Sunday, February 12, 2012

Reverend Bentley Returns to Salem

After 200 Years, the Rev. William Bentley
Returns to Salem to Reminisce, Observe,
and Gossip about the People He Knew

Donald Friary as Rev. Bentley
After 200 years, the diarist and irrepressible gossip Reverend William Bentley, S.T.D., will return to Salem to discuss his life as Pastor to the East Parish from 1783 to 1819. Dr. Bentley will discuss the people he knew, including the Derbys and Crowninshields, when Salem was at its peak, trading at ports around the globe. He will also recall the darker side of life in Salem – the disabled mariners, impoverished widows, deranged and dissolute folk he visited in their mean waterfront lodgings and in the almshouse on Salem Neck.

Rev. Bentley (aka Donald Friary) will hold forth on Wednesday, February 15 at 7:30 p.m. at Salem’s Old Town Hall, 32 Derby Square. Tickets are $10 general admission, and $5 for students. Tickets may be purchased in advance at or at the door.

“It’s magical to have the Reverend Bentley reappear after all these years,” says David Goss, the Director of Gordon College’s Institute for Public History. “He knew everyone and everything, he was wise and observant, and has a lot to say.”

Humor aside, the Rev. Bentley will be portrayed by Donald Friary, the retired director of Historic Deerfield and a highly regarded historian, author, speaker, and consultant. Audiences love Friary’s portrayal of Bentley, even though Bentley was quite rotund and Friary is not!

Rev. Bentley’s visit kicks off the 2012 Old Town Hall Lecture Series. This year’s theme is “doing history” differently – meaning, how do we teach history in ways that will engage people, and make “history” interesting and relevant? That is the mission of Gordon College’s Institute for Public History, and that is the goal of the 2012 Old Town Hall Lecture Series. Friary’s portrayal of the Rev. Bentley will prove the point.

Upcoming Old Town Hall Lectures include:

March 21: Bonnie Hurd Smith on her new book, We Believe in You: 12 Stories of Courage, Action, and Faith from Massachusetts Women’s History

April 18: Maryellen Smiley, curator, on the history of Brookhouse Residence for Women in Salem

May 16: Andrew Giles Buckley, WGBH producer, on the 1787 Columbia Expedition, the first American trade voyage around the globe that had ties to Salem

Jun 20: Brunonia Barry on her new book – details to be announced!

For information on the Old Town Hall Lectures Series, visit

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