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Salem, New Jersey
City of Salem
Old Salem County Courthouse
Old Salem County Courthouse
Location within Salem County
Location within Salem County
Salem, New Jersey is located in New Jersey
Salem, New Jersey
Salem, New Jersey
Location in New Jersey
Salem, New Jersey is located in the United States
Salem, New Jersey
Salem, New Jersey
Location in the United States
Country  United States
State  New Jersey
County Salem
Formed October 1675
Incorporated February 21, 1798 (as township)
Incorporated February 25, 1858 (as city)
 • Type City
 • Body City Council
 • Total 2.81 sq mi (7.29 km2)
 • Land 2.34 sq mi (6.07 km2)
 • Water 0.47 sq mi (1.22 km2)  16.73%
Area rank 353rd of 565 in state
12th of 15 in county
10 ft (3 m)
 • Total 5,146
 • Estimate 
 • Rank 374th of 566 in state
5th of 15 in county
 • Density 2,195.9/sq mi (847.8/km2)
 • Density rank 275th of 566 in state
3rd of 15 in county
Time zone UTC−05:00 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−04:00 (Eastern (EDT))
ZIP Code
Area code(s) 856 exchanges 339, 878, 935
FIPS code 3403365490
GNIS feature ID 0885385

Salem is a city in Salem County, in the U.S. state of New Jersey. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population was 5,146, reflecting a decrease of 711 (−12.1%) from the 5,857 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn declined by 1,026 (−14.9%) from the 6,883 counted in the 1990 Census, an overall drop of more than 25% over the two decades. It is the county seat of Salem County, the state's most rural county. The name "Salem", in both the city and county, is derived from the Hebrew word shalom, meaning "peace".

The town and colony of Salem was laid out in 1675 by John Fenwick and the community was given permission to choose officers in October 1693. It was incorporated on February 21, 1798, as part of the initial group of 104 townships established by the New Jersey Legislature. On February 25, 1858, it was reincorporated as Salem City.

Salem had the second-highest property tax rate in New Jersey, with an equalized rate of 6.519% in 2020, compared to 3.476% in Salem County and a statewide average of 2.279%.


Salem was founded by John Fenwick, a Quaker. Fenwick had been involved in a financial dispute with an Edward Billinge, another Quaker, who had received the undivided portion of New Jersey territory that James Stuart, Duke of York had granted to Lord John Berkeley in 1664. Berkeley had sold his share to Billinge in 1675 for 1,000 pounds, but Billinge had become bankrupt and so had the property turned over to Fenwick to hold for Billinge and his assigns in trust. Billinge and Fenwick came to disagree over the property.

William Penn was asked to adjudicate the matter and he awarded 90% of the claim to Billinge and the remaining 10% and a cash settlement to Fenwick for his share. Fenwick was dissatisfied with Penn's judgement and refused to abide by the decision; essentially Fenwick had no assurance that a previously bankrupt man would convey ten percent of the net proceeds of the future venture since he had not even paid the adjudicated cash settlement. So Fenwick organized a colony of settlers and sailed to the Delaware Bay where he settled as Patroon on the eastern shore near the abandoned Swedish settlement of Fort Nya Elfsborg and set himself up as the local governor of the fifth Tenth (approximately 20% of the original Billinge property), issuing land patents and enforcing his own laws in defiance of Billinge and Penn. Billinge countered by suing Fenwick, causing uncertainty in the chain of land title. The economic damages to those who controlled property within and near Salem caused many injured persons over the next decade to declare a long line of complaints and lawsuits in the colonial courts. To preserve Salem, its inhabitants and their property, Fenwick remained under arrest for months until copies of documents proving his claims were obtained from England. Fenwick ultimately proved the right of his claim in the court of Dominion Governor Andros, and returned to govern the Salem tenth by 1689. Salem remained as a settlement and continued growing.

In 1778, the British launched an assault against the local American militia in what became known as the Salem Raid. During that assault, Judge William Hancock of the King's Court who was presiding at the County Courthouse at the beginning of the American Revolutionary War, was accidentally killed by the British troops as part of the assault that became known as the Hancock House Massacre. After the war concluded, treason trials were held at the county courthouse where suspected Loyalists were put on trial for having allegedly aided the British raid of Salem. Four men were convicted and sentenced to death for treason; however, they were pardoned by Governor William Livingston and exiled from New Jersey.

The town was formally incorporated as a city by the New Jersey Legislature's Township Act of 1798 on February 21, 1798.

The Old County Courthouse was the site of the legend of Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson proving the edibility of the tomato. According to legend, Colonel Johnson stood upon the courthouse steps in 1820 and ate tomatoes in front of a large amazed crowd assembled to watch him do so. However, the legend did not appear in print until 1948 and modern scholars doubt the veracity of this story.

