Some of these marker features are starting to come together

I only showed you a few of the flowers from the fresh cut collection currently adorning the house. In addition to the pretty purples, we have these delicate pink and white petals ready to spread their grandeur.

I’m choosing to see this as a sign, and a welcome one, that the pastels are on their way.

Meanwhile, in the basement arboretum, there are now three pink roses in bloom. Another plant also has two flowers on display. They seem to be sticking around for a good long while. It could be my imagination, or it could be the long grow light and light watering.

I’m going to have to carry those plants back up and outside eventually. There’s only eight of them, so it’ll be little trouble. But I’ll also have to clean up that part of the basement, too. That might be the one thing about the eventual run up to spring I’m dreading. It’ll take probably 10 minutes. But that’s still some ways off. Snow is in the forecast for the weekend.

It is time for another installment of We Learn Wednesdays. This is the 25th installment, so you know the premise by now. I ride my bike across the county to find the local historical markers. Right now, we’re working our way through a handful I stockpiled in late fall. These are the 45th and 46th markers we’ve seen in the series.

And this building has some proper history to it.

This side was altered in the last expansion, including the brick work, the Palladian windows and the porch. The cupola, hip roof and box cornice are original.

In 1774, the courthouse was the site of a county petition to King George III. In it, the locals discussed their colonial grievances. From here, they also sent county relief to Boston.

Judge William Hancock presided in the King’s Court of Common Pleas. As we learned last October, Hancock’s property, about five miles away, was at the center of a skirmish during the harsh winter of 1778. The British were foraging on this side of a creek, and the colonials on the other side. The redcoats crossed the water and fixed bayonets. When they came upon Hancock’s house, the British entered through the front and the back, and killed the small detachment of militia men there that night, 20 or so, according to the British commander. But also killed was Judge Hancock.

That same year, the courthouse held the treason trials. Four locals were tried and convicted and sentenced to death for helping the British soldiers in that raid. They were pardoned by the governor and exiled. The governor would eventually sign the U.S. Constitution.

The oldest courthouse, by the way, is in Virginia, and it is only a decade older. But the first courthouse here was even older. A building that they believe was made of logs, was the local legal center dating back to 1692. And they paper records from hearings that are dated 1706. But if it’s the still-standing buildings, the Virginia courthouse has the honors, but that pile of bricks in Virginia doesn’t have this bit of trivia.

The Salem courthouse is the site of the legend of Robert Gibbon Johnson. Here he stood before an amazed crowd eating tomatoes, proving they are edible.

Col. Johnson announced that he would eat a tomato, also called the wolf peach, Jerusalem apple or love apple, on the steps of the county courthouse at noon. … That morning, in 1820, about 2000 people were jammed into the town square. … The spectators began to hoot and jeer. Then, 15 minutes later, Col. Johnson emerged from his mansion and headed up Market Street towards the Courthouse. The crowd cheered. The fireman’s band struck up a lively tune. He was a very impressive-looking man as he walked along the street. He was dressed in his usual black suit with white ruffles, black shoes and gloves, tricorn hat, and cane. At the Court House steps he spoke to the crowd about the history of the tomato. … He picked a choice one from a basket on the steps and held it up so that it glistened in the sun. … “To help dispel the tall tales, the fantastic fables that you have been hearing … And to prove to you that it is not poisonous I am going to eat one right now”… There was not a sound as the Col. dramatically brought the tomato to his lips and took a bite. A woman in the crowd screamed and fainted but no one paid her any attention; they were all watching Col. Johnson as he took one bite after another. … He raised both his arms, and again bit into one and then the other. The crowd cheered and the firemen’s band blared a song. … “He’s done it”, they shouted. “He’s still alive!”

Great story. Pure fiction. It was written in the 1940s, punched up twice more in that decade for books and radio. And so on. In the 1980s, the locals did a reenactment. In 1988, Good Morning America took it to heart and reported this apocryphal first.

Everybody knew about tomatoes.

Where that crowd would have supposedly stood there are some pavers on the ground. And here is another marker, and an absent piece of history. This marker says “Il Sannito. Forged in Naples, Italy in 1763.” There’s a list of the groups who’s donations made a restoration possible. And notes that it was re-dedicated on October 30, 2013, to commemorate the cannon’s “250th birthday.”

And that cannon could really blow out some candles, let me tell you. Il Sannito isn’t in place, but one of its sister cannons is, and we met it in September. There were three cannons, originally. The Italians made them, but Napoleon collected them in one of his battles. The French fought with them, until they lost them to the British and then the British lost them to the Americans in the War of 1812. The state militia got them sometime after that. These two have been on display in local towns, the third one is just … gone.

And where is Il Sannito? There are not, and this will come as a surprise to you as it did to me, not a lot of mentions of 18th century Italian metalworks in the middle of a 21st century town not too far removed from being a news desert. From a photo on the Historical Marker Database and Google Maps’ street view, I can tell you it was removed again between July of 2020 and April of 2023. But that’s all I know as of this writing. This is what it looks like, so if you see any cannons behaving suspiciously … drop me a line.

Next week, we’ll walk around the side of the old courthouse. I bet we’ll find a marker there. If you’ve missed any markers so far, you can find them all right here.

Let’s wrap up this day with a trip back under the water. Look! A mermaid!

Seriously, she does not breathe. I don’t know how she manages that. I started looking for gills on this dive trip.

I started looking, but then I got distracted by this tortuga.

That’s a photo taken through the video recording on my underwater camera. Distressingly, the secondary function of my video camera which shoots underwater is not of a terribly high quality.

Here’s an actual photo. Same tortuga.

A version of that photo is going on the site’s front page eventually. The first updates on that are coming tomorrow. Be sure to swing back by and check that out. And if you come back to the blog tomorrow, you’ll see more of that turtle, and a few other neat things as well.

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