Danvers Archival Center
Fiscal Year 2019 Annual Report

This year marks the forty-seventh year of operation for the Danvers Archival Center.  The Danvers Archival Center is a department of the Peabody Institute Library of Danvers, first opened in 1972 in the basement of “Memorial Hall,” designed by Lester Couch in 1930 for the Danvers Historical Society. Located at 13 Page Street, this space was loaned to the Town of Danvers free of charge for nine years. In 1981 the town completed the renovation and expansion of the 1892 Peabody Institute Library at 15 Sylvan Street. Through an all-volunteer effort, the contents of the Archival Center were moved to the newly created Archive rooms in the underground addition to the library. These new quarters included a large public research room, secure manuscript storage room, and a walk-in vault with a 6-hour fire-rated door.

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Our Collection Policy states: “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, periodicals including newspapers, maps, architectural drawings, photographs, prints, audio and video tapes, films, CDs and microfilms.” Our extensive collections are stored in a secure and stable environment, and are available to all who wish to use them.

Our Danvers Archival Center is one of the largest and most important documentary resources of a community of its size in the nation, and our commitment is to upgrade our collections continually through obtaining gifts, deposits and purchases. Our facility remains a seldom-found mix of diverse municipal, corporate and private research materials gathered together through the cooperative pooling by many organizations willing to give over their papers for careful conservation, preservation, and proper storage, and cataloguing them and making them accessible to researchers.

This report will summarize the operations of the Danvers Archival Center during fiscal year 2019, from July 2018 through June 2019.


I want to thank and acknowledge the support and assistance of Library Director Alex Lent, Assistant Director Jennifer McGeorge, Bookkeeper Susan Kontos and the nine-member Board of Library Trustees, for their unflagging interest in what is best for our unique Danvers Archival Center, and its operations. Both Alex and Jen spend time with me and the Archives, and are a ready support when in need. Julie Silk, my assistant archivist since the summer of 2016, is an invaluable part of our operations with very good and useful secretarial and research skills. She works two afternoons per week for a total of about eight hours, and often functions independently, knowing so much about our operations.

Our wonderful volunteer, Thomas Marsella, works about three to three-and-a-half hours each Wednesday morning doing all sorts of tasks including researching, sorting and cataloguing our new acquisitions. He has been here since 2003 and is a detailed researcher and good friend. This past year Tom spent 105.5 hours working in the Archives.

In FY19 31 books were obtained, accessioned, processed, and catalogued for inclusion within our Public Reading Room book collections. Of this group, 18 were gifts to the Archival Center.

We also often receive donated books and periodicals, copies of which we already have within our catalogued collection. These copies we use as extra back-ups, or items sold or loaned to patrons. This year this type of material, often from more than one donor, included: ten Statements of the Accounts of the Town of Danvers (1909-1948); Annual Town Reports (1950, 1952, 1953, 1963, 1967, 1975); 2 Danvers Public School Annual reports (1972 and 1980);  Valuation Lists of Danvers (1875, 1941, 1950, 1952);  Street Lists of Persons (1938, 1959, 1966, 1975, 1982, 1992); Historical Collections of the Danvers Historical Society (1913, 1948, 1964, 1967, 1976); and 40 issues of The Holten Magazine (1938-1954).

Duplicate volumes are also donated, including seven local history volumes from the estate of history author Harold Putnam, and seven local history books from the estate of Fred Vaillancourt. These above duplicate donated items are not included as part of this year’s 31 book accessioned statistics.

Our Ellerton J. Brehaut Witchcraft Collection is our most well-known and important collection within the Archives, used by casual local researchers, as well as international scholars.  The core collection of our witchcraft materials was donated by Ellerton J. Brehaut, a noted antiquarian and collector in many fields, who gave his witchcraft materials to his hometown Public Library in the 1960s. We continued to expand this collection, which now represents the largest collection of Salem Witchcraft imprints in the nation.

Among books and monographs added to our “Ellerton J. Brehaut Witchcraft Collection” in FY 2019 by gift were: Time-LIFE, The Salem Witch Trials (2018); and Jedidiah Morse, A Compendious History of New England, Designed for Schools and Private Families (1804). This second book is missing most of its spine and will need special boxing.

Among items purchased were: The Massachusetts Historical Society Collections v. 3, with transcripts and notes relating to Salem witchcraft (1833); and K. M. Briggs, Pale Hecate’s Team (1962). Among audio-visual items acquired relating to Salem witchcraft was a boxed, multi-disk CD audiobook of the Stacy Schiff volume, Witches: Salem, 1692, produced by Hachette Audio. The Pulitzer Prize author had spent a number of weeks at the Archives researching for this book. Two gifts included a DVD of the German & French production by Westend Film Company in Germany titled, Witch Hunt in Salem. The program was shot and released in 2017, including scenes of Danvers, the Archives and an interview with me interspersed throughout the television program produced and broadcast in both Germany and France. The copy they sent us was formatted for an English audience. They also sent us a donation copy of a DVD of the 1957 commercially released German movie, Die Hexen von Salem, staring French heart-throb Yves Montand.

Possibly the most important acquisition in many years of collecting for our Ellerton J. Brehaut Salem Village Witchcraft Collection was our purchase this year of one of the rarest original volumes relating directly with the Salem Village events.  For the last 15 years I have touted that our collection is perhaps the best and most complete collection relating to the 1692 events. I doubted that this item would ever be available for our collection, and settled for a facsimile and a transcription copies. I actually transcribed the original 1692 full text of this volume as a section within a book I did for the Danvers Historical Society in 1992 during the witchcraft tercentennial.  Titled The Devil Hath Been Raised, this book was subsequently enlarged and published as later editions under my wife and my “Yeoman Press” publication name. With this acquisition of the original volume, I believe it safe to say that our Archival Center’s is the most complete collection of Salem witchcraft imprints available.

And the book?  It is Rev. Deodat Lawson’s published sermon, Christ’s Fidelity the Only Shield Against Satan’s Malice Asserted in a Sermon Delivered at Salem-Village the 24th of March, 1692. Being Lecture-day there, and a time of Public Examination, of some Suspected for Witchcraft.  This first edition, 78 page sermon is possibly the rarest volume published contemporary to the witchcraft events.  A printed circular from Skinner Auctions of Boston and Marlborough, Massachusetts arrived at the Archives in early November 2018, and my eyes jutted out seeing an illustration of this sermon’s title page. Following contacting Skinner, I was sent their description which read:

Lawson, Deodat (fl. circa 1690) Christ’s Fidelity the Only Shield against Satan’s Malice Asserted in a Sermon Delivered at Salem-Village. Boston: Printed by B. Harris, & Sold by Nicholas Buttolph, next to Guttridg’s Coffee-House, 1693. First edition, 12mo, a note of approval on the text underwritten by Increase Mather, Charles Morton, James Allen, Samuel Willard, John Bailey, and Cotton Mather is printed in the preliminaries, this copy is bound in an unsophisticated contemporary thin wood board binding covered in sheepskin (damaged, large chunks of boards and covering material missing from the heads of both boards), 5 ½ x 3 ½ inch.

