Did Viking sailors come to Salem? They have found Roman coins in Beverly and Manchester on the beaches either brought by Vikings or an earlier traveler. There are the tales of Lief Erikson’s brother Thorfin being murdered by Natives near Bass Rocks in Gloucester, the hotel there used to be named after him.
Then we have the stories of Prince Henry Sinclair sailing to Salem looking for Vinland and his knight Sir James Gunn who dies in Westford MA. Gunn is now known as the Westford Knight and his effigy still lies in Westford. The mascot for Salem State University is a Viking. On Baker’s Island, there is the Northman Rock.
Then we have Professor Eben Norton Horsford. Horsford was a Harvard professor who patented our current formula for Baking Powder. He believed Boston was Norumbega. To commemorate his beliefs he had the Lief Erikson statue erected in Boston and the Norumbega Tower built at the mouth of Stony Brook. Across from it was Norumbega Park. Most of it is now the Newton Marriott. Horsford also believed that the Dighton Rock in the Taunton River by Fall River had Viking runes on it. Now it is in Berkley, MA. The museum who owns the stone thinks it was Portuguese who were dropped to these shores by the Phoenicians who carved it. They might have been the guys who dropped the Roman coins… Longfellow was part of the original group to build the Lief Erikson Statue, on the Longfellow Bridge are Viking Ships. In fact, many of the Transcendentalist believed they did.
Most of the sailors from Salem were scoundrels and smugglers who dug tunnels to avoid duties that went on to shape all the horrible parts of our government at its foundation, including a cession movement. Still, a few of them have some humorous stories that dance in and out of each other.
Jacob Crowninshield brought the Stoned Elephant to town. The privateer Fame was owned by many who decided to paint it pink… Just like the color of the Elephant, at times.
Captain West fought his wife and her brother Elias Hasket Derby Jr. (He extended the tunnels throughout the town in 1801) on Derby Wharf after their father left the wharf to West. Elizabeth Derby and Nathaniel West had the most infamous divorce in the nineteenth century. Their mansion Oak Hill is where the North Shore Mall is now on Rt 128.
John Derby jumped ship first to tell England we started the Revolution and was the first to sail back to tell them it was over.
George Crowninshield Jr. (His father’s house is where the Custom House is. When they built the Custom House, not only did they leave the basement intact with the tunnels attached to it, they added a few more) built Cleopatra’s Barge. There was talk this ship helped Napoleon escape from his island prison. Who knows, there is a rumor that Napoleon visited his brother Joseph at Bordenton NJ at Point Breeze.
Joseph Napoleon’s mansion had several tunnels leading to the Delaware River. His park attached to his estate is the basis for Central Park designed by Olmsted. Olmsted is famous in Boston for the Emerald Necklace. He also designed Forest River Park and planted some trees in the Common. Henry Clay, John Quincy Adams, and Daniel Webster visited Point Breeze, I wonder if they compared the Tunnels in Salem that run around the Common to his. All these men were always walking through Salem’s tunnels.
Captain West is connected to the Bonaparte’s as well. The other side of the family. Before Joseph Bonaparte became king of Naples and Spain, his brother Lucien resided there who was openly against Napoleon. Captain West after the Embargo Act was lifted sailed to Naples. The Embargo Act was created by Jefferson to prevent American sailors and ships from being stolen during the Napoleonic Wars by the French and English. When it was lifted, West sailed his ship Minerva to Naples and was captured by Admiral Marat in Napoleon’s navy. He was set free if he would sail Lucien Bonaparte to Malta, but they were captured by the English and they were all made heroes once they sailed to Liverpool.
Three other ships Marat captured were owned by Joseph White, Joseph Knapp Sr., and Richard Crowninshield Sr. This would lead to the murder that influenced the game Clue and Edgar Allan Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart. Knapp and Crowninshield, who were Democrats, realized their folly and Jefferson’s wisdom and insulted White who was a Federalist. Add to this Knapp’s wife gave birth to a son named Joseph after he lost White’s baby, the ship Revenge. Mrs. White died leaving Joseph without an heir. In his own death, White had his revenge against his business partners by having their sons hanged for his own murder after having his nephew hire a man named Palmer to murder him. The nephew created the Whig party with Daniel Webster and Henry Clay of the Great Triumphant. Stephen White was behind John Quincy Adams failed election against Andrew Jackson.
The Federalists hated Jefferson and his Embargo Act so much they refused to fight the War of 1812. Most of New England refused to fight the war. Salem did build one ship for the war, but it fought in the Pacific instead of the Atlantic where the war was going on. Admiral Porter attacked whaling ships, had a genocide or two on Polynesian islands, and got caught during a civil war in Chile headed by an Irish man. In fact, Timothy Pickering from Salem and his Essex Junto lead the cession movement that ended at the Hartford Convention. Members of the convention went to Washington afterward to tell them about them siding with the British, but Andrew Jackson defeated the army that defeated Napoleon at Waterloo and John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay had signed the peace Treaty in Ghent before they arrived with their demands. During the war, the Federalist group East India Marine Society (Founders of the Peabody Essex Museum) debated if they should visit the corpse of Admiral Lawrence who was killed in the war. Lawrence was from the same town Joseph Bonaparte lived in NJ.
Elias Hasket Derby Jr. lost his share of the 36th largest estate in American history in 2 years which prompted him to extend the tunnels in town and be paid for by all of the future smugglers. He ends his carrier as a sheep farmer after having a failed voyage to Europe which ended well as Napoleon’s forces headed by his brother Joseph scared 2,000 sheep around his feet on a mountain in Spain. So thanks to the man who built underground tunnels, America did not have to have scratchy underwear anymore since merino wool was a lot smoother.
Aaron Burr worked with Timothy Pickering in his cession plots, as did Hamilton. Some say Hamilton’s falling out with the Essex Junto led to their duel. Burr jumped ship from the group and decided to become the king of western America, but was caught by Jefferson. Cleopatra’s Barge? She was sold to the King of Hawaii. When asked how open the King was to religion one said,
“If you want to know how Religion stands at the Islands I can tell you — All sects are tolerated but the King worships the Barge.”
So that is a few tales of the sailors from Salem. More tales like this can be found in the books Sub Rosa, Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City, and Murder on the Common.
Murder on the Common is the newest from Salem House Press. The tale of how everyone’s favorite immortal solves the murder of the most notorious case in the nineteenth century. The first novel of the Sinclair Narratives published in Arkham: Tales from the Flipside.
By the way, Blackbeard’s skull is in Salem, even though he never came here during his life…