Category: Walking Downtown Salem, NJ

Day Two Hundred and Forty Visiting the Historical Sites of Southern New Jersey in Cumberland and Salem Counties-A Local Journey on Father’s Day Weekend                                                             June 18th-19th, 2022

Day Two Hundred and Forty Visiting the Historical Sites of Southern New Jersey in Cumberland and Salem Counties-A Local Journey on Father’s Day Weekend June 18th-19th, 2022

Grab your tour book and get in the car to visit all these wonderful sites. There is so much to see and do in Historical Southern New Jersey!

The Nicolas Gibbon House


The one thing I refuse to do on Father’s Day is to spend the day at the cemetery. I know that is some people’s idea of honoring one’s family members but it is not mine. I went on Friday and paid my respects to my father (whom this blog is dedicated to) and spent time remembering some of the good times we had in past. I dropped some cut flowers from our gardens (some of which he planted) and said a small prayer. Then I left.

My idea of honoring my father and spending Father’s Day with him is to do something that we would have shared together. We were always running around somewhere and exploring something new and doing something fun. That is how I wanted to honor him. By being active and giving him a toast at Sunday dinner.

I had gotten a pamphlet on the historical sites…

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Salem Oak/Friends Burial Ground                                         112 West Broadway (Route 49)                                          Salem, NJ 08079

Salem Oak/Friends Burial Ground 112 West Broadway (Route 49) Salem, NJ 08079

Salem Oak/Friends Burial Ground

112 West Broadway (Route 49)

Salem, NJ 08079

(859) 935-3381

Open: Sunday-Saturday Dawn to Dusk

Admission: Free

My review on TripAdvisor:

The Salem Oak Cemetery in Downtown Salem, NJ

There is a true beauty to a historical cemetery with its old tombstones, its interesting artwork on the grave sites and the history behind the famous families who are buried there whose homes we tour and roads and parks that are named after them. The cemetery is located right in Downtown Salem, which serves as the County Seat for the County of Salem.

It was also home to one of the oldest oak trees in the country which fell in 2019. The over 500 year old oak tree has been part of the original virgin forest and is said to where town founder, John Fenwick, met with the Lenape Indians for the establishment of a settlement and for peaceful negotiations.

The family plots at the Salem Oak Cemetery

All that is left of the tree now is the rotting stump but three of its saplings still exist on the grounds and they look about two hundred years old. They grow majestically amongst the gravesites.

The family plots line the aisles at the cemetery

Inside the cemetery, the graves bear the names of founding fathers of the Town of Salem and prominent families who once made up the population with names such as Thompson, Reeves, Abbott, Wister, Bacon, Griscom, Waddington, Sickler, Lippencott, Goodwin, Bullock, Woodnutt and Bassett.

You will see these names on artifacts in the Salem Historical Society such as clothes, business document and household items. There names and influence still hold a position in the community.

The Salem Oak in the Friends Burial Ground before it fell in 2019 (Salem County Historical Society)

This is the spot where founder John Fenwick met with the Lenape Indians in 1675.

Take time to walk amongst the family plots and pay your respects to these important families who were once the founding members of both the community and of the great State of New Jersey.

The Friends Burial Ground plaque

The cemetery’s spot in Downtown Salem, NJ

The Salem Oak Cemetery in Downtown Salem, NJ

The cemetery is part of the Women’s Heritage Trail

Hancock House State Historic Site                                              3 Front Street                                                                 Hancocks Bridge, NJ 08038

Hancock House State Historic Site 3 Front Street Hancocks Bridge, NJ 08038

Hancock House State Historic Site

3 Front Street

Hancocks Bridge, NJ 08038

(856) 935-4373,_New_Jersey)

Open: Sunday 1:00pm-4:00pm/Monday-Tuesday Closed/Wednesday-Saturday 10:00am-12:00pm/1:00pm-4:00pm

Admission: Free but donation suggested

My review on TripAdvisor:

The Hancock House

I took an extensive tour one weekend of historical sites of southern New Jersey to see how the lower part of the state was impacted by the Revolutionary War and one of the most important sites was the Hancock House. The family was extremely prominent not just in Salem, NJ but in New Jersey politics as well.

