Danvers Archival Center
Fiscal Year 2007 Annual Report

The 2007 calendar year marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of the establishment of the Danvers Archival Center, a department of the Peabody Institute Library of Danvers. The Archival Center first began operations in October 1972. Its original temporary location was at 11 Page Street in the basement of the Danvers Historical Society′s Memorial Hall, the Society graciously allowing the town the use of this concrete and brick space at no charge for nine years. Finally in 1981, with the major renovation and expansion of the Peabody Institute Library, the Archival Center was able to move into newly constructed quarters designed specifically for our collections within the Peabody Institute Library at 15 Sylvan Street.

The idea of the Archival Center evolved from a research paper titled, “The Development of Danvers’s Historic Assets,” written for a course in historic preservation which I took in graduate school. A number of local citizens took up the cause and we began to implement the idea to establish an actual archives. Among this group of people strongly committed in establishing such a “pilot” local research center were: John L. George, Trustee of the Library; Daniel J. Toomey, Town Clerk of Danvers; Marshall G. Moore, President of the Danvers Historical Society and activist member Thurl D. Brown; Leonard Nolan, Chairman of the History Department at Danvers High School; Richard Hale, Archivist of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; George M. Cunha, Director of the New England Document Conservation Center; Margaret C. Cummings, Chairman of the Danvers Historical Commission; and William H. Clark Jr., Representative of the First Church, Congregational and High School A/V Director. This group, along with other individuals and organizations,


Dedication of the Danvers Archival Center at Memorial Hall, Spring of 1973. Click to enlarge all illustrations

as well as the wonderful donation of equipment and lighting by local businesses and the use of the entire lower level of the fireproof Memorial Hall by the Historical Society for the town archives′ temporary home, elicited support from Town Meeting to create the Archival Center as a department of the Library. These prime movers of the establishment of the Archival Center, good personal friends all, are now gone, save for myself and Bill Clark, who now serves the town as a member of the Board of Selectmen. I cherish their memory, their forward thinking and their friendship.

Thanks to the renovation and expansion project at the Library in the early 1980s, the archival collections are now stored in a secure and fire-retardant space within the underground area of the Library adjacent to Peabody Avenue. The facility includes a spacious reading room, a secure manuscript storage area and a 6-hour fire rated walk-in vault. The Danvers Archival Center′s collection policy is to preserve in one central location and make available to researchers and the public any and all written, printed and pictorial materials relating to the history and development of Salem Village and Danvers. Our combined collections make up one of the largest and most important documentary resources of a community of its size in the entire United States. Besides retaining, preserving and eventually cataloguing all current and backlog records, the Archival Center is committed to continuously upgrading the collection through gifts, deposits and purchases. Our combined collections remain, even after 35 years of operation, an unusual, seldom-found mix of diverse municipal, corporate and private research materials gathered together through the cooperative nature of many different organizations that are willing to give up physical custody of the papers for their conservation, preservation, proper storage and accessibility.

This report will give a summary of our operations for the Town of Danvers fiscal year 2007, being from July 2006 until June 2007.

Library Director Douglas Rendell, Assistant Director Suzanne MacLeod and the nine-member Board of Library Trustees continue to be very supportive and encouraging in the goals and objectives of the Danvers Archival Center. My assistant, Eva Veilleux, works in the Archives approximately seven hours per week doing a myriad of tasks including cataloguing, processing, filing, patron services and managing the Archival Center when I am away. I am pleased that her work hours since September of 2006 reflect an additional hour of her schedule being shifted to the Archives to assist in what seems to be an ever increasing amount of research and cataloguing to accomplish. Eva′s skills are much appreciated and she is always cooperative and has a wonderful work ethic. She is also spending two additional hours per week inputing our printed collection of witchcraft and history volumes into the Noble On-Line Catalogue, making our collections known to a much broader clientele.

Thomas Marsella is an active volunteer with the Archival Center devoting three hours each Wednesday morning. Tom has been volunteering here for a number of years assisting in the sorting and cataloguing of newly acquired manuscripts, and performing other special projects, which assists putting the backlog of our collections in order. This past year Tom has given over 80 hours in volunteer service. I thank Tom for all his assistance.

This past fiscal year we obtained, accessioned, processed, and catalogued 86 books for inclusion within our Public Reading Room book collections, 31 acquired by purchase and 55 through gifts.

In the mid 1960s, prior to the establishment of the Archival Center, Danvers resident and noted collector and bibliophile Ellerton J. Brehaut of Locust Street had donated to the Library a large and valuable collection of volumes relating to the Salem Village witchcraft outbreak of 1692. This collection languished uncatalogued at the library in a basement caged area for years. When I began part time college work at the library in the late 1960s, I discovered this wonderful though unused collection. The significance of these books became one of the factors in my attempting to create a special local history collection.

Danvers, prior to its being established as an independent “district of Danvers” in 1752, was known as “Salem Village” and the location for the world-known 1692 Salem Witch Hunt. These donated witchcraft materials became one of the principal foundation collections in the establishment of the Archival Center, and due to their intellectual breadth automatically gave our collection a national reputation. I requested of the Trustees that the collection be named for its donor, Mr. Brehaut, who continued until his death to be a wonderful patron and good friend to the Archives. We have consistently added to this collection through gifts and purchases, with hundreds of newly created works and rare or obscure old volumes being acquired over the past 35 years.

