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The Granary Burying Ground

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Tremont Street between School and Park Streets
Boston, MA United States

Tremont Street between School and Park Streets.

The Granary Burying Ground was established in 1660 to relieve Boston’s oldest cemetery—the nearby King’s Chapel Burying Ground—from overcrowding. At that time, it was part of the Common, with disorderly headstones and grass maintained by grazing cows. In the 1800s, trees were planted, the Egyptian revival gateway and fence were constructed, and grave markers were moved into orderly rows, both for aesthetics and for easier passage of the newly invented lawn mower. Though only about 2,300 tombstones and monuments are still existent, there are believed to be over 5,000 people buried in the Granary Burying Ground, including Paul Revere, the parents of Benjamin Franklin, three signers of the Declaration of Independence (Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Robert Treat Paine), a judge of the Salem witch trials, and the five victims of the Boston Massacre. The last burial there was in 1880.

Poet Phillis Wheatley, the first African-American woman to publish a book, was a slave in the house of John Wheatley, who died in 1778—freeing Phillis Wheatley from slavery—and was interred in the Granary Burying Ground. John, in a letter verifying the authenticity of Phillis’ collection Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, wrote

“Without any Assistance from School Education, and by only what she was taught in the Family, she, in sixteen Months Time from her Arrival, attained the English Language, to which she was an utter Stranger before…”

Also buried in the Granary Burying Ground is Mary Goose, who has been touted as the original Mother Goose, “author”—though more likely the collector—of many famous nursery rhymes. This rumor is disputed, as earlier French references have been found to a “Mother Goose” figure, who is largely built on an archetypical country woman. Today, even historians who argue that Mother Goose originated in Boston believe that it was the second wife of Isaac Goose, Elizabeth—mother of six and stepmother to Mary Goose’s ten children—who was the “real” Mother Goose. When Elizabeth’s daughter married a printer, her rhymes were supposedly collected in the first book of Mother Goose’s nursery rhymes.

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Did You Know?

Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.