The Hancock House and grounds during the early Fall 2022

The house once stood on an very busy road between Salem and Bridgeton and where most commerce passed by. When I was taking the tour, you could see that the house was built in two parts. When I was listening to the lecture I found that the side of the house that faced the road had once been a leased space for a tavern.

The tavern section of the house that faces the road

This commercial enterprise brought in income for the family. Later on when the Hancock family sold the house in the early 1800’s, they sold it to the tavern keeper. After he and his family sold the house, it went on to various owners before the State of New Jersey bought it in the 1930’s.

Recreation of the Tavern section of the house

A copy of the old menu at the Tavern

There are no family heirlooms in the house and while some of the rooms have period pieces and are decorated to show how the family might have lived at the time as well as how the tavern functioned, many rooms in the house needed some direction on what they wanted to say about living at the time. There needed to be more artifacts to complete the look of the room.

The Downstairs at the Hancock House:

The example of the main bedroom downstairs was used for business as well. The room was furnished with period furniture.

The downstairs bedroom at the Hancock House. The built in shelves are the only thing from the Hancock family

The Kitchen area was set for dinner and functioned as the Dining Room as well,

The kitchen set for lunch

The kitchen area for entertaining

The old kitchen at the Hancock House

The Dining Room at the Hancock House:

The Living Room

The Living Room at the Hancock House

The Gallery at the Hancock House with artifacts from the era.

The Gallery at the Hancock House

The Upstairs at the Hancock House:

The upstairs bedrooms were an example of that. One of the rooms was fully furnished to look like a period bedroom while the other had a mish-mosh of decorations and furniture. There needed to be more to capture the time period of the house.

The upstairs bedroom is the only one furnished upstairs

Still, the house was steeped in history and it was fascinating to hear what the tour guide said about the goings on during the war years to the family. Many of the rooms also could have used a good plastering and painting to bring them back to life.

When I visited the Hancock House in October of 2022, they were having a Halloween festival with pumpkin patches, face painting, watching the film “The Legend of Sleepy Hallow” by Disney films. The kids were engaged with all sorts of activities and there would be Trick or Treating on Halloween day.

Halloween festivities at the Hancock House

The pumpkin patch at the Hancock House for Halloween

Halloween festivities at the Hancock House

History of The Hancock House:

(from The Hancock House Pamphlet)

The story of the Hancock House begins in 1675 when John Fenwick, a lawyer and Quaker from England, arrived in West Jersey (now Salem Country), With land purchased two years earlier, he established the first permanent English Settlement here, called “Fenwick’s Colony,” and founded the town of Salem. Eager to populate the area with skilled, industrious individuals, he advertised the area’s assets by stating, “if there be any terrestrial “Canaan” ’tis surely here, where the Land floweth with Milk and Honey.”

The Hancock House sits on property that was purchased from John Fenwick in 1675 by William Hancock, an English showmaker. Upon his death, the property passed to his wife and then to his nephew, John Hancock.

John’s inheritance of approximately 500 acres made him a major landholder in Fenwick’s Colony. he contributed to the development of the area by building a bridge across Alloways Creek in 1708. Now known as “Hancocks Bridge,” it permitted passage on an important highway between Salem and Greenwich and gave the settlement its name.

The site of the Hancock Bridge

When John Hancock died in 1709, he left his property to his son William. William became a Justice of the Peace for Salem County and served in the Colonial Assembly for 20 years.

The site of the historic Hancock Bridge

In 1734, William and his wife, Sarah built the Hancock House. Their initials (WHS) and the construction date (1734) can be seen in the brickwork on the house’s west elevation.