Lawson was minister of Salem Village from 1684 to 1688. When the witchcraft scare broke out in Salem in 1692, he returned to observe and report. Fearful of demonic possession, Lawson believed that he had lost family members to the devil. In his sermon, he tries to offer Christian support.  “Be vigilant, be careful to avoid all sin which might betray you, Because your Adversary the Devil goes about as a Roaring Lion, seeking whom he may Devour. […] So far as we can look into those Hellish Mysteries, and guess at the administration of that Kingdom of Darkness, we may learn that Witches make Witches, by perswading one the other to Subscribe to a book, […] and the Devil, having them in this subjection, by their Consent, he will use their Bodies and Minds, Shapes and Representations, to Affright and Afflict others at his pleasure for the Propagation of his Infernal Kingdom.”

I made contact with Skinner Auctions, and looked at my Archive budget. Luckily we still had $12,000 in a grant from the Annenberg Foundation to be used for acquisitions for the Archives, as well as our Archive Special Fund gathered over a number of years from donations, fees for certified copies and photo use in commercial books, items sold, etc. I knew that several institutions and some collectors would be after this rare, once-in-a-lifetime available book. The significance of the book to our Brehaut Witchcraft Collection, and my potential bidding was discussed with Director Alex Lent and several of the Trustees. Following a green light from them, I left a commission bid for the book and requested Skinner Auctions live-call me at home on the date of the sale, which was Sunday, November 18, 2018, so I could listen and participate in the auction for this book. There was much interest, and the bidding began at $5,000 and quickly passed $25,000, with two other probable institutions still bidding. I held back till only one bidder seemed still active, and then began to bid. It was very intense, and I have never bid on something this expensive in my life. I had a break-off bid of the combined amount of our Annenberg Grant money and the Archive Special Fund, after which I could go no further. It quickly got into that range. The now only other bidder gave a bid, and I followed up with the next bid, knowing that I had now reached my limit. I was about ready to die waiting to hear if the other bidder would follow up after my bid. After about 45 seconds the contact person from Skinner said, “It’s yours! Congratulations!”

Unfortunately, as with all auctions today, there is also a “Buyer’s Premium,” Skinner charging 23% of the hammer price. I was so pleased to have won the bidding for the Archival collections, not having to have used any of my Archive budget appropriated through taxpayer money, but with money we had accumulated through a grant and services rendered. Unfortunately it wiped out my Archival Special Fund, though I took some comfort in knowing this is just what the Fund was established to do when something special and expensive might come along.  Now, however, I would have to start from scratch to re-build the Special Fund.

After a meeting with the director and the Board of Trustees to recount the auction and allow me to use some of my budget money to assist with the premium, I was able to travel to Marlborough on December 18, 2018, to retrieve the sermon. Thanks to Alex, Sue Kontos our library accountant, and the Board and treasurer for their interest and support in obtaining this major acquisition.

The fragile, worn book did need conservation, and in January 2019, I took it to the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover for treatment. Here is their synopsis of treatment performed:

The binding and pages were surface cleaned where possible.  Tears were mended and losses filled where necessary with Japanese kozo paper and wheat starch paste.  Exposed areas of the spine of the text block were consolidated using Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste, and weak areas in the boards were stabilized using fish glue.  Losses in the boards were filled with handmade paper laminated with wheat starch paste and attached to the wooden boards using fish glue.  Leather and pastedowns were re-adhered where necessary.  Photocopies provided by the client were placed in a buffered folder, and the volume and folder were housed in a custom-fitted drop-spine box.  Written and photographic treatment documentation was kept by NEDCC and provided to the client.

I also had the volume digitally imaged by the NEDCC Imaging Lab in compliance with FADGI specifications. This gave us a “Preservation Master” in TIFF format. We also had them make hard-copy facsimile copies of each page done on heavy stock, acid-free paper. It is my intention to eventually put the entire sermon on our Archive website, including an introduction I had previously done about the book.

Another major part of our imprint collection is books and pamphlets relating to Danvers history, family genealogies, and biographies. These items have been accessioned and catalogued, and are shelved within the Public Reading Room or with the H file collections. Donated books and pamphlets added to the Danvers collection include: Benjamin Wadsworth, Female Charity An Acceptable Offering (1817); Diana Woodman, The Indians and Early History of Danvers, being a booklet created by this well-known local grade school teacher; Richard P. Zollo, Naming Day In Danvers (2003); Richard B. Trask, Postcard Series: Danvers (2002); Y. P. S. C. Endeavor of the Maple Street Church (1897); Danvers Magazine (Fall & Winter 2018; Summer 2019); Charles S. Tapley, From Muddy Boo to Blind Hole (1940); Year Book and Church Directory of First Church of Danvers (1952); Alexandra Pecci, 200 Years of the Topsfield Fair (2018); Clare Mulvihill,  History of the First Baptist Church (2118); four copies, all from separate sources, of League of Women Voters, The Way It Is In Danvers (1975); Milton P. Braman, Sermon on The Mexican War (1847); The Monograph Series, Records of Early American Architecture – Danvers (November 1938); Confession of Faith, Covenant, and Principles and Rules of the First Church (1879), with manuscript notations of new members and death dates for others; Ezekiel Russell, Some Remarks on the Great and Universal Darkness [photocopy] (1780); Integrite: A Faith and Learning Journal (Fall 2018), concerning local novelist Ted Vrittos; Danvers High School Yearbook (2019); George Osgood, Historical Sketch of School District Number Thirteen (1855); and Thurl D. Brown, Rucksack Recollections (1979), a poetry booklet signed and inscribed by Brown who served with the 10th Mountain Division in World War II.

