How does one celebrate #SinglesAwarenessDay in Salem, Massachusetts? By remembering some of our most famous singles from Salem’s history of course. Whether by choice (or not), religious preference, or even sabotage, Salem has seen its share of notable singles over the years:
Reverend William Bentley (1759 – 1819) was someone who today we may refer to as a gossiper, or at the very least a nosy neighbor. Local historians have numerous accounts from his diary which include candid entries where he recorded very opinionated views of his neighbors and events around town. His diary makes note of everything from what the weather was like on any given day, to which of the townspeople had died and how, to his various opinions on the businesses of others around him. Aside from his famed diary, Reverend Bentley is most well-known for his work as the pastor of the East Church from 1783. He was a progressive theologian for the time, who also influential in leading the development of Unitarianism in New England, and in allowing the East Church to promote both political and religious liberalism in Salem.
Susanna Ingersoll (1783 – 1858) was born and raised in the historical house we know as the House of the Seven Gables. Susanna inherited a good deal of money and property, including the house, upon the death of her mother in 1811. Susanna proved herself to be extraordinarily astute when it came to business matters. During the war of 1812 when British ships were patrolling off of the coast, ships that Susanna most likely could have spied from her upstairs windows, the new nation attempted to weather its first military conflict. During the years of the war, from 1812 – 1815, when people along the coast were fleeing the threatening British, Susanna purchased an unprecedented 17 properties. By the time of her death at the age of 72, Susanna had purchased, mortgaged, and sold well over 70 properties making her the wealthiest land-rich female in New England. In the 1840s Susanna was determined to be worth $250,000.00, an enormous sum at that time which would translate to several million dollars in today’s values. Wealthy, propertied, and secure in her social status, she was truly one of Salem’s notable women and as she was identified in all of her legal documents, she was Susanna Ingersoll, Singlewoman.
Mary Crowninshield Silbee (1809 – 1887), the daughter of Senator Nathaniel Silsbee grew up in Salem on Daniels Street. Mary was rumored to have been engaged to Nathaniel Hawthorne after she had a portrait painted depicting her with a mysterious hunter who resembled the author. Sophia Peabody, who later married Hawthorne, threatened to “put Miss Mary out of the window” in a letter to her sister, and Hawthorne’s involvement with Mary ended soon thereafter. Though Sophia suffered from crippling headaches, which at first prevented her from marrying, her relationship with Nathaniel Hawthorne moved along much quicker once Mary was no longer an issue.
Frederick Townsend Ward (1831 – 1862) was a Salem-born sailor and military commander whose troops supported the Qing Dynasty during the Taiping Rebellion. He left Salem at the age of 15 when he travelled to Mexico hoping to participate in the war going on there. Shortly after this, he began taking up odd jobs on various ships and countries across the globe before ultimately settling in Shanghai where he was asked to lead a group in the Rebellion. During the Taiping Rebellion, Ward and his troops celebrated numerous victories in their battles overseas and they eventually became known as The Ever Victorious Army. Ward makes our list of Salem’s singles due to his unfortunate death in battle: After suffering (and overcoming) 14 previous injuries, a shot to the abdomen in 1862 ultimately caused the commander’s death.
Rose Hawthorne Lathrop (1851 – 1926), the daughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Sophia Peabody, was briefly married to George Parsons Lathrop. After their separation, Rose began to help terminally ill cancer patients who did not have the financial means to pay for treatment. Rose ensured her legacy when she became Mother Mary Alphonsa and founded an order of nuns based on the medical work she had started. Today the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne, now based in Hawthorne, NY continue to help terminally ill patients who cannot afford their medical care.
Caroline Emmerton (1866 – 1942) was the founder of The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association. In 1908, she purchased the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion and spent two years renovating the home into a museum. When the museum opened in 1910 she used proceeds from admissions to support settlement work and other programs for newly arriving immigrant families. Some of the settlement house programs she started included medical clinics, citizenship classes, English language classes, and sewing to assist new citizens. The Gables continues to offer educational programming today, and currently holds the distinction of being both a museum and a settlement house, the only organization of its kind in the United States. Miss Emmerton never married and dedicated her entire life to service and philanthropy in Salem.