Watch Chris Dowgin (author of Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City and Sub Rosa) walk Robert Irvine through the tunnels under Salem and explain how they smuggled cinnamon through them to create vast empires of wealth. Dowgin also explains the complicity in which the Custom House and other government officials found themselves within fostering this behavior.
America’s first Millionaires
Robert learns how these tunnels and the spice he uses daily affected the early machinations within our national capital. For instance, they might have led to presidents being elected and being assassinated by America’s first millionaires Who knew the course of a simple spice could have that much impact on history? The rise of The 1%! Did you? Learn what Robert did by hitting play below.
Back in 2017, we filmed an episode for a new TV show called Kitchen Expedition for the Travel Channel. It was to air on April 1st 20018 and the joke was it was not to air till April 30th, 2020…
The Discovery Channel had bought back the Travel Channel and brought the TV show, which they had the go-ahead from the Scrips executive to film the whole season, into the nether realms of forgotten never aired projects. So they traveled the world to film the locations spices were cultivated and then where the spice made empires through its sale, to have the show never be seen. I even tried to get a copy of the pieces I was filmed in from my cousin Brian Patrick Flynn who works for Scrips for the Home and Garden Channel through his father, no go. Scurrying about trying to get tunnel locations opened, at the last minute, during the Christmas/ New Year season when nobody had returned to work yet, was all to go to waste. Until last week…
The show was picked up by The Food Network and aired on Thursday, April 30th at 10:00 pm. The first episode was on chocolate and truffles. Then the second episode was on Salt and Cinnamon where they traveled to the Mayan Empire where salt built armies and Senegal where the Ghana Empire dominated the trade. There in Senegal, they went to a salt flat where salt was still harvested traditionally. The second half of the show went to Sir Lanka where the Portuguese, Dutch, and British conquered the island to secure the profits of Cinnamon. Then they traveled to Salem MA where I met Robert and walked him through the tunnels in town where the spice was smuggled duty-free. While in the tunnel under Rockafellas I gave them the history of the tunnels that cinnamon and other commodities were smuggled through that created the wealth that shaped our country and its politics. Through the election of John Quincy Adams and William Harrison to the foundations of our three national banks before the Federal Reserve and more. The episode finished with us getting a drink at Opus Underground which was an underground train station that linked the 8 tunnel systems together through town built by George Peabody (founder of JP Morgan & Co.) for his Eastern Railroad tunnel. The first train tunnel built in America.
The show is cool in the fact that it films the crew in each episode, besides mine… It was good to see Pee Paw who worked the sound for the crew in the episode for chocolate and truffles along with the rest of the motley crew.
They did get to keep scenes at Derby Wharf, the Custom House, and the Witch House in the episode as well, but Dave’s part from Salem Spice was left out. Maybe they will use him for a later spice episode. Also additional scenes of walking through the tunnels next to Opus Underground which led to the secret train station that George Peabody (founder of JP Morgan & Co. Bank) built for his Eastern Railroad (Boston & Maine) to smuggle goods to Boston was left out. Still, they kept a good 5 minutes of what took them 3 days to film in Salem and two years to air.
To find out more about me, Chris Dowgin, and the tunnels of Salem and how they shaped the foundation of our country through its millionaires that smuggled through these tunnels, the inventions created here, the failed secession plot during the 1812 War, the people who controlled our National banks, and how they rose presidents up and brought them down read Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels and Sub Rosa.
Welcome to the Salem Tunnel Report. Every Monday we will post new and old tunnel finds along with those who built them. In our posts you will learn how Salem has shaped American history from the profits of the smuggling that happened in these tunnels; sometimes for the good, but more often not.
Daniel Low Building 231 Essex Street
This was the site of the First Church in Salem and the Old State House. The State House sat on the corner of Washington, Short, and Essex Streets. The Church sat in from here. The church was founded in 1629 and has become the first church regularly organized in the country. Their second building being a one room church was built in 1634. The building was expanded in 1639 and it was last used in 1670. In 1673 the building was moved to Boston Street. Now it is behind Plummer Hall on Essex Street.