Among purchased items obtained for our history collection was: John F. Luzader, Saratoga: A Military History (2008). We also purchased two very important early printed items this fiscal year for our “Rare Book” History Collection.  Rev. Peter Clark (1693-1768) served for many years as pastor at the First Church of Christ at Salem Village, and was the churches first true theologian. Besides being a well reputed preacher, many of Clark’s sermons and theological writings were published by popular request and subscription. We have in our collection a number of his printed works, and were pleased to acquire this year The Captain of the Lord’s Host Appearing with His Sword Drawn. Two Sermons Preached at Salem-Village, on the General Fast, Appointed on the Occasion of the War, February 26, 1740, by Clark. Printed in 1741 by Kneeland and Green of
Boston, the occasion for the sermon was the war with Spain, generally known as “The War of Jenkins’ Ear.”

The other purchase relates to Samuel Holten. Dr. Holten is Danvers’s most distinguished son who was a physician, and one of our nations “Founding Fathers” for all the political activities in which he engaged before, during, and after the American Revolution. He spent several of his formative years as a live-in student of Rev. Peter Clark, staying at the Salem Village Parsonage, and studying under the tutelage of Rev. Clark. Under the Federal Republic of the United States Holten was voted by the people of Essex County to represent them in the Third United States Congress of 1793-94. We were fortunate to find for sale a copy of the rare Journal of the House of Representatives Session 2, published in 1794 by Francis Childs and John Swaine. Representative Holten’s name and voting record is noted within this Congressional Record of votes cast and major questions debated on the national scene.

New main entry, title and subject cards added to our union catalogue by subject include 95 within the Danvers History catalogue, and 190 in our Witchcraft catalogue.

Serially printed items, including newspapers and magazines, are a subcategory of printed materials, and are described within our “History” card catalogue. Among items purchased in this category in FY 2019 was an issue of Scientific American for March 1867. The issue includes a front page article titled “George Peabody and his munificent gifts.” Accompanying the article is an engraving of Peabody and his “Homes for the poor – Peabody Square, Islington, London.” Another serial item purchased was a 4-page copy of the July 15, 1775, issue of The London Chronicle reporting on the clash at Lexington, and the activities of Danvers-born military leader Israel Putnam.

We continue to microfilm the Danvers Herald newspapers through World Archives out of Iowa and California. We ship out our newspapers to them for filming. This past year we had approximately 1,075 pages of the 2018 issues of the Danvers Herald filmed, obtaining both the 35mm master silver negative and positive silver service copy.

Another class of printed documentation is “Broadsides,” which are generally large sheets of paper printed on one side only, and meant to convey public notices or information of a specific time-frame.  Among our Archival Center broadside collections are many rare and valuable Town of Danvers Revolutionary War era items.

This past year we received as gifts a group of 15 posters from the 1970s and 1980s. They meet the definition of “Broadsides,” and were catalogued as such. These posters were used to notify students and the public of school musicals, plays, and variety shows performed by Danvers Junior High School and High School students. Included are  two “Oniontown Varieties” posters (1977 & 1979); three Holten-Richmond Junior High School performing events (1981 & 1982), including “Guys & Dolls”; four Student Council events (1976, 1983), being six program announcements including “George M!,” “Camelot,” “A Funny Thing Happened;” and 5 Academy Theatre events (1978-1982), including “A Connecticut Yankee,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” and “Man of LaMancha.” These broadsides were part of a second gift of many items, including photographs, programs, and audio tapes given by Alfonse M. Tatarunis, who served as musical director of the Danvers school system. Dr. Tatarunis is an icon within the Danvers school system and with his students for his wonderful, inclusive personality, and innovative skills with music development and appreciation. He was an inspiration to many kids who grew up to love and appreciate music.

Another class of printed items which we collect is “Ephemera.”  These revealing point-in-time printed items generally do not warrant individual cataloguing, and are stored within acid-free subject files in a series of vertical metal file cabinets. Among ephemeral items acquired this past year via donation were: printed program booklets of the Miss Danvers Scholarship Pageant sponsored by the Danvers Jaycees (1966, 1967, 1969); copies of four letters-to-the-editor of the Liberator concerning the abolitionist movement in Danvers (1848, 1849, 1854); 40 programs of concerts and shows presented by the Danvers Music Department (1957-1979); two copies of a poem by Thurl D. Brown titled, A Tribute to Charles Sutherland Tapley, along with two tickets to the Tapley Reception (1976); calendar give-away from C. R. Tapley & Co. Insurance (1931); Danvers Savings Bank Christmas Club notice (1920); a card listing the dates of meeting and officers of the Jordan Lodge of Masons (1862); two blue cloth patches of the Essex Agricultural and Technical Institute; Danvers Tercentennial Program (1930); Nourse Monument Association fundraising appeal (1876); three ring binders of various local families including Putnam, Nurse, Prince and Jacobs broken up and filed with ephemera file; six items relating to Thurl D. Brown (1970s-1980s); papers relating to the dedication of the Danvers National Guard Armory (1968); two YMCA pamphlets; an article, All Saints Episcopal Church, A History of Two Parishes Coming Together in Faith (2017); four items relating to Kirby’s Market; St. John’s Preparatory School Alumni Bulletin (summer 1969); four Holten Richmond Highlights (February-May 1967); Novelty menu from Romie’s Quarterdeck (1970s); booklet Golden Anniversary 1905-1955 of the Rotary Club (1955); invoices from C. R. Tapley (1950s); wedding invitation from Walter C. Cook (1953); Memorial Day program (1987); Danvers Zip Code notice (1967); 36 Danvers school programs (1950s-1970s); program Salute to Tapley School (1979); 37 brochures representing various Danvers sites, including historic properties (1950s-1980s); Danvers Bicentennial Ball packet containing ticket and program (1976); Telephone Almanac (1933); a booklet,  Old Berry Tavern (1900); a shoppers guide to Danvers (ca. 1959); booklet, History of the Altar Guild of the Calvary Episcopal Church (1969); papers relating to reunions of the Holten High School class of 1955; a new baby congratulations booklet given out to new mothers by the Hunt Memorial Hospital (1957); about 150 newspaper articles on various Danvers subjects, including the Bicentennial celebration (1976); and a United States Postal Service commemorative sheet of 18 three-view stamps honoring the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad of which Danvers native Grenville Dodge was Chief Engineer. One purchased ephemera item acquired was a ca. 1913 catalogue describing race horses for sale by Albert H. Merrill of Danvers.

Occasionally we obtain physical objects that are, due to their visual attributes, considered within the collecting purview of the Danvers Archival Center. From this class of items we received as gifts from two separate donors ten “Cat’s Meow” wood block façade models of Danvers buildings and historic sites created between 1992 and 2000, as well as a ceramic square tile commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Amity Lodge (1963). Also through eBay I purchased a small box of chalk with advertising from Standard Crayon (ca. 1920), and 13 examples of colorful Danvers political pinback buttons produced for various Board of Selectmen and School Committee races (1980s – 21st century).

