2023 · Massachusetts · Places · USA

Travel Journal: Salem, Massachusetts 2023 (Part I)

Kevin, Katelynn and I traveled to Salem, Massachusetts, today. We wanted to see the town and have a good time on this warm day. Today, we mainly hung out at the Derby Wharf area. Kevin and I were also discussing, visiting Salem in Autumn. We are aware, it will be crowded. But at least we know, some of the places where precisely they are located.


What is Salem, Massachusetts known for?

  • Salem is known for its rich maritime history.
  • Salem is the birthplace of the National Guard.
  • Salem is infamous for its Witchcraft Trails of 1692.

America’s First National Historic Site

Established on March 17, 1938, as the first National Historic Site in the United States, Salem Maritime National Historic Site consists of nine acres of land, twelve historic structures along the Salem waterfront, and a downtown visitor center. Located in the urban setting of Salem, the park preserves and interprets over 600 years of New England’s maritime history and global connections.

Salem, Massachusetts: Birthplace of the National Guard

In 1637, the first muster was held on Salem Common, where for the first time a regiment of militia was drilled for the common defense of a multi-community area, thus laying the foundation for what became the Army National Guard. In 1637, the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony ordered the organization of the Colony’s militia companies into the North, South, and East Regiments. The colonists adopted the English militia system, which obligated men between the ages of 16 and 60 to own arms and take part in the community’s defense.

Salem Witch Trails of 1692

To understand the events of the Salem Witch Trials, it is necessary to examine the times in which accusations of witchcraft occurred. There were the ordinary stresses of 17th-century life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. A strong belief in the devil, factions among Salem Village families, and rivalry with nearby Salem Town combined with a recent smallpox epidemic and the threat of attack by warring tribes created a fertile ground for fear and suspicion. Soon, prisons were filled with more than 150 men and women from towns surrounding Salem; their names had been “cried out” by tormented young girls as the cause of their pain. All would await trial for a crime punishable by death in 17th-century New England – the practice of witchcraft.

In June of 1692, the special Court of Oyer (to hear) and Terminer (to decide) sat in Salem to hear the cases of witchcraft. Presided over by Chief Justice William Stoughton, the court was made up of magistrates and jurors. The first to be tried was Bridget Bishop of Salem who was found guilty and was hanged on June 10. Thirteen women and five men from all stations of life followed her to the gallows on three successive hanging days before the court was disbanded by Governor William Phipps in October of that year. The Superior Court of Judicature, formed to replace the “witchcraft” court, did not allow spectral evidence. This belief in the power of the accused to use their invisible shapes or specters to torture their victims had sealed the fates of those tried by the Court of Oyer and Terminer. The new court released those awaiting trial and pardoned those awaiting execution. In effect, the Salem Witch Trials were over.

As years passed, apologies were offered and restitution was made to the victims’ families. Historians and sociologists have examined this most complex episode in our history so that we may understand the issues of that era and view subsequent events with heightened awareness. The parallels between the Salem Witch Trials and more modem examples of “witch hunting” like the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s are remarkable.


… to be continued …

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