SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 5, 2013

Powering back in time

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — When Civil War Gen. William Tucumseh Sherman marched South in 1864, announcing, “I intend to make Georgia howl,” he had Gen. Grenville Dodge helping to put the squeeze on the Peach State.

A graduate of Norwich University, Dodge went all the way to Atlanta before he was sidelined after getting shot in the head. An engineer who pioneered in the field of military intelligence, he was later made commander of the Department of Missouri and after the war worked closely on construction of the transcontinental railroad.

At one point, while being chased through the Black Hills by an Indian war party, he found a key route. Dodge was one of those who left his mark in taming the wild West. In fact, the famous cow town Dodge City, Kansas, was named after nearby Fort Dodge, which was named after him. He was later a congressman from Iowa.

And why should you care? Because Dodge is about to leave his mark in downtown Peabody.

And it’s about time — after all, Dodge got his start here in what was then known as South Danvers. The site of his former residence will be part of a guided, hourlong tour of downtown Peabody’s past led by local historian Bill Power on Wednesday, Sept. 25, at 3 p.m. The high point will be the dedication of a plaque marking the general’s home.

The tour is free to anyone who wants to go. It’s sponsored jointly by the Peabody Downtown Association, the Peabody Historical Commission and the Peabody Institute Library. Power, who has worked for both the commission and the Historical Society, will take anyone interested from City Hall to the Peabody Institute Library, discussing along the way 10 historic sites like the Dodge home and the Civil War monument in Peabody Square.

That’s not much ground, but Arthur Gordon of the Downtown Association points out that there is such an abundance of history in Peabody that you can’t cover it all in one sweep.

“That entire area, there’s history with every step you take,” he said.

Refreshments will be provided, Gordon said. To confirm participation or get more information, call 978-532-0229 or email peabodyhistorywalk@gmail.com.

Why South is north

With the 300th anniversary of the South Congregational Church upcoming, minister Grant Hoofnagle solves the church’s great mystery. Why is South Congregational Church located in the north of Peabody?

The answer links to the fact that it’s 300 years old, with roots going back to a time when Peabody wasn’t Peabody. It was part of Salem. With churches already established in what is today downtown Salem and at Salem Village — presently Danvers — “We were the south parish,” he explained.

From God to gas

The beautiful South Congregational Church as it stood in Peabody Square for most of its existence — its replacement can now be found on Prospect Street near Northshore Mall — was eventually torn down, and the District Court stands in its place. But, as an anonymous caller to The Salem News pointed out, the court did not replace the church.

”There was a gas station there,” confirmed Ward 3 City Council candidate and former councilor Bill Toomey, who has been around long enough to remember these things personally. He added that at one point in its history, the church had gun racks in the back.

“They were Minutemen,” he said of the congregation. And they answered the call in 1775 as the British marched north.

He hasn’t been around long enough to remember that personally, however.

Why blue is green

It’s because the Peabody Police Department has issued shirts to its special operations officers made from, well, trash.

Some kind of manufacturing magic goes into transforming the sorts of things pulled from landfills — plastic bottles, cases, keyboards, coconut shells and corn husks — into shirts. Kenai Sports does the resource-friendly trick, according to the department’s Facebook page.

The new shirts will be unveiled Sunday at the International Festival.

Staff writer Alan Burke can be reached at aburke@salemnews.com.