Gift acknowledgement forms were drawn up, signed, sealed, and sent to 49 individuals and institutions; these forms reflect gifts to the Archives of from one to hundreds of items each.  The forms acknowledge the items given to the Archival Center as unconditional gifts.

Items found within our collections or within recent donations that, due to their point of origin or content actually belong elsewhere, are sent to appropriate sister institutions. This past year we have sent off such items to the Peabody Historical Society.

Few weeks go by without a request from an author for an interview, for assistance on a book, or from an institution that is requesting information or materials. Among Danvers and witchcraft related projects I have assisted with this year and given interviews for are: Sidney, Australia teacher Michael Street, who received a scholarship to study the historiography of Salem witchcraft; a children’s book about John Endecott and his now famous Pear Tree by Nancy Sanders of California; a forthcoming paper, Witch City’s Haunted Happenings: How Dark Event Tourism Fosters Place Identity in Salem, Massachusetts, by Scotland resident Hannah Stewart; and a  forthcoming book titled, The History and Haunting of Salem by author Rebecca Pittman, whose most recent book was on Lizzie Borden.

Hardly a week goes by without a request from someone to visit the archives so we can meet, and I can answer some questions from students and researchers, or to engage in a phone, taped, or video interview.  Though I receive relatively few letters requesting research information compared with 20 or even 10 years ago, due to the almost universal use of computers and email, I receive anywhere from 3 to 10 requests for information every day as local or around the country requests, which requests have to be researched or clarified.

At the beginning of our fiscal year in July 2018, I had an interesting guest. Jerry A. McCoy is the Special Collections Librarian and Archivist at the Washington D.C. public library’s “Peabody Room,” located in the Georgetown neighborhood. George Peabody got his start in business when he moved to Georgetown from Newburyport, Massachusetts in 1812. I was pleased to show Jerry around our rooms and some of the George Peabody items from within our collection.

Back several years ago Aaron Mahnke, creator and host of the nationally popular podcast Lore, visited the Archives for a sit-down interview with a reporter concerning Mahnke’s work.  This year he embarked on a new venture producing a series titled “Unobscured.”  According to Mahnke, the new podcast exists “to dig deep and shed light on some of history’s darkest moments.  To make it Unobscured.”  The series pairs narrative storytelling from Mahnke with interviews with prominent historians. His initial subject matter was to be a series of 12 one-hour programs devoted to an in-depth history of Salem Witchcraft.

Aaron Mahnke interviewing Richard Trask

On July 7, at the beginning of this fiscal year, Mahnke, who now was also producer of a Lore television program sponsored by Amazon, arrived at the Archives with several audio technicians. After setting up the high grade microphones and tape, we talked for about 40 minutes about the witch events of 1692.  Also contributing at other times were several other witchcraft experts and friends, including Dr. Emerson “Tad” Baker, freelance writer Marilynne K. Roach, and Pulitzer Prize winner Stacy Schiff.  Executive Producer Matt Frederick, Editor/Engineer Alex Williams, and Host/Producer/Head Writer Mahnke put together the segments with specially created music, and commentary from the experts woven into this very listenable series.

The 12 part series Unobscured:  The Salem Witch Trials launched on October 3, with a new episode for the next 11 weeks.  In tandem with the podcast a website was created, which also linked to our Danvers Archival Center website.

On October 22, 2018, I participated in a public program at the Hotel Hawthorne in Salem with Mahnke, Baker, and Roach.  About 300 people attended the event titled “An Evening with Unobscured” in the ballroom of the Hawthorne.  The evening began with a live reading of “Episode Four” ahead of its public release, followed by questions from the audience.  It’s been amazing to me the reaction I continue to receive from people all over the country through emails, phone calls, and personal contacts concerning this very well done podcast series.

Back in April 2017, Lone Wolf Media of Portland, Maine, and the Smithsonian Network contacted and met with me about a video production concerning Salem Witchcraft for future broadcast on the Smithsonian’s cable outlet. I had previously worked with producer Lisa Wolfinger on a very good documentary several years back, and also with independent cinematographer Tom Philips, who created the film shown several times a day at the National Park Visitors’ Center in Salem introducing Salem witchcraft to visitors.  Therefore I knew the production would be of good quality. Filming began in July 2018 here at the Archives, and at other Danvers and Salem sites.

Elizabeth Peterson, Stacy Schiff and Tad Baker at Judge Stoughton’s Grave

My daughter Elizabeth Peterson, a school teacher, arts education consultant, and descendant of witchcraft victim John Procter, appeared throughout the film investigating, with Professor Tad Baker of Salem State University, witchcraft sites and events.  A number of other witchcraft scholars were interspersed throughout the one-hour program, and there was quite a bit of use of the Danvers Archival Center. During post-production at the beginning of this fiscal year I was asked to look over the script and early video to check the text for accuracy. Though I did not necessarily agree with all the opinions of the other researchers or all the interpretations used in the program, it was a solid work of scholarship, and fun to work several times on-camera with my daughter Elizabeth.

The Smithsonian Channel used this program, titled Salem’s Secrets, as the pilot episode of their new series Hidden Stories. The program premiered on March 4, 2019. It is a visually rich program filled with all sorts of filming bells & whistles, including fast cuts, computer generated images, maps and locals, recreations, drone filming of the Parsonage Archaeological site in Danvers, talking heads, and breathtaking visuals, all to give an interesting, fast-paced program of history and discovery.  Television and DVD documentary productions continue to be an interesting area of activity for the Danvers Archival Center.

Pictorial images are another major area of collecting within the Archival Center. These include photographs, prints, and artwork, as well as audio-visual media, such as films, videotapes, DVDs, and CDs. This year we brought into our pictorial collection 234 items, including several CDs and three DVDs.  Of these pictorial images eight were purchased items, and the remainder donated items.

Among photographic items purchased for our collections were: a Carte-de-Visite of George Peabody by Disderi & Company (ca. 1860); a wire service photoprint of Danvers Police Chief Kirwin standing by the now empty Brinks Armored Truck robbed in Danvers Square (1952); Boston newspaper photos of the new Annunciation Catholic Church (1937), interior of the Methodist Church (1958), doorway to the Israel Putnam House (1948), and Kitchen in the Berry Tavern (1925); sketch of Grenville Dodge meeting Abraham Lincoln;  a Boston Herald photo of the Richmond School under construction (1927); and five 5”x7” prints from the Boston Herald of public buildings in Danvers (1926).

