Cruising Salem Harbor in 1800 with Reverend William Bentley


August 11, 2021, 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM



According to his diary, Reverend William Bentley seemed to be everywhere. During this virtual presentation, Mr. Friary will appear in the guise of the Reverend Bentley, reflecting on his 35-year tenure as pastor of the East Church in Salem, as recorded in the diary he kept from his ordination in 1784 until his death in 1819. Mr. Bentley walked frequently along the shore in Salem and nearby communities, swam and fished in the cold waters of Salem Harbor, and cruised Salem Sound on the Customs Boat or Revenue Cutter and in private vessels of his Salem neighbors, including George Crowninshield. 

He saw Salem’s ship captains departing for and returning from voyages around the world to bring exotic goods and new ideas to their home port. Mr. Bentley saw beached whales, shipwrecks, a seven-foot shark, seals and porpoises, lobsters and crabs. He noted ropewalks, shipyards, cooperages, and fish flakes, as well as privateers and smugglers. He was saddened by drownings and marveled at the frozen harbor. He knew all the islands—Bakers, the Miseries, Orne’s, Eagle, Cat, Ram—and impediments to navigation—Half-Way Rock, Kettle Bottom, Abbott’s Rocks, Bowditch’s Ledge. Join us to hear William Bentley’s recollections of life by and on the water in Salem during the Great Age of Sail.