Granary Burying Ground

Coordinates: 42°21′27″N 71°03′42″W / 42.35750°N 71.06167°W / 42.35750; -71.06167
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Granary Burying Ground
Granary Burying Ground
Established1660; 364 years ago (1660)
Tremont Street and Bromfield Street,
Boston, Massachusetts
CountryUnited States
Coordinates42°21′27″N 71°03′42″W / 42.35750°N 71.06167°W / 42.35750; -71.06167
Owned byCity of Boston
No. of graves6,000+
WebsiteGranary Burying Ground
Find a GraveGranary Burying Ground

The Granary Burying Ground in Massachusetts is the city of Boston's third-oldest cemetery, founded in 1660 and located on Tremont Street. It is the burial location of Revolutionary War-era patriots, including Paul Revere, the five victims of the Boston Massacre, and three signers of the Declaration of Independence: Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Robert Treat Paine. The cemetery has 2,345 grave-markers, but historians estimate that as many as 5,000 people are buried in it.[1] The cemetery is adjacent to Park Street Church, behind the Boston Athenaeum and immediately across from Suffolk University Law School. It is a site on Boston's Freedom Trail. The cemetery's Egyptian revival gate and fence were designed by architect Isaiah Rogers (1800–1869), who designed an identical gate for Newport's Touro Cemetery.[2]


Old Granary Burying Ground showing Hancock monument, ca. 1898. Boston Pictorial Archive, Boston Public Library

The Burying Ground was the third cemetery established in the city of Boston and dates to 1660.[3] The need for the site arose because the land set aside for the city's first cemetery—King's Chapel Burying Ground, located a block east—was insufficient to meet the city's growing population. The area was known as the South Burying Ground until 1737, at which point it took on the name of the granary building which stood on the site of the present-day Park Street Church. In May 1830, trees were planted in the area and an attempt was made to change the name to "Franklin Cemetery" to honor the family of Benjamin Franklin, but the effort failed.

Entrance to the Granary Burying Ground as it appeared circa 1881 with the European Elms present

The Burying Ground was originally part of the Boston Common, which then encompassed the entire block. The southwest portion of the block was taken for public buildings two years after the cemetery was established, which included the Granary and a house of correction,[4] and the north portion of the block was used for housing.

Tombs were initially placed near the back of the property. Puritan churches did not believe in religious icons or imagery, so the people of Boston used tombstones as an outlet for artistic expression of their beliefs about the afterlife. One of the most popular motifs was the "Soul Effigy," a skull or "death’s head" with a wing on each side that was a representation of the soul flying to heaven after death. On May 15, 1717, a vote was passed by the town to enlarge the Burying Ground by taking part of the highway on the eastern side (now Tremont Street). The enlargement was carried out in 1720 when 15 tombs were created and assigned to a number of Boston families.

Eleven large European elms fronted it on Tremont Street.[5] The elms were planted in 1762 by Major Adino Paddock and John Ballard and reached ten feet in circumference by 1856. The walk under the elms was known as "Paddock's Mall," while the rest of the grounds were devoid of any trees at all. The first major improvement was undertaken in 1830, when a number of trees were planted around the grounds. The property was improved again in 1840 by the construction of an iron fence on Tremont Street. The fence was designed by Boston architect Isaiah Rogers at a cost of $5,000, half paid by the city and half by public subscription.[6] Rogers designed an identical Egyptian revival gateway for Newport's Touro Cemetery.[2]

In January 2009, a previously unknown crypt was discovered when a tourist on a self-guided tour through the cemetery fell through the ground into what appeared to be a stairway leading to a crypt. The stairway had been covered with a piece of slate which eventually gave way due to advanced age. (The tourist was not hurt, nor did she come into contact with any human remains.) The crypt is reported to be 8 by 12 feet and is structurally intact. It is possibly the resting place of Jonathan Armitage, a Boston selectman from 1732 to 1733.[7] Officials from the City of Boston announced in May, 2011 a $300,000 refurbishment project designed to repair and restore the historic site, including widening paths in the cemetery and providing new observation sites: $125,000 will be provided by the Freedom Trail Foundation and the city will pay the rest.[8]

Memorials and monuments[edit]

Prominently displayed in the Burying Ground is an obelisk erected in 1827 to the parents and relatives of Benjamin Franklin who was born in Boston and is buried in Philadelphia. Franklin's father was Josiah Franklin, originally from Ecton, Northamptonshire, England, and his mother was Abiah, who was born in Nantucket and was Josiah's second wife. Constructed of granite from the Bunker Hill Monument quarry, the obelisk was constructed to replace the original Franklin family gravestones which had been in poor condition. The new memorial was dedicated on 15 June 1827.

