Monday, March 21, 2016

The "Dead Center" of Boston - Part Two (Granary Burying Ground) (Boston #5)

Granary Burying Ground - Photo by Jim Schmidt
In this second of three parts about historic Boston burial grounds (Part I, about "King's Chapel Burial Ground," is here), I share some general information and photos about Granary Burying Ground; the third post will have a little more "nitty gritty," with a focus on a few famous gravestones in the cemeteries, background on Puritan era gravestone craftsmanship and iconography, and some book and article recommendations.

From the wayside marker:

Granary Burying Ground - Library of Congress- c. 1900
This graveyard was started by Boston's town officials in 1660 because of overcrowding at the "old burying ground" (King's Chapel, one block away). Granary is Boston's third graveyard and was referred to as the "New Burying Ground" or "South Burying Ground." Later it was called "Middle" or "Central" Burying Ground until it was named "Granary" after 1800. This name referred to the 12,000-bushel grain storage warehouse built in 1729 to provide food for the poor. The Granary building was moved to Dorchester in 1809 to make way for Park Street Church. It was originally a part of the Common at the very edge of 17th century Boston where the land rose steeply to three towering hills or "trimountain." Here, Boston Town put "noxious" buildings and activities they wanted away from the bustling harbor businesses, including the burying grounds, the almshouse or poorhouse, the prison, the cow pen, and the workhouse.

The Granary Burying Ground today covers approximately two acres and contains 2,345 gravestones and 204 tombs. It is probable that more than 8,000 men, women, and children were buried here, the majority in the tombs that border the grounds. Many gravestones have decayed or have been lost. Granary was overcrowded by the 18th century, and burials outside of tombs were prohibited from 1856 on. The gravestone locations have been rearranged at least two times to accommodate pathways and landscaping, so many no longer mark the actual burial location. In 1840 Solomon Willard, sculptor and architect of the Bunker Hill Monument, designed Granary's Egyptian-style gateway.

Granary Burying Ground - Photo by Jim Schmidt
You can get a quick tour watching the "Boston History in a Minute" video from Ye Olde Tavern Tours, below:

I didn't wander around the Granary Burying Ground as much as the King's Chapel Burying Ground as I was anxious to get started on my tour of the rest of the Freedom Trail, but it is the final resting place of some well-known patriots, so I made a point to find them, including Paul Revere, Sam Adams, the victims of the Boston Massacre (see my post on the Massacre here), John Hancock, and perhaps the most poignant that I saw: the marker for "Frank," a slave of Hancock's, who died in 1771.

Frank - A Servant to John Hancock - Photo by Jim Schmidt
John Hancock - Photo by Jim Schmidt

Paul Revere - Photo by Jim Schmidt
Samuel Adams - Photo by Jim Schmidt
Victims of the Boston Massacre - Photo by Jim Schmidt

Given it's age and historical importance, it's not surprising that the cemetery has attracted many visitors, and it has been the subject of several guidebooks,including this interesting one from 1902:

You may also like these posts on this blog:

Other Posts About Boston:
Boston #1 - Poe Statue
Boston #2 - Robert Gould Shaw/54th Massachusetts Monument
Boston #3 - The Boston Massacre and the Old State House

Boston #4 - King's Chapel Burying Ground

Other Posts About Historic Cemeteries:  

King's Chapel Burying Ground - Boston - here
St. Louis Cemetery #1 - New Orleans, LA - My YouTube Video here
Jewell Cemetery State Historic Site - Columbia, MO
Sunset Hills Cemetery - Boonville, MO - here and here
Galveston (TX) Cemeteries - here and here
Jefferson City (MO) National Cemetery 
Springfield (MO) National Cemetery - (blog posts here, here, here)

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