, Salem, MA


June 22, 2013

Letter: Let’s find a way to save Pioneer Village

To the editor:

As a 5-year-old participant in the pageantry surrounding the dedication and opening of Pioneer Village in 1930, I read with interest the decision of Gordon College to end its affiliation with Pioneer Village.

I am certainly grateful to Gordon College for assuming responsibility to operate this valuable educational tool and important historical icon for the past five years, and for its upkeep of some of the buildings. But I have great concern about the future stewardship of this valuable memorial to Salem’s history. Will it be neglected? Deteriorate? Disappear?

Well, I just returned from a visit there, and it appears it has already experienced some degree of deterioration. Not that I could see much, since it is so overgrown with every bit of flora Salem has to offer. Most striking was the lack of thatch on the cottage roofs. I remember years ago how experts in thatching were hired from Ireland to maintain the handsome, thatched roofs of Salem’s little village.

I’m not sure how many Salem residents are aware that Pioneer Village is America’s first living history museum — the prototype for Williamsburg, Plimoth Plantation and many, many others. Built on 3 acres, nestled between forest and ocean in South Salem, it contains various examples of 17th century Colonial architecture: wigwams, dugouts, thatched roof cottages, and the governor’s house. Early Colonial life is re-enacted by the blacksmith, fishermen drying fish on rustic frames, husbandry with a variety of animals and fowl, medicinal and culinary gardens, spinning ladies, and primitive kitchens featuring huge kettles bubbling away over open fires. I remember vividly how punishment was meted out — a dipping stool, the offender on a stool at the end of a long pole, dipped repeatedly into the pond — or for lesser offenses, confined to the stocks.

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