More About Old Burying Point/Charter Street Cemetery

Judge John Hathorne, one of the leading witchcraft trials judges is buried here, in a grave on the left of the cemetery (looking from the front gate). Hathorne, whose father had been a Salem magistrate, was born in 1641, married at 33 and had six children. Hathorne experienced several deaths in his family, including those of his three brothers, which left him the sole heir. While not legally trained, Hathorne was a trusted law official and was, like the other judges, a wealthy merchant. He owned a wharf and a liquor license, and was a landowner with property in Maine. Early in his career he became a delegate to the General Court, and ultimately remained in the judiciary for his whole life. Promoted to the Superior Court in 1702, he resigned in 1712. Hathorne died in 1717, at the age of 76, never apologizing for his role in the Salem witch trials. His headstone is surrounded by a granite rectangle to help preserve what’s left of the original stone. Great-great grandson Nathaniel Hawthorne said of his ancestor, “…[he] made himself so conspicuous in the martyrdom of witches, that their blood may fairly be said to have left a stain on him.”

 

The last governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony under its original charter was Simon Bradstreet, one of the original founders of the Puritan community. Born in Lincolnshire, England in 1603, he arrived in 1630 on the Winthrop Fleet and was involved in Massachusetts politics for much of his life. He was the 20th (from 1679-1686) and 21st (from 1689-1692) Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, succeeded by William Phips in May of 1692, who became the Governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay under the new charter. Phips offered Bradstreet a position in his government, which Bradstreet declined. Bradstreet was a moderate politician throughout his career, and an outspoken critic of the witchcraft trials. He was married to America’s first published poet, Anne Bradstreet, who was the daughter of Massachusetts co-founder Thomas Dudley. Simon Bradstreet died in Salem at the age of 94 in 1697 and was buried in the Old Burying Point Cemetery in an impressive tomb, on the right side of the cemetery. Judge Samuel Sewall, the only witchcraft trials judge to apologize, attended the funeral and wrote of it in his diary.

 

Reverend John Higginson, whose ministry lasted an impressive 48 years, from 1660 to his death in 1708, was 92 when he died. Upon his death, the beloved elder minister of Salem was also buried in the Bradstreet tomb. Although Higginson had been the senior minister in Salem at the time of the witchcraft trials, it was his assistant Nicholas Noyes who took the lead in the proceedings. Once again, Samuel Sewall was present at the funeral and wrote in his diary, “In the afternoon, the aged and Excellent Divine Mr. John Higginson is laid in Gov. Bradstreet’s tomb … a little before Sunset, had a very Serene and very Cold Aer.”

 

Reverend Nicholas Noyes died in 1718 just before his 70th birthday. It is likely that he, too, was buried in the Bradstreet tomb. In his diary, Samuel Sewall confirms Noyes was buried in Salem, although Sewall was unable to attend the funeral. Says author Dan Fury in If These Stones Could Speak: The History and People of The Old Salem Burying Point, “Rev. Bentley refers to the Bradstreet tomb as being the resting place of the Governor, ‘and with him are lodged the Old Ministers.’ The tomb did not exist when the ministers prior to Higginson died, and those who came after would be buried elsewhere … therefore, ‘the Old Ministers’ would likely be a reference to Higginson and Noyes…”

 

Reverend Higginson’s first wife Sarah (Whitfield) Higginson, who he married in Guilford, Connecticut in the early 1640s, is buried a short distance away. She died in Salem in 1675. He married his second wife, Mary (Blackman) Higginson, in 1677. She died in 1708 at the age of 73 and is buried next to the Bradstreet tomb.

 

In the 1790s, the Bradstreet tomb was sold to the Hathorne-Ingersoll family, who, it is said, discarded the remains nearby to make way for new burials. In 1917, a plaque was placed on the side of the tomb, recreating the text that had formerly graced the top. Among the tomb’s current occupants is Susanna Ingersoll, once owner of the Turner-Ingersoll mansion, aka The House of the Seven Gables. It has been suggested that Susanna’s cousin, Nathaniel Hawthorne, was inspired to set his novel of the same name in the mansion after visits to the house.

 

The last gravestone located just before the exit to the Witch Trials Memorial is that of Reverend Higginson’s grandson, Captain John Higginson III, who died in 1718 at the age of 39. In If These Stones Could Speak, Dan Fury clarifies, “His tombstone gives the name ‘John Higginson Jr,” but he was the third John of the Higginson line in Salem. His father was Col. John Higginson, who served as a Justice of the Peace during the Salem witch hysteria….”

