Danvers Archival Center
Fiscal Year 2016 Annual Report

This report finds us in our forty-fourth year of operation of the Danvers Archival Center. We first opened in October 1972, following a Danvers Town Meeting vote authorizing the establishment of the position of Town Archivist as a department head within the Peabody Institute Library. Our first home was in the lower level of the brick and concrete Danvers Historical Society’s “Memorial Hall” building at 13 Page Street.

The Danvers Historical Society gave over their Memorial Hall basement to the Town of Danvers’s new Archival Center at no cost to the town. After nine years there, the archives moved in 1981 to the newly renovated and expanded Peabody Institute Library at 15 Sylvan Street, which included space in the underground addition to the library designed specifically for the Archival Center to include a large public research room, a secure manuscript storage area and a walk-in vault with a 6-hour fire-rated door.


Click to Enlarge All Illustrations

We are guided in our gathering of material for the Danvers Archival Center by our collection policy. The statement reads: “The Danvers Archival Center is a repository for information relating to the history and development of the geographical area encompassing Salem Village and Danvers, Massachusetts. The Archival Center performs its mission by gathering and collecting flat, informational materials through gifts and purchases and through permanent deposits in cases where the material is owned by functioning corporate organizations. Among items collected by the Archival Center are books, pamphlets, monographs, manuscripts, broadsides, newspapers, maps, architectural drawings, photographs, prints, audio and video tapes, films, DVDs, CDs, and microfilms.” All our materials are stored in a secure and stable environment, and are available to all who wish to use them.

Our collections are gathered through various sources, including materials deposited by Danvers town agencies and organizations, as well as new items being regularly donated by the public or purchased through our annual budget. Ours is one of the largest and most important documentary resources of a community of its size in the entire country. It is a collection of a seldom-found mixture of diverse municipal, corporate, and private research materials gathered together through a cooperative combination from many organizations that were willing to turn over physical custody of their papers for their being conserved, preserved, properly stored, catalogued and accessible. We are committed to continuously upgrading our collections, and properly storing and protecting them for use by the present and future generations.


This report will highlight Archival Center activities during fiscal year 2016, between July 2015 and June 2016.

Thanks go to Library Director Alan Thibeault, who is ever supportive of the Archives and our special projects, and who regularly drops in the Archives to keep abreast with our activities and needs. This year Assistant Director Suzanne MacLeod retired from the library after a very successful career. I send her my thanks and regards for all the years she has been a support. New Assistant Director Jennifer McGeorge came from within the staff, having previously served as head of the Reference Department. She has seamlessly taken over her new assignment, and has been very helpful to the Archives. Thanks also to Jim Riordan who takes care of the technical aspects of our archive website; to accountant Susan Kontos who regularly assists me with all budget matters in a department that has a number of non-traditional orders generated from numerous sources; and to Rachel Alexander who sets up and assists me with all manner of computer technical matters. Thanks also goes out to the nine-member Board of Library Trustees lead by President Mike Hagan, and including Dr. Charles Desmond, with whom I worked on the Urn Project. The Board is continually supportive of the Archives and its goals.

Eva Veilleux has worked at the Archives since 2005, first for 6 hours per week, then for 7 ½ hours. Near the end of 2015 she retired from her multi-department work at the Library. She has always been an important component of the Archive operations, being a skillful and meticulous worker, and I came to rely upon her for her many skills, and her ability to run the Archives when I was away. She became a personal friend, as well as a colleague, and I will miss her very much for her assistance and friendship. I send her every good wish.

At the end of the year, we advertised for a part-time position of archival assistant for six hours work per week. A mainly clerical position for only 6 hours over two days per week, we received some 20 plus applications, including from two Ph.D.s With Alan’s assistance, we reissued the position for a January 31 closing date, thinking the position was not clear enough to indicate that it was mainly clerical. Still we received 14 qualified applications. After going through the applications, I centered on three strong applicants for interviews and in February Julie Silk of Danvers was chosen. Julie had been working part time in the Reference Department of the Library for over eleven years, and was familiar with both the library and archives. She has turned out to be a great worker. Eva spent quite a bit of time in the Archives to assist Julie in her new position. With our new HP color printer, Julie, with the help of Rachel Alexander, set up our new printer to be able to copy catalogued items onto our catalogue cards stock, including reproducing tracing card titles in red. I am very pleased to have Julie as my co-worker.

We are also fortunate to have Thomas Marsella volunteering at the Archives on Wednesday mornings. Tom began his volunteer work in April 2003! He now also works several days at the library as a paid page, but continues his volunteer work at the Archives. He is a gregarious, fun-loving worker who this past fiscal year volunteered over 52 hours at the Archives in researching, cataloging, accessioning, and performing many other archival tasks. I thank Tom for his assistance.

During 2015 I had some health issues which lead to two operations and much lost time at the Archives. For all or part of 22 weeks I was on sick leave between August 3 and December 31. For a good portion of that time I was home recuperating and was able to keep up with some of my work by answering email queries to the Archives, and occasionally surreptitiously spending a few hours at the archives to keep up with desk clutter. My wife Ethel would typically accompany me and do much of the needed word processing. The medical problem was taken care of and I am grateful to Alan and the entire library staff, and to the Trustees for their support and concern.

This past year we obtained, accessioned, processed, and catalogued 48 items for inclusion within our Public Reading Room book collection. Twelve of the volumes were acquired through gifts, while 36 were purchased.#2

Our “Ellerton J. Brehaut Witchcraft Collection” is a nationally known collection that we continue to expand. This year we acquired as donated items: The Devil’s Tongue, by Stacy Schiff (2015); Suffer A Witch, by Claudia Hall Christian (2015); and Toward the Hanging Tree: Poems of Salem Village (2016). All three were donated by their authors to the Archives. Ms. Christian in sending her volume to us wrote, “Please accept a copy of this book as a thank you for all of your hard work. Without you, this project would never have been possible.” Ms. Connors book was a well-researched compendium of poems relating to the witchcraft occurrences. A short statement by me was published on the back cover of her book. Along with the gift book she wrote, “Thanks for supplying some good words to make my book look like a worthwhile read. I really appreciate it.”

