The Old Town Pump

Old Town Pump

Take not away the old town pump,
But bid it adorn the place where it stands!
A graceful structure instead of a stump
Of an upright post with its awkward hands.
Take not away the old town pump.

We should miss the picture it gives the street,
The oxen, the horses, the loads of hay,
The "give me to drink," the friends that greet.
The weary travelers, the children at play.
Take not away the old town pump.
Lydia L. A. Very.

The Town Pump The old public pumps of Salem were located on the principal thoroughfares, and, like sentinels, stood at their respective posts of duty through summer and winter, in sunshine and storm, ever extending their long arms ready to receive the hand of each and every person passing that way who might wish for refreshment from their cool fountains. The march of improvement many years ago removed them, and only the citizens on the downward incline of life remember how they looked.

The town undoubtedly furnished drinking places for horses and cattle very early in its history; but probably provided no means for travelers and citizens to slake their thirst at a public pump until after the Revolution. "The town pump" is first mentioned, as far as the investigations of the writer have revealed, in 1788, and was situated in the middle of the upper end of what is now Summer Street, in front of the "Witchhouse." In that year, the land on the western corner of Summer and Essex streets was described as lying near "the town pump."

This pump was located where it would be passed by nearly every team entering and leaving the town, the only exceptions being the teams that might pass from North through Lynde street (that part of Federal street formerly known as Marlborough street, and that part of Bridge street back of the court houses not being in existence), and those coming from Marblehead and passing down Mill and Norman streets, instead of Summer street. Beverly Bridge was not then constructed, and Beverly teams came by way of Danversport through North Street. The travel from the west came down Essex Street; and Summer Street was the great road to Marblehead.

From the time of the Revolution for more than half a century the travel past this pump of heavy teams from New Hampshire and Vermont towns was enormous. They carried the foreign commodities from the warehouses here to the stores of those states, where they were sold to the consumers. Teams rarely passed, coming or going, without testing the quality of the water provided for them.

In 1806, was established a wood market on the south side of Essex Street, westerly from Summer, a hay market on the westerly side of Summer Street, and stands for dealers in country produce on the south side of Essex Street next easterly of this pump. Thus it was, in 1806 and later, in the middle of the market of wood, hay and country produce.

The above cut is a copy of a drawing of this old pump made by E. A. Cabot in 1841. A few years later it was removed and a modern round, upright pump put in its place.

AHGP Massachusetts

Source: The Essex Antiquarian, Volume V, No. 6, May 1901

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