Revolutionary War Cemetery

Salem, first caIled White Creek and then New Perth, was settled in August 1764 by Scottish pioneers from PeIham, Massachusetts. In the year 2000, the cemetery was mapped and the graves identified and indexed through a Student Learn and Serve Grant.

In the spring of 1766, Dr. Thomas Clark arrived with his Scotch-Irish Presbyterian congregation from Ballybay, Ireland. The two groups cooperated in settling this territory and soon determined that a common burying ground was needed. This burying ground was Salem's only public burying ground until the Evergreen Cemetery was established on March 5, 1859.

Cemetery wallNovember 2011: Work on the stone wall cemetery has come to a stop this November, 2011 because donated funds have run out. The half completed Revolutionary War Cemetery wall on the State Route 22 side is shown in the photo. The town historian is now seeking donations from interested parties interested in this National Historic Site. People can contribute to this wall project by sending donations to Al Cormier, Town Historian, P.O. Box 458,Salem,NY 12865. Checks should be made out to the Town of Salem, placing on the bottom of the check the words “cemetery fund.”

In addition to the cemetery wall project, the town of Salem is also seeking donations for develop the property next to the cemetery into a memorial park for veterans. Donations are sought for that project and should be addressed to Supervisor Seth Pitts, Town Office, P.O. Box 575, Salem,NY 12865.

 

 

 

 

According to LocaI History, the first burial was that of an Indian who wandered into the settlement and died. The first settler to be burial here was Solomon Barr. The location of these two graves is unknown. The earliest engraved tombstone is that of Abram Savage of the prominent Savage family. He died in 1769, and at age 17 was the youngest burial. The oldest person buried here was John McNish who died in 1821 at the age 104. The last burial was that of John E. Gillis who died in 1921.

Local legend has it that After the Battle of Saratoga in 1777, about 100 soldiers bodies were loaded like "cord wood" on wagons and brought to Salem for burial in one common grave in this cemetery.

In addition to containing the bodies of many of Salem's earliest Settlers, like James Turner, Hamilton McCollister and Joshua Conkey, the cemetery contains documented burials of 101 Revolutionary War soldiers. Consequently, this cemetery probably holds the greatest number of Revolutionary War soldiers in New York State. Overall, 1034 engraved tombstones are found here. Among the stones can be found 32 early American carvings of the rounded angel head style of Zerubbabel Collins of Shaftsbury, Vermont.

In 1810 A stone wall was erected to protect the cemetery from vandalism and the theft of gravestones. A cemetery supervisor was hired to manage the use of the cemetery.

In 1933, outside the cemetery walls, the town and State of New York erected a monument in memory of the Revolutionary War soldiers buried here.

The cemetery is located next to the Fair Grounds on Archibald Street in the village of Salem. The cemetery is currently being mapped and the graves identified and indexed through a student Learn and Serve Grant, sponsored by Salem Washington Academy. A list of those buried here is available from the town historian, Al Cormier. His E-Mail address is: wacormier1@verizon.net

THE EAGLE, THURSDAY, JUNE 1, 2000
Revolutionary War Cemetery Restoration
Project Underway in Town of Salem

SALEM - The Salem Cemetery Committee is attempting to rejuvenate three cemeteries in the Town of Salem, especially the Revolutionary War Cemetery, the oldest burying ground in the Village. This historic cemetery contains 100 graves of Revolutionary War soldiers, and five graves of the War of 1812. Local belief is that this cemetery holds the largest number of Revolutionary War dead in the state, if not the nation. New York State records document all soldiers buried here, including those of the Civil War. Also, Salem's earliest pioneers are buried here. The earliest burial was of 18-yearold Abram Savage in 1769. His stone had been stolen but was recovered last year and rededicated on July 4, 1999. A second stolen stone, that of one of Salem's founding father, James Turner, was also recovered and rededicated on the same date.

A traditional story about the Revolutionary War Cemetery is that a hundred American dead were brought in wagons from the Saratoga Battlefield after the first day's fighting and buried in an unmarked common grave in this graveyard. If true, this would place 200 Revolutionary soldiers buried in this cemetery.

Stolen stones, broken stones, leaning stones, vandalized stones, and neglected stones and grounds point up the plight of this historic cemetery. The cemetery committee is dedicating its efforts to restoring this cemetery to a presentable state. Through the work of former Salem teacher Diane Jilek and her Research in Progress grant these past three years, the cemetery has been mapped and the stones documented. All stones are in the process of being photographed under the direction of Salem student service teacher, Cynthia Hollister. David Male and Ann Pongrace, committee members, are overseeing the Binninger and Camden Valley cemeteries.

A recent evaluation by the committee showed that of the 1,040 burials, 112 gravestones are lying on the ground or are broken, 301 tablet stones are leaning precariously. At least 136 displaced footstones and other stones that have been removed over the years are resting on the stone walls that surround the cemetery. Numerous other stones lie buried in the sod and need retrieving, and some stones are missing completely or have disintegrated over the years. In other words, 53% of the stones are in need of immediate help. To make matters worse, a recent lightning strike severely damaged 20 feet of the stone wall this spring.

Since its 'inception in January 1999, the committee has put up new cemetery signs, placed burial name indexes in new mailboxes, and printed an information brochure about all three cemeteries. The committee has set up by-laws, written stone rubbing regulations, and this May placed flag holders at the graves of all veterans buried in the three town cemeteries.

The Revolutionary War Cemetery restoration project will require much labor and dollars. Descendents of those buried in any of the town cemeteries or other interested volunteers are encouraged to contact Al Cormier, Historian, at 854-3527 or at wacormier1@verizon.net . Since stone repairs will require purchase of materials and labor in some instances, donations will be gladly accepted. Checks can be made out to Town of Salem and sent to Al Cormier, Cemetery Committee, P.O. Box 458, Salem, NY 12865.

A listing of those buried in The Revolutionary War Cemetery can be found at the following site:
http://www.slibrary.org/res.html

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