Among volumes added by gift to our “Ellerton J. Brehaut Witchcraft Collection” this year were: The Uses of Enchantment: a Novel by Heidi Julavits (2006); Witchcraze by Anne L. Barstow (1994); and Judge Sewall′s Apology, by Richard Francis (2005).

Witchcraft materials added to our collection by purchase this past year include: The Afflicted Girls, by Nicole Cooley (2004); Criminal Justice in Colonial America by Bradley Chapin (1983); The Last Witch Finder by James Morrow (2006); The Witchcraft Sourcebook edited by Brien Levack (2004); The Salem Witchcraft Trials by Sabrina Crewe (2005); Witchcraft in America by Peggy Saari (2001); and Witness to the Salem Witch Trials by Elaine Landau (2006).

TriallOfWitchCraftA major acquisition this year to our witchcraft book collection was the rare volume, The Triall of Witch-craft, Shewing the True and Right Methode of the Discouery: With a Confutation of Erroneous Wayes by John Cotta. This 136 page volume printed in 1616 in London by George Purslowe is beautifully bound and was an attempt on the part of this English physician-author to attempt to confute some of the more unsound methods then being used by those attempting to discover witches. He also affirmed the view that the detection of demonic activities was the sole province of learned professionals like himself who were alone capable of differentiating between fraudulent and genuine claims of bewitchment and possession. His work was studied by those in New England who attempted to detect witches. This book is a fine addition to our several score 17th century witchcraft source books.

ReportOfTheTrialOfJohnFKnappThe other major printed collection category we have within the Archival Center is the “Danvers History” collection, being books and pamphlets about Danvers, Danvers families, or towns surrounding Danvers, all of which reflect on our community and its history. Included through purchase within our book collection this past year were: Haunted Palace by Michael Ramsuer concerning Danvers State Hospital (2003); A Report of the Trial of John F. Knapp (1830) about a celebrated murder perpetrated by several men including a Danvers resident; North Shore Boston by Pamela Fox (2005) about the regions high style mansions, including Glen Magna; Report of the School Committee 1845-1846 & 1849-1850; and Twenty Hillcrest Road by B. W. Balser (2007) describing growing up in Danvers.

History books and pamphlets given as gifts by various donors included: Roger Conant by Clifford K. Shipton (1945); The Torrent by Ann Brinkner (1996); The Big Boom: A Collection of Thoughts by Children of Danversport (2007), concerning the Port explosion of November 22, 2006; A Brief History of the Danvers Garden Club Celebrating Seventy-Five Years (2005); The Fruits and Fruit Trees of America by A. J. Downing (1845), with an owner′s book plate reading “Samuel P. Fowler, Danvers, Mass.” and from Fowler′s personal library; Major General Grenville M. Dodge by George F. Ashby (1947) and several books on his building of the Union Pacific Railroad including: A Great and Shining Road by John Hoyt Williams (1996); Yonder Comes the Train by Lance Phillips (1986); and High Road to Promontory by George Kraus (1969).

Also given were several Danvers High School yearbooks including: Heritage 1983, Heritage 2002, Heritage 2003 and Heritage 2007, through Danvers school librarian Nan Blanchette; and nine copies of The Spire, the St. John′s yearbook (1962, 1964, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1993); Indian Wars by Robert M. Utley (1987); Lives of Poor Boys Who Became Famous by Sarah Bolton (1885); Poetry volumes by local authors or on local subjects including: Who Was He When He Was To Home? by Jean Pedrick (1995); Delectable Poetry by David L. Osgood (2006); and Death of General Putnam and 101 Other Poems by Arthur Guiterman (1935).

Last year a significant segment within the Danvers History book collection was named in honor of our most generous patron, Dick Zollo. The “Dr. Richard P. Zollo John Greenleaf Whittier Collection” was so named in honor of Dick′s multi-year gifts of the works of Danvers′s 19th century resident poet J.G. Whittier. His gifts of Whittier materials include over 300 books, numerous booklets, manuscripts, and illustrative materials. Dr. Zollo also gives numerous materials relating to all aspects of Danvers history, though his Whittier collection, gathered over many years by one of the most noted Whittier scholars, is a library into itself.

PoemsWrittenDuringTheProgressOfTheAbolitionQuestionAmong gift books added to our Whittier collection this past year, all donated by Dr. Zollo, were: The Complete Poetical Works (1899); Fields of the Atlantic Monthly, by James C. Austin (1953); Child Life edited by John Greenleaf Whittier (1871); and John Greenleaf Whittier edited by Brenda Wineapple (2004). Also given as a donation was a very rare first issue, Poems Written During the Progress of the Abolition Question in the United States by John Greenleaf Whittier (1837), this volume was purchased outright for hundreds of dollars by Dr. Zollo in California and shipped to Danvers. We also purchased on eBay for the Whittier collection “The Farewell,” a poem by Whittier first printed in Poor Wills Almanac (1840).

Cards typed and added to our Danvers History catalogue numbered 93, while 50 new main entry, title and subject cards were created and interfiled into our Witchcraft catalogue.

“Ephemera” are typically small, single items, pamphlets, sheets, etc., often originally meant for only temporary use. They are very revealing point-in-time bits of history. Ephemeral items generally do not warrant individual cataloguing within the archival collection. Much of our ephemera collection is stored within acid-free folders under appropriate subject headings placed in vertical file cabinets. A sampling of ephemera obtained this past year includes: anFamousAmericansEnvelope invitation to the “opening” of the moved and newly restored Collins Mansion, popularly known as “The Lindens,” which structure was transported in pieces from Danvers and re-erected in Washington, D.C. as a private residence (1938);three John Greenleaf Whittier First Day Cover envelopes and stamps (1940); printed post card notice of the meeting of the Rebecca Nurse Memorial Association (1910); a print-out seismograph chart from Weston Observatory of the explosion in Danvers on 11/22/2006; Danvers High School commencement program (1965); various newspaper clippings, programs and pamphlets relating to the Peabody Institute Library (1980s-2007) from the papers of retiring long-term Library Trustee President Tom Standring; and a group of cancelled checks from the Danvers National Bank (1911-1913) donated by John Storm.

