Located on the north shore of Massachusetts, Salem Town is best known for their trial and execution of several people accused of witchcraft in the 17th century. There is, however, much more to the history of this loveable coastal town. Originally a Native American fishing village, the town developed as a result of the mass Puritan migration to the Americas. In 1926, Roger Conant led a group of men to the area and by 1929 they gave it the Christian name ‘Salem,’ which means City of Peace.
The Massachusetts Bay Colony was issued a charter from the mother land, which allowed them to govern themselves in these new settlements. As Puritan society developed their main aim was to create communities where the church dominated. By 1929, ministers started coming into the area from England and the organization of these new societies began. The First Church of Salem was the original Puritan church in North America and the ruling of the town was transferred from Conant to Endecott, who became the first governor of Salem. When Roger Conant died in 1679, there was a statue erected of him overlooking Salem Common.
By 1640, Salem had become the second most important colonial town in America, next to Boston. Its industries included fishing, shipbuilding and overseas trade. These expanded during the Industrial Revolution and many merchants made their fortunes, when leather tanneries and cotton mills became a part of Salem. In 1797, a merchant ship called The Friendship of Salem dominated worldwide trade, making at least 15 voyages during her career to many countries including India, China, South America, the Caribbean, England and Russia, before being captured by the British during the war in 1812. A replica of the ship is now a popular tourist attraction in the town.
After their voyages many of the merchants settled down in Salem, building lavish mansions and increasing the town’s overall prosperity. America’s first millionaire, Elias Hasket Derby, was a resident of Salem. Many generations continued to live in these original houses and their legacies can still be viewed in restored mansions and museums. These include the House of the Seven Gables, which is the oldest one in the city, and the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.
Despite being called the City of Peace, Salem also has a rich military heritage. Its citizens participated in many wars, including the Revolutionary War. The town is even recognised as the site of the beginning of America’s military with the first muster (assembly of troops) in 1636. This event was the beginning of what is now known as the country’s National Guard.