Salem, Massachusetts has five seasons—spring, summer, fall, October, and winter. At least that’s what their tourist pamphlets say, and for good reason. The entire month of October is one big Halloween celebration. My most recent trip involving county collecting included an overnight at the nearby Residence Inn in Danvers, along with an evening wandering the streets of “Witch City.” Though there is plenty of history to explore, during October, everything is focused on anything to do with witches.
There is no need to delve into the sordid history of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Plenty has been written about that. When in Salem, it’s worth visiting the Salem Witch Museum for an overview. Combine that with a walking tour either in the afternoon or for more fun, after dark. Much of the basic information overlaps, but the walking tour provides an opportunity to see a few of the sites associated with the events of 1692. While the city does a pretty good job of explaining its history, the shops and merchants are more than willing to make a buck off Harry Potter, the Wicked Witch of the West, Bewitched, the film Hocus Pocus, or anything that has even a whiff of witchcraft. It’s all in good fun, but in my opinion, it’s a bit over the top.
Salem wasn’t the only stop on the trip, though it was where we spent the most time (it is October, after all). The trip started in Rhode Island with a visit to all 5 counties. Much like Connecticut (see Connecticut's Former County Seats), the counties in Rhode Island are nothing more than lines on a map. Governmental functions are at either the state of city level, though the old county courthouses still exist like this one in Washington County.
It only took a few hours to see all the counties in the state, making Rhode Island the 19th state completed in my ongoing quest to visit every county seat in the United States. In addition to the 5 Rhode Island counties, I stopped in 6 county seats in Massachusetts, 1 in New Hampshire, and 2 in Maine, a total of 14 county seats, though only 12 counties. Why the discrepancy? Well, Essex and Middlesex counties in Massachusetts each have 2 county seats, so naturally I visited both.
Another benefit of being in New England in early October is the chance to see some amazing fall color. While this trip did not involve driving into northern Vermont or New Hampshire, there were a few places in southern Maine that were quite colorful. We spent much of the time while in the car admiring the reds, yellows, and oranges mixed in with the still green foliage on either side of the road, though along the coast in Maine, we did make a stop to enjoy some of the autumnal scenery. Here’s a photo taken at the Rachael Carson National Wildlife Refuge looking across a tidal salt march with the Atlantic Ocean off in the distance.
Despite the fact that county collecting was not the primary purpose of this trip, as I previously mentioned I was able to ‘collect’ 14 more county seats, including a very brief stop in Boston. There will be a return trip there at some point to take in some of the history and culture available. I knew I wouldn't have time this trip, but didn't want to pass up the chance to mail a postcard from Suffolk County, MA when I was in the vicinity. Getting to all the counties in Rhode Island and spending time in Salem in October were the primary goals of this 3-day weekend getaway. Like all my trips that include county collecting, I like to provide my before and after maps to show my continuing progress. So far in 2018, I’ve added 204 postcards to my collection, bringing my total to 2,278 county seats visited. Just 871 to go.
Next on the agenda is a trip to Baltimore at the end of the month, though that will not include any new counties, so the next blog post will be in mid-November, after a 3-day trip to coastal North Carolina. If all goes as planned, I will be able to visit the remaining 32 counties there making NC the 20th state completed.