The Greenlawn Cemetery in the North Fields of Salem, MA was once owned buy Nathaniel Hawthorne’s uncle Manning. Manning was one of 158 subscribers who paid for the beautification of the local common which was a disguise for an elaborate plan to connect most of the town to a network of deceit. A series of smuggling tunnels ran under the city and some of them went through Manning’s old tree nursery which is now the cemetery.
This picturesque cemetery has recently been a location in the Rob Zombie’s film Lords of Salem. The film crew received access to the chapel and graveyard, but they did not gain access to the tunnels below and the crypts…
Then this tunnel is blocked off by a modern set of stairs (cellar stairs not being historically accurate to a building of this age usually were converted tunnel entrances.) that once led to the Cabot Farm. The Cabot Farm was first owned by 3 generations of men named Timothy Orne. The last of the three gentlemen dies young and leaves behind a widow who remains penniless until she starts selling bricks in 1804. The brickyard was run by her son-in-law Thomas Cushing who builds a house on Orne’s Point. He would also own the building in which becomes the Bowman’s Bakery on Essex Street. Cushing would die in 1806 leaving the operation to Elihu Eggleston who had been making the bricks for them for several years. The widow Cushing had to only collect the money.
One of the widow Cushing’s first orders was to Pickering Dodge. He had purchased 300,000 bricks. Now lets look at the numbers. Here is an estimate from one site on the web:
“If it is assumed that the entire exterior of a 2,400-square-foot house is brick, then it would take about 5,226 bricks in a single layer to cover 2,400 square feet of space.“
Mr. Dodge’s order was roughly 60 times what would be needed for one home. Dodge’s home at 29 Chestnut Street might be a large home, but not that large. He was the nephew of Timothy Pickering who was one of Washington’s generals and Secretary of State. Timothy Pickering was the infamous writer of the Alien & Sedition Acts. Mrs. Cushing was said to have had several large orders like Mr. Dodge’s in the years to come.
Where were all of those bricks going? Could someone have propositioned the desperate widow who was selling off property after her husband died to furnish bricks for the clandestine tunnels in town? The Orne’s were a merchant family with property on the river. A convenient location for smugglers. You can see the tunnels split like a Y in a field on Orne’s Point. Also Orne Street is badly humped from the erosion around the tunnels below it. Here are the pictures of the tunnels running under the old hot house next to the chapel.
The North Fields were also said to be a hotbed of abolitionist spirit. Many homes could of been connected in this area to help runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad. Here are a few more pictures.
For more information make sure you read Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City by Christopher Jon Luke Dowgin. Also look out for its sequel Sub Rosa coming out this summer! How the men who built the tunnels in the city conspired to have two presidents killed, crash the nations economy, reinterpret the Constitution, and started the drug war in the nineteenth century.