GRAVE OLD WORLD—(top to bottom) The Civil War sphinx memorial sits at Mount Auburn Cemetery; King’s Chapel boast a wealth of colonial headstones; and an elaborate, Gothic memorial lies at Forest Hills Cemetery.
Explore Boston underground in our survey of the Hub’s historic cemeteries
by Scott Roberto
Central Burying Ground
Boylston Street near Tremont, Boston Common
Founded in 1756 on America’s oldest public park, this colonial-era graveyard was initially established to alleviate overcrowding at the Big Three cemeteries found on the Freedom Trail: King’s Chapel, Copp’s Hill and the Old Granary. Notables who rest here include soldiers from the Battle of Bunker Hill, participants in the Boston Tea Party and two prominent early American artists: painter Gilbert Stuart and composer William Billings.
COPP'S HILL BURIAL GROUND
Hull Street, North End
Boston’s second oldest cemetery was established in 1660 and is one of the 16 stops along the Freedom Trail. So many souls are interred here that the ground rises several feet above the original street level. This was also the place from which the British destroyed Charlestown during the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. The Mathers, a family of prominent Puritan preachers, are buried here, including Cotton Mather, a key figure in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, and his father, Increase.
95 Forest Hills Ave., 617-524-0128 ext. 22
Founded in 1848, this garden-style cemetery, which is still in active use, is known not just for its famous deceased, but its scenery as well. The centrally located Lake Hibiscus—complete with resident swans George and Gracie—is a relaxing spot, and the grounds feature many fine examples of Victorian-era sculpture as well as contemporary works. Buried here are American literary icons such as e.e. cummings, Eugene O’Neill, Anne Sexton and Edward Everett Hale; abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison; and former Celtics star Reggie Lewis, among others. Upcoming events include a lecture and remembrance service celebrating the life and work of Eugene O’Neill on October 20 at 2 p.m. Forest Hills is located near the Forest Hills stop at the end of the MBTA’s Orange Line.
CHAPEL BURYING GROUND
Tremont Street, Downtown
Boston’s oldest cemetery, founded in 1630, is another prominent stop along the Freedom Trail. This Puritan depository for the dead boasts some of the finest examples of colonial funerary art around, including headstones marked with the ubiquitous winged death’s head and many cheery Puritan epitaphs. Denizens of note include John Winthrop, Massachusetts Bay Colony’s first governor; Mary Chilton, the first woman to step off the Mayflower; and William Dawes, the other midnight rider who accompanied Paul Revere on that famous night in 1775.
Making his Mark—The grave marker for patriot John Hancock is one of the many prominent monuments at the Old Granary Burying Ground.
GRANARY BURYING GROUND
Tremont Street, Downtown
Located next to Park Street Church and founded in 1660, this cemetery is perhaps the Hub’s most famous. It was so named because it sits on the former site of the town’s grain depository. Many figures from early American history rest here, including Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Paul Revere. A headstone inscribed with the name Mary Goose is allegedly the final resting place of “Mother Goose.” As with King’s Chapel and Copp’s Hill, the Old Granary is also a popular stop on the Freedom Trail.
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