Upon his death in 1762, William left his house to his son, William who succeeded him in the Assembly and became His Majesty’s Judge of the County Court for the County of Salem. It was this William who figured in the massacre of March 1778.

The Hancock House remained in the family until 1931, although the extent to which the house was used as a private residence and the property farmed is uncertain. There is evidence to suggest a section of the house was leased for a tavern during the 18th & 19th centuries.

A recreation of the old Tavern section of the home

The State of New Jersey acquired the Hancock House for $4,000 in 1931 and opened it as a museum in 1932.

The Smoke House at the Hancock House property:

The Historic Significance of the house:

Historic Marker at the Hancock House

The Architectural Significance:

The Hancock House earned a place in history on the fateful day in March 1778.

The Hancock House

Yet the story of its architecture also is important. With its distinctive patterned and wall brickwork, simple lines and little ornamentation, it reflects the building traditions of the Quaker’s English Homeland.

The land around the Hancock House

Other elements of this architectural style include Flemish bond brickwork; a pent-roof that wraps around the front and back of the house; simple entrance steps; interior paneling and the use of such local materials as Wistarburg glass.

The Hancock House

The Hancock House property:

Salem County Historical Society                                                 83 Market Street                                                                   Salem, NJ 08079

Salem County Historical Society 83 Market Street Salem, NJ 08079

Salem County Historical Society

83 Market Street

Salem, NJ  08079

(856) 935-5004

Open: Sunday-Monday Closed/Tuesday-Saturday 12:00pm-4:00pm

Admission: Donation Suggestion

TripAdvisor Review:

I came across this little ‘gem’ when walking around downtown Salem, New Jersey on my Christmas break back in 2019. This historical society put some of the musty ones I have visited to shame. It is so beautifully set up and maintained. It also has some great exhibitions and was so nicely decorated for the Christmas holidays. It is a ‘must-see’ when visiting Southern New Jersey.

Salem Historical Society III


The Salem County Historical Society is housed in three interconnected historic houses, the centerpiece of which is the Alexander Grant Mansion (1721).

Salem Historical Society IV

The Salem County Historical Society at 83 Market Street

In June 2022, I finally got to return to the museum after COVID had closed it for months. The museum had been refreshed with new displays and more interesting artifacts mounted all over the museum.

I was lucky that it was quiet that afternoon and I was able to one of the members take me on a personal tour of the museum. He explained to me that during the pandemic since they were closed they were able to work on the displays and update and refresh the exhibitions. This is the one thing I like about the Salem County Historical Museum is that it is not a musty mish-mosh of displays. Displays are well thought out and explained to the public.

We started in the front room with a display of Revolutionary War memorabilia. Here you will see a ring with a lock of George Washington’s hair, the shoe buckles of General William Hancock, who was a prominent resident of the town who fought in the Revolutionary war.

Various objects from the family and the war years are displayed here.

Off to the main part of the museum and the one section of the museum that stuck out to me when visiting the first time was The Keeping Room, the original part of the house that was built in the early 1700’s. The large hearth was just recently opened from what I learned from the tour and was once the center of the original home due to a place of cooking and heat.

During the Christmas holiday season, this room was decorated with garland and a Christmas tree, which would not have fit the time period but still made a festive environment for the room. Here kitchen and home wares are displayed where the family would have concentrated their domestic chores. Cooking and serving items were displayed along with a spinning wheel to make clothes.

The Keeping Room at the Salem County Historical Society

The main room displayed many more pre and post-Revolutionary War items including home furnishings of desks, wardrobes and grand father clocks. The most interesting item that I saw the Inauguration dress of local prominent resident, Sarah Hancock Sinnickson, who was married to Thomas Sinnickson, whose family helped found Salem, NJ. The dress is prominently displayed and it was interesting to see an actual item that was on display the evening of that ball. If it could talk.

