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Cruising Salem Harbor in 1800 with Reverend William Bentley

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Join Essex Heritage and historian Donald Friary to explore Salem Harbor through the eyes of Reverend William Bentley.

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According to his diary, Reverend William Bentley seemed to be everywhere. During this virtual presentation, Mr. Friary will appear in the guise of the Reverend Bentley, reflecting on his 35-year tenure as pastor of the East Church in Salem, as recorded in the diary he kept from his ordination in 1784 until his death in 1819. Mr. Bentley walked frequently along the shore in Salem and nearby communities, swam and fished in the cold waters of Salem Harbor, and cruised Salem Sound on the Customs Boat or Revenue Cutter and in private vessels of his Salem neighbors, including George Crowninshield.

He saw Salem’s ship captains departing for and returning from voyages around the world to bring exotic goods and new ideas to their home port. Mr. Bentley saw beached whales, shipwrecks, a seven-foot shark, seals and porpoises, lobsters and crabs. He noted ropewalks, shipyards, cooperages, and fish flakes, as well as privateers and smugglers. He was saddened by drownings and marveled at the frozen harbor. He knew all the islands—Bakers, the Miseries, Orne’s, Eagle, Cat, Ram—and impediments to navigation—Half-Way Rock, Kettle Bottom, Abbott’s Rocks, Bowditch’s Ledge. Join us to hear William Bentley’s recollections of life by and on the water in Salem during the Great Age of Sail.

About Donald Friary

Donald Friary is Director Emeritus of Historic Deerfield, Inc. and past President of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts. A Boston native, he first came to Salem on a summer camp day trip in the late 1940s. As an historian, he has been intrigued by the city for decades. Since moving to Salem in 2005, he has immersed himself in its history and can occasionally be seen walking the streets in the guise of the Reverend William Bentley (1759-1819). As Principal of History for Hire Mr. Friary is an independent consultant to museums and historical organizations. He offers walking tours of Salem through the international firm, Tours by Locals.

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Organizer Essex Heritage

Organizer of Cruising Salem Harbor in 1800 with Reverend William Bentley

The Essex National Heritage Area, established by an act of the U.S. Congress in 1996, covers the 500 square mile region north of Boston (Essex County) and encompasses thousands of historic, cultural and natural places that were crucial in shaping our nation’s heritage.  

The Essex National Heritage Commission (Essex Heritage) is the nonprofit management organization for the Area and rallies our community around saving its unique character.  We are the only organization that connects the people who live in the 34 cities and towns within our county!  We do this to achieve our mission “to preserve and enhance the historic, cultural and natural resources of Essex County.” 

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