Francis Peabody found it behind a tannery on Boston Street and had it moved to its present location. At one time it was used as an tavern and then later a horse stable. So it is safe to say the first church in the country was full of horse shit.
In 1670 they built the third building for worship. In 1718 they built a 4th church on this spot. This is also the location where the first use of a ballot was made in the country.
They were Protestants. Rev. Francis Higginson was the first Teacher and Rev. Samuel Skelton the first minister. In 1634 the church’s third minister was Roger Williams. He lasted 2 years before he was exiled for believing the Native Americans should be compensated for the land the Colonialists stole. So he founded Providence Rhode Island and created the first Baptist church in America.
In 1636 Rev. Hugh Peter took over. In 1641 he left for England and became Oliver Cromwell’s personal Chaplain. What a mistake, Cromwell was an ass. In 1660 Peters was charged with regicide for the first suggestion and assisting in the Execution of Charles I. He was beheaded after being drawn and quartered.
The next Rev. was George Downing who returned to England and became a soldier. Downing Street in London was his property and now the prime minister lives on that road.
Then Rev. John Higginson, Rev. Francis Higginson’s son, presided though the Witchcraft Trials in 1692. His junior minister Noyes was ignoble. It was him who really fanned the flames of the witch hysteria. One of the accused witches told Noyes, “May God give you blood to drink.” In 1717 Noyes choked on his own blood and died.
The church split into the North Church and The First Church in 1772. Rev. Asa Dunbar presided over the First Church. He was Henry David Thoreau’s paternal grandfather. Rev. Barnard who was the minister of the North Church negotiated with General Leslie to retreat from Salem in 1775. Leslie’s Retreat was the first conflict in the Revolutionary War before the Battle on the Green. Canons that day were smuggled out of Salem to Lexington.
The church later became the First Congregational Society of Salem in 1824.
In 1826 the current building was built. The first floor was used for retail and the second floor for religious ceremonies. By 1874 a major remodeling was done. The towers were added and the building extended on Higginson Square. At that time John P. Peabody sold dry and fancy goods while Daniel Low had his jewelry store on the Essex Street Side. The National Exchange Bank had entrances on Washington Street. In 1923 Daniel Low and Company acquired the property in the year the First Church merged with the North Church further down on Essex Street. Daniel Low was also an aid to Grand Marshall of the Essex Lodge.
There is one tunnel exiting the building that leads up Washington toward the train station. It is rumored this went to the Lyceum passing entrances to the city hall and the Kinsman Block. Then leading toward Riley Plaza is a tunnel entrance at the back of a vault leading to the second Asiatic Bank location (The Ledger Restaurant currently). Also Daniel Low fixed up the tunnel leading across Higginson Sq. into his warehouse that sits to the right of Old Town Hall (old Goddess Treasure Chest location).
Low poured a concrete floor in the tunnel to prevent the state from having access to the graves of several runaway slaves. Daniel Low was the jeweler who invented souvenir spoons and he also sold KKK belt buckles, money clips, and lighters.
His warehouse has a storefront below street level. The tunnel enters the back of this building and goes up a staircase to a door on Higginson Square. If you pass the staircase it turns right into the submerged store front.
The past owner of this shop also owns the condo in the Pickman-Derby Block where the tunnel was turned into a wine cellar. Her basement door exhibits how they can remove the ceiling of the tunnel to expose a cellar door. Few other examples of this can be seen in the McIntire District. Previous to this location her store was in the Downing Block which is also connected.
The roof of the tunnel to his warehouse has brick arches under the flat granite top every 3 feet supported on thick metal straps running across the width of the tunnel. When the Essex Lodge was built in 1918, the previous tunnels under the old Derby Mansion site would be refitted in the same manner. Recently I got to tour Low’s house on Essex Street and Botts Court and saw the tunnel coming out of his house too.
I actually was filmed in this tunnel with Robert Irvine for his new show that premiered this month on the Travel Channel called Kitchen Expeditions. Check it out, for that is another story!
Many secrets in Salem!
For more read info Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City and its sequel Sub Rosa by Chris Dowgin published by Salem House Press. Available at Barnes & Noble, Remember Salem, The Witch House, Jolie Tea, and Amazon.com.