Copp’s Hill Burying Ground

This graveyard we found by accident. After walking to Paul Revere’s house and the North Church we ended up heading up the hill in front of the church looking for one of the many Trolley bus stops around the city. Instead, we found this graveyard and a great sampling of local stories about Boston’s North End.

Not many of Boston’s most famous are buried here. Robert Newman, the church official who lit the lanterns in the North Church, is the only known patriot from the Freedom Trail. However, this doesn’t mean the graveyard is devoid of good stories.

We started with William Clark’s grave (photo #2) who set the tone for the graveyard. Seems William Clark (1670-1742) was a rich merchant who was originally buried by the entrance with the following epitaph: A despiser of sorry persons and little actions. According to Charles Bahne, a local historian, Clark’s body is no longer in the grave. It was removed after his death by another merchant, Samuel Winslow, who took the tomb for himself and has his own name added to the gravestone. After seeing this, irony and strange tales became the theme for our walk-around.

Prince Hall (#14), a leader in Boston’s early black community, was a freed slave who settled in a community at the base of Copp’s Hill. He brought much to the black community of Boston: the first school for black children and freemasonry to African Americans. The area around his monument contains the remains of over a thousand members of Boston’s African American community.

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It’s rumoured that Phillis Wheatley is also buried here in an unmarked grave. Phillis was the first African-American to publish a book that is credited with being the beginnings of African American literature.

One grave not photographed is that of the tomb of the Mather family. Cotton and Increase Mather were Boston intellectuals heavily involved in the Puritan religion and city politics. The younger, Cotton, is known for writing a handful of stories full of superstition, hearsay, and witchcraft. His most famous, Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions, tells of local Boston encounters with witches and devils.

Go tell the world, What Prays can do beyond all Devils and Witches, and What it is that these Monsters love to do; and through the Demons in the Audience of several standers-by threatened much disgrace to thy Author, if he let thee come abroad, yet venture That, and in this way seek a just Revenge on Them for the Disturbance they have given to such as have called on the Name of God. – Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions

This book is passed off as truth and is thought to have enflamed the witch hysteria in nearby Salem.

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