graphic logo

Sunday Lecture: Sauntering with Henry David Thoreau and his Salem Friend, John Lewis Russell

Sunday, February 11, 2024

12:30 pm

Chris Burke

Henry Thoreau and Salem’s John Lewis Russell visited and botanized together in the 1850s. Russell took two trips to Concord and roamed and boated with Thoreau in the Concord woods and on the three rivers of Concord. On September 21,1858 Thoreau came to Salem and stayed with Russell. They took long walks together and explored and recorded what they saw in Salem, Marblehead and around Cape Ann.

John Lewis Russell (1808-1873) lived in Salem on Lafayette Street. Russell was a Harvard Divinity trained Unitarian Minister, but botany was his passion. Russell was the president of the Essex County Natural History Society when it joined with the Essex Historical Society in 1848 to form the Essex Institute. He was an author and expert concerning cryptogams — ferns, mosses and mushrooms.

This talk will focus on what Thoreau and Russell found interesting on their walks and why both men were intellectually prepared for, and unthreatened by, Charles Darwin’s revolutionary theories, while their mutual friend Louis Agassiz clung to scientific dead ends.

Chris Burke is married to Denise Regan and has lived in Salem since 1982. He graduated from Boston College and Suffolk Law School. He served as a public defender in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and now works as a criminal defense attorney with an office in Lynn. Chris, along with Bruce Piper, established the local non-profit “The Salem Native Nursery” which advocates for planting native plants in gardens and landscapes.

Location:Pickering House: 18 Broad Street, Salem

Ticket Information