 

In the center of the cemetery, approximately 60 feet from the front gate, is a red sandstone tabletop tomb which holds the remains of Bartholomew Gedney, another judge from the witchcraft trials. A Salem native and physician by profession, Gedney was the third Salem Town magistrate, and was often in the company of Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin. He was a land speculator, a sawmill owner, a shipyard owner, and a major in the militia. His entrepreneurial spirit may have come from his father, who owned the successful Ship Tavern on present-day Essex Street. After his father’s death, Gedney jointly inherited the tavern with his sister-in-law Susanna. The tavern came to be known as “Widow Gedney’s.” Both widow Gedney and Bartholomew’s other sister-in-law Mary Gedney, who also ran a tavern, would sell refreshments to participants of the witch trials.  Gedney was present at the examination of his friend John Alden on May 31 in Salem Village. When Gedney witnessed the torments of the afflicted girls, he told Alden he had “always look’d upon him to be an honest Man, but now he did see cause to alter his judgement.” Gedney died in 1697 and was interred here in the Gedney family tomb. Thanks to If These Stones Could Speak, we learn the Gedney tomb also contains the remains of Bartholomew’s father John Gedney Esq.; Bartholomew’s wife (and half-sister) Hannah (Clark) Gedney; his sons, Dr. Samuel Gedney and an infant boy; and his daughters Bethia (Gedney) Willoughby and Lydia (Gedney) Corwin. Lydia was married to Salem’s High Sheriff George Corwin, the man responsible for transporting the condemned to Gallows Hill during the witch trials, and the the man who oversaw the pressing of Giles Corey. George Corwin himself is buried in the Broad Street Cemetery.

 

Toward the back of the cemetery, on the left side, is a small gravestone marking the grave of Mary Corey (alternate spelling Corry). Mary, the second wife of Giles Corey, died eight years before the witchcraft trials. Corey’s first wife died in England before he arrived in Massachusetts. His third wife Martha was hanged for witchcraft on September 22, three days after Giles was pressed to death in a Salem field.

 

Eleanor Hollingworth (or Hollingsworth) is buried here, in a grave on the far left next to the fence. Eleanor (alternate spelling Elianor, as on the stone) was the mother of Mary English, the wife of one of Salem’s richest merchants, Philip English. Both Philip and Mary were accused of witchcraft, examined, and jailed in Boston to await trial. The Phillips’s great wealth meant they could escape to New York, only returning to Salem when the turmoil died down. Eleanor was an independent woman, who ran the Blue Anchor Tavern on Salem’s shore road after the death of her husband. According to historian Frances Hill, Eleanor Hollingworth may even have been the model for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter. Also buried here, and noted on the stone, is Eleanor’s son and Mary English’s brother, William.

 

A short distance behind the bronze “map” in the front of the cemetery are the graves of two Samuel Shattucks (alternate spelling Shattock). The first grave marks the resting place of a Samuel Shattuck who passed away in 1681. He is near the grave of his grandson, Samuel Shattuck Jr. Samuel Shattuck Jr.’s father was also named Samuel Shattuck, and he was one of the individuals who gave testimony against Bridget Bishop. Accuser Samuel Shattuck was a dyer, shopkeeper, and a Quaker. He believed Bishop was creating a witch’s doll, or poppet, when she brought him small pieces of lace to dye. When their eldest son, Samuel Shattuck Jr. became ill and suffered physical and mental agonies, Shattuck and his wife blamed these maladies on visits from Bridget Bishop that began when the boy was four. Shattuck testified to this effect at Bishop’s trial, and ultimately Bridget Bishop was the first to be executed as a witch in 1692. Samuel Shattuck Jr. died in 1695 at the age of 17, and is buried here, next to his grandfather.

 

Nathaniel Mather, son of Reverend Increase Mather and brother of Reverend Cotton Mather, is interred here. His grave is to the far right of the cemetery, near the fence behind the “Grimshawe House.” Nathaniel was born in Boston in 1669. He died in 1688, four years before the witchcraft trials would engulf his brother, Salem, and the colony. He was only 19 years old. The engraving reads, “An aged person who has seen but nineteen winters in the world.”

 

The Old Burying Point Cemetery is on Charter Street, behind the Peabody Essex Museum, and next to the Witch Trials Memorial.