Mariners worked in a most dangerous profession: Storms, disease, pirates and other hazards they encountered claimed many a life. Occasionally, a seaman got lucky. In 1647, a local vessel was ambushed by Indians, and all but 12-year-old Aaron Lee were killed. The youngster was enslaved by his captors and raised for the next three years in their ways. He eventually escaped and made his way home, where he arrived, utterly unrecognizable even to his mother, just as his family was sitting down to dinner.
Even as the town was establishing itself as a manufacturing center, led by John Perry Allen’s cabinet- and veneer-making business, which sold product nationwide and employed as many as 100 workers at a time, some had trouble giving up the seafaring life. The story is told of a retired sea captain, Samuel Allen, who was transporting crops into town with a team of oxen when he encountered a near-hysterical shipowner whose vessel was loaded and ready to sail but whose skipper had no-showed. The opportunity was too good to pass up. Sixty-five days later, after a very successful fishing venture, Samuel Allen was reunited with his family and retired again, presumably for good, to the farm.
Salem historian Jim McAllister writes a regular column for The Salem News.