During the winter of 1692, Salem, Massachusetts, was the setting for some of the most infamous trials in American history. Driven by fear of the supernatural, the residents of the town hanged nineteen of their neighbors for the crime of witchcraft. Several more were tortured to death or perished in prison before they could be tried.
Today Salem is a very different place. Though the dark legacy of the witchcraft trials is still a part of the town’s rich character, there’s a lot more to Salem than just witches.
Here are some things you might not know about the town:
- Salem was the birthplace of the American military. In 1628, Governor John Endecott was authorized to create an official militia to defend the town. All men between ages 16 and 60 were obligated to serve. The first muster of the militia took place on Salem Common in 1637.
- William Driver, a ship’s captain based in Salem is first credited with nicknaming the American flag “Old Glory.” According to the story, young Captain Driver received a large hand-sewn flag (then 24 stars) and promptly ordered it to be flown on his ship. When asked what he thought about the flag, he reportedly said, “God bless you, I’ll call it ‘Old Glory.’”
- Salem was home to America’s first millionaire. Elias Derby was the son of a ship’s captain, though he never went to sea himself. From his headquarters in Salem, Derby oversaw a vast shipping empire that spanned from the New England coast all to way to the East Indies.
- 10 Downing Street, the home of the British Prime Minister, is named for Salem resident Sir George Downing. Downing left Salem in 1645 and went on to a distinguished career as a diplomat and military officer in service to the crown.
- Salem has the oldest pear tree in America. The Endicott pear tree is over 375 years old. It was first planted by Governor John Endecott and still bears fruit today.
These are just a few of the many interesting facts about Salem. If you’d like to find out more, here are some handy links for you: