Your visit to Boston must include a walk into history along the Freedom Trail. There is probably no city more thoroughly draped in the history of Revolutionary America than Boston, Massachusetts. Ben Franklin, Bunker Hill, Old Ironsides, Paul Revere, The Boston Massacre, these are names that are familiar to us from our school history books.

The Freedom Trail is an excellent way to introduce yourself to Colonial Revolutionary Boston along 16 historical sites. It covers well over two and a half centuries of what is considered America’s most significant past. The Trail is marked with a red bricked line that is easy to follow.


The 2.5-mile trail is not a loop–it begins at Boston Common and ends in Charlestown at the Bunker Hill Monument.
 
All of these sites are the real thing – not re-creations or reproductions. When you visit Paul Revere’s house, for example, you go inside his real house where he really lived. Best of all, as you follow the Freedom Trail’s red stripe, you’ll also get to see three of the city’s most interesting neighborhoods – older parts of Downtown Boston, historic Charlestown, and the picturesque North End.

It’s a unique collection of museums, churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks, a ship, and historic markers that tell the story of the American Revolution and beyond. You can start in the beginning, the middle or the end and wind your way through the streets of this very modern city along the paths of history. This is Boston’s Living Outdoor History Museum.

 
In this first installment I will cover four of the historical sites, with the remainder to follow in the weeks ahead.
 
 
 
Boston CommonMassachusetts State HousePark Street Church
Granary Burial Ground
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
Just follow the Red Brick Road ….
 
 

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

The starting point of the Freedom Trail, Boston Common, is the oldest public park in the United States. The park is almost 50 acres
in size. Over 1000 Redcoats made camp on the Common during the British occupation of Boston in 1775. It was from the shore of the Charles River, which was then at the southwest corner of the Boston Common, that three brigades of Redcoats embarked on the fateful trip to Lexington and Concord. The Common forms the southern foot of Beacon Hill.

 

 

 
 
 

 
 
 
It’s hard to miss the gleaming gold dome of the State House as you exit Boston Common. Boston is the capital of Massachusetts, and the State House is the second stop on The Freedom Trail.
 
Built in 1798, the State House is located across from the Boston Common on the top of Beacon Hill. The land was once owned by Massachusetts first elected governor, John Hancock and was used as his cow pasture. The State House’s golden dome, its most distinct feature, once made of wood, was later overlaid with copper by Paul Revere. It was covered with 23 karat gold for the first time in 1874 and painted black during World War II to protect the city from bombing attacks. The State House dome was most recently gilded in 1997. Today, the State House is one of the oldest buildings on Beacon Hill, and its grounds cover 6.7 acres of land.
 
 
 
 
 
 

As you follow The Freedom Trail red line downhill from the State House, you’ll immediately spot the 217-foot steeple of Park Street Church, the next stop on the trail. The Church was the site of important anti-slavery speeches during its early history.


Ten people, including Rev. Abiel Holmes, father of author Oliver Wendell Holmes, gathered on Beacon Hill in 1809, to discuss the organization of a Congregational church in this area. By mid-March, the committee located a site at the corner of Park and Tremont Streets

Park Street Church was built in 1809 on the site of the 1738 town granary (the Old Granary Burying Ground is next door). The church‘s architect, Peter Banner, adapted the steeple from a design by Sir Christopher Wren. Either because of the “fire and brimstone” sermons of its Congregational preachers or the fact that gunpowder was stored in its basement during the War of 1812, the corner of Tremont and Park Streets, where the church is located, came to be known as “Brimstone Corner.”

 

 
 
 
 
 
The church has had many firsts – the first Sunday School in America was founded here in 1817; the first prison aid society was founded here in 1824; William Lloyd Garrison made his first public anti-slavery speech here in 1829; and Samuel Francis Smith’s hymn, America (“My Country ‘Tis of Thee“) was sung for the first time on the church‘s steps by the Children’s Choir on July 4, 1831.

 

 
 
 

The Granary Burial Ground is our fourth stop on the Freedom Trail. 

Founded in 1660, the Granary is the third oldest burying ground in Boston proper and the resting place of Boston’s most famous sons. In this two-acre plot are the remains of more famous people than any other small graveyard in America. In 1737, when grain was stored where the present Park Street Church stands, the burying ground was renamed the Granary.
 
 
 


Notable burials here include signers of the Declaration of Independence John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Robert Treat Paine; patriots James Otis, James Bowdoin; Boston Massacre victims including Crispus Attucks; Benjamin Franklin’s parents; prominent early Bostonians Peter Faneuil, Colonial Governor Richard Bellingham Esquire, First Mayor John Phillips; and even a Mother Goose.

 
 

 

Within this ground are buried
John Hancock, Samuel Adams
and Robert Treat Paine,
signers of the Declaration of Independence;
Governors
Richard Bellingham, William Dummer,
James Bowdoin, Increase Sumner,
James Sullivan and Christopher Gore;
Lieut. Governor Thomas Cushing;
Chief Justice Samuel Sewall;
Ministers John Baily, Samuel Willard,
Jeremy Belknap and John Lathrop.