The second oldest memorial in the yard lies near the Franklin monument memorializing John Wakefield, aged 52 who died 18 June 1667. The reason(s) for the seven-year gap between the establishment of the burying ground and the oldest memorial are unknown.[9] The oldest stone is that of the Neal Children, carved by the 'Charlestown Carver' dating to 1666.

Near the Tremont Street entrance are interred the American casualties in the Boston Massacre which occurred 5 March 1770. The grave markers were moved during the 1800s to be in straight lines, to conform to nineteenth century ideas of order, as well as to allow for more modern groundskeeping (i.e., the lawn mower).[10]


Granary Burying Ground with Suffolk Law School across the street (2008)
Granary Burying Ground
Gravestones in Granary Burying Ground


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Abel, David (May 16, 2011). "Colonial Resting Place Slated for Upgrade". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 12 November 2011. Retrieved June 2, 2011.
  2. ^ a b James Stevens Curl, The Egyptian Revival, Routledge, 2005, p, 300
  3. ^ D. Brenton Simons (2008). Boston Beheld: Antique Town and Country Views. UPNE. p. 44. ISBN 978-1584657408.
  4. ^ Shurtleff p 211
  5. ^ Bridgeman, Thomas (1856). The Pilgrims of Boston and their Descendants. New York: D. Appleton and Company. p. xii. Retrieved 29 April 2009.
  6. ^ Shurtleff p 216
  7. ^ Ryan, Andrew; John R. Ellement (12 February 2009). "Burying ground yields a secret". Boston Globe. Retrieved May 1, 2009.
  8. ^ Abel, David (16 May 2011). "Colonial Resting Place slated for Upgrade". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 12 November 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
  9. ^ Shurtleff p 219
  10. ^ "Granary – City of Boston". Boston, Massachusetts: City of Boston. Retrieved 4 August 2011. The gravestones' original haphazard configuration was rearranged into straighter rows over to [sic] the years to accommodate both nineteenth-century aesthetics and the modern lawnmower.
  11. ^ Marsh, Carole (2003). Samuel Adams. Gallopade International. p. 13. ISBN 978-0635023674.
  12. ^ Beagle, Jonathan M. (2013). Boston: A Visual History. Charlesbridge. p. 33. ISBN 978-1607346661.
  13. ^ J.L. Bell (2006). "Christopher Seider: shooting victim". Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  14. ^ Spencer, Thomas E. (1998). Where They're Buried: A Directory Containing More Than Twenty Thousand Names of Notable Persons Buried in American Cemeteries, with Listings of Many Prominent People who Were Cremated. Genealogical Publishing Com. p. 417. ISBN 978-0806348230.
  15. ^ Andros, Howard S. (2001). Buildings and Landmarks of Old Boston: A Guide to the Colonial, Provincial, Federal, and Greek Revival Periods, 1630–1850. UPNE. p. 25. ISBN 978-1584650928.
  16. ^ Tobyne, Dan (2018). Urban Archaeology Boston: Discovering the History Hidden in Plain Sight. Down East Books. p. 61. ISBN 978-1608939923.
  17. ^ "Christ Church Burial Grounds". Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  18. ^ "Benjamin Franklin's grave [Christ Church Burial Ground], Philadelphia". Library of Congress. 1900. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  19. ^ "Mother Goose; Longevity of the Boston Myth – The Facts of History in this Matter", The New York Times, 4 February 1899 (on-line text).
  20. ^ Collected editions were published in 1650, 1660 and 1665; the 1650 reference to "ma mère l"Oye" was noted by William Bracy in Encyclopedia Americana, s.v. "Mother Goose" 1965:512),
  21. ^ Charles Francis Potter, "Mother Goose", Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legends II (1950), pp. 751ff. "Isaiah Thomas reprinted Robert Samber's Histories or Tales of Past Times, Told by Mother Goose (London, 1729), under the same title, in 1786".
  22. ^ United States. Congress (1957). Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the ... Congress. Vol. 103. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 11300.
  23. ^ "Wendell Phillips Buried: A Great Demonstration of Respect to the Dead Orator". The New York Times. February 7, 1884. p. 1.
  24. ^ Shurtleff p 222

General sources[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by Locations along Boston's Freedom Trail
Granary Burying Ground
Succeeded by