Greenlawn Cemetery in Salem, Massachusetts

Established in 1807, the Greenlawn Cemetery is a historic cemetery in Salem, Massachusetts.

The cemetery is about 100 acres in size, making it the largest cemetery in Salem, and has roughly 22,000 burials. About 16,000 of these burials predate 1964 but the cemetery is still in active use.

The cemetery was established after a committee was appointed by the Salem Board of Selectmen to find a suitable burying ground in north Salem, which was then known as Northfields.

Around 1934, the F. Carroll Sargent Arboretum was established within the cemetery when workers began planting a large collection of trees, estimated 200 species, within the cemetery.

As a result, the town purchased 5 ½ acres of land on Orne Street to serve as a cemetery.

In 1807, John Symonds became the first person buried in the cemetery.

The cemetery was later expanded in 1846 when a section of land near North Street was added to the cemetery. It was expanded again in 1863 when an additional 13 acres were added.

In 1872, an additional 8,000 square feet was set aside for a Soldiers’ Lot.

By 1881, the cemetery had become overgrown with vegetation and underbrush which covered up many of the graves.

To fix this, the cemetery was redesigned, trees and underbrush were cut down, stumps and rocks were removed, the ground was leveled, the road around the pond was graded and new flowers were planted.

In 1886, the Sons of Veterans erected the Henry Merritt Camp Memorial, a large Civil War Memorial, on the hill in the Soldier’s Lot.

Monuments, Soldiers' Monument, Greenlawn Cemetery, Salem, Mass, photo by Frank Cousins
Monuments, Soldiers’ Monument, Greenlawn Cemetery, Salem, Mass, photo by Frank Cousins

In 1887, an iron fence was constructed around the cemetery with a main gate on North Street.

In 1892, Walter Scott Dickinson offered to build a chapel on the cemetery grounds in honor of his wife Georgia. The Dickinson Memorial Chapel and Conservatory was completed in 1894 and dedicated on May 17, 1894.

The chapel is a 24-by-44 foot High Victorian Gothic building designed by George F. Meacham.

In 1895, about 126 iron avenue markers were installed with the name of each path or avenue.

In 1901, a monument was erected next to the chapel by the City of Salem in honor of Walter Scott Dickson.

The cemetery was expanded again in 1901 when an additional nine acres of land were added to the cemetery after the purchase of the nearby Potter estate, where a farm was located. Many old buildings on the farm were torn down.

Shortly after, the C.A. Putnam estate at the corner of Orne and Appleton Street was purchased by the cemetery, which added another 57,000 square feet.

The cemetery expanded yet again in 1935 when it purchased a small parcel of land from the Kernwood Country Club.

Greenlawn Cemetery in Salem, Mass, photo by Frank Cousins
Greenlawn Cemetery in Salem, Mass, photo by Frank Cousins

In 1954, the Dickinson Memorial Chapel Conservatory was badly damaged during Hurricane Carol and was later removed in 1982.

In 2015, the cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The cemetery is open to the public from dawn to dusk.

Some notable people buried in the cemetery are:

  • John Phillip Riley, a Navy seaman who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service in the Spanish-American War, died November 16, 1950, buried in Eulalia path, lot S2751, grave 2751
  • Reverend Jacob Stroyer, an African-American minister, author and social reformer, died February 7, 1908

“Greenlawn Cemetery Master Plan.” Preserving Salem,
“SAL 805 Greenlawn Cemetery.” MACRIS, Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System,

About Rebecca Beatrice Brooks

Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is the author and publisher of the History of Massachusetts Blog. Rebecca is a freelance journalist and history lover who got her start in journalism working for small-town newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire after she graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in journalism. Visit this site's About page to find out more about Rebecca.

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