This day was spent in Danvers, Massachusettes, which was Salem Village in 1692, and in modern day Salem, which had less to do with the actual accusations and more to do with the site of the jail and the executions. This day I managed to do three things, which made up for some of my travel days where I had no opportunities.
RAndomAoK # 11
My first RoK of the day was to leave a tip for housekeeping. Although the room had an odd smell – like balsamic vinegar – it was comfortable and the pillows weren’t like the bags-of-sand-disguised-as-pillows at the previous night’s hotel (Note to self: travel with your own pillows if at all possible).
There were two things I wanted to find in Danvers: the Rebecca Nurse Homestead, and the lands that once belonged to John Procter. The Nurse homestead is the only surviving intact property from the people who died at Salem (although there is a house which Proctor was reported to have lived in in a nearby town, but it is private property and not open to the public, or so I was told).
Rebecca Nurse Homestead
Frankly speaking, the Rebecca Nurse Homestead is a special place. It is completely surrounded by neighborhoods, businesses, and a baseball field, but you would not know it because of the 27 acres of pasture and woods that protect it from the outside world. Rebecca Nurse was said to have been quite dignified during her trial and execution, and the property feels like that. Cosidering the horror that befell her and others, I came away with a distinct impression that she was a peace with herself when she died.
About ten years ago, there was a reality show on PBS called “Colonial House”, where people were assigned roles to play within their fictional colonial village, ranging from the Governor and his family down to indentured servants. Participants had to live their day-to-day lives in the colony using only tools that actual colonists would have used at the time. They had to observe the same social customs, hierarchies, and laws of the time period. The Nurse homestead let me imagine myself living in that time period. Indeed, were it not for the Puritans, I suspect I might have found it quite satisfying. It would have been hard work, and I would have hated wearing wool skirts in the summer, but I would have savored the simplicity.
One interesting side note: according to the guides, the biggest cause of injury and death to women, aside from childbirth, was from fireplace burns. In order to tell if the fire was the proper temperature for cooking, you held your arm over the fire. If you could only count to ten, it was the right temperature (about 350 degrees). Unfortunately, women did this while wearing full skirts, aprons, and long sleeves. The fireplaces were huge by today’s standards. They took up entire walls. Hiking up your skirts to move them out of the way was considered indecent.
This is the upstairs bedroom and fireplace. As many members of the family as possible would have crowded into the same bed. Children that didn’t fit slept on the floor with blankets. Mattresses were large cloth sacks filled with rushes, straw, and horsehair. Privacy? There wasn’t much of it. The bedroom fireplace was smaller than the downstairs fireplace, but it still took up most of that wall.
2nd RoK of the day: I ran into another teacher from my town who knows one of the teachers I work with. What are the odds?. I took pictures of her in front of Rebecca Nurse’s gravesite. I’m don’t think Rebecca would have approved of her being an actual witch.
The next next item was tracking down the location of the lands where John Procter lived. Unfortunately, they are located under housing developments, but there is a memorial stone in a park area on Lowell Street. If you take highway 128 to exit 26, it is on your left hand side at the corner of Lowell and Summit Street. A note of caution: there is literally no place to park. Not on Lowell Street. Not on Hawthorne Road. Not on Summit Street. I got this picture by sneaking into an empty driveway at the nearest house up the hill on Summit Street. I grabbed my camera, ran to the bottom of the hill where I could get a good picture, and then ran back to my car and drove off before anyone could complain. It’s a shame because I would have liked to have spent more than a minute walking where he had once walked. You would think that Peabody could have carved out a single parking spot at the location.
While in Salem I was lured into the Salem Museum by this man playing guitar. Specifically, he was playing “Thick as a Brick” by Jethro Tull. We used to play this song back in my band days and I know the words and harmony quite well. He and I bonded over Tull, which, in my opinion, is a very fine thing to bond over (he sang me “Wild Rover”, too!) The doors the museum were wide open, and cold air was rushing out. It was a very warm day (or so I was told by the locals, although in Nevada we call weather in the 90’s “Spring”.)
For some reason a four year old girl came running over, stood right in front of him and lifted her skirts. He was fairly flummoxed because middle aged men who are not “owned” by small children are not supposed to get the “not-my-child” underpants view. He whirled away from her, looked at me, and in mid-song said, “I can’t be looking at this!”. I went out her and asked her where her mom was, and when she pointed, I walked her back over to her mom and explained the situation. The weird thing was, after I finished the museum tour, I could see the little girl and her mom on the south side of the building, but when I walked past the singer on the north side, up raced a different little girl who did the exact same thing! I do do not know what it is about the front of the Salem Museum that makes little girls want to share their underpants with the world.