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The History of Salem, NJ

The History of Salem, NJ
The City of Salem has a long history, first with the Swedes and Fins, the Dutch and then the English. Establishment as a town first occurred in 1675 when an Englishman named John Fenwick first anchored near the mouth of the Salem River. He arrived as a passenger on the “Griffith” named after its captain, with his children, servants and several associates. He was a man of great means with a history in law, the military and the Society of Friends. Born in England in 1618 he attended law school in London in 1645.

Soon after his arrival he set his sights on organizing his colony`s government. He built a house named, Ivy Point, near Market Street. Many of his associates that arrived with him in 1675 began to purchase land and play a large part in the foundation of Salem City. Edward Wade was one of those associates. He was from Monmouthshire Wales and also a member of the Friends Society. A cloth-maker by trade, Mr. Wade became a leader in religious and civic organizations. It is said that he built the first house on Market St.

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It is interesting to find how Broadway St. derived its name. After Fenwick had organized the structure of Salem he decided to build a road that would entice other emigrants to purchase building lots. This road emptied at a wharf near the creek and was called Wharf St. It was renamed Bradway Street after Edward Bradway another prominent land owner, but perhaps through the different dialects of the inhabitants it became Broadway.

Growth in the City of New Salem was slow in the beginning. A gentleman by the name of Thomas Sharpe visited Salem in 1680 and reported back to his Uncle, Anthony Sharpe, that not much growth had taken place mainly because large land owners were holding the majority of land in the colony and much of the surrounding area. Ironically Thomas was send to Salem to look after the many properties owned by his Uncle Anthony.

Like many of the South Jersey towns and communities of the 1600`s real growth began to take place after the Revolutionary War. In the early 1800`s a library was established, banking institution, churches, vessel construction companies, tobacco manufacturers and a tannery house. Salem had established its self along the colonies in the trade of many goods. By 1850, the population was 3052. Eighty-three births were recorded that year.

Aside from the founding of the city by white settlers, Salem has one unique spot of interest and a history that goes beyond the buildings left by men. It is called the Salem Oak. A stately oak tree that stands tall at the Friends Burial Ground. It is said to be 416 years old. Legend has it that John Fenwick negotiated treaties with the Lenne-Lenape under its wide branches. The tree has been an object of admiration for many generations. In 1876 a sapling from the tree was planted in the First Presbyterian Church`s cemetery on Grant St. This tree grows strong today. In 1926, three progeny`s were planted along the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Washington, D.C. So among the remaining historical buildings that line the streets in the heart of the city you will also find a living monument that tells a tale of strength and endurance.

Author: Vickie Van Antwerp


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