The Endicott Estate

In the Herald-Citizen 5/14/2021.

The Glen Magna mansion in May 2021.

Glen Magna, the beautiful mansion at the center of Endicott Park, started as a haven from the British during the War of 1812, and went on to become a center of high society, and the site of a near-assassination of the British politician who governed the worldwide British Empire.

During the War of 1812, Salem merchant Joseph Peabody moved to Danvers because he feared that the New England coast could be attacked by the British Royal Navy, with the port of Salem a likely target. Peabody rented the inland farm in Danvers from Capt. Jonathan Ingersoll, a shipmaster in Salem, and later purchased it in 1814.

A cousin of George Peabody, the famous London banker and philanthropist, Joseph Peabody was the wealthiest ship-owner in Salem until his death in 1844. His fleet of merchant ships traversed the globe, trading in ports in Europe, Africa, and the East Indies. He bought additional nearby land, and increased the estate’s size to 300 acres. As a very wealthy man, Peabody greatly enlarged the mansion on the property, which served as a private home for more than 140 years.

Joseph Peabody (1757-1854), Salem merchant. Wikimedia Commons.

Peabody became an integral part of business in Danvers in addition to his Salem ties, and employed many Danversport men on his ships. One Danversite in his employ was William Endicott, who served on Peabody’s ship Glide that was wrecked in 1829 on an island near Fiji inhabited by cannibals. Endicott survived, living among the natives for four months before he was rescued, and his story became famous among the seamen of Salem.

After Peabody died, the farm was inherited by his daughter Ellen Peabody Endicott and her husband William Crowninshield Endicott Sr. – the son of the William Endicott who sailed on Peabody’s ship Glide. This family traced its roots back to the Crowninshields of Salem, another wealthy family in the maritime trade, but also to the Endicott family of Danvers, descendants of Governor John Endicott, the first resident Governor of Massachusetts, whose farm had been along Endicott Street.

William Crowninshield Endicott Sr. was a successful lawyer, a Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Massachusetts. In 1885 President Grover Cleveland appointed him to be Secretary of War, a role that he held until 1889. While living at Glen Magna, Endicott and Ellen Peabody had two children, William Crowninshield Endicott Jr. and Mary Endicott, who were raised among the political elite and high society.

Due to Endicott’s official position, many important figures in world politics and society visited him at Glen Magna and in Washington, including the British Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain. As this was the height of the British Empire, Chamberlain was one of the most powerful figures in the world, managing an Empire on which the sun never set. Soon after he first met Endicott’s daughter Mary at a British Embassy ball in Washington in 1888, Chamberlain proposed to her, and the President was in attendance at their wedding.

Joseph Chamberlain and Mary Endicott Chamberlain in 1903. British National Portrait Gallery.

The married couple spent most of their time in England where Chamberlain served in the cabinet and on Her Majesty’s Privy Council, governing Queen Victoria’s realm. In England, the couple was at the height of power of influence, with Mary Endicott Chamberlain accompanying her husband on official visits to various British overseas colonies and Dominions.

The portico side of Glen Magna, May 2021.

They summered at Glen Magna in Danvers, where Joseph Chamberlain temporarily established his office, and while not working he designed one of the estate’s elaborate manicured gardens, known still as the Chamberlain Garden. He often brought his children from two previous marriages to Glen Magna, including future Nobel Peace Prize-winning British Foreign Minister Austen Chamberlain, and also future Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. Infamous today, Neville Chamberlain is known for his policy of appeasement in the 1930s that allowed Hitler to take Austria and Czechoslovakia and rebuild the German Army without any consequences.

While Joseph Chamberlain was fêted in London as a leading advocate of British imperialism, his policies were less popular in America. Chamberlain was loathed by Irish Americans for his decades-long opposition to Irish Home Rule – the movement to allow Ireland, a British colony for centuries, a degree of self-government. Additionally, during the Boer War in South Africa (1899-1901), Chamberlain’s office led the war effort that included the world’s first modern system of concentration camps, in which the wives and children of the Dutch Boers were imprisoned and starved. They were only given sufficient food if their husbands gave up fighting, as a way to convince the Boers to surrender to British troops.

Boston Globe, October 27, 1902.

During one summer visit to Glen Magna, Mary Endicott Chamberlain was sitting with Joseph Chamberlain on a bench in the elaborate gardens when he was nearly killed. An assassin, enraged by Chamberlain’s oppression of the Irish, crept up to the hedge behind the couple with the goal of killing the Colonial Secretary. However, upon seeing him sitting beside his wife, he wavered, not wishing to murder him in front of her, and the assassin was then caught by the British security detail.

