Gateway to the Classics: Ruth of Boston by James Otis
Ruth of Boston by  James Otis

The Town of Salem

I had not yet been able to discover any of the dwellings which marked the town of Naumkeag, or Salem, when all the cannon on board our vessel were set off with a great noise. Then, as we came around a point of land, there appeared before our eyes a goodly ship lying at anchor, and beyond her the town that was—much to my disappointment, for I had fancied something grander—made up of a few log houses which seemed rather to be quarters for servants than dwellings for gentlemen's families, although we had been told that the habitations would be rude indeed.


A boat was put into the water from our ship, and as the sailors rowed toward the vessel which was at anchor, I heard my father say to my mother that they were going in quest of Master William Pierce, a London friend of ours.

As we watched, I asked that question which had come often in my mind during the voyage, which was, why this new town that Master Endicott had built should have two names.

Mother told me that the Indians had called the place Naumkeag, and so also did those men who first settled here; but when some of our people came, and gathered around them several from the Plymouth Colony, together with a number of planters who had built themselves homes along the shore, it was decided to name the new town Salem, which means peace, for here it was they hoped to gain that peace which should be on this earth like unto the peace we read of in the Book, which passeth all understanding.

And now before I set down that which we saw, and while you are picturing our company on the deck of the Arabella looking shoreward, impatient to set their feet once more on the earth, let me tell you what I had heard, since we left England, regarding this town of peace, and those of our people, or of other faiths, who settled here two years or more ago.

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