Salem Street Burying Ground is a cemetery located at the intersection of Salem Street and Riverside Avenue in Medford, Massachusetts. From the late 17th century to the late 19th century, it was used exclusively as the burial grounds of the town’s wealthy.
Originally, the Salem Street Burying Ground was the private cemetery of the Wade family. It was acquired by Medford in 1717. The earliest stone is dated 1683 and the latest 1881. Records indicate that there are six hundred people buried there; however there are only 485 markers. There are several reasons for the discrepancy.
During the 17th century, one gravestone often marked the burial place of numerous members of the same family. The final resting place of no less than four members of the Wade family is marked by a single large, brown, slate block, among the largest in the cemetery. Also, near one of the entrances, a flagpole and granite stone marker commemorate the graves of a number of unknown Revolutionary War soldiers. The marker’s text reads, “In Memory of New Hampshire Soldiers Who Fell at Bunker Hill Buried in this Town and Interred at this Spot.” Records further indicate that there are over fifty slaves buried in unmarked graves in the southwest corner of the cemetery.
Among several notable people buried there are Massachusetts Governor and Revolutionary War figure John Brooks, whose grave is marked by a large obelisk located in the center of the burial ground, and Sarah Fulton, a Revolutionary War heroine whose grave is marked by a rock to the left of the Brooks monument.
In 1630, the cemetery and the area surrounding it were settled as a plantation owned by the absent Matthew Craddock, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The land was used as a private farm and plantation for forty-five years. From 1660 to 1675, Edward Collins, the second owner of the land, broke the land up into smaller parcels which were sold individually.
The largest farm in the area was owned by Jonathan Wade. When Wade died in 1689, he left the estate to his son, Dudley. It included “that little pasture called the burying place.” By 1717, the Wade family plot had become the town burying ground.
Historic Medford Square Graveyard Spruced Up in 2011
About a quarter of the 400 plus tombstones received a facelift in mid-2011, thanks to a grant from the Massachusetts Historical Commission. The stones were cleaned of dirt and other debris and the inscriptions can now be seen. Damaged or cracked stones were also repaired. Transcriptions of the graves are available at the Medford Public Library, the Medford Historical Society, and online at Findagrave.com.