UnitarianChurchA large collection of materials was donated by Alden Goodnow, which when processed were primarily stored within our ephemera house collection. Mr. Goodnow, a well respected realtor and former president of the Danvers Historical Society, did many property appraisals beginning in the 1960s. A large collection of material about almost fifty older buildings in Danvers, including plot plans, photos, and descriptive materials, were given to the Archives. The photographs were separated for inclusion within our “Picture Collection,” including for example 11 images from the 1960s of the Unitarian Church located on Porter Street, while the documentary information was filed on each property within our “House Ephemera File,” where information on hundreds of the structures are filed by street address. Among the buildings represented in this gift were the Wadsworth School, Putnam Lumber Yard on Harbor Street, the George H. Parker Grain Company formerly at 56 Water Street, and Friend Box Company on High Street.

Gift acknowledgement forms were typed up and sent out to 53 individuals or institutions, reflecting gifts to the archives of from one to dozens of items each, and acknowledging their donations to the Archives as unconditional gifts. Books, manuscripts and objects found this year among our collections, but not related to Danvers, were sent off as gifts to appropriate sister institutions. Recipients of from one to several dozen such gift items included: the Northampton Massachusetts Historical Society; Peabody Historical Society; Old Berwick Historical Society of South Berwick, Maine; and the Topsfield Historical Society. We were pleased to be able to place items within the collections of institutions where they properly belong.

Organizations and museums which this past year requested to borrow original or copies of photographs and documents from within our collections for exhibition or research purposes included: the Clements Library of Ann Arbor, Michigan; the Danvers Historical Society; several class reunion groups, The Danvers Herald; Gary Larrabee for articles in The Salem News; various individual patrons; Saint John′s Preparatory School; and owners of a new restaurant at the Village Green on Route 1.

Pictorial materials represent another major segment of our collections. Newly accessioned photographic and pictorial materials added to our collection this fiscal year amounted to 495 items, including 16 by purchase and 479 as gifts and deposits. Among the donated pictorial images were five class photos including: a framed 10 inches x 33 inches roll photograph of the Holten High School graduating class of 1937 given by Mary Eisenhower; another roll photograph of the class of 1938 given by Eleanor Buker; another of the class of 1930 and the Essex Agricultural School class of 1FireAtThePutnamHouse933 given by John and Jane Larivee; and yet another Holten High School framed class photo from 1936 given by Mr. & Mrs. Earl Clay.

Other pictorial items donated included: a homemade booklet titled “Old Danvers” containing 17 amateur albumen photographs of Danvers historic houses and sites (c. 1895), obtained at a yard sale in Maine by Cheryl and Sevan Demirdogen and presented to the Archives; five photographs provided through Anthony O. Leach II of a 1942 fire at the 18th century gambrel roof Jesse Putnam House; two albumen snap-shot photographs of the 1902 Danvers anniversary DSHNursesparade; two large-format mounted photographs of Danvers State Hospital nurse Elizabeth Jane (Scott) Greene in her uniform, and of six other nurses who graduated from the Nursing School (1910); Maple Street School Grade 5 photo album (1941); Wadsworth School “Memories of School Days” album by Alston Studios featuring 4 class photos (1965-1966); 11 ½ inches x 13 ½ inches mounted albumen print of five members of the Danvers Municipal Electric Light Committee (c 1890) given by Lisa A. Exum; and 84 color prints of the interior and exterior of Danvers State Hospital (1997 and 2001).

A group of 153 photographs and prints relating to the Salem witchcraft events and sites in Danvers and Salem, many from a backlog collection of E. J. Brehaut, were accessioned, placed in inert clear mylar envelopes and then grouped into categories within file folders and Hollinger storage boxes and shelved within our “Picture Collection.”

We were also able to obtain some nice late 19th century images of Danvers through the William L. Clements Library of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Over the last several years Danvers native Thomas M. Dziuszko (DHS class of 1967), who now resides in Michigan and is on the Board of Governors of the Library Associates, has corresponded with me and kept me informed of events and publications there. So too Curator of Maps Brian Dunnigan has corresponded with me over the years and we have been able to provide for him several images for publication associated with Danvers. Tom told me of his discovery of a group of images of Danvers within their collections taken by Henry M. Wheeler (1830-1917). Arrangements were made through Curator of Graphic Materials Clayton Lewis to provide us with scanned copies on a CD of these images. I have now made hardcopy 8 inches x 10 inches prints of these images which include the Osburn, Wadsworth, Haines and other historic houses, the images typically taken from a vantage point different than photos of the same buildings found within our collection. We appreciate the efforts and good will of our Michigan friends.