Purchased witchcraft volumes this year included: The Salem Witch Trials, by Peter Benoit (2014); The Tall Man from Boston, by Marion Starkey (1975) signed by the illustrator; The Salem Witch Trials, by Sean Price (2009); Satan and Salem: The Witch Crisis of 1692, by Benjamin Ray (2015); The Salem Witch Trials, by Andrea P. Smith (2012); Accused: A Tale of the Salem Witch Trials, by Jeani Boynton (2013); Connecticut Witch Trials, by Cynthia W. Boynton (2014); Jeopardy in the Courtroom, by Stephen J. Ceci (1995); Alice Ray and the Salem Witch Trials, by Shannan Knudsen (2011); The True Story of the Salem Witch Hunts, by Amelieron Zumbusch (2009); Disguised as the Devil, by M. M. Drymon (2008); Who Were the Accused Witches of Salem?, by Laura Waxman (2012); The Salem Witch Trials; Would You Join the Madness?, by Elaine Landau (2015); The Salem Witch Trials, by Gail B. Stewart (2013); Bothwell & the Witches, by Godfrey Watson (1975); The Lancashire Witch-Craze, by Jonathan Lumby (1995); The Wonderful Discoverie of the Witchcrafts (1970); and Montague Summers: A Bibliographical Portrait, by Fredrick S. Frank (1988). From the list above it would appear that the most popular (and overused) title for witchcraft books is “The Salem Witch Trials,” with 5 titles using it in whole or in part!


Stacy Schiff’s much anticipated work, The Witches: Salem 1692 (2015), was published by Little, Brown and Company in the fall and garnered much national attention, both in print and on broadcast media. It became a number one New York Times Best-Seller for weeks. Stacy took on the entire story of the 1692 events, not simply generalizing with the narration of a few of the regular 17th century characters overused by numerous historians in past works. Her narrative is very rich and detailed, and she opens up new territory by giving the reader a background and interconnectedness of many of the participants, including the judges of the Court of Oyer and Terminer.#4

Ms. Schiff is a meticulous researcher and a lovely person. She has worked and used the resources of the Danvers Archival Center for many weeks during the past several years, and we were often in phone and email communication about all aspects of the 1692 events, including many lunch get-togethers. She was very generous in her book to acknowledge the Archives and me for our assistance, and used several illustrations from our archive collections (with a fee paid) and photos taken by me. I also assisted the designer for accuracy in the front cover artwork and end-cover map used in the publication. Near the conclusion of Stacy’s writing I was out of action for a number of weeks, so could not read her text for pre-publication fact-checking. Once I was at home recuperating, she sent me an advance copy. I volunteered to go through it at that point in anticipation of a second edition, and we had many pleasant conversations going throu#5gh the text. I am proud to have been of assistance with the Archive resources and my own knowledge to have been a small part of this project, and the production of a book I consider to now be a classic in the history and interpretation of the Salem witchcraft outbreak of 1692.

Among rare witchcraft pamphlets and books we purchased, catalogued, and shelved this past year, and which now reside in the safety of our Walk-In Vault were Cotton Mather and Salem Witchcraft, by William F. Poole (1869), an edition of only 100 copies, this one signed and inscribed by the author. Also acquired were two rare books from our friends at Weiser Antiquarian Books in York, Maine. They had been chosen to sell an extraordinary collection of 60 rare books on witchcraft and demonology originally collected by Dr. Michael Coleman. The first volume acquired is an anonymous work titled, A Most Faithful Relation of Two Wonderful Passages Which Happened Very Lately…in the Parish of Bradfield in Berk-shire, describing the various forms in which an “ill spirit hath appeared.” The volume was printed by James Cottrel in London in 1650.


The second volume is also a London imprint, published in 1723. The author was Jacques de Daillon, and is titled: A Treatise of Spirits. Wherein Several Places of Scripture are Expounded, against the Vulgar Errors Concerning Witchcraft…. The 182-page volume is a criticism of the belief in witchcraft.


A faked document



The Forgery

A major acquisition for our witchcraft manuscript collection was a “forgery.” During the 1930s a forger created a small number of fake witchcraft documents which he sold in the Midwestern and Southwestern United States, and which documents ended up in individual and institutional collections. This item, which we acquired through J. Levine Auctions of Arizona, is a fake copy of the warrant for the execution of Rebecca Nurse and dated June 10, 1692. The document includes a large seal and 16 signatures, including Increase and Cotton Mather (who as ministers would never be signers of a civil death warrant), and the mark of the Indian chief “King Phillip,” who had been killed many years previous to 1692. Though the forgery is obviously so to one familiar with 17th century documents and the witchcraft events, the forger managed to hoodwink many well-heeled individuals who thought they were acquiring an historic document. Along with the document comes a card from the South Carolina Historical Society purporting to attest to its authenticity and signed by a J. A. Skaggs as curator. This interesting and rare item joins with another forgery within our witchcraft collection acquired several years ago.

Our “Danvers History” book collection received as donations a number of printed items which have all been processed, catalogued and put on the shelf including: Family of Bray Wilkins, by William Carroll Hill (1943); a copy of From Muddy Boo to Blind Hole, by Charles S. Tapley (1940), signed and inscribed by Tapley to David Wilkins; Annual Reports of the Trustees of Danvers State Hospital (1938 & 1989-90); Commencement issue of The Holten (1927); Onion Soup, by David R. Knowlton, signed by the author (1995); the Danvers High School yearbook Heritage (2016); The North Shore, by Joseph E. Garland, inscribed by the author to Danvers High School teacher Larry Russell (1998); Salem, Massachusetts, by Kenneth C. Turino and Stephen J. Schier (1996); Street Poll Lists of Danvers (2015); A Margaret Proctor Wood Sampler, by Margaret P. Wood (1971); and Come With Me, by Lucy M. Ferren (1960s). We also obtained a copy of Ray Raphael’s newest book on the American Revolution titled, The Spirit of ’74. Mr. Raphael requested if I would look at two chapters of his book prior to publication to check them for accuracy. The chapters were concerned with events within the Salem/Danvers area.

Also donated to us were a number of extra copies of serial volumes already within our collections, including Danvers High School Yearbooks and Holten magazines, as well as various issues of the Danvers Historical Society Collections (1913-1987).

Amos Pope was a Danversite

Amos Pope was a Danversite

Among purchased books for our printed local history collection were: The Battle of Hubbardton, by Bruce M. Venter (2015); Souvenir: Danvers, Massachusetts (1896); Pope’s Almanack for 1795, by Amos Pope (1794); and Igniting the American Revolution, by Derek W. Beck (2015).

Our significant John Greenleaf Whittier Collection was originally gathered by Danvers native, professor, and Whittier scholar, Dr. Richard P. Zollo, who donated his collection to the Archives. We continue to upgrade this important collection concerning the poet and abolitionist who lived for 16 years in Danvers at the Oak Knoll estate on Summer Street. Among items purchased were: Poems of John G. Whittier published by Benjamin B. Mussey in 1850.

A sub-category of printed items within our collections are “broadsides.” These items are one-sided printed sheets, usually of a large format. A souvenir broadside we catalogued this year was a large colored lithograph by H. A. Schroeder of Baltimore, being a printed sheet titled, “Military Register, 8th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Militia,” a highly decorated 64x51cm sheet with names of officers and men of this 100-day regiment, and vignette patriotic scenes (ca. 1865).


