This Halloween, Essex Heritage – known for connecting people to the unique places around Essex County – is taking people back to the Victorian era with a fundraising party at Peirce Farm at Witch Hill in Topsfield on All Hallows’ Eve Eve (October 30 at 6:30 PM). After hearing historically relevant haunting tales in the manor house, guests will enjoy bewitching cocktails, Victorian games, and music in the barn.
Peirce Farm at Witch Hill has been part of Essex County’s rich history dating back to the 17th century. In fact, the foundation still includes some portions of the original 1690s farmhouse where Mary Easty’s son, Isaac, lived. It is believed Mary Easty (1634-1692) hid in the cellar of the property when she was arrested – for a second time – on accusations of being a witch. From Isaac’s home, Mary was taken to Beadle’s Tavern in Salem town for her pre-trial examination and later was indicted on two charges of witchcraft. She was jailed in Ipswich then Boston, and was hanged that fall.
In the 18th century, Captain Benjamin Crowninshield transformed the Easty Farm into a stylish rural country retreat, and in doing so, he and others like him, ushered in a trend that would help to preserve Topsfield’s historic agricultural resources for many years to come.
Railroad tycoon Thomas Wentworth Peirce (1818–1885) further enhanced the home and the stables creating a 500 hundred-acre gentleman’s retreat in the 19th Century. A railroad siding beside the house even accommodated his private train car, a rare luxury.
Today, the property’s décor has been recreated in the styles of T.W. Peirce, and is open to the public for events and corporate meetings. In the fall of 2014 the property was purchased by Essex Heritage Trustee Sean Ward and his business partner Michael Gutman who intend to make the property a place that lots of people can share. They believe that it is each generation’s responsibility to be the custodians of the treasures of our past and to ensure that future generations will have the fortune of experiencing them. In order to achieve this, they “repurpose, reclaim and reuse” as much as they can, and the unique history of the property is evident in all they have accomplished.
“Our mission is to engage the public in sustaining the exceptional places that make this region so unique” explained Essex Heritage CEO Annie Harris. “We hope to inspire Essex County residents and visitors to make meaningful connections to places like Peirce Farm through fun events like the Haunting at Witch Hill.”
The Haunting at Witch Hill, sponsored by Salem Five Bank and the Topsfield Fair, is a fun fundraiser for Essex Heritage, now celebrating 20 years of preserving and enhancing the unique natural, cultural and historic places of the region for the benefit of all who live, work and visit. Tickets are available online and include haunting tales, a drink ticket, and light hors d’oeuvres. Victorian attire is encouraged. Visit EssexHeritage.org/HauntingWitchHill for tickets and more information.