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.
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.
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!
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.