Howard Street Cemetery in Salem, Massachusetts

Established in 1801, Howard Street Cemetery is a historic cemetery in Salem, Mass. The cemetery is 2.5 acres in size with 1,100 headstones and is located next to the old Salem jail.

Before it was a cemetery, it was actually an open field where it is believed that Salem Witch Trials victim Giles Corey was pressed to death by Sheriff George Corwin in 1692.

"Howard Street Cemetery, Salem, Where Giles Corey Was Pressed to Death," illustration published in the New England Magazine Volume 5, circa 1892
“Howard Street Cemetery, Salem, Where Giles Corey Was Pressed to Death,” illustration published in the New England Magazine Volume 5, circa 1892

The cemetery is reportedly haunted by Corey now and it is rumored that his ghost appears in the cemetery shortly before a tragic event takes place in the town.

In 1801, the field was established as a cemetery, called the Branch Street Cemetery, because the street it is located on was called Branch Street at the time.

The oldest headstone in the cemetery was placed on August 5, 1801 after second mate Benjamin Ropes was crushed to death while launching the fore-topmast on the ship Belisarius.

In fact, according to local historian and owner of the Salem Night Tour, Tim Maguire, around 15 percent of the people buried in the cemetery were crushed to death and many others died in tragic accidents, including 10 prisoners who were later buried here after they died when a floor in the Salem Jail collapsed.

It is an eerie coincidence seeing that it is reportedly the location where Giles Corey was crushed to death in 1692. Yet, it is important to keep in mind that the cemetery was established around the time of the industrial revolution when accidents like that were happening more frequently, so perhaps that explains the coincidences.

In 1805, a church was built next to the cemetery, which was later known as the Howard Street Church and, in 1813, the Salem Jail was also constructed next door to the cemetery on nearby St. Peter Street.

In 1828, Branch Street was renamed Howard Street, after local sailmaker John Howard, and the cemetery was renamed the Howard Street Cemetery.

In 1841, the cemetery was expanded westward when the city annexed a section of land on that side. That same year, the city passed an ordinance halting the building of new tombs and the digging of new graves in the city’s cemeteries except for Howard Street Cemetery, Greenlawn Cemetery and the contagious disease burial ground on Salem neck.

In 1871, the Howard Street Church was replaced by the Prescott School.

In 1914, it was reported that the ghost of Giles Corey was seen in the cemetery and shortly after the Great Salem Fire of 1914 broke out near Gallows Hill.

The Howard Street Cemetery, Salem, Mass, circa 2012. Photo Credit: Rebecca Brooks
The Howard Street Cemetery, Salem, Mass, circa 2012. Photo Credit: Rebecca Brooks

The last burial in the Howard Street Cemetery took place in 1953.

Notable People Buried in the Cemetery:

A number of notable people are buried in this cemetery, which includes local ship captains and Revolutionary War soldiers:

Jonathan Archer III, Revolutionary War soldier, died in 1842

John Albree, Revolutionary War soldier, died in 1842

Ebenezer Burrill Sr, Revolutionary War soldier, died in 1755

Colonel Samuel Carleton, served as a colonel in the Revolutionary War, fought at Ticonderoga and was with Washington at Valley Forge, died in 1804

Captain John Collins, served as a clerk in Revolutionary War, died 1824

Capt. George Crowninshield, Jr, merchant, died 1817

Lieutenant Charles Richardson, Revolutionary War soldier, died in 1836

Stephen Wood, Revolutionary War soldier who fought in the battles of Bunker Hill, Saratoga, Princeton and White Plains, died in 1841

William Prossor, Revolutionary War soldier, died in 1842

Captain Henry Tibbetts, Revolutionary War soldier, died in 1842

George Ropes Jr, artist known for painting nautical scenes, died in 1819

The Howard Street Cemetery is open daily from dawn until dusk.

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Sources:
Massachusetts Soldier and Sailors of the Revolutionary War. Wright & Potter Printing Co, 1896
Baltrusis, Sam. “Howard Street Cemetery.” Ghosts of Salem. Arcadia Publishing, 2014.
“Health.” The Charter of Ordinances of the City of Salem. Ives & Pease, 1853, google.com/books/edition/The_Charter_and_Ordinances_of_the_City_o/7-4ivCaXmykC?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=charter%20and%20ordinances%20of%20the%20city%20of%20salem%201853&pg=PP7&printsec=frontcover
“Revolutionary War Veteran: A Virtual Cemetery.” Find A Grave, findagrave.com/virtual-cemetery/643088?page=1#sr-12411116
“Soldiers of the Revolution.” Streets of Salem, streetsofsalem.com/2017/05/29/soldiers-of-the-revolution/
Roach, Marilynne K. “Where Was Giles Corey Pressed to Death?” American Ancestors, americanancestors.org/salem-corey.aspx
“Salem Reconnaissance Report.” Mass.gov, mass.gov/doc/salem/download
“Letter: Howard Street Had Varied History.” Salem News, 10 Jan. 2016, salemnews.com/opinion/letter-howard-street-had-varied-history/article_abdb7ba0-408c-58ea-82ef-7616c2a097c4.html

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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