Another sub-category of printed materials are newspapers. Among newspapers obtained through purchase this year were: Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper: Bunker Hill Centennial (June 1875), being a special double issue of this popular pictorial newspaper with much information and several illustrations featuring General Israel Putnam and; The New York Times (February 9, 1870), with a front page, four-column special report on “George Peabody. Final Funeral Services in Massachusetts.” As a gift we received a matted and framed copy of a page from Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing Room Companion featuring an illustration of the Danvers Centennial Procession (1852).

We have consistently ordered 35mm microfilm rolls of all Danvers newspapers for long- term preservation storage and reference use, while at the same time keeping and storing all hardcopy newspapers as original artifacts. This microfilm policy dates back to the early 1970s, when we were able to borrow runs of local newspapers owned by the Essex Institute and had microfilm copies of them made for our collections. This past year we were able to sort, box and send off to California hard copies of recent years of our local newspaper, The Danvers Herald, for Heritage Archives to film them. This included over 2,000 pages for generating 35mm negative silver halide, and positive 35mm roll copies of The Danvers Herald for the years 2014-2015.

#12Catalogue cards added to our Danvers History Union Catalogue numbered 182, while 123 new main entry, title and subject cards were created and interfiled into our Witchcraft Catalogue.

Items described as “Ephemera” are a class of printed paper items which are typically single items, pamphlets, sheets, etc., originally meant for temporary use. These point-in-time bits of history, though not typically warranting individual cataloguing within our archival collection, can be very informative. Our ephemera collection is kept within acid-free folders under appropriate subject headings and placed in vertical file cabinets in our Manuscript Storage Room.#13

Included among ephemera items donated this past year were: a four-page illustrated program of movies being shown at the Orpheum Theatre (September 1941); program of the High School Football Banquet (1935); Memorial Day program (2013); Danvers Youth Hockey Program (1976); a tribute to Sotir Adams (1972); a brief history of the Homestead Golf Club by O. D. Taylor; letter from Ernie Roberts of recollections of the golf club (1987); telephone directory for Danvers State Hospital (1987 & 1990); dedication program of the Frances T. Lenehan Memorial Library at Danvers State Hospital (1977); file on the two State Hospital cemeteries, including a list of burials from 1932-1966; two Allenhurst party menus (ca. 1950); and a certificate that Lester S. Couch had been appointed honorary vice-president of the Porter Family Association (1937). Also donated were files kept by real estate appraiser Richard E. Graves of eight Danvers properties, these files being integrated into our archival house files.

Items of ephemera are often offered for sale through eBay. Among items purchased on this popular website were: Annual Report of the Beverly & Danvers Railway (1892); advertising card to “The Three Bears Tea Room” on Locust Street (ca. 1940s); and a John G. Whittier pinback button (1896).

We sent out formal gift acknowledgments to 27 individuals or institutions which donated books, items of ephemera, photographs, and/or manuscripts to the Archival Center, reflecting single or multiple donations to us. Many gifts came from Danvers residents, though gifts were also sent to us from such places as Peabody; Somersworth, NH; Salem; Fallbrook, CA; Denver, CO; Ipswich; Middleton; Old Saybrook, CT; Beverly; and West Hartford, CT.

Occasionally we find within material to be catalogued items which do not relate to Danvers, and we attempt to place these items in appropriate collections. This past year we sent as unrestricted gifts items to the Lynn Historical Society, and the Phillips Library of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem.

Among organizations which temporarily borrowed items from our collections, including original or copies of photographs and documents for exhibition or research purposes, were: the Danvers Garden Club; Danvers Historical Society; Rail Trail Committee; Danvers Herald; the Town Manager’s office; and several individual patrons representing reunion organizations, etc.

In the Public Reading Room we have current issues of several popular preservation periodicals including: Early American Life, Old House Journal, and Preservation News, as well as some genealogical subscriptions that help or reflect local families, including Essex Society of Genealogy, New England Historical Genealogical Register, New England Archivist, American Archivist, The Manuscript Society, and the Endecott-Endicott Family Association. We give space to the genealogical organization, The Towne Family Association, for storage of a four-drawer file as a courtesy to them. The Association includes the important and historic Nurse, Cloyse and Esty families. Their very fine quarterly journal, About Towne, is also kept, with current extra copies available free to the public.

During FY 2016 we acquired 703 audio-visual items, mainly photographs, for our archival collection. Among donations we received 676 items, while 2 were deposit items, and 25 items were purchased. Our two main storage classifications for photographs are file boxes for people, arranged by last name; and buildings, arranged by street address. We only do complete cataloguing of images worthy of inclusion due to their age, rarity or significance. In this category we added 35 cards to the picture catalogue.

Photographs, prints and other pictorial images donated to the Archives this past year included: a photograph album containing 105 mounted photographs of the first three years of Richard Cook (1923-1926); photos of several reunions of the Holten High School Class of 1938 and a long roll photo of the class itself (1938); copy of an albumen photograph of members of the Dempsey and Rundlett families (ca. 1910); 14 color photos of the Memorial Day Parade (1999); 8”x10” photo of the Danvers High School baseball team (1930s); 23 photographs of the Homestead Golf Club buildings and grounds (1940s-50s); 5 professional color photographs of the interior of the newly renovated Peabody Institute Library (1981); four postcards of the Allenhurst Restaurant (ca. 1955); First Day Issue stamps and envelope for the 13 cent Kitten and Puppy stamp (November 1982); Danversport reunion program (1987); Danvers Senior Center dedication program (1999); an 8”x10” mounted photograph of a Danvers grammar school class (1925); roll photograph of the Holten High School Class of 1930; roll photograph of the 25th reunion of the class of 1930 at Steakland (1955); four snapshot photos of the Edwin Cook, Jr. service station at 31 High Street (1930s); 97 color prints of “A Night at the Peabody Institute Library” gala (2015); 186 images used in the production of the book, As the Century Turned (1989); and numerous color prints of interiors of Danvers houses threatened with demolition taken by me during the last 10 years.#14

Also acquired through purchase were pictorial images including: UPI wirephoto of a shooting relating to the Brinks robbery (1952); a 35mm color slide of the Danvers Pirsch manufactured Fire Engine #4 (1950s); a postcard of the residence of William B. Sullivan (ca. 1900); a postcard view of the pool at King’s Grant (1960s); a mounted photograph by Frank Cousins of Porphry Hall on Summer Street (ca. 1890); and a beautifully matted and framed colored print issued by Nathaniel Currier titled “The Iron Son of ’76,” featuring General Israel Putnam escaping a British patrol on horseback (1845).