Granary Burial Ground 1660

Within this ground are buried the Victims of the Boston Massacre, March 5, 1770.  Josiah Franklin and Wife (parents of Benjamin Franklin) Peter Faneuil, Paul Revere and John Phillips, First Mayor of Boston

 
 
 
A square monument of white marble towards the back of the graveyard marks the grave of Paul Revere (January, 1734 – May 10, 1818), and stands by a small slate marker that dates from Revere’s burial. An American colonial silversmith and a patriot in the American Revolution. Immortalized post-mortem for his role as a messenger in the battles of Lexington and Concord,
Revere’s name and his “midnight ride” have endured as patriotic symbols.

“REVERES TOMB” are the only words on a stone marking the resting place of an American icon. Paul Revere was born in Boston to Apollos Rivoire, a French huguenot escaping religious persecution and Deborah Hichborn from Boston. His home, located in Boston’s North End, was built in 1680 and is the oldest building in Boston. It is now a museum and a stop along the Boston Freedom Trail.

 
 
 
 

Inscription reads:

This tablet as a memorial to Paul Revere
is erected by the
Paul Revere Memorial Association to
commemorate the opening to the public
on April 19, 1908
of his old house at No. 19 North Square
in this city.
May the youth of today when they visit
this old house be inspired with the
patriotism of Paul Revere.

 

 

A stone at the front right of the graveyard marks the tomb of Samuel Adams (September 16, 1722–October 2, 1803), an American leader, politician, writer, and political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Born in Boston, Adams was brought up in a devoutly Puritan and politically active family. After being educated at Boston Latin School and Harvard College, he began life as a mercantile businessman. In 1748, he and some friends launched the Whig publication, The Public Advertiser. When his father died, he inherited not only a third of the estate, but the family brewery
(hence the Sam Adams branded beer today).

 

Samuel Adams

HERE LIES BURIED SAMUEL ADAMS
SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
GOVERNOR OF THIS COMMONWEALTH
A LEADER OF MEN AND AN ARDENT PATRIOT
BORN 1722 DIED 1803

 

James Otis

In the front left corner of the graveyard, a boulder commemorates the grave of James Otis, Jr. (February 5, 1725 – May 23,
1783), a lawyer in colonial Massachusetts. The phrase “Taxation without Representation is Tyranny” is usually attributed to
him.

 

 

The tall white pillar beside the nearby building marks the tomb of John Hancock (January 12, 1737 – October 8, 1793), President of the Second Continental Congress and of the Congress of the Confederation; first Governor of Massachusetts; and the first person to sign the United States Declaration of Independence.

Next to the monument is a stone to the memory of Frank, Servant to John Hancock.

 

 

 

 

Almost in the exact center of the graveyard is the Franklin cenotaph, marking the grave of Josiah and Abiah Franklin (parents of Benjamin Franklin.) The stone obelisk was erected by a group of citizens in 1827 to replace an earlier marker. The inscription is from the pen of their youngest son, Benjamin Franklin, who is buried at Christ Church Cemetery in Philadelphia.


Inscription Reads:
Josiah Franklin and Abiah his wife lie here interred. They lived lovingly together in wedlock fifty-five years, and without an estate, or any gainful employment, by constant labor and honest industry, maintained a large family comfortably, and brought up thirteen children and seven grandchildren respectably.

 

 

 

 

The Boston Massacre was an attack on colonist civilians by British troops on March 5, 1770, and its legal aftermath helped spark the American Revolutionary War.

 

The inscription on this tombstone reads:

The Remains of Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick, James Caldwell, Crispus Attucks and Patrick Carr, Victims of the Boston Massacre, March 5th, 1770 were here interred by the order of the Town of Boston.

Here also lies the body of Christopher Snider, Aged 12 Years, Killed February 22nd, 1770. The innocent, first victim of the struggles between the Colonists and the Crown which resulted in Independence.

 

 

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Robert Treat Paine graduated from Harvard University in 1749 at the age of 18.  Paine (1731-1814) was a statesman, patriot, judge, and signer of the Declaration of Independence as a representative of Massachusetts.

On the right hand wall is a plaque marking the tomb of Robert Treat Paine. He along with Sam Adams and John Hancock brings the number of signers of the Declaration of Independence buried in Granary to three.

 

 

The headstones in this cemetery, as well as the other burial grounds on the Trail are very unique.  If you get a chance to visit, take time to read the epitaphs and look closely at the unusual and remarkable carvings on these headstones.  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 cherub with a wing on each side that was a representation of the soul flying to heaven after death. Elaborate scroll work, poetic epitaphs and depictions of the Grim Reaper and Father Time also adorn many headstones here.

 

 

 

“If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.”
— Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, No. 1, December 19, 1776

 

@ Patty