If you are a frequent reader of this site, or have even just glanced at it once or twice, you may have stumbled upon the notion that I rather like cemeteries. I guess I’m what you would call a Taphophile: one who enjoys spending time in cemeteries researching, photographing, taking rubbings or even just walking through, looking around. I’ve been fascinated with old burial grounds and graveyards since I was a child – well before I knew there was a word for my “condition.” There is, to me, a special brand of dark beauty that can be found in cemeteries in general and New England cemeteries in particular.
Because I know I’m not alone – I’m sure our mutual affinity led many of you to click your way here – I am beginning a new series on New England Oddities called Taphophiliacs Anonymous. In this series, I will spotlight cemeteries around the region and beyond, one by one, in words and pictures.
To start the series off on the right foot, I have chosen one of my favorite locations so far: Salem Center Burying Ground in Salem, New Hampshire.
The area that would later become the town of Salem was first settled in 1652. Originally the North Parish of Methuen, Massachusetts, Salem became part of New Hampshire when the boundaries between the states were re-drawn in 1741. The town – named after that infamous locale in Massachusetts – was finally incorporated in 1750.
With its old slate and sandstone markers and close proximity to the historical district, Salem Center Burying Ground embodies many of the qualities that come to mind when one thinks of New England cemeteries. Located beside the Historical Museum, a building once used as the town meeting house, the cemetery is a well-preserved and picturesque gateway to history.
Overall, the cemetery is in good condition, with just a few damaged or crooked stones and no apparent signs of vandalism. The grounds are well-maintained and vegetation is kept mostly unobtrusive. We visited on a beautiful, cloudless late afternoon in May. We found many passers-by enjoying the propitious turn of the weather; the cemetery’s front wall borders on Main Street, busy with automobile and pedestrian traffic alike.
Salem Center Burying ground is both the quintessential New England cemetery and a beautiful, bucolic setting for photography or research. I have ranked it a 0.5 out of 10 on the über-scientific New England Oddities Creep Index, due to a few crooked stones and the handful of above-ground tombs which line the rear boundary.
Click the thumbnails below to open the pictures full size. Use the back button on your browser to return to this page.