Old Put

“Old Put”

Hotel Danvers

Hotel Danvers

A nice group of 3-D stereoviews were obtained through purchase from various sources and included: a view of the Porter River by Perkins & Lefavour (ca. 1880); rare views of the new Unitarian Church on Porter Street; Hotel Danvers (The Berry Tavern) by G. K. Proctor; and the First National Bank on Maple Street, all taken ca. 1875; a view of a bust of philanthropist George Peabody by Heywood (ca. 1870); portrait of Peabody sitting in an arm chair next to a prop table; a close-up view of the open vault at the Peabody Institute Library in South Danvers displaying a Queen Victoria portrait and three additional gifts given to George Peabody (ca. 1869); and another view of George Peabody, this one by Macintosh with Peabody sitting at a desk and holding papers (ca. 1860s); and from a different source the wake of George Peabody in Portland, Maine (1870). One deposit image, a stereoview (ca. 1868) of Susanna Putnam (1777-1869) at a window of the Israel Putnam birthplace (ca. 1868) was also accessioned and catalogued. Given the rarity of these stereoviews, all of them were catalogued and are stored in our vault photograph collection. In all 24 cards were added to our Picture Catalogue.

Susanna Putnam

Susanna Putnam

A number of previously collected image categories within the Danvers Archival Center photographic collection were accessioned, sorted, and placed in Mylar-type sleeves, and then stored within acid-free storage folders. Among these images were collections representing several historic dwellings. We also did some copying and transfers to digital format of some images through the fine local photo lab, “The Finer Image” located on Park Street.

Several of our images were requested to be used in special projects and for which we waived a use fee. An image of the Salem Village petition to Salem to become an independent community (October 1751), a copy of which is on our website, was requested to use in a forthcoming book titled, Managing Local Government Archives. Co-written by Dallas City Archivist John H. Slate, the reference volume was printed this year with the petition reproduced and a credit line given. A copy of the book was sent to us for our professional archival book collection. We also received and granted a request from a Ph.D. candidate at the Heinrich-Heine University of Dusseldorf, Germany for the use of two images within our Danvers State Hospital collection for an illustrated presentation. The images were also from our website. Finally, we were contacted by the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. for two of our State Hospital images from our web site for use in a forthcoming exhibit titled, The Architecture of the Asylum: St. Elizabeth’s 1855-2017.

Our manuscript collections are very impressive and include materials collected and owned outright by the Peabody Institute Library/Archival Center, and deposit collections including from all departments of the Town of Danvers going back to 1752, most all the churches in town, and dozens of active and defunct Danvers organizations, as well as the manuscript collections of the Danvers Historical Society.

This year, due to the many weeks I was absent from the Archives, my continued cataloguing of the backlog of Town of Danvers and Danvers Historical Society manuscripts unfortunately took a back seat to the more pressing tasks of attempting to take care of patron requests, and keeping up with the processing of new acquisitions. Luckily, volunteer Tom Marsella devoted a good amount of time to sorting and processing several Town of Danvers collections within the Town Treasurer Department. These collections were: checks issued by the Town for State Aid to Civil War veterans (1866-1869); papers relating to a Town loan (1865); and checks drawn on local banks paying individuals or orders on the Town Treasurer for services provided (1861-1884, 1889-97, 1908, 1910). Thanks to Tom for his efforts.


Manuscripts donated to the Archives this past year as gifts included: papers kept by John B. Rideout, Director of Nurses at Danvers State Hospital and Director of Support Services (1970-1992); a book of ancestral tablets owned and filled out by Lester S. Couch concerning the Couch, Porter, and allied families (1930s); and an ornate membership certificate for Eleanor Couch as a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (1919).


Taft letter

#19A number of interesting manuscript items were purchased during FY 2016, and are now processed and catalogued. Included within this category are: a receipt acknowledged by Captain Caleb Lowe that Robert Shillaber paid a fine for exemption from the military draft (1777); a partially printed stock certificate for the Beverly and Danvers Street Railway Company owned by Lydia W. Bushby (1889); a typed letter signed by William Howard Taft to retired U. S. Supreme Court Justice William Henry Moody (who grew up in Danvers) relating to a job recommendation and mentioning the Supreme Court (1913); a business letter written by George Peabody (ca. 1850s); a letter from Timothy Pickering as Secretary of State (Pickering lived in Danvers for several years) to Governor DeWitt Clinton of New York concerning a speech regarding the Seneca Indian Nation (1792); a typed letter signed by Alvan T. Fuller to Maria Grey Kimball asking for her support in his candidacy for governor (1924); a filled-out postcard to our local congressman asking for the repeal of the Volstead Act (prohibition of alcohol) (1932); a stampless letter with integral leaf sent by Francis Q. Dane in Danvers concerning an order for ladies and children’s shoes (1844); and a large book of stock share purchase receipts for the South Reading Branch Rail Road beginning in Danvers (1849-1850).


A total of 332 catalogue cards were created from cataloguing our manuscripts and added to the Manuscript Union Catalogue.

A major digitization program conducted this year was done through the auspices of the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover. A significant portion of the manuscript deposit volume, A Book of Record of Several Publique Transactions of Salem Village, was scanned and digitized. This volume was restored by us in the 1970s, and in 2016 the earliest records were digitized, beginning with the two vellum covers and the title page up through page 175. The content represents the civil records of the Salem Village Parish from 1672 up to January 4, 1716/17, when Reverend Peter Clark was chosen by the parish as its new minister. Besides creating a digitized copy on a thumb drive, we had High Resolution Archival Replicas (facsimiles) made of each of the 175 pages. Early records are written in the hand of Thomas Putnam, in whose household several of the 1692 afflicted persons resided. There are also signatures of Rev. Deodat Lawson and Samuel Parris acknowledging payments received for ministerial duties in the parish.


1685 entry

Maps, both printed and manuscript, are another collection area within the Archival Center. This year we received as a gift a large 19th century copy of a 1730 map drawn by Joseph Burnap showing the center of Salem Village, being a survey settling the estate of Nathaniel Ingersoll. Another gift was a map of the Homestead Golf Club showing buildings, roads, fairways etc., compiled by O. D. Taylor (2000). Added to our Map Catalogue were 48 new cards.

Plans or Architectural Records is yet another collecting area within the Archival Center. These drawings were created by architects to assist in the visualization and building of the many types of structures. One donation within this category were 50 photocopy sheets kept at the Danvers State Hospital including plans of the Kirkbride and Bonner buildings, and Grove and Farm Hall. Some 24 plan cards were added to the Plan Catalogue.


Architect Robert D. Farley generously donated to the Archives a lovely and detailed 33”x41” wood base architectural model of the Rotary Pavilion and Embankment Restoration at the Mill Pond designed by Robert D. Farley Associates Architects in 1998.

Due to my medical procedures this past fiscal year, statistics on the public use of the Archives were only gathered for 30 weeks. During that time 479 patrons physically visited the Archives and used our resources. I logged in answering 374 telephone calls, while 539 letters and emails were sent out answering patron requests. I did not keep track of emails sent from home during my recuperation.