The estate stayed in the Endicott family through the first half of the 20th century. In 1901 Ellen Peabody Endicott, wife of William Crowninshield Endicott Sr., purchased the Derby Summer House – also known as the Tea House, the small two-story structure built in 1793 by Samuel McIntire for Elias Haskett Derby – and moved it to Glen Magna, where it now stands. 

The summer house was willed to the Danvers Historical Society in 1958 by Louisa Thoron Endicott, the wife of William Crowninshield Endicott Jr., and a few years later, the whole estate was put up for sale and expected to be subdivided into 276 house lots.  In 1963 the Danvers Historical Society purchased the central portion of the Glen Magna Estate to preserve the historic mansion, and after a public campaign by local residents the Town purchased the rest of the property to establish Endicott Park and save the open land from development.


“A Topic of Discussion.” Boston Daily Globe, November 11, 1888.

“Chamberlain Going to South Africa.” Boston Daily Globe, October 27, 1902.

“Danvers Buys 130-Acre Estate For Green Belt, Recreation.” Boston Globe, July 19, 1694.

Danvers Historical Society. “Glen Magna Farms.” Danvers Historical Society, 2020.

———. “National Historic Landmark, Derby Summer House.” Danvers Historical Society, 2020.

Endicott, William. Wrecked among Cannibals in the Fijis: A Narrative of Shipwreck and Adventure in the South Seas. Salem, Mass.: Marine Research Society, 1923.

Forman, Ethan. “First Phase of Work on Tea House Complete, $100K in Work Remains.” Salem News. Accessed July 21, 2020.

“His Treaty of Love.” Boston Daily Globe (1872-1922). November 15, 1888.

Marris, N. Murrell. The Right Honourable Joseph Chamberlain: The Man and the Statesman. London: Hutchinson, 1900.

Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Maritime History of Massachusetts, 1783-1860. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1921.

 “Night Was Long, Costly for Many Voters: Danvers $270,000 Appropriated To Buy Endicott Estate.” Boston Globe (1960-1989). March 19, 1963.

Philpott, A. J. “Chamberlain’s Wife Puritan Aristocrat.” Boston Daily Globe (1872-1922). July 5, 1914.

Tapley, Harriet S. Chronicles of Danvers (Old Salem Village), Massachusetts, 1632-1923. Danvers, Mass.: The Danvers Historical Society, 1923.

“The Bridegroom Cometh.” Boston Daily Globe, November 13, 1888.

“To Marry the MP.” Boston Daily Globe (1872-1922). November 8, 1888.

Trask, Richard B. Danvers: From 1850 to 1899. Images of America. Dover, NH: Arcadia, 1996.

“Treaty Concluded.” Boston Daily Globe. November 16, 1888.

The Danvers Library and Its Benefactor, George Peabody

(In the Danvers Herald, April 18, 2019)

Danvers Library 2019 - Dan Gagnon
(Peabody Institute Library, Danvers, 2019. Author’s photo)

Danvers’ Peabody Institute Library, one of several “Peabody Institutes” across the United States, is named for noted philanthropist and Danvers native George Peabody. He was born in 1795 in the South Parish of Danvers, which later became the Town of South Danvers and is now the City of Peabody.

File:George Peabody House.JPG
(George Peabody House Museum, Peabody, Mass. Source:

George Peabody grew up poor and received little education (this was before Danvers had a public high school), so he went to work at age 12 as a clerk. He volunteered as a soldier in the War of 1812, and then returned to work in various dry-goods stores. He later impressed a wealthy merchant in New York and became his business partner.

Peabody later moved to London and established his own bank, George Peabody & Co. As a banker, he loaned money to foreign kingdoms and empires, and helped establish the credit of the US Treasury abroad. George Peabody and Co. still exists, though it was renamed a generation later to the probably more familiar “J.P. Morgan & Co.” Peabody never married or had a family, and he chose Morgan’s father as his protégé. Peabody’s bank is the predecessor to the present-day banks J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley.

Away in London in 1852, Peabody regretted that he could not attend the celebrations of Danvers’ 100th anniversary. As an invited guest of honor, he had the privilege of giving a toast at the banquet, which followed a grand parade. Instead, Peabody sent a sealed envelope containing a toast that was dramatically read at the gala: “Education, a debt due from past to future generations.” Putting his money where his mouth was, the envelope also included an announcement that he was donating $20,000 to establish a library for Danvers.

