To the editor:
Indians must have lived or hunted in this area before and during the arrival of English colonists. For, according to historian Sidney Perley, the skeletal remains of Native Americans were found on this street.
In 1684, Edward Woolen officially laid out the upper half of what is now Turner Street in Salem as a cartway through his lot. This was later extended by John Turner to run through his property, creating a lane that ran from the main road (Essex Street) to the harbor. In 1794, Turner's Lane, as it was called, became Turner Street.
Without a doubt, the outstanding feature of Turner Street is The House of the Seven Gables, which, by the way, did not exist (except in the mind of Nathaniel Hawthorne) when he wrote his famous novel by that name.
The house on Turner Street that eventually became The House of the Seven Gables was built in 1668 by Capt. John Turner, a wealthy merchant and land investor. It is generally known that the house was altered and enlarged by Turner himself and successive generations of owners.
In 1782, the house was sold to Capt. Samuel Ingersoll. Susan Ingersoll, his daughter, lived there many years as a recluse after she was jilted by her lover, an officer in the Navy who sailed away, never to return.
Miss Ingersoll, a cousin of Nathaniel Hawthorne, devoted her entire life to her unofficially adopted son, Horace Conolly, who was educated for the clergy and later became a lawyer, being admitted to the Essex Bar in 1846. He also pursued a course in medicine, but never obtained a degree in that profession.
After his mother's death in 1858, Conolly took the name "Ingersoll." He began to practice medicine without a license while drinking and mismanaging his large inheritance.
In 1879, Horace Ingersoll was sued by Henry C. Ingerson of Lowell. Ingersoll's house and land on Turner Street were auctioned off in order to satisfy the judgment.
And so, at the age of 71, Horace Ingersoll was forced to poverty, spending his last years in downtown Salem rooms and accepting handouts. He died on Sept. 12, 1894, and, according to published accounts of his funeral and burial, is buried in Charter Street Cemetery in the tomb that formerly housed the remains of Gov. Simon Bradstreet.
The House of the Seven Gables is full of treasures, one of which is a collection of rare books. I spoke with curator Alan Collachicco, who can allow access to this collection at his discretion. You must call ahead of time to schedule an appointment.
Included in the collection are many first editions of Hawthorne's works, Susan Ingersoll's Book of Common Prayer, and several titles that date to the 17th century.