During those 30 weeks I worked full time, I also gave talks and presentations either here in the Archives or outside the building to 7 groups representing an audience of about 480 people. Among the groups I spoke to were members of the First Church in Salem Unitarian Universalist hosted by Reverend Jeffrey Barz-Snell; the Timothy Pickering Chapter, Salem Daughters of the American Revolution; the theatrical group “History Alive;” and students from the College of New Jersey. The professor of that group wrote a note of thanks stating: “Your talk with my students truly touched and inspired them. They spoke of you often throughout the rest of the course.” Also visiting was a diverse group of young people who live in London in the original George Peabody housing estate that the philanthropist founded in 1862. A group of these “Peabody Young Ambassadors” sponsored by City of Peabody organizations visit here every year. Alan Thibeault took them for a tour of the library and I put together a long table of show-and-tell items relating to George Peabody. The group was very enthusiastic.


Richard Trask showing London students early documents

That same day of the Londoners’ visit the Archives was host to an interview conducted by reporter Ethan Forman of the Salem News. Interviewed was Aaron Mahnke of Danvers, the creator, writer, and producer of the very successful podcast Lore. He requested the interview at the Archives, and it was a very interesting. Just recently AMC entered into a partnership with Mahnke for possible television production of some of his mysterious and folkloric works.

On March 31 a reporter and a photographer from the Lawrence Eagle Tribune visited the Library and were given an interview and tour of the building by Alan, ending up here in the Archives for a tour and further interview. While they were in the building we had a power outage. The Archives was pitch black, but with flashlight in hand I pointed to some of our treasures and the photographer took flash pictures in the dark. The resulting article and photos appeared in the premiere, slick publication, Danvers Magazine. Produced by North of Boston Media Group as a summer edition, the company is also publishing a similar periodical on Salem. With beautiful photographs and over a dozen articles on all aspects of life in Danvers, we hope they are successful in this endeavor.


Alan Thibeault showing our beautiful building

Another publication in which I was somewhat involved is an activity book produced by the Danvers Historical Society Education Committee for Danvers third graders to be used in conjunction with their annual “Danvers Week” visits to the Society and Nurse Homestead. Put together by Sheila Cooke-Kayser and Sue Nickerson, and underwritten by several organizations, the book includes simple Danvers history, and fun activities for the students to enjoy. The Archives provided some illustrations, and I proofread the content for accuracy.

In conjunction with this, the Historical Society Education Committee celebrated the origin of the “Danvers History Week Education Program” begun in 1986. Former Society curator Joan Reedy and I co-created a curriculum in 1986 involving students’ time-traveling back to Danvers in the 1750s and the 1850s using all their senses, all the while comparing and contrasting life then and now. Foodways, clothing, heating, shelter, and working were major themes. At the Nurse Homestead we baked cornbread, churned butter and drank switchell, a vile thirst quencher made up of molasses, vinegar and water. After half a day at either the Nurse Homestead or the Page House, students ate a picnic lunch and then switched to the other location. People significant in the running of this program included Penny Dumke and William Lowe (both now deceased), George Meehan, Robert Osgood, Curtis White, Elizabeth (Trask) Peterson, and volunteers over many years from both the Danvers Historical Society and Danvers Alarm List Company. For years I spent a solid week away from the Archives, and at the Nurse Homestead, with evenings at home baking Jiffy Cornbread and concocting switchell for the next day’s batch of kids. Some years we had over 1,000 students participate. By the early 2000s our day-long programs went the way of changes in curriculum, local history shifting from 4th to 3rd grade, and the pressures of MCAS.


Derek Dirinkwater, Elizabeth (Trask) now Peterson and George Meehan and kids churn butter in 1996

On June 29th the Danvers Historical Society sponsored a get-together of those participants during the 30 years of programing. Those mentioned above and their families participated, as well as David McKenna, and the William Clemens family, among a crowd of about 75 people.#27

Though the Archival Center does not collect objects, exceptions are items relating to the Peabody Institute Library and George Peabody, usually of a souvenir nature. This year we purchased through eBay a very colorful 8-inch souvenir commemorative plate containing a portrait of Peabody in the center. The object is of English manufacture and dates to about 1870.

Our lovely Danvers 1830 Ezra Batchelder grandfather’s clock ticking off the hours within the Public Reading Room had a problem this year with its hour hand malfunctioning. In February our friend Dave Roberts of The Clockfolk of New England took our clockworks to his shop, found and installed an accurate replacement part, and cleaned the works. It was soon returned to the Archives, and again keeps very accurate time, chiming each hour.

#28This past year I was requested to participate in several broadcast and taped programs. Near the end of the fiscal year Tom Page, President of the Danvers Historical Society, was contacted by a producer of the popular Channel 5, WCVB-TV nightly program Chronicle, asking if someone in the history community could be interviewed for a segment. Field producer Clint Conley was putting together a program called “Tried and True” concerning old institutions in Massachusetts and wanted to do a segment on the 280+ year old Endecott Pear Tree located off Endicott Street behind the Massachusetts General complex. We filmed on location, and I gave a brief story about the rugged, old tree that is a living link to our earliest European settlers. The segment “A pear tree’s roots go very deep,” was aired on June 16, 2016, using both my interview and illustrations from the Archive website.

In January several Salem witchcraft scholars, including Professor Emerson W. Baker, Marilynne K. Roach, and I, were contacted by a producer of a film titled, The Witch: A New England Folktale. It is the story of “a devoutly Christian family in 1630s New England, struggling to survive living alone on the edge of a vast wilderness.” After several unsettling, possibly supernatural events, the family falls victim to paranoia and begins to turn on one another. Its genre is horror, displaying Puritan concepts of witchcraft, and supposedly with authentic sets. We were emailed the trailer of the film, and I must say that it looked quite accurate to the era, and was very creepy.



Actress Taylor-Joy and Director Eggers

On January 27 a group of about a dozen witchcraft researchers and staff from the Salem Witch Museum were given a private showing of the film at CinemaSalem, and afterwards discussed the film amongst ourselves. The small, independent film’s screenwriter/director Robert Eggers had won the Directing Award for Drama at a screening last year at the famed Sundance Film Festival, and the film was impressive enough to be picked up by A24 Studios for national theatrical release. The 111-minute film was beautifully done with extremely accurate sets, clothing, objects and tone, and a cinematically beautiful look. And it was creepy, but in a psychological way, and not full of “in your face” graphic horror. Though not suited to the taste of several of our small group of viewers, all acknowledged its slavish adherence to period accuracy. And the acting was very good, particularly of 20-year-old actress Anya Taylor-Joy. I was impressed, so that when re-contacted asking if I would be interested in taking part in a panel to discuss the film after its co-premiere in Salem, I agreed. As one reviewer later noted, “This isn’t a movie for your average audience. This is part historical documentation of Puritan witch hysteria and part of supernatural mind [playing] that creeps up on you and has you thinking for days. Think The Shining. You finish and you are like what the heck did I just watch? And you may even think it wasn’t that scary. Until about 8 hours later…. This is a cerebral horror, folks.”