IsraelPutnamAn important image purchased this past fiscal year was an exquisite early mezzotint print titled, Israel Putnam, Esqu. Major General of the Connecticut forces and Commander in Chief at the Engagement on Bunckers-Hill Near Boston. This 15 inch x 10 inch print is mounted on acid-free board and matted with a mylar window. Attributed to C. Corbutt, the image is the first printed depiction of Danvers born Israel Putnam (1718-1790) and was published in London by C. Shepherd right at the beginning of the American Revolution in September 1775. The lovely impression with a fine mezzotint bloom depicts Putnam in uniform leaning against a cannon barrel, with other cannons firing in the background. This print has been described as, “not only an extremely rare portrait but one of the most important prints depicting this American hero.” Though I knew of the existence of this image print, it took 35 years to be able to locate an original.

Other purchased images include several related to George Peabody, including five different carte-de-visite albumen photographs of George Peabody taken in London in the 1860s, all obtained from different sources. We now have some 35 different posed images of Peabody in this format, Peabody being a popular subject for photographers. One of the newly acquired images shows Peabody standing and was taken in about 1866 by the famed photographer Myall of London. Peabody personally signed and dated this photograph 1867, it given undoubtedly to an admirer during Peabody′s last American trip. This particular pose was used in creating the large oil-on-canvas portrait of Peabody which hangs in on the main floor of our library. Also acquired was a rare G. P. Proctor stereoview of the interior of the funeral train transporting George Peabody′s body from Portland, Maine to Peabody, Mass. (1870).


Among other purchased images are: Eight post card views of John Greenleaf Whittier homes in Amesbury and Haverhill, variously published between the 1960s and 1990s; a glass lantern slide view of Oak Knoll by A. D. Handy, published about 1900; a CDV of famed lawyer Rufus Choate (c. 1860); a lithograph print by G. H. Walker of the Residence of J. E. Spring on Spring Street (1884); a paper giclee color print of driving the golden spike at Promintory Point, Utah in 1869 (c 2000); and a still life stereoview by Danvers photographer O. W. Clough (c. 1890).

Audio-visual materials added to our collections this year by donation include: a DVD from the John Marsh Historic Trust of Concord, CA titled, From Wilderness to Riches: Dr. John Marsh and the Conquest of the Far West; a DVD created by Fire CDADayToRememberCaptain Doug Conrad of Department radio transmissions, news footage and photographs depicting the Danversport explosion and aftermath; a CD of images taken of the interior and exterior of the Holten-Richmond School prior to renovation (2003); a CD titled, A Day to Remember: Danvers High School Choruses (2006); a VHS tape titled, Three Sovereigns For Sarah, concerning the Salem witchcraft (1986); and a VHS tape of Danvers High School yearbook and graduation (1994). Purchased audio-visual materials include: DVD titled Salem Witch Trials (1986) and a DVD version of Three Sovereigns For Sarah (2005).

GeorgePeabodyLesliesIllustratedNewspapers obtained for our collections by gift included The Salem Village Gazette, a publication of the First Church Fair (1869) given by Ruth Weeks. A purchased newspaper added to our collections was Frank Leslie′s Illustrated Newspaper (Nov. 20, 1869), featuring articles about the recently deceased George Peabody and illustrations including an engraving of Peabody taken from a Matthew Brady photograph.

For several years now I have been attempting to find time to process and catalogue some of our large backlog of manuscript collections. A major collection being worked upon is the “Putnam Family Papers” donated to the Danvers Historical Society by the Emerson family and on permanent deposit here at the Archival Center. This rich and varied manuscript collection spans three centuries and major branches of the Putnam and allied families. Among the material sorted, processed and catalogued this past fiscal year were: Ansel Wallace papers (1850-1857); Putnam family deeds (1757-1840); Eliza Putnam papers (1815-1820); Maria Phelps (Putnam) IndexCardPutnamDeedsHood papers (1866, 1910-1923); Joseph Putnam deeds (1747, 1771-1813); Eliza (Putnam) Kettell inventory (1826); Kettell family memorial sentiments (1827); Mary Hutchins Putnam papers (1854-1865); Sarah R. Phelps papers (1853); William R. Putnam deed (1874); and an Allen Putnam college letter (1824).

Other permanent loan materials from the Danvers Historical Society collections that we catalogued this year included: an anonymous scrapbook of newsclippings about Danvers people and events (1930-1935); Fitch Poole centennial celebration papers (1852); and a scrapbook compiled by Emily Pope Abbott concerning the Civil War service and story of Patrick H. O′Connell, who among other things was captured and escaped from the rebels (1894, 1899, 1906).

Added to the “Manuscript” card catalogue were 348 cards. Manuscripts deposited this year on permanent loan from other institutions included: Record Book of the Danvers Art Association (2002-2005), which includes photographs, programs, newsclippings etc. relating to the groups many activities.

One previously uncatalogued backlog of items finally able to be processed this past year were papers given to the Archival Center in the 1970s by Danvers lawyer Stephen P. Weston. These papers, chiefly deeds, relate to Peabody and Endicott properties purchased in the 19th century including in and around what is today the Endicott Estate. Among these materials now catalogued are: William C. Endicott receipted bills (1875-1878); George Peabody deeds (1851-1902); Joseph Peabody deeds (1815-1829); George Augustus Peabody correspondence (1898); Dean Kimball deeds (1845-1903) and a Joseph Putnam deed (1740).

ClippingThirtyBaseballCandidatesAmong manuscript materials donated as gifts this past year were: Danvers State Hospital Nursing School medical essays composed by Elizabeth (Scott) Greene (1905-1908); Holten High School diploma of Thomas James Mahoney (1930);a three-volume high school scrapbook containing photos, newsclippings, and items of ephemera gathered together by Jean Elizabeth Eisenhauer (1937-1940); letter about sports written by High School student L. Whiting (1921); and a certificate to Panagiota Papamechail for attending a course on learning English (1938).

