By Trish Milburn
One of my favorite school subjects has always been history, particularly American history. One of my minors in college was in History. So it's no surprise that I love visiting historic sites be they homes, battlefields, roads, whatever.
Growing up in the South, you can almost pitch a rock in any direction and hit something that has a tie to the Civil War. Historic re-enactments almost always pit the blue against the gray. But one of my favorite periods in American History is actually Colonial/Revolution. So this summer when I had the opportunity to visit New England for the first time, I was mucho excited. I was going to see places that really helped to shape our country before it even became the United States of America.
There have been times when I've visited a place of such historical significance that it was surreal. I felt that way the first time I visited Washington, D.C., in high school. All those monuments, the Smithsonian, the White House -- those were things that you just saw on the nightly news. Several years later, I took a driving trip out West and stopped at several points along the Oregon Trail in Nebraska and Wyoming. There are parts such as Windlass Hill in Western Nebraska where you can still see the ruts from the wagons that were headed west along the Oregon Trail. Fast forward to 2003 and my first trip to New York City. I had the same surreal feeling when I visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
This summer, I experienced it again when I stopped at Minute Man National Historic Park outside of Boston. Here I walked along the road (pictured here) that Paul Revere rode down to warn the countryside that the British were coming. The park and the Battle Road commemorate the famous Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, the beginning of the American Revolution. I stood in the middle of the road and was hit with an overwhelming sense of history.
The big destination for my trip, however, was Salem, Massachusetts, set of the infamous witch trials in 1692. I have a YA paranormal trilogy coming out next year, and books 2 and 3 take place in Salem, so I wanted to see it firsthand. I walked all over town, and you can tell how steeped the town is in its witch history. Museums dedicated to the witch trials, businesses with names like the Witch's Brew Cafe, and visitors touring cemeteries. There's also a memorial comprised of 20 carved stone benches. Each one lists the name of one of the victims of the trials, when they died and how they died. 19 people were hanged and one pressed to death as a result of the hysteria that had no basis.
In nearby Marblehead, I visited the grave of Wilmot Redd, the only person from Marblehead to be executed for being a witch.
Another must-see in Salem is a literary landmark. The famed House of the Seven Gables (pictured), made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne, sits overlooking the harbor.
They have a very nice tour that takes you through the circa 1668 house and showcases its history and construction. I happened to visit on Hawthorne's birthday, so everyone was in a festive mood. Also on the property is Nathaniel Hawtorne's birthplace and a nice gift shop where I just might have purchased some witch-themed novels and a very pretty pair of earrings. :)
Now I'm curious -- do you enjoy visiting historical sites? If so, what kinds in particular? Have you ever visited a site where you really felt the history of the place? If so, where? And tell us about your favorite historic site.