The premiere took place at CinemaSalem the evening of February 18, preceded by a reception at the Witch Museum, at which time I had a fine conversation with director Eggers who told me he designed a brief scene in a meetinghouse using the images of the set I had designed in the 1980s for the Salem Village Meetinghouse in the film Three Sovereigns for Sarah.


Richard Trask at left addresses the audiance

Following the premiere showing of the#32 film, participants in the panel were Tad Baker who acted as moderator, best-selling novelist Brunonia Barry, director Eggers, and actress Tayor-Joy. I was introduced as the Dean of witchcraft scholarship and spoke how very accurate the film was to its period, with several minor exceptions which we discussed. I also pointed out how wonderful and effective the film’s cinematography, lighting and music is, and that the film is reminiscent of several other great movies, including Kubrick’s 1975 Barry Lyndon. My final comment was, “Though I am not a fortune teller, I predict in about 10 years or so there’s going to be two people on this panel who are going to be nationally recognized for their artistic endeavors; and they are going to go very far, very fast.”

The nation-wide theatrically released film received almost universal positive acclaim from professional critics, though many of the audience who enjoy horror movies were under-whelmed. I got a kick out of learning that the Blu-ray and DVD releases of the film included a cut-down version of our Salem panel discussion of the film, as an extra feature.

I am particularly proud of the progress and ever-increasing content of our Danvers Archival Center website, Beginning with a new design and format which went public on August 1, 2013, I try to expand its content and keep the older material up to date, and so that it is more user-friendly, attractive, and useful. With the assistance of talented and technically-savvy staff members, most prominently Reference Department director Jim Riordan, the site continues to expand.

The site is divided into major topics of: (1) “The Archival Center,” concerning our services, a brief illustrated guide to our collections, annual reports, etc.; (2) “Danvers History,” featuring history articles; (3) “Salem Witchcraft;” and (4) “Other Resources,” linking the Archive site to other helpful sites. This past fiscal year we included as new features: our heavily illustrated Archival Center FY 2015 Annual Report, and updated reports on two endangered Danvers structures, being the 1894 Albion F. Welch high style Queen Anne house located at 22 Conant Street, and the ca. Porter-Bradstreet “First Period” house located at 487 Locust Street. Both houses were slated for demolition and went through a Demolition Delay By-Law public hearing process in 2014.

A 6-month demolition delay was imposed on the Welch house at 22 Conant Street beginning on October 29, 2014. Alternatives presented to the Annunciation Church, which owned the property and wanted the land for 32 parking spaces, included removing the rear 20th century portion of the structure and the side porte-cochere, which would afford the creation of 20 parking spaces. When this proposal was rejected, an alternative of moving the 1894 portion of the house to a recently vacant lot on Sylvan Street was suggested, but not taken. Sadly, on August 17, 2015, the entire structure was demolished to make room for the church parking lot. Preservationist Matt Pujo videotaped the demolition, a portion of which, with his kind permission, is included in the updated web site. A full version of the demolition is available on YouTube under “Mackey Funeral Home Demolition – Danvers, MA.”

On the other hand, we had wonderful news about the rescue of the ca 1665 Porter-Bradstreet House. In December 2015, the house, barn, and 1.5 acres of the property was sub-divided and sold to a Danvers couple who later moved in and began renovation of the historic structure. You may follow their progress of restoring and renovating the antique farmhouse by visiting

#33A major addition to the archive website was the inclusion of a digital copy of the initial 33 pages of the Church Book Belonging to Salem Village. The original volume was placed on permanent deposit within the Archival Center in the 1970s, and was restored by us through the Northeast Document Conservation Center in 1975. The website includes a history of the book, which was kept from 1689 to 1845 by pastors of the Church of Christ at Salem Village, established in 1689. Those pages dating from 1689 to 1698 are able to be enlarged on the computer screen. The site includes this first-time facsimile of these pages, which include important references to the witchcraft events of 1692. Besides the 33 pages of the book, we include seven other illustrations. I worked on the site during my recuperation at home, and in September 2015 Jim Riordan put it on line.

On our website we attempt to include content that is often in demand by researchers of local Danvers history or Salem witchcraft. Reaction to our site is very positive, particularly with the material on Salem witchcraft and the Danvers State Hospital. Statistics show that in June 2016 the Archival Center website was visited by 2,600 people, while a sampling during this month showed that among foreign visitors were people from the United Kingdom (3 visitors), Spain, France, Philippines, Australia, Canada, Ukraine and Bangladesh.

In history-related activities outside of the Archives, I continue to serve as a Commissioner in the Essex County National Heritage Area as Danvers Town Archivist. One of the founders and a long-serving president of the Essex National Heritage Commission was Danvers resident Thomas Leonard, who did much for heritage and preservation in Massachusetts and Danvers. Tom passed away this year and his friendship and intellect will be missed. I also serve as a member of the Town of Danvers Salem Village Historic District Commission, which typically meets in the Archival Center for public meetings, am a trustee of the Danvers Historical Society, and act as a resource person for the Danvers Preservation Commission.

As Town Archivist, I continue to serve as a resource for citizens and town agencies needing historic or background information. Among departments assisted this past fiscal year were: the Town Clerk, Fire Department, Department of Public Works, Planning Department, Building Inspector, School Department and Superintendent of Schools, Historic District Commission, and Preservation Commission. It was particularly interesting to assist Town Manager Steve Bartha and executive secretary Ann Freitas in several research projects. It was also a pleasure to meet with new and charming Assistant Town Manager Robin Stein concerning the care of abandoned cemeteries located in Danvers.

One of my least favorite tasks as Archivist is assisting the Danvers Preservation Commission with the Danvers Demolition Delay By-Law. Each year the Town receives requests for demolition of buildings, and any structure built before 1915 must go through a public hearing process to determine if the building is historically or architecturally significant. If it is so declared by the Commission, a 6 month delay is put upon the building to see if some solution can be put together to preserve it. Unfortunately many developers build this delay into their planning so they can sit on their hands and wait out the 6-months. I have been advocating for an 18-month or one-year delay, and the listing of all buildings in town that would be considered historically significant, so that developers will see where to better direct their interest.

Several paragraphs above I described the success of saving the dwelling at 487 Locust, and the failure to preserve 22 Conant Street. During this fiscal year three more important buildings were endangered. I researched the history and significance of these three, with a report and follow-up attendance at Commission meetings to explain their significance.


