New England Places: Murderers, Mariners, Marriages and Windmills

When Salem, Mass. comes up in conversation, many historic topics come to mind. The infamous witch trials. The China trade. The House of the Seven Gables. But how about murder?

Preserved among Salem’s many antiquities is the Gardner-Pingree House, site of the infamous murder of Captain Joseph White by the offspring of a well-known Salem family. A short walk to the wharves and other Salem amenities, the Gardner-Pingree House is now part of the Peabody Essex Museum and one of the historic properties the Salem museum includes on its tours.

black first lady jackie facebookThis week we revisited a story about Jackie Kennedy and her roots. The wedding of Jack and John Kennedy was the Newport event of the season in September of 1953. The couple were wed at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, where they attended mass during summers their whole lives. The newlyweds shook hands with some 1300 guests for over three hours on their wedding day.

Today, visitors can relive that storybook day with a musical show and presentation that runs throughout the summer.

And while we’re on the topic of Rhode Island, we recalled this week Governor Benedict Arnold’s refusal to join in the short but violent persecution of Quakers by colonial settlers in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

newport towerArnold, no fan of the Quakers, argued that A.) Rhode Island had no laws on the books with which to charge the Quakers and B.) Persecution was exactly what the Quakers wanted because it drew attention and members to their cause.

Arnold had a long history as a Rhode Island leader, and is also associated with one of the state’s most visited sites: The Newport Tower in Touro Park. Though any number of theories have been advanced about the object, it’s most likely the base of a windmill Arnold had on his property. The park is a pleasant spot just a short stroll from Newport’s famous mansions and its many restaurants and watering holes.

We also wrote this week about Thomas Prince, the historian’s historian. Prince, a minister, was obsessed with New England history and exasperated his publishers by taking ten years to finish his first volume – a manuscript that ballooned so large it was nearly unpublishable.

Among Prince’s other pursuits was serving as minister at the Old South Meeting House, a building with an unmatched history, including a playing a major role in the Boston Tea party. The house is open daily.

Schooner (National Gallery of Art)

Schooner (National Gallery of Art)

Finally this week we took a look at three New England mathematicians who literally rewrote the book on teaching arithmetic in the late 1700s to reflect the new currency adopted after the American Revolution. Probably the best known of the three was Nathan Daboll. In the early 1800s, scholars who wanted to emphasize the correctness of a calculation would say it was true, “according to Daboll.”

Daboll was a product of Connecticut who was known best his adopted hometown of New London for teaching sailors (as many as 1,500) the skills of navigation – essential training in the coastal community that still celebrates its maritime heritage with institutions such as the Custom House Maritime Museum, which is open year round.

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