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Resting Place of Patriots
Founded in 1660, the Granary Burying Ground is the final resting place for three signers of the Declaration of Independence (John Hancock, Samuel Adams and Robert Treat Paine), nine Massachusetts governors, Paul Revere, the Boston Massacre Victims, Ben Franklin’s parents and, according to legend, even Mother Goose.
Open daily 9 AM – 5 PM
Handicap access is via the entrance at the end of Tremont Place. Go past the main Tremont Street entrance, turn left on Beacon Street and left into the alley at Tremont Place. Enter through the gate on the right at the end of the alley.
No rest rooms.
Public Transportation: Red or Green lines to the Park Street Station.
Plan about 15 minutes to walk through.
The Granary Burying Ground is the third oldest in Boston, behind King’s Chapel and Copp’s Hill Burying Grounds. It is on land that was once part of Boston Common and takes its name from the town granary that was located next door at the current site of the Park Street Church. There are about 2,300 identifiable graves, but estimates of the actual number of people buried run between 5,000 and 8,000.
You will notice that the graves are nicely laid out in neat rows. This is not the way people were actually buried. They were buried quite haphazardly and often several deep. The stones were moved to their current configuration much later. Therefore, the headstone you are standing before likely has no relation to the body that lies beneath it.
There are three types of graves: the headstone or footstone is the most common. The table tombs look like tables and have the bodies buried in a vault underneath the table stones. The vaults were the most expensive and often favored by wealthy families. They typically hold several bodies even if there is only one name on the vault.
As you enter the graveyard, the first thing you will notice is the large Franklin cenotaph in the center of the cemetery. This obelisk marks the grave of Benjamin Franklin’s parents, Josiah and Abiah. Ben Franklin was born in Boston in 1706, but left for Philadelphia when he was 17. He died there in 1790 and that is where his remains are buried. The obelisk is surrounded by several other members of the Franklin family.
Taking a left turn immediately after entering the burying ground, you will find the stone of James Otis Jr. on the right. Otis was one of the most brilliant and important pre-Revolutionary thinkers. Otis was not a revolutionary in the mold of Samuel Adams, but instead remained a loyal British subject.
In 1761, it was Otis who delivered the famous and impassioned four hour legal case that questioned the legality of the Writs of Assistance. John Adams later said that hearing Otis’s argument was critical in influencing him to join the Patriot cause. After 1761, Otis suffered from increasing mental illness and became less influential as a Patriot leader. Otis died in 1783 at age 58.
John Hancock Memorial
Proceeding toward the rear of the cemetery, there is a white pillar on the left that marks the grave of John Hancock (1737-1793). This pillar is a replacement for the original monument, which was stolen in the 1800’s.
There are many rumors regarding what might have happened to Hancock’s remains as the grave remained open for some time when the original marker was stolen. One rumor has asserted that the ring-laden hand that Hancock used to sign the Declaration of Independence was cut off and stolen!
Next to John Hancock’s pillar is a stone that reads “Frank, servant to John Hancock, Esq.” Frank died in 1771 and, given the absence of a last name, was likely Hancock’s slave. It is obvious that Hancock held him in high regard.
At the end of the path is the table tomb of Peter Faneuil (1700-1743). Faneuil was one of Boston’s richest merchants and personally paid for the building of Faneuil Hall (Stop 11). Unfortunately, he died of dropsy at only 43 years, only six months after Faneuil Hall was completed.
Paul Revere Gravesite
Proceeding down the rear path towards the center of the cemetery is the square white marble Paul Revere monument. In addition to his famous duties as a messenger for the Patriot cause (he made at least 18 official rides with destinations that included Portsmouth, N.H., New York and Philadelphia, PA), he was a silversmith, dental technician, artist-engraver, entrepreneur, gunpowder maker, engineer, copper magnate, iron and brass forger, bell maker – the list is almost endless. He died in 1818 at the age of 83 – one Revere who deserves to be revered. The house Paul Revere lived in at the time of his famous 1775 ride is Freedom Trail Stop 12.
The next grave most tourists visit belongs to Boston’s version of Mother Goose. There is conflicting evidence as to who was the original Mother Goose, but this grave is much visited. This Mary Goose was the second wife of Isaac Goose (also known as Vergoose or Vertigoose), who added her own six children to Isaac’s ten. She died in 1758 at the age of 92.
Continuing your walk around the edge of the Burying Ground and towards the front, pass the perimeter vault of Robert Treat Paine. Paine was one of the most influential Patriots, serving in the Massachusetts General Court, the Provincial Congress and representing Massachusetts in the Continental Congress. He was one of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. He died in 1814 at the age of 83.
Samuel Adams & Boston Massacre Victims
Continuing to the front row, pause before the monument of Samuel Adams, who died in 1803 at the age of 81. Adams was the single most important influencer of the thoughts and actions that led to the American Revolution. There is a statue of Adams behind Faneuil Hall, and a wonderful John Singleton Copley portrait of Adams hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts.
Next to Adams’ stone is the memorial for five of the Boston Massacre victims – Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick, James Caldwell, Crispus Attucks, and Patrick Carr. Also buried here is Christopher Seider, who was killed 11 days before the Massacre by a British customs officer. Seider’s murder inflamed the already volatile tensions between the Patriots and the British. After his death, Seider was proclaimed a martyr and Samuel Adams orchestrated his elaborate funeral, with over 2,000 people in attendance.