29 Elm Street


Interior pocket fireplace

On October 31, 2015, we had a site visit to 29 Elm Street. As with all site visits, I bring a camera to record the interior, if the owner allows, and the resulting digital prints end up within the Archive photograph collection. This ca. 1836 vernacular house with Greek Revival features was built by Danvers Selectman, State Representative, and brick manufacturer John Page. The house has exposed, though boxed, corner beams, and summer beams throughout the front rectangular dwelling, so the dwelling may be earlier than the 1836 date. It also has numerous early 19th century features, including a cast iron fireplace insert, Norfolk door latches, and a combination fireplace, bake oven and ash pit. The house was deemed worthy of salvation, though the apparent final owner, Beverly Bank, wants to demolish it for a branch bank with a vehicle drive-through. We pointed out the success of the mid-19th century award winning Northshore Bank diagonally across the street, which was adaptively reused for bank purposes. I attended and spoke at Planning Board meetings relative to the house. In July the board voted 3 to 2 to allow the bank to use the property with a new structure, and anytime now the house will be obliterated.


5 Water Street

On January 23, 2016, we had a site visit to 5 Water Street. The ca. 1847 Edward T. Waldron 1½ story Greek Revival cottage has been abused for a number of years, though the interior includes a beautiful grouping of original features. The house demolition was delayed and due to the nature of the site, the plan had to be submitted to the Zoning Board of Appeals. At that meeting the applicants’ first plan was to build a new three-story brownstone building which looked quite terrible to me. I spoke at that and two subsequent meetings of the ZBA, and to their great credit the applicants went to a plan to retain the Greek Revival Cottage and build on to it an addition in keeping with the original design features. Believing it important to encourage when people are willing to preserve, I spoke in favor of the applicants’ new plan. It appears that the original house will survive, to the applicants’ great credit, and to the credit of neighbors who turned out for meetings.



78 Liberty Street in 1910


Interior of 78 Liberty Street

On February 27, 2016, we had a site visit to 78 Liberty Street. The ca. 1856 John Withey 1½ story Greek Revival house has a fine 19th century exterior and a ready-to-move-in,modern interior with a beautiful contemporary kitchen. The house was thehome of a patriotic father and three children, including a 15 year old son, Samuel P. Withey, who joined the Federal Army to serve in the Civil War. John Withey, the father, did not survive the war. The house is owned by Kaplan Family Hospice, which has a large facility hundreds of feet away from the house and street. Their intention is to destroy the building to make their street frontage clear. In a time when housing is at a premium in Danvers, and when conservation of materials and energy is a watch word in our society, the destruction of a very well kept house seems an absolute, almost criminal waste. In the interest of disclosure, the house is one of the ancestral homes of my family, John Withey being my great, great grandfather.

Two other major town preservation issues in which I as Archivist participated, related to the finding of a home for the 1868 Danvers Plains Railroad Station and the Community Preservation Act.

Last November Town Hall held a public meeting concerning the preservation and placement of the last and grandest of the #39Danvers’s original nine railroad stations. The station is owned by Townsend Energy Company at 27 Cherry Street, which company is willing to donate the station to the town if it is moved. I have been connected with the preservation commitment of this structure since 2002. A public meeting was held at Town Hall in November as to the proper placement and possible use of the building. I spoke at the meeting contending that if the town parking lot just off Elm Street and adjacent to Essex Street is not usable for many reasons, then the town parking lot on Hobart Street is historically and visually the best location, adjacent to the original tracks. According to engineering studies, a reconstituted parking plan would only lose one or two parking spaces. The Selectmen did not choose to follow through with a recommendation. Preservation Commission chairperson Ellen Graham wrote and circulated a citizen’s petition for Town Meeting to instruct that if the town accepted the gift of the station, along with a legislative grant obtained through our State Senator Joan B. Lovely, that it be located at the Hobart Street lot. I spoke at the Finance Committee hearing of warrant articles for Town Meeting, and then also at the Annual Town Meeting itself on May 19. The article passed to move the station to Hobart Street, and hopefully before I die, such will be accomplished.

Also pursued was the Community Preservation Act (2000), whereby communities can, through prescribed procedures, choose to add a surcharge of, in our case 1.5%, to be added to the property tax bill in order to raise funds for open space, historic preservation, and affordable housing, with the state also giving to the town an additional amount to the fund. About half of the communities in Massachusetts have adopted this, including most of the towns around Danvers. Cost to an average homeowner would be in the range of $50 to $75, though the money made available to town projects would be somewhere between $500,000 and $750,000. Though the Danvers Archival Center would probably not need, nor compete over that money, it would be a godsend to the many preservation and other quality of life issues facing our town. I spoke in favor of the act at a public meeting on February 29, at the Finance Committee meeting, and finally at the Annual Town Meeting on May 19. The article passed Town meeting with a healthy majority and will be on our local ballot for citizens to choose during the November Presidential election.

At the beginning of this past fiscal year our Archive Special Fund had a balance of $16,332. This fund was established in order to have money available in case important but expensive items came to our attention and would overwhelm our regular budget. This year the Archival Center brought in reference and certified copy fees amounting to $55, while our Historic House Marker Program included 4 new signs we researched, bringing in $180. Among other income for the fund were use of photographs for exhibit or in books, and donations to me for talks given. This amounted to $295, for a modest total of $530 being added to our special fund.

Our House Marker Program began back in 1975 when I obtained the Danvers Preservation Commission’s sponsorship of the program in which, upon the request of a homeowner, I would research the house date and have a sign created. In 1999 the Archival Center took over the entire project. We have produced hundreds of markers for Danvers dwellings and businesses. The signs are now created by talented artist Robert Leonard of Providence, R.I. They measure 12”x18” and include the name of the first occupant, his occupation and date of construction. I also usually include a brief written description to the home owner of the house history and its construction.

William Story of Peabody generously donated to the Archives for resale on our book sales table 50 copies of his very successful and accurate guide, The Witch Hysteria of Salem Town and Salem Village in 1692: The Complete Touring Companion. The booklet was first produced in 1992 using some of our resources at the Archives, and went through several reprints. We thank Bill for his generosity.

#40In March 2016 we were very pleased to acquire a new computer, a Dell Optiplex 3020, a larger 22 inch monitor and a color printer. Our new HP Laserjet Pro M451dn printer makes very fine color images that are useful for our work and for patron requests. Thanks to Rachel for setting up the new equipment and transferring my files to it.

Among supplies, we replenished our stock of permalife bond paper for preservation copying, and purchased several sizes of Mylar and polyester sleeves to store manuscripts and fragile photographs, as well as some pre-made encapsulation units, and Hollinger acid-free boxes and file folders. Several times each year I am contacted by patrons asking for advice in storing family documents and treasures, and am happy to give advice and sometimes a sample of a folder or sleeve.

Back in 2010, sprinkler heads within the Library’s water sprinkler system failed for no apparent reason and seriously damaged library equipment and collections. Seeing this as a potential devastating situation if it ever occurred in the Archival Center area with our valuable collection of manuscripts and rare books, it was determined to seek an alternative system.

