I wanted to go to Massachusetts for 2 reasons, one was to better understand the Witch Hunts of Salem and second, to see Boston. Let’s start with the Salem Witches. First none of the people I will mention were witches. The first stop was the Salem Witch Museum, it tells the history of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials. In the Spring of 1692 a group of young girls claimed to be possessed by the devil and accused several local women of witchcraft. A wave of hysteria followed. Nineteen were hanged and 150 more men, women and children were accused over the next several months. By the fall of 1692 the hysteria started to wane. There were no witches burned in Salem, that was the punishment for those found guilty in England. Even though the Massachusetts General Court later annulled guilty verdicts against those accused and granted indemnities to their families, resentment lingered in the communities and the legacy continued for centuries of years. All of the above information was given to us by the museum presentation. If you want to learn more please go to the museums website.
For those of you that are as fascinated with this bit of history as I am, look up the name Tituba.
Our next stop was the House of Seven Gables, it is not only a novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne it is actually a house. It is now a museum, it was built in 1668 in Salem. It is one of the oldest surviving timber framed mansion houses in North America. It has 17 rooms and is over 8000 square feet. it was built by sea captain named John Turner. The house was sold to Captain Samuel Ingersoll, when he died his daughter got the property. She was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s cousin, his visits there were the inspiration for the book.
We continued our tour through town. Next was the Custom House. Nathaniel Hawthorne worked there. He wrote The Scarlet Letter while working at the Custom House. This harbor was not never deep so it was not in use very long. We continued walking around town taking in the sights.
Food worth mentioning. We ate at this farm to table restaurant Scratch Kitchen in Salem. We both had a BLT. They use maple bacon that they make. Jowanna is completely ruined for BLT. It was so GOOD. Seriously, eat at this place. It is worth it. Your body will thank you.
It’s summer. We live in a campground surrounded by grass. I expect to be bite by mosquitoes. I stay prepared except for last Wednesday. I was visiting a friend. We sat on her back deck with no protection. I felt fine during Thursday day. However, when night came my legs started to swell with a mass of bumps. My skin was so irritated that I did not sleep well that night. I have tried everything to stop the itch – witch hazel, Benadryl, calamine lotion, miracle oil as well as a homemade essential oil mixture. All have worked for very short periods of time but I am still not able to sleep through the night. I am exhausted. It gets worse when I sweat or get wet. Showers have become very short.
I am not trying to complain but explain. I lived in Georgia for 19 years. I have camped in a tent all over the United States. I have never experienced this level of discomfort from a mosquito bite. I grew up in Connecticut. I lived here for first 29 years of my life. Still I have never experienced this. I want to warn y’all to be prepared with bug spray if you visit southeastern Connecticut. The mosquitoes are no joke. I am open to any remedy you might have used to stop the itch. I need sleep. It is awful. It is Monday. There is no way my leg should be so impacted from bites. I can’t stand to have clothes touch my bites. Unfortunately, this has happened to Edonna as well. She stated it took a week before she started to feel better. I know that I am near the end of the discomfort. These zombie mosquitoes got to go. Be careful out there!
What do you think of when you hear Newport, RI – Sailing? Ocean views? Gilded-aged summer cottages? Tennis? Shopping? Festivals? Newport is all of that and more. We spent a day visiting this beautiful town surrounded by the sea. We started in the historic downtown areas. This is no place for a RV. The roads are way too narrow. Most are one way. Leave your RV parked and bring your car. There are no campgrounds in Newport. There is a campground in Jamestown and more further out on the mainland. We are staying in Mystic, CT. It was a 50 minute drive to Newport from our campsite.
There is such much to do. We just hit the highlights. After finding the Newport Visitor Center on Thames Street we verified our plan of attack for the day. We choose to visit The Breakers first. This is the largest of the summer cottages on Newport. It was built by the Vanderbilt’s for their summer home. When it became to expensive to maintain, it was decided that families would show their homes to help keep these beauties maintained. Tours are now self guided with a headset. Last time I was here was in the 1970s where there tours with person guides. It is still as beautiful as I remember.
We walked along the Cliff Walk to see some of the other beautiful home and gorgeous ocean scenes. We saw small crabs and other small ocean life in tide pools. We took in the views from the scenic Ocean Drive. We went to Fort Adams, an earthworks fort, but we did not do the tour. The tours are every hour on the hour. You cannot enter the fort without a tour guide. We got there at 3:10 pm. We did not want to wait until 4 pm so all our photos are from outside the fort. We also got to see the end of a sailing competition for children. We saw children as young as 10 sailing for competition. We ended the day over in the shopping district where we eat dinner before heading home. It was a wonderfully full day. Have you been to Newport? What are your favorite places to visit?
We are off to Newport, Rhode Island. Edonna confused the Newport Visitor Center with the Loeb Visitor Center. If you are new to our blog, Edonna and I always follow our wrong turns. Turned out we were visiting the oldest synagogue in the United States. The congregation is not the oldest but the building is. It was completed in 1763. It is the only synagogue survived intact from the colonial period.
We took the tour and our guide, Rachel, told us how the congregation came into being. About 15 merchant families from originally Spain and Portugal came to Newport due to the religious freedom in the town. The founder of Newport was banished from the Massachusetts colony due to his belief that anyone should be free to worship and his commitment to separation of church and state. You can see his influence in the historic areas of town. Many New England towns have the church near or part of the green. Think about New Haven, Connecticut. There are two churches that were built during the colonial that are in the center of the green, while there are a few more churches that are very close to the green.
The founders of Newport created their town with government services at the center of town. Religious institutions are part of the outer area with no religion having a dominant space in town. This made Newport very attractive to many minority religious communities. I was glad that our guide did not skirt around the issue of the ‘triangle trade’. These merchants were involved with the slave trade; they got very wealthy off the slave trade. Newport was a major hub for slave trade in the colonial and early America period.
Let me describe the inside of the synagogue. The walls are white plaster. There are 12 pillars to represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Each pillar is made from one tree truck. There are beautiful rounded windows. Along the outer wall are prayer benches. This has always been an Orthodox congregation so there is a women’s balcony. There is an attached building where Hebrew school was held. The original Torah is enclosed in a temperature controlled box. It was a stunning piece of work. I was sitting in the third row but could clearly see the lettering. It is believed that the Torah is made from deer hide.
The architect, Peter Harrison, was not Jewish. It seems that there was lots of mutual cooperation between neighbors. Each helping build the town and celebrate each the dedication of the building. What touched me the most is that after the Revolution a concerned congregant wrote to George Washington wanting to know if this new government was going to uphold freedom to worship. George Washington wrote back to the congregant, Moses Sexias. George Washington wrote “every one shall sit in safety under his own fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
I spent a lot of time thinking about this letter today. The messiness we call democracy. This experiment of American government. While Washington was assuring this community that they should not be afraid, Africans were enslaved and continued to fear for safety. It got me thinking about our current political landscape. This letter was part of the basis for the first amendment. George Washington’s letter has been used in many religious freedom cases. How many of you knew this letter existed?
Once again, a wrong turn has given me a thought provoking experience. Even in a tourist hot spot you can find an educational experience. If you are every in Newport, stop over at 52 Spring Street to the Loeb Visitor Center. This experience will stay with me for a long time.