It’s interesting the variety of questions that are asked of me, and how some of those queries bring great items into our collection. In September 2018, an 80 year old woman who resides in New Paltz, New York emailed me: “Dear Mr. Trask, since 1959 I have owned a painting of an old house in Danvers and would like to know more about its history.  The artist was Sylvette Engel (1913-1977) – she lived on Long Island NY and was known for her paintings of buildings slated for demolition.”

The attached illustration was of a massive, and architecturally detailed 4-story commercial building. After thinking about if this could actually be a Danvers building, and looking at several sources and folders, I found the answer and emailed her that:

We have in Danvers over a dozen buildings constructed post Civil War that were three or four stories high. Several have been torn down and others missing upper floors and/or transformed. This building survives, however, and was constructed ca. 1887 at what is now 88 Holten Street near Pine Street.  It was originally built as a three story hip roof structure.  Two commercial stores were located on the first floor, while the second and third floors were occupied by meeting rooms of the Red Men’s Club and Hall.  By the teens an awkward fourth story was added, and the building occupied by the Consolidated Electric Lamp Company, manufacturing light bulbs.  I attach a photo of the building from the teens. The building still stands today, but with all ornamentation, including the front gable, removed and the clapboards replaced by synthetic siding, making for a nondescript, ugly building.

Giving her several illustrations of the building and further information, I also asked her what she intended to do with the painting. She replied that maybe in the future she might consider donating it, and I figured that was the last I would hear from her. Wrong! A month later the lovely lady informed me she would accept my kind offer to place the painting in the collections of the Danvers Archival Center after she had it appraised. I offered to pay for the shipment, and in November a wooden shipment pallet arrived.

My “thank you” letter described the wonderful gift as: “A 30” x 23⅝” oil-on-wood panel painting within a 36” x 29½” wood frame, with a label on the back of the frame reading “American Gallery” from New York City.  The painting depicts the front elevation of the 1886 “Red Men’s Hall” building at 88 Holten Street in Danvers, Massachusetts.  It was painted by Sylvette Engel (1913-1977), depicting the heavy ornamentation of this mixed commercial and industrial building sometime after the 1920s, when a new top floor was added.  It was purchased in about 1959 by Anne Gordon who knew the artist and her lawyer/writer husband, Howard Meyer.”

Ms. Engel had studied at the Art Students League and in Paris and the south of France. Famous buildings facing demolition were a theme in her work, along with Long Island and Cape Cod landscapes. Surviving is her husband Howard N. Meyer (age 104), a prominent New York lawyer who is a renowned author of numerous articles on civil rights and peace history. His book The Amendment That Refused to Die was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1974. He lives in New York City.

We are very pleased for this wonderful gift, which was initially hung for display on the library main floor within our newly refurbished “Thomas C. Standring Meeting Room” for a number of months.

Photographic items donated to the Archives included: a Carte-de-Visite photograph by Bousley of Salem of Joseph Merrill, with notations on the reverse about his abolitionist activities (1881); 19 images of the model railroad tracks and engines located behind Friend Box Company (ca. 1939); a photograph of grade 5 at the Wadsworth School (1928); a roll photograph of the dedication of the Danvers Masonic Temple (1926); an aerial photo of the Porter-Bradstreet House off Locust Street (ca. 1960); 60 snapshot photos of the Oniontown Varieties show at Danvers High School (1966); an 8”x10” print of the Danvers American Legion Baseball Team (1933); programs, photographs and letters relating to the singing career of Raymond Eaton (1940s-1950s); a roll photograph of the Hunt Memorial Hospital Dedication Banquet (1956); seven souvenir booklets of photographs of variety shows and musicals presented by Danvers High School students (1965-1972); photo of the North Shore Veterans’ Association meeting with Thurl Brown and Perley Roderick; a 3” x 19” elongated post card showing Danvers Square from High Street to Locust Street (ca. 1900); roll photos of Holten High School Class of 1936, 1946, and 1948 from two different sources; a photograph of the Berry Tavern; a glass paperweight inside of which is a photo of famous authors, including John G. Whittier (ca 1890s); and a color photograph of a painting of Mr. & Mrs. Raymond Eaton done by noted artist Richard Ellery (1976).

Among audio-visual items donated to us were: 17 reel–to-reel recording tapes of Danvers High School entertainment programs (1967-1973); two CDs of reminiscences of Robert K. Flaschbart’s military activities, including service at the Pentagon; four boxed rolls of 100 feet each of Kodak Plus-X 16mm movie film of the Swampscott vs. Danvers (and possibly Andover vs. Danvers) football game (1959).

Last year the Archives participated in a wonderful project obtaining scans in the form of DVDs of Danvers High School Yearbooks from 1954 to 1989. Contacted by Mark Lee, a state representative for the Oklahoma Correctional Industries, which performs data entry and digital imaging for Oklahoma government, I was asked if the Danvers Archives would be interested in our yearbooks being scanned at no charge and with DVDs provided. After some due diligence into the program, we participated and were very impressed with the project and resulting free DVDs.

This last fiscal year Mr. Lee contacted me again asking if we wanted the remainder of our yearbooks scanned at 300dpi, saved in a PDF format, and the original books and a full set of DVDs sent back within a 10-12 week time frame. We boxed the yearbooks and sent them out via FedEx at their expense, and the books and two sets of DVDs were returned. The OCI prisoner job training program has been very successful, and now they are making available digitization of records at a very modest cost, a program we will look into in the future. We will be providing copies of these Danvers High School Yearbooks to the Library Reference Department and to the Danvers High School Library. As these yearbooks are frequently used by patrons, these DVD copies will prove very useful. Thanks to the Oklahoma Correctional Industries for their great program.

Manuscripts are the raw material of history, and the type of primary source documentation most revealing of the past. These items constitute the largest part of our Archival Center collections. Added this year to the “Manuscript” card catalogue were 166 cards. Each year we try to devote time to continue to catalogue the backlog of Danvers Historical Society and Town of Danvers manuscripts on deposit at the Archival Center. Tom Marsella does much of this research and cataloguing. Among manuscripts donated to the Archival Center this past year by generous individuals were: Holten High School Class of 1955 reunion records (2005 & 2015); a genealogical notebook concerning the Webb and allied families (ca. 1992); a typescript copy of the diary of Charles Walker Davis who served in Company B, 104th Infantry Regiment during World War I (1917-1920); photocopy of a letter from Civil War serviceman James Munro Perry to his nephew (1865); a Porter family reunion speech given by Howard Leverett Porter (1892); Holten High School diploma of Helen Theresa Horgan (1946); an 86 inch long rolled genealogical scroll created by John T. Prince (1883); Holten High School diploma of Wilfred Amedee Vaillancourt (1948); and a genealogical notebook of the Putnam family compiled by Lydia Putnam Hayward (1889).