Following meetings with DPW representatives and the Danvers Fire Chief, research, and a November 2013 consulting report by Firepro, Inc. commissioned by the Library Board of Trustees, we were able to recommend that the two Archive rooms and the Walk-In Vault be installed with a Novec 1230 Fire Suppression System composed of gas canisters which, if set off, would suppress a fire, but not produce by-products of decomposition that could damage our historic records. This would also alleviate the water damage associated with an accidental fire-suppression discharge of the water-charged sprinklers.

Meanwhile the original heating system for the library as a whole completely broke down. As part of a total replacement of the Library environmental system, Article 21 of the May 2014 Danvers Annual Town Meeting requested $2.1 million for the replacement of the Library HVAC system, and updating the “fire suppression system for the archive section.” When the bids for the project came back, the project was found to be under-funded. The DPW decided, against my objection, to break off the Archive Fire Suppression System implementation, and pursue this project after the other library work is accomplished, though it appears that to obtain new funds, a new approval process will need to be pursued. It is hoped that the DPW will follow-through on the Archive Fire Suppression System during the new FY2017 year.

Besides a new heating & cooling system installed throughout the Library during FY 2016, our independent Archive HVAC unit, which had continually poorly regulated our temperature and humidity since its original installation, was replaced with a new Stulz HVAC unit.

It is with much satisfaction I can include in this annual report that after six years of inactivity and then significant commitment, the historic and artistically significant Peabody Urn has been fully restored and reset on the grounds of the Peabody Institute Library.

Below is a reprint of a very fine and succinct article concerning the urn written by Salem News staff writer Ethan Forman, and appearing on the June 23, 2016 front page.

“Plans are underway to return the 600-pound George A. Peabody garden urn to the library grounds after a nearly six-year absence. The antique urn was stolen from its pedestal next to the library entrance in July 2010. Police recovered it after a Danvers man sold it to a scrap metal dealer in Everett.

This week, the library plans to rededicate the 121-year-old, cast bronze urn, which has been restored after being damaged as a result of the theft. It was cracked and smashed on one side, many of the rivets holding one side of it together were missing, and one of its ornate handles had been snapped off. Library director Alan Thibeault said it cost $19,200 to restore the urn and have it lowered back into place with a crane. Cassidy Brothers Forge in Rowley did the restoration work over the past several months.

To mark the return of the urn, a brief ceremony will be held Sunday, June 26, during an artists’ reception for the outdoor sculpture exhibit, “Celebrating the Art of Sculpture 2016,” on the library lawn. This time, Thibeault vowed, ‘it will be a little better secured.’

For years, the urn was stored unceremoniously in a barn at Endicott Park while the library trustees raised money for the work. Town Archivist Richard Trask was among those who lobbied hard to get the urn restored. ‘It is a work of art,’ Trask said. ‘It is a very important casting, done by a very well-known foundry in New York City. I was damned someone would do something like that and it would be forgotten.’

Trask made sure it wouldn’t be forgotten by writing a history of the urn. According to that history, the urn was fabricated in 1895 by J.L. Mott Iron Works of New York City. Danversite George Augustus Peabody (1831-1916) commissioned it for $560 as a focal point for the formal garden at his 250-acre Burley Farm estate.

Peabody had a long relationship with the Danvers library, serving as a trustee for 25 years and as its president from 1896 to 1916. He was also a major donor to the library. The executors of Peabody’s estate gifted the urn to the library in 1929, and it and its massive granite pedestal were installed by the library’s entrance in 1930.

Around 1995, the fluted bronze base of the urn failed, and the vase toppled off its pedestal. The urn was put back on its pedestal, and the base was stored in the library’s Archival Center where Trask works. Some say because it was just resting on a pedestal, the thief may have been able to back up a pickup truck and roll the heavy urn into the truck bed. Trees had also grown up around the urn, blocking the view of it. To improve security now, Thibeault said trees will be trimmed back, lighting will be improved and the urn will be bolted to the base.


Repairing the urn

Money to repair the urn has come from private donations, solicited by a committee led by Library Trustee Charles Desmond. The library received a $1,000 matching grant from the Danvers Cultural Council, and People’s United Community Foundation also contributed. A grant from the George Peabody Society paid for half the work, Thibeault said.

Thibeault said Cassidy Brothers Forge kept the work as inexpensive as possible, and stuck to the original estimate from six years ago. The thief ‘did a tremendous amount of damage to this urn,’ said Maurice Cassidy, president and CEO of Cassidy Brothers. He said it appeared someone beat the urn with a sledge hammer to make it look like it had been damaged beyond repair so the scrap yard would accept it. Cassidy said he put his best metalsmith, Al Murphy of Methuen, on the job, and allowed him to take all the time it needed. Part of the work included casting a new acanthus leaf detail for the handle that had been broken off. Cassidy said the urn is a ‘pretty valuable piece, worth upwards of $100,000.


‘This was really a labor of love,’ Cassidy said.”

Trustee Dr. Charles F. Desmond was made chairman of the sub-committee to restore the urn, with Trustee President Michael Hagan, member Julie Curtis, and me also serving. Charles was able to successfully request several local organizations to help fund the project, and we were able to acquire from the Danvers Cultural Council a very generous grant. We also gratefully acknowledge Cassidy Bros. Forge, Inc. of Rowley, Massachusetts, its President Maurice Cassidy and principal blacksmith Al Murphy, for their interest, care and financial considerations in beautifully restoring this work of art. Library Director Alan Thibeault shepherded the project through its many turns and minor crises.


Among donors to the restoration were: Advanced Private Investigators, Danversbank Charitable Foundation, Danvers Cultural Council, Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation, George Peabody Society, Julie Curtis, Irene Z. Conte, Matthew Duggan, Dr. Charles F. Desmond & Phyllis M. Boyd, Michael Hagan, Frank Herschede, C. R. Lyons, Thomas Marsella, Ruth Prentiss and Richard & Ethel Trask. Two framed sheets have been placed inside near the front entrance of the library listing the donors, and a brief description of the significance of the urn, while a new bronze marker will be mounted on the newly cleaned massive granite base upon which the urn is mounted.

The bronze marker reads:

George Augustus Peabody Urn

This monumental bronze urn was fabricated in 1895 by the J. L. Mott Iron Works of New York for placement in the garden of the George Augustus Peabody estate in Danvers. Peabody served as a Library Trustee for twenty-five years, and upon his death in 1929, the urn was given to the Library. It was placed here as a memorial to Peabody’s service to the town, including twenty years as President of the Library Board of Trustees.

In 2016 the urn was restored by Cassidy Brothers of Rowley.


The restored urn was dedicated on Sunday, June 26. Dr. Charles Desmond and I gave brief remarks to the over 60 people in attendance. Thus the forces of darkness were not allowed to get away with destroying our heritage and our memorials.

Richard B. Trask
Town Archivist
July 31, 2016








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