Salem County is a county located in the U.S. state of New Jersey. As of the 2000 Census, the population was 64,285. Its county seat is Salem. This county is part of the Delaware Valley area.
The Old Salem County Courthouse, situated on the same block as the Salem County Courthouse, serves as the court 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 oldest being King William County Courthouse (1725) in Virginia. The courthouse was built 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 bell from the expansion (dated in the 1820’s) sits in the courtroom.
Judge William Hancock of the King’s Court presided at the courthouse. He was later unintentionally killed by the British in the American Revolutionary War during the massacre of Hancock House committed by the British against local militia during the Salem Raid in 1778. The courthouse was afterwards the scene of the “treason trials,” wherein suspected Loyalists were put on trial for having allegedly aided the British during the Salem Raid. Four men were convicted and sentenced to death for treason; however, they were pardoned by Governor William Livingston and exiled from New Jersey. The courthouse is also the site of the legend of Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson proving the edibility of the tomato. Before 1820, Americans often assumed tomatoes were poisonous. In 1820, Colonel Johnson, according to legend, stood upon the courthouse steps and ate tomatoes in front of a large amazed crowd assembled to watch him do so. Significant events that took place here – the Revolutionary War Committees of Correspondence meetings, treason trials and abolitionist speakers.
Salem County is also notable for its distinctive Quaker-inspired architecture and masonry styles of the 18th century.
Salem County lies in the southwest corner of our great state of New Jersey. It is bounded by the Delaware River and Bay to the west and the Maurice River to the east. Oldmans Creek creates nearly half of Salem County’s northern border, while Stow Creek runs along a portion of its southern divide. Salem County’s natural features include six rivers, more than 34,000 acres of unique meadow and marshland, tidal and freshwater wetlands, 40 lakes and ponds, bay beaches, dunes, expansive woodlands, a critical underground aquifer, numerous streams and important headwaters. Salem County covers 338 square miles- with nearly half of the land actively farmed. It also boasts a population of less than 65,000- the lowest population and the lowest density per square mile in New Jersey.
Salem County’s rich legacy of historical places and events; its vast array of natural resources and open spaces; its stable farming community and strong economic job base all contribute to a quality of life for Salem County residents that is unparalleled in New Jersey.
Visitors & Tourism
In an age of urban sprawl and pollution, discover why Salem County is a destination for those who wish to “get away from it all.” We invite you to pay us a visit, and enjoy the down-home country feel that pervades every facet of the county. The county’s agricultural, historical, and economic characteristics are surpassed only by the people of the county who work as a team to preserve the features that make the county great while planning to keep it viable for future generations.