The third cemetery I visited on the Freedom Trail was also the third one built in Boston. This one was quite famous – it had open-top tour buses stopping outside with a tour guide explaining who was buried within (nobody got off the bus to actually come and see). This was also the busiest cemetery I visited anywhere in the city. I guess its location so close to Boston Common and with some pretty significant burials here meant that it has a lot of drawing power for visitors, regardless of whether or not they were that interested in visiting cemeteries.
Even if you are not that well-versed in American history, the names of some of the people buried here should ring a bell: Paul Revere, who’s famous midnight ride is memorialized in Longfellow’s poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride;” three signers of the Declaration of Independence: Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Robert Treat Paine; the relatives of Benjamin Franklin (marked by a large obelisk); 5 victims of the Boston Massacre; and Mary Goose, who some claim as the original Mother Goose.
This cemetery is quite large and has nearly 2300 headstones (with at least double that many burials), but the placement of the stones does not necessarily align with the placement of the actual graves – in the 19th century many of the stones were moved to allow for straight pathways and easier maintenance (this true of many old cemeteries). Visitors were encouraged to stay on the official paths and not wander into the greens – I completely understood that from a preservation standpoint (these stones are fragile and it wouldn’t take much for them to break by someone who was not paying attention to where they were going), but I was eager to see some of the ones that were ‘off-limits’ (I didn’t though.) Some small paths were put in to allow access into the green to see the graves of famous people, such as Paul Revere.
This cemetery, like others on the trail, had information panels and maps throughout, but unlike the other cemeteries, the maps were confusing to read. Myself, and two other couples had trouble reading one particular map which did not make it clear where it was situated next to the graves it was highlighting. Luckily, with all of spread out, we were able to figure it out, but that something that I found a bit of a miss in this cemetery. Unfortunately, while I was here my phone (and external battery) died, so I was not able to get as many photos as I would have liked, including the Franklin memorial, the “Goose” gravesite, and the oldest markers extant in the cemetery, that of the Neal Children. However, it was still a nice end to very cemetery-heavy day (which started with Mt Auburn in the morning). Hopefully I’ll visit Boston again and will get another chance to explore this cemetery.
Monuments: This cemetery has a few bigger and more notable monuments compared to the others on the Freedom Trail; smaller graves of notable people are marked with US flags (common in other cemeteries as well).
Grounds: There are straight paths that take you around the cemetery, visitors are encouraged not to stray off them. No wonder – in 2009 a tourist fell through the ground into a previously unknown tomb (the slate finally gave way due to age). She was fine, but it has meant that more care has been given to the maintenance of the site, and that tourists should follow the rules while visiting.
Visitors: Quite a few, this is a popular stop on the Freedom Trail. Despite the number of people, there were plenty of squirrels going about their business.
Notes: It’s surprisingly photogenic – make sure your batteries are charged with whatever device you are using.
Cemetery: Granary Burying Ground
Notable Internments: As noted above
Location: Tremont Street, just north of Boston Common
Hours: 09:00-17:00 daily