Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - May 4, 2010

Our next stop in the freedom trail was the King's Chapel, located on the corner of Tremont and School streets. When the Puritans settled Boston in 1630, they fled England's Anglican Church. Fifty years later, King James II ordered that an Anglican parish be established in Boston. Angry Puritans would not sell any of their land for this purpose so the Royal Governor seized a section of the town's burying ground and a small wood chapel was built there to house the first Anglican congregation in North America. Membership in the church grew, and the building was enlarged in 1710. By 1741, plans were being made to replace the wood chapel with one built of stone. Once the funds had been raised, construction began on the granite version of King's Chapel in 1749 and it was completed in 1754.

In 1785, the remaining congregation adopted a new theology and became the first Unitarian Church in America. On October 27, 1789, President George Washington attended a concert here and sat in the Governor's Pew, pictured below. In 1790, a front portico with columns was added, and the building soon resembled the King's Chapel that Bostonians recognize today. In 1816 a bell for the church, weighing more than one ton, was cast at the Revere Foundry. Paul Revere called it "the sweetest bell we ever made." Today, the bell is rung by hand for all church services and special occasions. The interior of the church is elegant and one of the most beautiful in New England. The pulpit and its sounding board date from 1717 and were once used in the original wood chapel.
Located on Tremont Street next to King's Chapel, this is Boston's oldest burying place. It occupies land that was once the vegetable garden of Isaac Johnson who was the first person buried here in 1630. Johnson's marker has been lost to time but many old stones survive, including one from 1658. Many of Boston's early English settlers were buried on this small piece of land. The exact number of those who rest here is not known, but it is estimated that there were 10-20 burials for each stone you see today. The stones themselves have been moved several times so even they are not accurate markers for the people they honor.
In King's Chapel Burying Ground you will spot some famous names and some of the most intricately carved markers. Just inside the gate is a beautiful stone carved in painstaking detail by an early Charlestown stonecutter whose name was Joseph Tapping who died in 1678. In the middle of the burying ground, to your left, is the table tomb of John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In the exact center is the marker for Mary Chilton, who arrived on the Mayflower. Behind the Chilton marker is the tomb of William Dawes, the Son of Liberty and messenger rider who (along with Paul Revere) delivered the news of the Regulars' march to Lexington and Concord on the evening of April 18-19, 1775.  Ironically we are walking this trial on the evening of April 19, 2010, 235 years after that famous night. The street was quiet and we were enjoying our freedom to walk the "Freedom Trail"!

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