Purchased manuscripts for our collection come from many sources including auctions, catalogues, on-line web sites and eBay. Among purchased items were: a manuscript note by John Greenleaf Whittier relating to the Cilley family (1887); a pristine autograph of Whittier accompanied with the envelope sent from Oak Knoll, Danvers to noted autograph collector Edward P. Lord of Cleveland, Ohio (c. 1877); two autograph letters signed by George Peabody, one sent from London (1862) and the other one from Georgetown, Mass. (1866) during his visit to the United States, the two letters obtained from separate sources. Peabody letters are quite unusual to find on the open market.

AldenWhiteLetterAlso obtained were: a letter (1887) to Judge Alden P. White from the Post Master′s office in Washington, D.C. replying to his request for the places and dates of the establishment of post offices in Danvers. There were six separate post offices between 1832 and 1887; a letter from Daniel Goss to his sister concerning his job in the wool business (1846); an answer in the negative from the South Parish of Danvers to the petition of Israel Hutchinson and others of New Mills requesting to be taken into the jurisdiction of the North Parish (c.1767); and an important political letter from Samuel Holten while serving at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia written to John Hancock reporting news of John Adams (1778).

An ongoing situation which has taken up much time and effort in the beginning of this fiscal year is a legal custody battle over a valuable Revolutionary War era document. In late October of 2005, I noticed on eBay a listing of a 1776 Broadside being offered for sale at a Boston auction. On the reverse of the Broadside was a hand written notation addressed to the “Danvers 1776ProclamationBroadsideTown Clark.” The document was pictured and described in the eBay entry as an “important proclamation announcing the forming of a new government.”

I notified Doug Rendell and Town Clerk Joseph Collins of my firm belief that this was a Town of Danvers record similar to others in the Danvers collection, but which had somehow strayed from the records of the town. Town Manager Wayne Marquis asked Town Counsel Michael Lehane to contact the auction house.

Through the efforts of Town Counsel, the town won a temporary injunction barring the sale, and eventually filed an action in replevin to reclaim the 1776 Broadside document that was in the custody of a Scituate, Massachusetts couple. Town Counsel secured a temporary restraining order, and subsequently, a preliminary injunction, enjoyning the couple from selling, gifting, or otherwise disposing of the Broadside. My report of last year explains much more background regarding the events surrounding this document.

Most Revolutionary War Broadsides are valued at several thousands of dollars, though, unknown to me at the time as I had not been able to examine or research this particular broadside, it is quite valuable, having been written by John Adams with the subject being the establishment of a new government. Allowing the Broadside to return to Danvers would ensure its preservation and availability to the public, as opposed to being sold to a private person who might keep it in his own library with no public access. Unfortunately the possessors of it were not interested in several suggestions of mutual accommodation and it became expensive in legal fees to do something that in principle is the right thing to do.

The document has the very specific notation on its reverse in pen addressed to the “Danvers Town Clark,” indicating that the broadside was sent to the town as an official notice. Subsequently I discovered that this broadside was authorized by a vote of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and a further vote was made to print it and send copies to each Town Clerk. As official documents are in the public′s possession in perpetuity; if one “goes astray,” it should be brought back. This one may have gone astray by accident, as most did.

In the 19th century Fitch Poole of Danvers collected many historic documents which were rediscovered in recent years in family records and put up for sale by descendants. Poole was town librarian in South Danvers, which later became Peabody. He was also the editor of the Danvers Wizard. Poole was also a collector of antiquarian things and in one of his news articles he quotes from some of his collection of documents. My best guess is that over time this particular document, which might have been borrowed for an exhibit or research by Poole, didn′t get returned and became mixed in with Poole′s own collection and in 2005 descendants discovered all of his documents and put them up for auction.

Though this is a valuable document, the principle is not its value, as the town could not sell it, but rather that it is part of the official, corporate records of the Town of Danvers and should be returned to its origin. Quite a number of these “strays” have come back to the town collection in the Archival Center, almost all through private donations.

In July 2006 the Town responded to the defendants′ written discovery requests by my producing numerous documents, papers etc., Joe Collins certifying them, and Bryan R. LeBlanc of the Town Counsel′s office writing up various responses. In late July Mr. LeBlanc also responded to defendants′ interrogatives which included material I provided. Then on September 14, 2006, I met Mr. LeBlanc at the defendants′ lawyer′s office in Worcester, Massachusetts where I was deposed. The deposition lasted for almost four hours and produced 139 pages of my answering their lawyer′s questions. It was an interesting process to say the least. Questions continued to be asked about specific events and circumstances, the answers to which have been lost for over several hundreds of years.

At one point I responded to one of many presumptive questions by stating that the barebone evidence we have is that, “it [the Broadside in question] was generated by a government agency, that it was ordered by that governmental agency that it should be printed, that the printed document was ordered by the agency that it should be distributed to each Town Clerk in Massachusetts, that there is a docket on it indicating that it is [sent] to the Town Clerk of Danvers-you know, those are the only things I know for sure about that. And again, with the experience I have which can′t come up with evidence that doesn′t necessarily exist, as a reasonable person and one who is familiar with these kinds of documents and how they are distributed, my conclusion is that it [the Broadside with the Danvers docket] undoubtedly was part of the Town collection, and somehow, by what means I don′t know, was found missing at a certain point in time.”