When he finally returned home in 1856, he received a hero’s welcome. Having split only one year prior, both Danvers and South Danvers gave a joint reception for Peabody, who visited his hometown as his first stop back in the US. He arrived at the Maple St. Church in Danvers Square and was greeted by a one-hundred gun volley. From there, a parade travelled across town and through triumphal arches erected for the occasion, as people threw flowers and cannon salutes boomed.

That day he told a group of children from his former neighborhood, “(Your) early opportunities and advantages are not very much greater than were my own, and I have since achieved nothing that is impossible to the most humble boy among you.”

Peabody Mural - Richard V. Ellery
(Mural in the Danvers library depicting George Peabody’s return to Danvers based on drawings from the time. The mural was done by Danvers artist Richard V. Ellery as part of the Works Progress Administration’s art projects during the Great Depression. Author’s photo.)

Although stingy and thrifty in his personal life – a holdover from his impoverished childhood – he is remembered as “the father of modern philanthropy” for donating the majority of his fortune to educational institutions in America and to the Peabody Trust, which continues his mission to provide affordable housing to over 110,000 Londoners. He was admired for his charity in London, where even British nobility attended his American Independence Day party each July 4th.

In addition to the libraries of Danvers, Peabody, and Georgetown, his donations established the Peabody Academy of Sciences (now the Peabody Essex Museum) in Salem. Focused on education, Peabody donated to many universities across the United States. Harvard University, Yale University, and Phillips Academy, Andover have museums named in his honor.

Peabody made subsequent visits home with large receptions each time, and donated more than $100,000 towards the Peabody Institute, Danvers. In 1869 he returned for the dedication of the Institute, built at Peabody Park in Danvers along the banks of the Mill Pond. Guests who attended the events at the Institute  that week included Senator Charles Sumner and Oliver Wendell Holmes.

The original building was a Gothic Revival structure. It caught fire in 1890, though many books and a large portrait of Peabody (that still hangs in the library today) were saved from the flames. The present structure was built in 1892 on the same spot. It featured a large auditorium and stage for events and lectures, in addition to reading rooms. The auditorium was removed in 1981 and more floors for books were built. During this renovation, space for the children’s room and Danvers Archival Center was added below ground.

Peabody Portrait
(Portrait of George Peabody saved from the fire. It still hangs in the library today. Author’s photo)

Library Auditorium
(The interior of the library showing the auditorium, 1978. Photo by Ron Gagnon)

Remnants of Stage
(Remnants of the auditorium stage seen in 2019. Author’s photo.)

The 1869 trip home for the dedication was Peabody’s last. A statue of him was dedicated later that year outside the Royal Exchange in London, and he died soon after. His last words were, “Danvers, Danvers! Don’t forget!,” referring to his wish to be buried in his hometown. A funeral was held for him at Westminster Abbey in the presence of Queen Victoria, who also rode in his funeral cortège. The Queen admired Peabody, and once offered him a title of nobility, which he refused as an American. Peabody was temporarily buried in the Abbey, the first American to ever be buried there.

(Dedication of Peabody statue, Royal Exchange, London. From the Illustrated London News, July 31, 1869)

File:Funeral of George Peabody at Westminster Abbey, 1869 ILN.jpg
(Peabody’s Funeral at Westminster Abbey. From the Illustrated London News, 1869)

But, Peabody wished to be buried in his hometown. In another first for an American, on the Queen’s orders a squadron of Royal Navy warships transported Peabody’s body across the Atlantic. After another funeral attended by the Queen’s son Prince Arthur in Peabody, Mass. (which changed its name in his honor the previous year), Peabody was buried in Harmony Grove Cemetery, Salem.

In 1995 hundreds of people gathered in Westminster Abbey to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Peabody’ birth, which shows the lasting positive effect of his philanthropy. The event included the organist playing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in the same church in which the British monarchs are crowned.

In March, 2018, Peabody was remembered by Google, which featured an image of him and several educational institutions that he endowed – including the Danvers library – above the search bar on

Google honors George Peabody, considered 'the father
(George Peabody and the Danvers Library on the Google homepage, March, 2018)

In the words of a London pamphlet describing Peabody soon after his death: “He acquired riches for the sake of doing good.”



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