Howard Street Cemetery opened in 1801 and now has more than 300 gravestones. Most of the gravestones are in good condition, although some are missing and others have become unreadable with age. Inscriptions of the over 300 gravestones, including those that are unreadable, can be found at the Phillips Library of the Peabody Essex Museum. The Howard Street Cemetery was also the site of the execution of Giles Corey, and the Salem Dungeon and Jail used during the Salem witch trials was located next to the cemetery.
Giles Corey was a farmer from Salem Village who was arrested
and examined for the crime of witchcraft during the Salem witch trials of 1692.
In September 1692, Corey refused to plead innocent or guilty at arraignment and
in an attempt to make him enter a plea, judges punished him with peine forte et dure, a form of torture
in which the subject is pressed beneath an increasingly heavy load of stones.
After days of the torture, Corey died on September 19 at the age of 81. Corey’s
third wife, Martha, was also accused of witchcraft and was hanged just after
her husband died.
The Salem Dungeon and Jail was used to hold accused witches
during the Salem witch trials of 1692. The witches were considered dangerous
prisoners and thus were kept in the dungeon and chained to the walls. While in
jail three babies were born, Mercy Good, child of Sarah Good, the infant child
of Elizabeth Scargen, and John Proctor III. Only John Proctor III survived, but
all three mothers were given temporary reprieves due to their pregnancies. The
jail was remodeled into a Victorian home in 1813 and was razed in 1956. A large
brick building now stands on the spot of the old jail with a plaque dedicated
to the “Old Witch Gaol.”