The historic dress of Sarah Hancock Sinnickson that she wore to George Washington’s Inaugural Ball

The Grandfather clocks and Sarah Hancock Sinnickson dress information

The next two rooms have displays of local materials. One room was dedicated to the local Native American population. There was a large display of arrowheads, hunting spears, cooking materials and grinding equipment to break down corn and wheat for baking. Each piece was displayed related to its use and it was fascinating to see how a society showed its sophistication by creating meals from the use of specialty styled sticks and rocks.

In another room was a display of early ice cream manufacturing including the delivery buckets and carts.

Several families were known for the ice cream making including the local Bassett family whose relatives still make ice cream for their store in the Philadelphia Reading Market and packaged for all over the world.

Evolution of Ice Cream

History of the Salem Ice Cream industry

Their first flavor: Tomato. The tour guide explained how companies would color their buckets differently so you knew where the ice cream came from.

Other standouts in the room was an original Edison Phonograph with the original cylinders which were the precursor to records. It was interesting to see how the modern day record player developed. The item had been housed in someone’s barn before it was donated and still had most of the original cylinders.

The early Edison Phonograph

Another object in the other room was the Lafayette Quilt made by local resident Annabelle Chatter. This quilt was so beautifully designed with pieces of cloth from all over the world including the coat that President Lincoln wore that faithful night. I learned from the tour guide that people were taking small pieces of the coat after the President died. This was strange because I saw the same coat at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Exhibition and the coat was on display there and it looked pretty intact.

There was also an extensive display of items from the 1893 Columbian Exposition that showcased all the modern developments coming into society. This included pictures and objects that visitors could buy. Another display was on the Salem Oak Tree that once dominated the cemetery around the corner from the Society that fell in June of 2019. The room was made up of pictures of the tree and items that were made from limbs that had fallen in the past.

The upstairs had rooms full of Samplers, a way for young girls in the 1800’s to practice their sewing skills for use in homemakingfor things like clothes and domestic items like blankets. There was a Blown Glass display on items made in the area. Companies had use of local sand in manufacturing making blown glass items a big industry in the area.

The last display is dedicated to clocks, both grandfather clocks and the development of the pocket watch. The one thing that I learned was on the creation of the face of the grandfather clock was the use of the Roman Numeral IV as IIII. The tour guide explained that makers of the clock did not find it symmetrical with the other numbers in the placement and that’s why they used the incorrect symbol number.

The latest exhibition that I saw in 2022, is the “Step into our Canvas: 200 years of Salem County Art”, a extensive exhibition of local deceased artists from Salem, NJ. This includes artists who are recognized locally, regionally and nationally for their skills. These range from 18 Century artists to present day with the entire exhibition from the Salem Historical Society Collection. It was an interesting mix of portraits, still life’s and landscapes. This exhibition of the Society’s visual art collection aims to perpetuate Salem County’s heritage and enhance awareness of its artistic roots (Museum pamphlets).

The “Step into our Canvas: 200 years of Salem County Art” exhibition

The exhibition timeline

Also in 2022, I visited the courtyard and gardens in the back of the museum which contains several buildings including a barn, a small schoolhouse that was moved here along with the oldest lawyers office in the country, a small octagon structure.

There was a small bathhouse designed in the “Oriental” style of the time.

The barn in the courtyard

The buildings line the courtyard in the back of the historical society and on a nice day is a very pleasant place to stroll around and see the buildings.

The log cabin that was built on this property

The annual “Salem Walking Ghost Tour” event:

In 2022, I attended the ‘Annual Salem Walking Ghost Tour’ which tours the historic homes of the Salem Historic District and the church cemeteries of the downtown. At each stop, we got to hear tales of the haunted houses of the district and the owners in the afterlife still are involved in their current owners lives.

We started the night with a concert at St. John’s Episcopal Church with organist Erik Meyer, who played music that we relate to Halloween.

St. John’s Episcopal Church on Market Street the day of the concert.

The “Tunes from the Crypt” concert was right before the walking tour.

