Notable Locals

History is created by individuals. Who will you learn about? Below are some historical figures who were influential to Salem and its history.


Roger Conant: The founder of Salem, originally named “Naumkeag.” Moved to Salem from a failed fishing colony at Cape Ann his small band of loyal followers. (1626)

John Endicott: Arrived in Salem two years after Conant with 50 new colonists to rejuvenate the exhausted pioneers. The following year, 1629, Naumkeag was renamed “Salem,” an adaptation of the Hebrew word for “peace.” (1628)

John Winthrop: Arrived in Salem in 1630, headed the Government of Massachusetts Bay Colony. After a brief stay in Salem, Winthrop and many of the newcomers resettled in Boston, which then became the new capital of the colony, and the surrounding area.

Stephen Clarendon Phillips: A member of the prominent Phillips family who made their fortune in maritime trade, Stephen Clarendon Phillips served in state government and the U.S. Congress. He became mayor of Salem in 1838 and worked closely with education advocate Horace Mann to reform the public school system. (1801-1857)

Capt. Nathaniel Hathorne: Author Nathaniel Hawthorne’s father, Capt. Nathaniel Hathorne was commander of the brig Nabby. (1807-1808)

Nathaniel Hawthorne: Considered America’s first great romantic novelist. Married to Sophia Peabody, had three children: Una, Julian, and Rose. Wrote several novels whilst staying in Salem, MA, one of those locations being The House of the Seven Gables, for which the novel is written after. Hawthorne also wrote the famous novel, The Scarlet Letter. (1804-1864)

Sophia Amelia Peabody: Sophia Amelia Peabody was born in Salem. She had two older sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, and three younger brothers. Mary was the wife of Horace Mann, the great education reformer and first president of Antioch College, and Elizabeth was famous for her bookshop in Boston on West Street that was the intellectual life of Boston. (Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Ellery Channing and Margaret Fuller could be found there.) Sophia was very much in love with her literary husband, Nathaniel Hawthorne; it was “love at first sight.” (1809-1871)

Mary Crowninshield Silsbee: Mary was the daughter of Senator Nathaniel Silsbee, who built the mansion on Salem Common in 1819. It was rumored that Mary was engaged to Nathaniel Hawthorne after she had a portrait painted depicting her with a mysterious hunter who resembled Hawthorne. Sophia Peabody threatened to “put Miss Mary out of the window” in a letter to her sister, and Hawthorne’s involvement with Mary ended soon thereafter. (1809-1887)

Captain Joseph White: Captain Joseph White was a successful East India merchant who lived in the Gardner-Pingree House, was brutally murdered at the age of 83 in his bed. The murder was orchestrated by Captain Knapp who believed his wife would inherit a fortune if White died without a will; he hired two brothers to murder him and destroy the will. (1830)

David Mason: A Salem resident, Mason was the first paid employee of the American forces. He was hired to purchase and store weapons and ammunition to defend the colony against the British. (1775)

Colonel Timothy Pickering: The officer in the Continental Army under General Washington, who later went on to become the first Secretary of State.

Frank Benson: This American Impressionist painter was born in Salem. (1862-1951)

Elias “King” Derby: After the American Revolution (1783), Elias Derby led merchants to begin trading in new ports as far away as China, India and pepper-rich Sumatra. His house and wharf are now part of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. Derby also became one of America’s first millionaires in the decades following the revolution.

Samuel McIntire: Hamilton Hall on Chestnut Street was designed by the great Salem architect-woodcarver, Samuel McIntire. Two of his finest residential masterpieces can be seen at 128 Essex Street (the Gardner-Pingree House, 1804), and 80 Federal Street (the Peirce-Nichols House, 1782). Both are owned by the Peabody Essex Museum. (1757-1811)

Thomas Watson: Alexander Graham Bell’s famous assistant, Thomas Watson, was born, raised and educated in Salem. He would play a major role in the development of the telephone company and would be granted 60 patents related to telephonic equipment. Bell himself lived in Salem from 1873-1876, and gave the first public demonstration of the telephone at the former Lyceum Hall on Church Street in 1877. (1854-1934)

Sarah Parker Remond and Charles Lenox Remond: Two of the most important African Americans in the national abolitionist movement in the mid-19th century, the Remonds grew up in Salem.

Wayne Millner: The one time Salem High School football star (1926-8) went on to play at the University of Notre Dame, where he was a two-time All-American, and the Washington Redskins. The two-way end was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968. (1913-1976)

Nathaniel Bowditch: “Native Son” to Salem, Bowditch found 8,000 errors in the British navigational tables. In 1802, he published The New American Practical Navigator, which became the seaman’s bible. The “Bowditch” has been translated into dozens of languages and has remained the sailor’s bible for more than 70 editions. It is still used on naval vessels today. (1773-1838)

General Casimir Pulaski: The Polish brigadier arrived in the US to assist Washington in the Revolutionary War via Salem Harbor on July 13, 1777.



Joseph Dixon: An inventor and entrepreneur, Joseph Dixon was the founder of what became the Dixon Ticonderoga Company, which started in Salem. The first Dixon graphite pencil was made in Salem, MA. (1829)