I am pleased that the Town acted to do the correct thing in attempting to retrieve this item back into the town records, and that the Trustees of the Library are in support. It is too bad that the process is so elongated and expensive, but I appreciate the commitment of the Town Manager, Town Counsel and his associate Brian Le Blanc for all their hard work. Last year I indicated to the Trustees and Doug, that if need be some of the Archival Special Fund might be considered for use in the suit. I also pledged a very modest amount as a donation for legal fees if necessary. I am absolutely convinced from the historic record left by the Massachusetts House of Representatives, from the writing on the Broadside itself and from the transmission address on the back of the document, that this was indeed a Town of Danvers record and should be thus returned to its lawful custody.

In the spring of 2007 the town, through its lawyers, requested a motion for a summary judgment and this coming August the cross-motions are scheduled to be heard at the Plymouth County Superior Court.

A non-controversial Broadside acquired this past year by gift for our collections was “School Districts in Danvers” (1835). This item, printed at the Salem Observer Office, was found by Robert Bucco during the repair of a wall in a house on Lowell Street in Peabody. The item was within the wall itself.

The Archival Center also has a large collection of maps and plans. A major acquisition to our “Map and Plan Collection” was SanbornMapan eBay purchase of an insurance atlas published in 1897 by the Sanborn-Perris Map Company of New York. This bound, color-coded 62 x 53 cm., nine-sheet atlas shows in detail the various structures, their shape, number of stories, construction material etc. in the various sections of Danvers including Danvers Centre, Danversport and Tapleyville. This wonderful source joins with other insurance atlases of 1909, 1915, 1927, and 1953 and photocopies of sheets from other dates now within our collection to assist in understanding the evolution of Danvers′s build environment.

IngersollFarmPlanAcquired by gift was a large format 26 inches x 16 inches printed color map of Danvers from the D. G. Beers Company Atlas dating 1872. Also several backlog manuscript map gifts to the Archives from the 1970s were processed and catalogued including: a plan by Andrew Nichols of the Dean Kimball farm conveyed to Ellen Endicott (1903); and two plans by Eleazer Putnam of the Captain Jonathan Ingersoll farm conveyed to Joseph Peabody (1814 & 1816), both maps having representations of the mansion house and outbuildings. This property is now known as the Endicott Estate and represents the surviving mansion in its earlier state.

Though the Archival Center does not collect objects per say, an exception to that rule is items relating to the Peabody Institute Library or souvenir glass and china relating to George Peabody. Two objects donated this past year were original Library auditorium seat numbers (#4 & #7), each mounted on an oak block rescued from the Library′s front staircase, these materials removed during the 1981 renovation project and given to Alan Grenier as a thank you for donations given during the project.

SpoffordPlateWe also acquired at a modest price through eBay a transfer-ware china plate featuring the Library in its center, this ware ordered by F. M. Spofford of Danvers and sold in the late 19th century at his general store. Also purchased was a 4 ½ inches diameter crimped edge bone-white souvenir dish featuring a black transfer image the birthplace of George Peabody, this item made in Germany for sale by G. Pauley & Son in Peabody.

Through the efforts of the Board of Trustees and Librarian Doug Rendell, as well as the support of Town Hall, part of a DPW Town Meeting warrant article was passed several years ago which appropriated monies for the replacement of the Archival Center′s HVAC system. This system had dated back to 1981 and was having problems. A new, state-of-the-art touted HVAC system for regulating and stabilizing temperature and humidity was installed in November 2006. The system has not as yet met my satisfaction or the Archival Center′s needs. Upon its being activated, the unit was extremely noisy. The blowers were able to be somewhat tamped down, though they are still much too active. We put a cardboard baffle in the vent nearest my desk, but many times a day the cycle blows irritating cold air on me and on patrons. It seems chilly even when the temperature is 72 degrees. After placing the controls in late February to a temperature of 71 degrees and a relative humidity at 50%, the room at 8 am still registers as low as 66 degrees and the humidity up to as much as 64%. During good chunks of the day the room gets an annoying breezy cold wind and I often must wear a sweater even in July and go home with nose sniffles. Also the annunciator has not as yet been installed near my desk where I can monitor any alarms and as yet I have not been instructed on how to control setting the temperature and humidity, rather than wait for someone to come and readjust it a day or so later. I believe that after seven months someone with the company should look at the system to find out how it can perform as it should. Hard to believe, I miss the old flawed system.

During 48 weeks when statistics were able to be kept, 844 patrons were served at the Archival Center, while 823 telephone calls were answered and 614 letters sent out. Talks were given to 10 civic, scout, college, school and historical organizations including students from Danvers High School, Middle School and several elementary grades, as well as students from Gordon College and several service organizations, for a combined audience of about 550 people.

I continue to serve as a commissioner in the Essex County National Heritage Area as Danvers Town Archivist, and am on the sub-committee that considers and chooses yearly grant recipients. I also serve on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Historical Records Advisory Board, and as such go through grant proposals and get a feel for the projects being undertaken around the Commonwealth. Other organizational connections include serving as a member of the Salem Village Historic District Commission, which typically meets in the Archival Center for public hearings and meetings; was just elected in June vice-president of the Danvers Historical Society; and serve as a resource person for the Danvers Preservation Commission, particularly in regard to researching structures which have been requested by owners to demolish. This past year I have at their request researched and reported in writing on six structures. I have also given some service to the Danvers Preservation Fund, including attending various meetings, etc. relating to the attempted preservation of the 1869 Danvers Plains Railroad Station currently located off Cherry Street.

