Almshouse Burial Ground Memorial - Salem, Massachusetts

Salem, MA, USA
Collins Cove
Salem, Massachusetts

Today, at last, we bring honor and dignity to the hundreds of souls that were laid to rest along Collins Cove, once residents of Salem's Almshouse and Hospital for Contagious Diseases.

I want to express my deep gratitude to those who helped me give this voice to the voiceless and believed in the importance of recognizing those buried here.

The memorial reads:


Almshouse Burial Ground Memorial
Salem, Massachusetts

This stone represents years of research and advocacy. I've wondered what I would say if this moment arrived and today, like so many things about this project, the words found me.

    “The optimist in me always thought that the ultimate purpose of memorials was that they were dress rehearsals for our collective memory, that in the course of building a shrine to the fallen, we remind ourselves of our broader obligations to the vulnerable. You give the benefit of your empathy and generosity to the memory of someone… and then it becomes easier to extend that empathy and generosity to the lonely and the suffering who are still among us. You get good at meaningful adjacency for the dead, and that makes you better at practicing it on the living.

    But that's not what happens, is it? We go to any length, any length to commemorate one person's death, deploy armies of architects and engineers, then in the same breath look the other way as we step over someone lying on the street.” – Malcolm Gladwell


Our work is not done. May this memorial serve as a reminder to extend our empathy and generosity to the lonely and the suffering among us.

Read More

Unheralded and Unknown, They Sleep: Salem's Forgotten Almshouse Burial Ground

Frank Cousins, Almshouse on Salem Neck, c. 1890. Digital Commonwealth, Phillips Library.
 Frank Cousins, Almshouse on Salem Neck, c. 1890. Digital Commonwealth, Phillips Library.

The Pickering House
Sunday, March 14 at 5:00 p.m.

Jen Ratliff: Unheralded and Unknown, They Sleep
Salem's Forgotten Almshouse Burial Ground

Salem is often celebrated for its history of millionaire merchants and their mansions, but there is another side to the city’s past, that of Salem’s poorest residents: the aged, disabled, ill, or transient, that were relegated to a harsh life at the City Almshouse.

The last almshouse built in Salem, opened in 1816 on Collins Cove to provide housing and support for the city’s impoverished, many of whom were expected to work the adjacent City Farm to offset the cost of their stay. This site was active for over a century and included a small burial ground which would have served as the only option for those who were unable to afford a funeral or that had no family to claim their remains.

Unfortunately, few know of this land’s former purpose and significance, as there is very little evidence of the Almshouse or its burial ground. Join us to learn more about the important history of this site and how we can preserve its memory.

Salem historian Jen Ratliff has dedicated herself to uncovering and sharing the forgotten stories of our collective past. While earning a B.A. from Salem State University in Public History, she created multiple exhibits and digital projects for both Salem Maritime National Historic Site and Salem State University, spotlighting items from their archives and the unique stories behind them. Jen is currently pursuing an M.S., concentrated in Archives Management, from Simmons University. She shares her love for local history on her blog, History by the Sea, as well as her Facebook group, Salem History Exchange.

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