We also attempt to purchase manuscripts relating to Salem Village and Danvers that we locate through catalogues, eBay, auctions, or private dealers. Items purchased this year included: a deed given by David Dwinnell (1813); an autograph request fulfilled by George Peabody (ca. 1850s); an ALS by E. Mudge to Augustus Mudge (1841);  a Commission granted by the “Government & People of the Massachusetts Bay in New England” to Aaron Wood, appointing him Justice of the Peace (September 6, 1775), and signed by Samuel Holten and 16 other members of the revolutionary Massachusetts Council at Watertown, Massachusetts; a group of 35 Holten High School papers created by student Emma F. Peabody, who was a member of the class of 1864. Unfortunately the young lady did not survive to adulthood, dying of Typhoid in September 1865 at age 18. We were also finally able to make a deal with an individual who had previously sold us papers relating to Emma’s brother, Charles A. Peabody. We had purchased on eBay about a dozen Peabody items piecemeal, and made contact with the dealer indicating we would not do that in the future, and offered to purchase the remainder of his collection of 140 letters and envelopes regarding the correspondence between Peabody and his family and friends. Peabody eventually became a physician, and these his correspondence include the period he lived at home and at several schools, dating between 1860 and 1880.

A major acquisition to our manuscript collection was the auction sale of documents by or to Dr. Samuel Holten, Danvers’s most famous native son and “Founding Father.” Acquired from Cowan’s Auctions, Inc. several years ago, the manuscripts are nearing being fully catalogued by Tom Marcella. Among those catalogued this year were: a dinner invitation to Holten from Rev. Benjamin Wadsworth (1792); Town Meeting extracts by Holten concerning Enoch Putnam (1771); Letter to Jonathan Meigs (1795); a medical receipt from Dr. Clapp (1802); a letter from the Treasury Department to Holten concerning a Revolutionary War veteran (1794); an account for guns supplied to Danvers (ca. May 1775); letter from lawyer Samuel Putnam to Holten (1761); and a court order to Holten (1761).

Guns Supplied in 1775

This year we were able to add two Whittier manuscripts for inclusion in our extensive “Dr. Richard P. Zollo John Greenleaf Whittier Collection,” one by gift and one by auction. The original core Whittier collection was donated by Professor Zollo a number of years ago to include books, manuscripts, and photographs of the world renowned 19th century poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier, who resided in Danvers for 17 years.  Purchased this year through RR Auctions was a Whittier ALS (Autograph Letter Signed) dated from Danvers on June 13, 1882. Though the person to whom Whittier sent the letter is not named in the letter itself, I was able to figure it out by contents. Elizur Wright (1804-1883) was an abolitionist, business man, and early proponent of public conservation of lands. Whittier tells Wright of his recent attendance to the now famous garden party for author Harriet Beecher Stone’s 70th birthday. He also mentions Wright’s work obtaining public conservation land for Massachusetts, and several other projects.

A great donation from a Hampton, New Hampshire resident was a Whittier ALS from Danvers dated August 21 in the late 1870s to Charles H. Brainard (1817-1885), an historian, abolitionist, print dealer, and publisher. Whittier thanks Brainard for an article he had sent, stating Brainard should follow it up with collected recollections of United States Senator Charles Sumner, whom Brainard knew. He also asked Brainard if he could contact a photographer who had taken a portrait of Whittier in order to obtain 8 cabinet photographs. Also included with the gift were two Cartes-de-Visite, one picturing Charles Brainard. These two manuscript letters are great additions to our Whittier collection.

The Archival Center also has a significant collection of maps and plans which we catalogue separately. The only map we purchased this year was a small illustration taken from the book, The Revolutionary War (1911), being a map of Ticonderoga, New York, and Hubbardton, Vermont in 1777, where many Danvers men served and fought during the Revolutionary War.

The Archival Center website includes much information on our collections, and Danvers and witchcraft history. As time allows, I try to put together new text and articles, which Director of Reference Jim Riordan uploads to the website with appropriately sized illustrations. This past fiscal year we added our FY 2018 Annual Report to the site with numerous neat illustrations. Also added was an article about World War I titled, Welcome Home! found within the Touching the Past section, as well as a history of 128 Maple Street under Historic Buildings. The article tells the story of an 1880s building begun as a roller skating rink, followed by use as a military armory, and later becoming the home of Standard Crayons, and finally Hotwatt. We also added under Danvers History eBooks the 1895 Danvers military volume, Report to Revise the Soldiers’ Record.  In process is a large article giving the story of philanthropist and Danvers native George Peabody, and his gift of the Peabody Institute Library of Danvers.

It’s fun to see how many “hits” we receive for our web site. Though some of the activity is quite brief, we do get hits from around the globe. During one typical week we were visited by internet users in France, Greece, China, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, India, the United Kingdom, Vietnam, Ireland, Denmark, Germany, and Canada. Many of our web illustrations can also be found in numerous “Google” illustration searches.

During FY 2019 we were open for only 44 weeks during which we were able to keep statistics.  The only vacation I had was in happier times, during Christmas of 2018, when I took off one week for vacation. For three weeks the Archives was closed to patron use, though I continued to work, as installation was done for our new fire suppression system.  Another week we were closed due to a medical emergency I had, and three additional weeks were sadly taken up by the hospitalization of my beloved wife, Ethel, and her shockingly unexpected death and aftermath.

During those 44 weeks in which I kept statistics 665 patrons visited the Archives to use our resources, while 523 telephone calls were answered, and 705 letters and emails were sent out in response to patron queries.  Three talks were given to town, and school groups, with a combined audience of about 340 people.

One special talk was given April 9, 2019, in the just refurbished Standring Room on the first floor of the Library. I spoke to an audience of about 60 people with a show-and-tell program displaying new acquisitions to the Archival Center including books, photographs, manuscripts, newspapers, ephemera and other items. On display was the recently donated oil-on-board painting of the highly ornamented 1887 Red Men’s Building at 88 Holten Street. Through this talk two donations were later given to the Archives. This was the last of my public speaking programs in which my wife Ethel was in attendance.

Supplies purchased for our use this year included acid free manuscript boxes, letter and legal file folders, polyester sleeves of various sizes for photographic and manuscript storage, and acid-free letter-size paper for copying. No major purchases of equipment were made this year.