EndicottPearTreeIngravingAmong other meetings and projects I have had relative to Danvers history were communications and meetings with representatives of the North Shore Medical Center which purchased the former Osram Sylvania property at 100 Endicott Street. On this property grows the famed ca. 1632 Endecott Pear Tree, a unique living link to the original European settlement of America. I wrote NSMC President Robert G. Norton and Dr. Tony Patton of the Historical Society and I met with their representatives outlining a brief history of the site and tree and recommending that they spotlight this hidden treasure in the redevelopment of the property. I also offered my assistance and our collection to their efforts.

Suggested Improvements to the Endecott Pear Tree Site outlined by me included:

  1. Landscaping. Consider the present site of the fenced Endecott Pear Tree and its relationship to the parking lot above, the encircling trees present as a wind buffer, and the sloping land leading to the river. Devise from its present physical sitting a landscape plan that will continue to protect the tree, while at the same time displaying it as an important living link to our earliest settlement of the New World. Its close and subservient proximity to the parking area looming above it diminishes the significance of this relic and is visually displeasing. The tree7prime;s landscaping and proximity to the parking area gives the impression that its display is an afterthought to the importance of the parking area. The developed landscaping of this historic fruit tree should declare its importance rather than diminish its significance.
  2. Access. Consider an appropriate pathway leading to the tree and the possible setting aside of a parking space for those who want to visit the site. Appropriate signage to the site from Endicott Street and of the parking space itself should be created.
  3. Interpretation. Consider the creation for this site of a cast aluminum Historic Marker similar in size, color and style to others placed throughout Danvers. Such a marker would include text (which Richard Trask could provide) outlining in about 100 words the history and significance of the tree. Room at the bottom would include the name of the sign′s sponsor and year of placement. Also consider using the tree as a living-link symbol that could be associated with the mission statement of NSMC. The Danvers Archival Center would be pleased to assist with visual materials in the case that NSMC would want to put some type of display, photos or mural somewhere in the complex to spotlight this historic relic.
  4. Protection. Consider the present fencing surrounding the tree as to attractiveness, longevity and security. Include in any planning the protection of the tree from vandalism or weather related problems of wind, water run-off, lightning etc. If there is to be an outside security or closed circuit system, include the tree in the plan. Continue with a tree consultant for the tree′s care and continue with the relationship with the Danvers Tree Warden.


An interesting meeting was held with witchcraft scholar and author Enders Robinson and British fashion designer Alexander McQueen who has been named “Designer of the Year” several times. McQueen and his small entourage of his personal assistant, publicist and a magazine writer along to record his goings-on in the United States visited the Archival Center in December. I made sure to wear my best Sears tie and button-down Oxford shirt to look the fashion plate I am. Mr. McQueen was quite delightful and his small retinue was ever captivated by his every sentence. He is a descendant of witchcraft victim Elizabeth How and was gathering information to see if he might try to spur an apology from the British government about the executions. He mentioned knowing “Tony” and other MPs and thought they might just be willing to do this. (Their apology, if it comes, can be grouped together with all the other apologies coming about as a result of the fallout from the 1992 300th year anniversary commemoration, making the Salem witchcraft events one of the most over-apologized events known to history. Though this is politically incorrect, all this apologizing to my mind has become a bit over-done.)

Other visitors requesting interviews included actor/screenwriter Peter Mac who is writing a book on the Salem witch trials as depicted on the “big” and “small” screen, including an interview regarding my historical consultant work on the PBS American Playhouse 1980s production, Three Sovereigns For Sarah, staring Vanessa Redgrave and my limited association with the 20th Century Fox movie, The Crucible, and especially my communications regarding character development with actor Paul Scofield.

It’s been over a year since any documentary company has visited Danvers to film a program on the Salem witchcraft. That drought was broken when in June a California production company contacted me about filming in the area for a program for The Travel Channel. I recommended that they film at the Nurse Homestead, Parsonage Archaeological Site and Witchcraft Victims′ Memorial, which they did. In late June a producer and crew of five spent a morning here at the Archival Center doing a sit-down interview with me, as well as an “action shot” of my walking into the vault and showing the camera several rare witchcraft volumes. Luckily I did not stumble and did make sure to open the heavy vault door so that it squeaked an eerie (some would say annoying) sound.

This is the first year in many that information relating to the preservation of the original 1876 portions of the Danvers State Hospital has not been reported as part of my efforts. Unfortunately that is because those of us who attempted to save the majority of the grand high-style Victorian Gothic structure failed. All but the administration building and two wings of the original eight wings have been torn down by the developer, along with all the almost 40 ancillary buildings.

One aspect of the State Hospital story is still open, however, and twice I have written the Board of Selectmen with copies to other individuals and agencies about this.

There had originally been an agreement that a portion of the proceeds of the sale of the Danvers State Hospital property ($500,000) would be set aside specifically for historic preservation, an unwritten acknowledgement that such funds should lessen the terrible toll of losing this important National Register campus. In September 2006, I inquired, not on Archival letterhead, but with the statement that as Town Archivist I was interested in the status of those funds and the mechanism that would be established to manage and utilize them. Not hearing, I sent another letter to the Board of Selectmen in May of this year, with suggestions of the type of possible uses of the funds, which uses might have a positive and long term effect in assisting in the local preservation of our unique historic and cultural assets in a time when we are losing more of our historic built environment than any previous period.
I offered the following suggestions that might be considered:

  1. Consider committing up to half of the amount to the preservation portions of renovating our historic 1855 Danvers Town Hall.
  2. Consider the committing of a reasonable amount ($35-50,000 total) to Danvers non-profit preservation organizations and the two Danvers municipal preservation commissions for specific restoration projects or preservation studies.
  3. Consider the commitment of a reasonable amount of money to be used as principal within Town of Danvers Accounts for: (1) the ongoing maintenance of abandoned cemeteries, and (2) the continuing maintenance/repair of Town of Danvers owned historic sites.
  4. Consider the establishment of a $75,000 fund for obtaining and maintaining Preservation Easements on unique or important structural features, building facades and landscape assets in Danvers to preserve them for future people to enjoy.
  5. Consider the establishment of a $100,000 Danvers Preservation Revolving Fund in which loans for the preservation of architecturally or historically significant structures or elements thereof could be sought and used by Danvers property owners.