Historical buildings

The Old Salem County Courthouse serves today as the administrative offices for Salem City. It is the oldest active courthouse in New Jersey and is the second-oldest courthouse in continuous use in the United States. The Courthouse was erected in 1735 during the reign of King George II using locally manufactured bricks. The building was enlarged in 1817 and additionally enlarged and remodeled in 1908. Its distinctive bell tower is essentially unchanged and the original bell sits in the courtroom.


Salem is located along the Salem River. According to the United States Census Bureau, Salem city had a total area of 2.815 square miles (7.291 km2), including 2.343 square miles (6.070 km2) of land and 0.472 square mile (1.221 km2) of water (16.75%).

The city borders the Salem County municipalities of Elsinboro Township, Lower Alloways Creek Township, Mannington Township, Pennsville Township and Quinton Township.


The climate in the area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Salem has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1810 929
1820 1,303 40.3%
1830 1,570 20.5%
1840 2,006 27.8%
1850 3,052 52.1%
1860 3,865 26.6%
1870 4,555 17.9%
1880 5,056 11.0%
1890 5,516 9.1%
1900 5,811 5.3%
1910 6,614 13.8%
1920 7,435 12.4%
1930 8,047 8.2%
1940 8,618 7.1%
1950 9,050 5.0%
1960 8,941 −1.2%
1970 7,648 −14.5%
1980 6,959 −9.0%
1990 6,883 −1.1%
2000 5,857 −14.9%
2010 5,146 −12.1%
2019 (est.) 4,706 −8.6%
Population sources: 1810–2000
1810–1920 1840 1830–1870
1850 1870 1880–1890
1890–1910 1910–1930
1930–1990 2000 2010

Census 2010

As of the census of 2010, there were 5,146 people, 2,157 households, and 1,264 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,195.9 per square mile (847.8/km2). There were 2,633 housing units at an average density of 1,123.6 per square mile (433.8/km2)*. The racial makeup of the city was 31.21% (1,606) White, 62.13% (3,197) Black or African American, 0.41% (21) Native American, 0.39% (20) Asian, 0.00% (0) Pacific Islander, 1.85% (95) from other races, and 4.02% (207) from two or more races. [[Hispanic (U.S. Census)|Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.68% (344) of the population.

There were 2,157 households out of which 28.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 22.8% were married couples living together, 30.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.4% were non-families. 35.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 3.05.

In the city, the population was spread out with 28.2% under the age of 18, 9.7% from 18 to 24, 22.4% from 25 to 44, 27.1% from 45 to 64, and 12.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34.4 years. For every 100 females there were 80.8 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and old there were 73.5 males.

The Census Bureau's 2006–2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $25,682 (with a margin of error of +/− $5,287) and the median family income was $38,286 (+/− $5,682). Males had a median income of $47,708 (+/− $9,641) versus $32,236 (+/− $5,778) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $17,733 (+/− $2,366). About 26.5% of families and 28.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 43.4% of those under age 18 and 10.9% of those age 65 or over.

Census 2000

As of the 2000 United States Census there were 5,857 people, 2,383 households, and 1,463 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,244.3 people per square mile (866.4/km2). There were 2,863 housing units at an average density of 1,097.0 per square mile (423.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 37.46% White, 56.77% African American, 0.60% Native American, 0.24% Asian, 1.38% from other races, and 3.55% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.88% of the population.

There were 2,383 households, out of which 32.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 27.7% were married couples living together, 29.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.6% were non-families. 34.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 3.10.

In the city the population was spread out, with 31.0% under the age of 18, 9.1% from 18 to 24, 25.4% from 25 to 44, 20.6% from 45 to 64, and 14.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females, there were 80.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 73.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $25,846, and the median income for a family was $29,699. Males had a median income of $35,389 versus $24,354 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,559. About 24.7% of families and 26.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 35.3% of those under age 18 and 12.1% of those age 65 or over.


The Port of Salem was designated by the British Crown in 1682 as a port of entry on the Salem River accessible via the Delaware River. It handles a variety of bulk cargo, notably of construction aggregate, break bulk cargo, and containers for clothing, fishing apparel, agricultural produce, and other consumer goods. South Jersey Port Corporation operates the Salem Terminal on a 22-acre complex located west of downtown.

The Glass House Spur of the Salem Branch begins at the Port of Salem and is operated by the Southern Railroad of New Jersey with connections to Conrail's South Jersey/Philadelphia Shared Assets Area operations at Swedesboro.

2018-08-15 14 36 10 View north along New Jersey State Route 45 (Market Street) just north of New Jersey State Route 49 (Broadway) in Salem, Salem County, New Jersey
View north at the south end of Route 45 in Salem

Roads and highways

As of May 2010, the city had a total of 24.79 miles (39.90 km) of roadways, of which 16.57 miles (26.67 km) were maintained by the municipality, 5.95 miles (9.58 km) by Salem County and 2.27 miles (3.65 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

State highways passing through Salem include Route 45, which has its southern terminus at its intersection with Route 49. Nearby highways and structures include Interstate 295, the New Jersey Turnpike and the Delaware Memorial Bridge.