Our Archive subscription list includes several popular preservation periodicals including: Early American Life, and Preservation News. We also subscribe to the New England Historical Genealogical Register, Essex Society of Genealogy, New England Archivist, American Archivist, The Manuscript Society, About Towne, and the Endecott-Endicott Family Association. After many years of courtesy storage given to the Towne Family Association for their four-drawer file storing the records of this genealogical organization, the group began renting storage space in Topsfield, and with much thanks to us, and the gift of an inscribed desk clock, removed their material through the efforts of Jean and Arthur Towne. They wrote up a nice article in their publication, About Towne concerning our generosity in storing their collections these many years

After years of consternation and frustration, the Archives now enjoys a modern, state-of-the-art, non-water-based fire suppression system. Back in 2010, on two separate occasions, sprinkler heads within the Library’s water system failed for no apparent reason and seriously damaged library equipment and collections. Seeing this as a potentially devastating situation if it ever occurred in the Archival Center with our valuable collection of manuscripts and rare books, it was determined to seek an alternative system. At the May 2011 Danvers Annual Town Meeting $18,000 in initial funds were voted toward this project. Unfortunately, the town did not quickly follow-through on the project.

Following meetings with DPW and the Fire Chief, and a 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. Meanwhile, the original 1981 heating system for the library broke down. As part of a total replacement of the Library environmental system Town Meeting appropriated money in 2014 for the replacement of the Library HVAC system, and updating the “fire suppression system for the archive section.”  Unfortunately the project was under-funded and the town decided to exclude the Archive Fire Suppression System implementation, and postpone this project until after the other library work was accomplished.  Library Director Alan Thibeault always recognized the need for this new system, and continued to advocate for it to Town Hall and the DPW.

At the Annual Town Meeting of May 2017, $100,000 was voted for an “updated fire suppression system for the Archive section.” By the fall of 2018 Danvers Building Supervisor Leif Rochna began, with the assistance of the engineering department, to outline specifications for the fire suppression system in order to create bid documents.  Meetings were held with various vendors and town officials, including the Fire Chief. By March 2019 we had contractors ready for installing a gas NOVEC 1230 Fire Suppression System. We (including my children and grandchildren) began moving furniture and furnishings out of the Archives Reading Room into the Gordon Room to make the work area as clear as possible. It was decided that plastic sheeting could be primarily used in the manuscript storage area so that these shelving units with hundreds of manuscript boxes would not need to be moved.

On March 6 we released a statement about the forthcoming project:

Beginning Wednesday, March 6, 2019, the Danvers Archival Center will be closed for about four weeks for the installation of a new “green,” environmentally-friendly gas fire suppression system, which project has been in the works for several years.  Danvers officials and Town Meeting approved costs for this system, which will better protect the precious and valuable collections of the Archives.  This new system will suppress a fire without harming the Archive collection itself, unlike the old sprinkler system which used water.

It is estimated that the project will take up to four weeks, during which the Archival Center will be closed.  We will attempt, however, to continue to answer Danvers citizen and other queries via email, though many archival resources have been moved and are unavailable for research even by the Archivist.  This work will greatly assist the preservation of our unique Danvers and Witchcraft collection, one of the finest, all encompassing, and varied collections of its kind in the United States.

Many thanks to Library Director Alex Lent, as well as the past two Directors; the Peabody Institute Library Board of Trustees; Town of Danvers officials; Danvers Town Meeting; and the Danvers Department of Public Works for bringing this important preservation project to fruition.

During March the system technicians worked in the Archives installing new piping within the ceiling and 3 separate gas tanks, along with associated equipment.  I remained in the Archives, opening when they arrived at 8 a.m. and securing the area at the end of their day at 4 p.m.  After about 9 days, electricians came in to wire the system.

Several different vendors were associated with the installation, which caused a lag between project segments, though town coordination was very helpful in making the project run smoothly.  The system was inspected by the Fire Department on April 26, and subsequently made fully functional.

Though I had always opined that nothing of the 1981 water system should remain in the ceiling, and that was initially the plan, following an inspection by Metro Swift, the town’s fire protection contractor, it was their conclusion that the pipes themselves could not be removed as “there are domestic water lines and the main sprinkler tributaries that must remain as they feed the remainder of the building.  These pipes are Schedule 40 and should last 200 years.” It was recommended that an inspection of the pipes take place at least each year.  All the sprinkler heads were removed in mid-May allowing for no mishap of a water release. Though I was not pleased that the pipes themselves needed to stay, according to the experts, this was the only practical solution to the conditions at hand.

It was a long struggle covering many years to accomplish the removal of the sprinkler heads and their replacement with a more preservation-friendly system that would better afford the protection of our Town’s heritage. Thanks to the many people including Library Directors, DPW Department Heads, Fire Chiefs and Town Managers, as well as Town Meeting itself for accomplishing this protection system.

For many years now I have served as a Commissioner for the Essex County National Heritage Area. Since its inception in 1973, I have also been a member of the Salem Village Historic District Commission. The Commission holds its public meetings and hearings here in the Archives or in the Gordon Room monthly. Our Town Hall supporting staff member Susan Fletcher, who has aided us for many years, retired this year from the Town Planning Department. Many thanks to Susan for all her assistance over many years with the Historic District Commission, as well as the Danvers Preservation Commission.

I continue to assist the Danvers Preservation Commission with their Demolition Delay By-Law.  After recent Town Meeting action, a request for the demolition of a structure built before 1915, if found to be of architectural or historical significance by the Board, puts a delay for demolition of up to a year (rather than the old 6 month delay).  During this delay time the Commission can work with the owner or other interested parties to find possible alternatives to tearing down the structure.

My role is to research the history and architecture of the structure and report on its significance, or lack thereof, giving my opinion in a written report to the Commission and to the owner of each structure. Unfortunately, this past fiscal year has been the busiest ever.

Among properties researched were 91 Dayton Street, 6 Mill Street, 20 Locust Street (partial), 40-44 Maple Street, 69 Liberty Street, and 56 Adams Street.  It takes much effort utilizing maps, valuation records, vital records, polls, and any other source available to come up with a history.  I also have an architectural book collection to assist me.  Several houses were significant including 91 Dayton Street (1832), while several were found to be outside the purview of the Commission because of their later dates.  The dwelling at 56 Adams Street met the date criterion, but was unremarkable due to lack of historical and architectural significance, and because of its condition.

