman) helped  him play a joke on a band mate. The player ended up at a house to meet a woman after he received a note while playing. When he got to the door a police officer was in disguise as a jealous husband who started to shoot at him. That member of the band quit the next day…. Every Tuesday during the summer Duke would play the Charleshurst and the rest of the time he played a circuit form Old Orchard Beach in Maine to Connecticut.  On those Tuesdays the Duke would compete against other orchestras in a Battle of the Bands. I bet the Duke won more often than not! When they were not playing they rested at the New Brunswick Hotel ( I hope it was not the current location of the Lafayette Hotel…).

 

Here is a partial list of the Battle of the Bands at the Charleshurst every Tuesday during the 1926 New England Tour from May to August:

  • August 02- Battle of the Bands DEO vs Mal Hallett.
  • August 10- Battle of the Bands: DEO vs Felix Ferdinando.

Here is the list of the bands he battled in the summer of 1927 New England Tour at  the Charleshurst:

  • June 20- DEO begins New England tour. There was a battle of bands with Mel Hallett who had Gene Krupa on drums.
  • July 16- Battle of the Bands DEO vs McMullin’s Orchestra.
  • July 19- Battle of the Bands DEO vs Phil Napoleon’s Victor Record Band.
  • July26- Battle of the Bands DEO vs Dick Voynaw’s Wolverines
  • August 02- Battle of the Bands DEO vs a group from Argentina called “The Gauchos”.
  • August 09- Battle of the Bands DEO vs Roane’s Sensational Pennsylvanians.
  • August 11- This was a “colored” dance night that 800 people attended.
  • August 30- Battle of the Bands DEO vs Phil Napoleon.

 

He also played:

  • April 21st 1924 plays for the YMCA in Salem.
  • Easter Monday April 25th 1924 at the Salem Massachusetts Young Men’s Christian Temperance Society at the College Inn.
  • August 18th 1939 plays in Salem.
  • Friday July 4th and 5th 1958 in the Castle Hill neighborhood.
  • Thursday October 31 1968 at Sale State College Student Union on Halloween.

Now that is just a short list of Duke’s visits to Salem. Other famous musicians also played down at the Willows during that time like Cab Calloway and Glen Miller. Then those stories are best left for another time….

~Mr. Zac

This post was brought to you by the Salem Trilogy! Read them today and enter the magical whimsical side of Salem MA.

www.awalkthroughsalem.com