Public transportation

NJ Transit offers bus service between the city and Philadelphia on the 401 route and local service on the 468 route.

The Delaware City–Salem Ferry was a seasonal service operating between Barber's Basin and Delaware City, Delaware, until it was rerouted to Fort Mott in 2015 and became the Forts Ferry Crossing.

Photo gallery


The Salem City School District serves public school students in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. The district is one of 31 former Abbott districts statewide that were established pursuant to the decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court in Abbott v. Burke which are now referred to as "SDA Districts" based on the requirement for the state to cover all costs for school building and renovation projects in these districts under the supervision of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority.

As of the 2017–18 school year, the district, comprised of three schools, had an enrollment of 1,218 students and 118.0 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 10.3:1. Schools in the district (with 2017–18 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) are John Fenwick Academy with 455 students in grades PreK-2, Salem Middle School with 381 students in grades 3-8 and Salem High School with 334 students in grades 9-12.

Public school students from Elsinboro, Lower Alloways Creek Township, Mannington Township and Quinton Township attend the district's high school for grades 9–12 as part of sending/receiving relationships.

The Catholic K-8 school St. Mary Regional School of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Camden closed in 2000, with students redirected to Bishop Guilfoyle Regional Catholic School in Carneys Point, which in turn closed in 2010. As of 2020 Guardian Angels Regional School (Pre-K-Grade 3 campus in Gibbstown CDP and 4-8 campus in Paulsboro) takes students from Salem.

Salem Community College is in nearby Carney's Point.

Notable people

See also (related category): People from Salem, New Jersey

People who were born in, residents of, or otherwise closely associated with Salem include:

  • Forman S. Acton (1920–2014), computer scientist, engineer, educator and author.
  • Collins B. Allen (1866–1953), President of the New Jersey Senate
  • Isaac Ambrose Barber (1852–1909), member of the United States House of Representatives from Maryland, serving from 1897 to 1899.
  • Ephraim Bee (1802–1888), pioneer, blacksmith, and inn-keeper of Doddridge County, West Virginia, which he represented in the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1863 and 1866–67.
  • Benjamin H. Brewster (1816–1888), United States Attorney General from 1881 to 1885.
  • A. B. Brown (born 1965), running back who played for three seasons in the NFL with the New York Jets.
  • Alexander G. Cattell (1816–1894), United States Senator from New Jersey.
  • John Chowning (born 1934), musician, inventor and professor who developed FM synthesis.
  • Henry T. Ellett (1812–1887), member of the United States House of Representatives from Mississippi who died while delivering a welcome address for President Grover Cleveland.
  • Duke Esper (1868–1910), pitcher who played for nine professional seasons in Major League Baseball.
  • Gene Foster (born 1942), running back who played for six seasons for the San Diego Chargers.
  • Johnny Gaudreau (born 1993) professional hockey player, with the NHL Calgary Flames.
  • Goose Goslin (1900–1971), Hall of Fame Major League Baseball player.
  • William J. Hughes (born 1932), represented New Jersey's 2nd congressional district in the United States House of Representatives
  • Orlando Jordan (born 1974), retired professional wrestler in numerous circuits, best known for his stint in WWE where he was a one-time United States Champion.</ref>
  • Anthony Quinton Keasbey, former US attorney for the district of new Jersey
  • Lydell Mitchell (born 1949), running back in the National Football League from 1972 to 1980.
  • Thomas A. Pankok (1931-2022), politician who served in the New Jersey General Assembly from 1982 to 1986, where he represented the 3rd Legislative District.
  • John R. Patrick (born 1945), business executive, author and innovative leader in the information technology industry.
  • Charles J. Pedersen (1904–1989), organic chemist and winner of the 1987 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
  • John S. Rock (1826–1866), African-American doctor, dentist, abolitionist and lawyer.
  • Hetty Reckless (1776–1881), abolitionist.
  • Clement Hall Sinnickson (1834–1919), represented New Jersey's 1st congressional district from 1875 to 1879.
  • Alice Barber Stephens (1858–1932), painter and engraver, best remembered for her illustrations.
  • Jonathan Taylor (born 1999), running back for the Indianapolis Colts who set the New Jersey state record with 2,815 rushing yards as a senior at Salem High School.
  • John Test (1771–1849), member of the United States House of Representatives from Indiana who served from 1829 to 1831.
  • Hedge Thompson (1780–1828), represented New Jersey's at-large congressional district from 1827 until his death in 1828.
  • Edward Trenchard (1785–1824), captain of the United States Navy.
  • John A. Waddington (1911–1981), politician who served as Majority Leader of the New Jersey Senate.

See also

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