At some point I hope the Selectmen and others in responsibility in Danvers will consider these and other options, as these funds can and should have a real positive effect on local preservation.

The Archival Center brought in $90.60 this past fiscal year in mail reference fees and certified copies as part of my responsibilities as an Assistant Town Clerk. Five families requested markers for their houses, which requests I researched, drew up a short history of each house and provided, through the work of our sign painter Robert Leonard, signs containing the date of the house, original owner and occupation. The sign requests brought in an additional $225 for the “Archive Special Fund.” Also added to our “Archive Special Fund” was $803 reflecting donations to the archivist for talks given, for use of several illustrations in commercial publications, fees for use of Archive images displayed in local businesses, donations and resale of several items. Altogether $1,118.63 was brought in this past year.

GrandfatherClockAt the beginning of the FY 2006 the Archive Special Fund had a balance of $13,256.32, not including interest. This fund was established several years ago in order to have money available in case important but expensive items came to our attention and would overwhelm our regular budget. Last year we used heavily from this fund including for purchasing and delivery of the 1830 grandfather clock built by Danversite Ezra Batchelder in 1830 ($5,350) which clock now chimes the hours in our Archive Reading Room. Also purchased was an important and ornate Lieutenant Moses Porter 1777 Revolutionary War commission signed by Continental Congress President and later first Chief Justice of the United States, John Jay ($2,245). Porter was a native of Danvers and with the exception of his commissions; we have his very complete collection of military papers dating from the 1780s through the 1820s. This was only the second time we had ever used the fund for special purposes, though its impact was significant. Beginning in FY 2007 the new balance in the fund is $6,950.95. Were that the fund was larger, but important items come along serendipitously and must be obtained while available.

This past year we purchased a new mat for the Archives doorway and a chair mat, replacing similar water-damaged items as the result of the spring 2006 flooding. New supplies of Hollinger acid-free boxes and inert Mylar envelopes to use with the storage of fragile documents and photographs were also purchased. In a perfect world each photo should have a Mylar envelope and file of its own. In our world, whenever I have occasion to look into one of our photo files in one of the new storage boxes, if I see a print in need of support and protection, I put it into one of these envelopes.

The Archives attempts to act as a resource for town agencies needing background information. Among departments assisted this past year were the Town Clerk, Town Counsel, Preservation Commission, Senior Center, Police Department, Building Inspector, Fire Department, Planning Department, Town Manager, Historic District Commission, and Public Works Department. The Preservation Commission requested reports by the Archives on several local buildings as part of the Danvers Demolition Delay By-Law. I made site visits to several houses and prepared reports on requested structures for the Commission, which reports were then made part of our house files.

Some very intensive work time was spent by me and then with Eva inputing much data, all related to my unpaid participation as Town Archivist as an associate editor in support of the publication of a new transcription of the 1692 Salem witchcraft papers. This over 1,000 page volume is to be published in 2008 by Cambridge University Press and our multi-year efforts have been under the direction of Professor Bernard Rosenthal of Binghamton University in New York, who is project director. Working on the project is an international group of twelve historians and linguists from the U.S., England, Finland and Sweden serving as associate editors.


A 1692 Salem witchcraft document studied for the Transcription Project.

My work this past fiscal year on the final phase of this project centered during the months of October 2006 through May 2007 with creating, sorting and refining the first-ever chronological ordering of the witchcraft legal papers and the creation of an essay titled, “Legal Procedures Used During the Salem Witch Trials and a Brief History of the Published Versions of the Records,” which essay will be included within the published work. In this most intense period of this over-long, multi-year project, I also checked transcriptions, handwriting identification, and notes on the documents written by editor Bernie Rosenthal. My resulting chronology with introductory explanation notes runs about 100 pages of small type-face. It is in a format slightly different than that of the eventually published version, and I hope to include it when I have time to refine it, within the Archival Center section of the Peabody Institute Library website. There will be a relatively short but intensive spurt of work needed in the fall of 2007 when the printer′s proofs are sent to us from Cambridge University Press for final examination. Following these efforts, this project should be completed.

This project began in 1999. It has been very long and involved, though I have had the chance to participate in hopefully a ground-breaking transcription project that will benefit scholarship for several generations. The co-sponsorship of this project by the Danvers Archival Center is indeed a point of institutional pride and the Trustees and Director are thanked for their willingness to allow me the time to assist with this massive task.

This has been an active and interesting year for the Danvers Archival Center. The acquisition of numerous gifts and purchases in many categories, as well as our continuing to fully process a number of backlog papers and documents, continues to allow our Salem Village and Danvers collection to enrich itself and be more useful to our patrons of today and of the future.

Richard B. Trask
Town Archivist
July 27, 2007
Print Friendly, PDF & Email