The concert featured five musical numbers that are classic to all horror films. The music being played is what you might hear in a popular horror film or something to do with Halloween. It seemed a little strange to be in a church but the organist told us that a lot of churches are using this for a fundraiser.

Erik Meyer who was the organist at the concert before the walk

He dressed like a vampire which I thought was strange for a church. These concerts have brought people back to these churches and even the priest said that he had not seen crowds like this on Sundays. The church was packed that evening.

The inside of the St. John’s Episcopal Church for the concert

The beautiful stained glass windows the night of the concert

After the concert, we walked down the antique store where the tour started. We stopped at various parts of the historic district to tales of woes, travels and ghosts still haunting the homes they loved so much.

One of the decorated porches on the Haunted Walking Tour

The Historic District of Market Street

A resident of the house talking about his haunted home the night of the walking tour

No walking tour is complete with a trip to the cemetery

The walking tour really was interesting and residents talked about their experiences in their homes that they say are haunted. The tour was about an hour but is really worth the trip. It was interesting to see how Salem, NJ developed over the years. The tour takes place before Halloween every year and tickets do sell out fast.

For a small museum, the Salem County Historical Society Museum offers a view into our past and how New Jersey played a huge role in the development of the United States as a nation. Really take the time to see each room and admire their objects on display. You’ll learn a thing or two on what modern items are based on.

History and information on the Salem County Historical Society:

(from the museum pamphlet)

The Salem County Historical Society was founded in 1884 and has grown over the last century from generous donation from the community. It has over 10,000 objects in the collection that include fine arts, textiles, Native American artifacts and a variety of material culture artifacts.

The Society maintains extensive museum and library collections related to the region’s heritage. Our exceptional collection includes furniture, paintings, textiles, glass, china, silver, documents, tools and other family heirlooms. This collection enables us to graphically convey to visitors an understanding of the work, play, society and lifestyles of local inhabitants from generations past.

The Society’s campus houses three other buildings: the Stone Barn, the John Jones Law Office ( a hexagonal structure housing New Jersey’s first law office) and the Log Cabin Educational Center.


The Society utilizes its rich museum to present engaging and informative exhibits. Our museum features several ongoing exhibits including The Keeping Room, A Legacy fro Salem County and The Stone Barn. These displays showcase some of the Society’s  treasures including fine and decorative arts, Wistar glass and signature quilts.

Salem Historical Society II

In addition to our semi-permanent exhibits, the Society features large special exhibits that change every two years. These exhibits take a closer look at specific events or aspects of Salem County history. Check the Society website to get information about current exhibits. The Society has also opened more rooms for small exhibits that rotate and change periodically.

Research Library and Special Collections

Thousands of researchers make their own connections to Salem County with the help of the Society’s research library. Historians and family researcher trace their ancestors through time with the help of our library’s comprehensive collection of resources, thus helping to bring people closer to Southern New Jersey’s distinctive heritage.

The library’s holdings of family records, manuscripts, deeds and church histories serve scores of genealogical and historical researchers with primary documents.

Salem Historical Society

Resources & Records:

*Bible Records

*Census, Church and Cemetery

*Military Service

*Published family histories and family files

*Rare manuscripts and subject files

*Birth, marriages and death resources

*Newspapers on microfilm

*Online access to

Special collections:



*Rare books

*Recorded and unrecorded deeds

*Diaries and journals

*Historical publications about county, state, military, ethnic and industrial history, as well as topics of local interest such as glass, brick houses and agriculture

*Unique house and church files


The Society publications an award-winning Quarterly Newsletter featuring Society news, events and scholarly articles. Our bookstore features books and periodicals on Salem County topics from many local authors. Publications are available to purchase on our website and at the Historical Society.


The Society brings history to life for hundreds of children every year, providing hands-on lessons about life in 18th and 19th century Salem County. Utilizing current exhibits and permanent collections, children are introduced to the region’s rich heritage through presentations and hands-on activities.

