Here to return to
OCCUPIES land taken in 1660 from the Common, which formerly extended northeasterly as far as the present Tremont Building. It was the third Cemetery in Boston, and was originally called the South Burying-Ground; afterward the Central or Middle Burying-Ground. Its present name dates from 1737. In April, 1719, the Town ordered that “the South Burying Place should be enlarged next the Common or Training Field.” This may account for the finding of some tombstones and human bones when excavations were made for the foundation of a drinking-fountain at the foot of Park Street Mall, where a memorial tablet now stands, about the middle of the nineteenth century. No fence separated the burial enclosure from the Common until 1739, when the Town ordered that one should be set up between Common and Beacon Streets. It consisted of a row of posts surmounted by a rail, and was placed there “in order to prevent carts etc. from passing upon and through the Common, and spoiling the herbage thereof.” In the Town Records, 1759, the enclosure was mentioned as “the South Burial Ground, on the back of the Work House.” This hallowed ground is the resting-place of many famous personages, including Edward Rawson, who served as Secretary of the Colony for thirty-six years; his contemporary, John Hull, the celebrated mint master, and the latter’s son-in-law, Chief Justice Samuel Sewall.
Here repose also the patriots, John Hancock and Samuel Adams, besides many of the earlier Governors of Massachusetts; Jonathan Phillips, the first Mayor of Boston, and Paul Revere. The oldest epitaph bears the date 1666, and is in memory of Elizabeth Neal, aged three days.
The Franklin monument, erected by Benjamin Franklin in memory of his parents, had the following inscription:
Josiah Franklin and Abiah his wife, lie here interred. They lived lovingly together in wedlock fifty-five years; and without an estate or any careful employment; by constant labor and honest industry, maintained a large family comfortably, and brought up thirteen children and seven grandchildren respectably. From this instance, Reader, be encouraged to diligence in thy calling, and distrust not Providence. He was a pious and prudent man; she a virtuous woman. Their youngest son, in filial regard to their memory, places this stone. J. F. Born, 1655. Died, 1744. Aet. 89. A. F. Born, 1667. Died, 1752.
The original inscription having been nearly obliterated, a number of citizens erected this monument as a mark of respect for the illustrious author. MDCCCXXVII.1
. . . . . . . .
Within this enclosure two hundred and sixty-six Revolutionary soldiers were buried. Here also is the resting-place of seventeen members of the Boston Tea Party.
Perhaps the most curious epitaph is that of Mary Brackett, who died in 1679:
“Under these clods a pretious gemm ly(es) hear,
. . . . . . .
The stone wall and tall iron fence along the Tremont Street side were erected during the administration of Mayor Samuel Turell Armstrong in 1836. No trees adorned the enclosure until about the year 1825; but soon thereafter a considerable number were planted, including specimens of the willow, larch, maple, bass-wood, and mountain-ash. At this time (1919) about forty large and thriving shade trees remain. Among them are English elms, horse-chestnuts and lindens. The perpetual care of the cemetery is assumed by the City authorities; but this does not apply to the monuments and tombstones, whose oversight devolves upon’ individuals. There have been about 8030 interments during a period of two hundred and sixty years. Prominent among the many notabilities who here repose are Thomas Fleet, the printer and publisher (1685-1758), and his mother-in-law, Elizabeth Vergoose, who was believed by many to have been the original Mother Goose. But proof of this is lacking. We have the testimony of one of her descendants that she was buried here in 1759, although no stone bearing her name is now standing.
1 To Dr. J. C. Warren belongs the credit of raising funds for this object. The granite blocks were quarried from Bunker Dill ledge, and the obelisk was designed by Solomon Willard. The corner-stone was laid June 27, 1827.