Just as this fiscal year was beginning, the Preservation Commission received demolition requests for 11 residential and industrial buildings in the neighborhood of Hobart and Maple Streets, which destruction will greatly impact the community. This large area within “Danvers Plains” is owned by LRC Commercial Real Estate, and took much effort to research all 11 buildings that encompassed residential, industrial, commercial, and religious use.  Luckily this large, built up area was included in the series of detailed Sanborn Insurance Maps dating from the 1880s up to about 1960.  Several of the structures had, back in the 1980s, been surveyed by me for the Massachusetts Historical Commission Building Survey due to their significance.

Among my individual reports and findings of this section of town, I shared the following suggestions with the owners and the Commission:

I offer several possible suggestions that, when this area is planned for development, might be considered to preserve the best of the past, while developing the area in a manner of looking towards the future.

In my research I found 3 Hobart Street and 148 Maple Street not to be significant, due to these structures’ current condition and lack of history; while the structures at 61 and 66 North Putnam Street were outside the purview of the Preservation Commission due to their ages.  As contributors to the streetscape and for their architecture and history, 1 and 5 (7) Hobart Street, if at all possible, are worthy of preservation.

Very significant and worthy of preservation are the two dwellings at 146 Maple Street (c. 1860), and 53 North Putnam Street (1882), as well as the original Adventist Church at 2 Putnam Court (1877). All three possess fine architectural style and rich individual histories.  Their loss would be a major blow to Danvers history.

A possible option in future planning might be to relocate 53 North Putnam and 2 Putnam Court to lots on the west side of Maple Street, adjacent to 146 Maple Street, in an area that could be made into an attractive streetscape mirroring the other side of the street with its multiple residences.  Besides preserving these significant structures, it would put these 3 buildings outside the core of your developable property in a context that would be attractive and continue to serve as a neighborhood.

Co. K going off to war in 1898, and Crayola Crayons in the 1960s, both at 128 Maple Street

The original 1884 central core of the 128 Maple Street building represents less than ⅓ of the present meandering structure.  This original portion of the building is very significant in town history, featuring recreational, social, military, commercial, industrial, and manufacturing themes.  The street façade and rectangular shaped original building could be preserved by a talented architect for adaptive use, with the original Maple Street front restored to its 19th century appearance, and melding into what could be architecturally interesting new construction.

I have so much history and visual material on this very interesting building that I have included my brief history of it with many illustrations on the Danvers Archival Center website under “Historic Buildings.”

The other significant property is separate from the other buildings, being on the south side of a major road.  Six Hobart Street includes a large, open dirt parking area, and the ca. 1870 Railroad Freight House, the exterior of which has been repaired and restored.  This is one of the last vestiges of the originally large grouping of Railroad stations, round tables, and ancillary buildings that once made Danvers a hub of rail activity.

As I discussed previously, the 1868 architecturally handsome and historically significant Danvers Plains Railroad Station, owned and located only several hundred feet away on the Townsend property off Hobart Street, is desperately in need of salvation. This Hobart Street lot, either with (best preservation solution), or without the Freight House, would be a relatively simple move, that could, with effort and funding, make this property a signature building in Danvers. It could become a very attractive and interesting retail or office space location, and make the developer/savior a local preservation hero. Such a business decision and goodwill project should elicit interest and possible support from much of the community, Town Hall, and the numerous regional railroad buffs.

During this past fiscal year the Archival Center brought in $110 in fees for certified copies of vital records as part of my responsibilities as an Assistant Town Clerk. Nine house markers were ordered by Danvers homeowners, totaling $405. We research the sign information for homeowners, and have a 12” by 18” marine plywood painted sign made by talented sign painter Robert Leonard of Rhode Island, all for a bargain cost of $45 to the homeowner. A small amount of money, $18, was generated from the sale of books, maps and other items on our gift shelf. Together, these payments amounted to a total of $533 for our Archive Special Fund. This fund was established years ago in order to have money available in case important but expensive items came to our attention and would overwhelm our regular budget.  I was pleased this year to have used my Archive budget of $18,000 to the last penny, without any over or under expenses!

The Archives continues to act as a resource for other town agencies needing information. Among town departments assisted in research this past year were the Town Manager, Town Clerk, Town Counsel, Historic District Commission, Veterans’ Agent, Recreation Department, School Department, Superintendent of Schools, Public Works Department, Preservation Commission, and Planning Department.

On a very personal note, this turned out to be a crushing year for me and my family. During the later stages of work being done to install our new Archive Fire Suppression System, my wife, Ethel, was scheduled to have heart bypass surgery at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. We expected she would be in the hospital for about a week, and I had taken off vacation time to be with her during this traumatic, though fairly common surgical procedure. She had her operation on Monday, May 13, the day after Mothers’ Day, and seemed to tolerate the surgery well, being transferred to a step-down room by Wednesday. My daughter and I were with her when she went into her new room. She was eating some solid food and after a while we kissed, said our goodbyes, and looked with anticipation to her return home in a few days, and weeks of rehab and strengthening.  I returned home around 8:00 pm to a phone call saying we needed to return to the hospital as there had been a problem. The problem was deadly, in that one of Ethel’s veins had erupted shortly after we left, and she basically bled-out. Emergency surgery was done, but she was without much blood volume for precious minutes. After several more days in ICU seeing if there was brain activity, Ethel died at 9:12 May 20, 2019, with her family around her. Thus ended a wonderful life.

I include this material in my report to note her passing, but also to publically express my gratitude to the literally thousands of hours that Ethel spent directly or indirectly assisting me and the Danvers Archival Center in all manner of support. Back in 1968, before the Archives was established, she worked one summer as my assistant, as we began cataloging the Danvers manuscripts as part of a Danvers Historical Commission summer project. This project ultimately was the impetus for establishing the Archival Center.

Ethel was willing to do anything and everything to assist me and the Archives for decade after decade, from typing up reports, letters, and catalogue cards, to helping sort manuscripts, moving our quarters from Page Street to Sylvan Street, to editing just about everything I produced at work, including 40 years of annual reports, to scanning and reproducing thousands of documents, illustrations, etc. for Archive deposit, or for patron request. If I was deluged with work, she would volunteer to spend a few hours at the Archives to help me out with typing and later with word processing. She was not particularly interested in history, but was a giving, loyal wife. As an English, secretarial, and later computer teacher, she had wonderful skills that I lacked. And she never bitched about the requests I had, even volunteering many times when I insisted she did not have to do such work in her later life. So many of the kind things that have been said over the years about the Archives and my work, were only because I had such a wonderful and supportive wife to make me look good.  So next time I screw up, or my writing is replete with spelling and grammar problems, and I seem “a bit off the mark,” don’t blame me, it’s Ethel’s fault, because she is not around to help me and the Archives.

Richard B. Trask
Town Archivist
December 2019

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