These programs complement school lessons for traditional and homeschooled groups. All of our education programs meet state curriculum standards for Social Studies, Language Arts, Visual and Performing Arts and Mathematics, grades 4-12.

The Society offers educational programs based on the American Revolution, the Civil War, life in the colonial past, which has students identify objects from the past and modern equivalents. The Society also offers educational programming based on the current exhibits. These programs are available at the Historical Society and the programs on the Revolution, Civil War and “History’s Mysteries” can be presented offsite upon request.

Please check the education section of our website to learn more about these programs. Field trips and group tours can be scheduled by contacting the Society at (856) 935-5004.

Programs and Special Events

The Society has an active calendar with many diverse programs. From our Quarterly Meetings to the popular John S. Rock Memorial Lecture series to genealogical workshops, there is something for everyone.

The Society also sponsors events such as the highly regarded Open House Tour which opens Salem County’s historic homes and churches to the public every spring. In the fall, the Society sponsors the Walking Ghost Tour, an evening of spirits and stories in historic Salem.

Salem Historical Society VII

The Walking Ghost Tour in 2019 at the Society

Tunes from the Crypt in 2022

The Salem Ghost Tour in 2022 behind the Salem Historical Society

Touring the cemetery during the day is less creepy and very interesting.

Actors telling their tales the night of the Salem Ghost Walk

Visit our website or our Facebook Page for upcoming events.

Why become a member of the Salem County Historical Society?

The mission of the Salem County Historical Society is to seek, document, preserve, interpret and perpetuate Salem County’s heritage and to enhance the awareness and appreciation of that heritage through research, collections, functions, exhibits, educational programs and publications, for the benefit of future generations and for the betterment of the community.

The Society offers a wide variety of programming and services that are unduplicated regionally. These programs are presented at locations around the county and are designed to reach and serve a wide range of audiences. This includes guided tours, school lessons on site, outreach programs and our Open House in Fenwick’s Colony tour and Quarterly Meetings. Most programs are free and all are open to the public.

Salem County’s history and the evidence of it that is all around us in the origins and architecture of its buildings, is one of its greatest assets and should be a source of pride for all of us. The growing number of visitors using the Society’s research library, museum displays and public programs is testimony to the increasing interest of the general public in enjoying Salem County’s history.

Membership Benefits

*Receive our award winning quarterly newsletter

*Free admission to our library and museum

*Discounted copies and services in the library

*Discounts on Society events and programs

The funds needed to operate the facility and to maintain and improve the level of services provided by the Society, come in part from annual membership dues. If you are not already a member, please consider a membership. You may join online at or stop by and visit the Society.


Volunteers play a crucial role in the Society’s operation and overall success. The Society welcomes individuals with varying backgrounds and interests to contribute to our overall mission of preserving and caring for the history of Salem County. Please contact us to learn more about volunteer opportunities.


The Salem County Historical Society strives to make all of our programs accessible to the public. Our library and museum exhibits are wheelchair accessible. Persons requiring special services should contact the Society in advance of your visit. Group visits are welcome and available by reservation.

The Society’s programs are made possible in part by funds from the Salem County Cultural and Heritage Commission, the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution and our generous Corporate Sponsors. If you are interested in corporate sponsorship please call the Society.

Museum & Library Admission: $5.00 per person


From the Delaware Memorial Bridge:

Take the Route 40 exit and immediately bear right onto County Route 540. Follow 540 to Route 45 south, which becomes Market Street in Salem City.

From NJ Turnpike and I-295: Take Route 40 exit, proceed across overpass and go straight onto County Route 540. Follow 540 to Route 45 south, which becomes Market Street in Salem County.

Disclaimer: This information was taken directly from the Salem County Historical Society pamphlet and membership forms. It really is a nice place to visit and take about an hour to visit the galleries. Please call the above numbers for more information.