Historical Building of the Week: A house of many names

Old Brig/Edward Diamond/Moll Pitcher House – 42 Orne St.


Historical Photos: Live Photos 11/11

There’s something magical about Marblehead, and, no I’m not talking about the school mascot. At the intersection of Orne Street and Pearl Street, there is a font of supernatural energy. Or ancient ley lines. Or maybe a really big crystal under the earth. Whatever causes magic (and yes, for the sake of this article, magic is real) is under this intersection. Sure, the houses there are unassuming historic buildings that look like all the others that make up the Historic District. But one of these houses produced two supernatural people– that cannot be a coincidence.

The building at 42 Orne St. goes by many names: the Old Brig, the Moll Pitcher House, and the Edward Dimond House. Records show that the house was built in 1650 using parts of an old wooden ship– only 42 years before the Salem Witch Trials. 

Edward Dimond (sometimes Diamond), also called John Dimon was born in 1641 in Marblehead and lived at 42 Orne St.. Around town, he was well-known as a magician, garnering the nicknames “Magician of Marblehead, and “Wizard Dimon.” Nearby the Old Brig is the Old Burial Hill. Legends say, atop this hill, Dimond would watch all the boats in the harbor. Supposedly, Dimond could control the sea, making sure sailors he liked made it home safely, while those who crossed him would be swept away forever.

In addition to his Poseidon-like powers, Dimond also used his magical powers to help those on land. One story suggests that a widow came to him after a thief stole her firewood. Somehow, he used magic to expose the thief and cast a spell on him, making him walk back and forth to the widow’s house with a log on his back, returning the wood he stole. He died in 1732.

His legacy lived on in his granddaughter, Mary Pitcher (nee. Diamond), born in the 1730s. Sometime after marrying her father’s apprentice, Robert Pitcher, Mary began reading tea leaves. Her reputation grew as a fortune teller, and at some point became known as Moll Pitcher. 

In the 50 years Pitcher worked as a clairvoyant, she made many prophecies. Some say that her reputation for correct prophecies gained her international fame. There is even one claim that George Washington consulted her, though I cannot find any solid evidence of that. There is, however, a1906 postcard of Pitcher at the Lynn Public Library with the caption, “Born at the Old Brig, Marblehead, and prophesied the Battle of Bunker Hill.” If even one of these claims are true, it seems that Pitcher was a part of Marblehead’s revolutionary past. 

Pitcher died in 1813, but lives on in a 900-line poem written by Massachusetts-native poet John Greenleaf Whittier: “She stood upon a bare tall craig / Which overlooked her rugged cot – / A wasted, gray, and meagre hag, / In featured evil as her lot. / She had the crooked nose of a witch, / And a crooked back and chin; / And in her gait she had a hitch, / And in her hand she carried a switch, / To aid her work of sin, -”

The house that both of these magical Marbleheaders lived in, the Old Brig, still stands today. 109 years since Pitcher’s death, perhaps Marblehead is due for another magician.