Tag Archives: Revolutionary War graveyard

Cemetery of the Week #75: St. Paul’s Chapel churchyard

Exterior of St. Paul’s, with the bell tower and obelisk

Saint Paul’s Protestant Episcopal Churchyard and Vaults
209 Broadway
New York, New York 10007
Telephone: (212) 233-4164
Founded: 1766
Size: a small city block
Number of interments: approximately 1000
Open: Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Chapel opens at the equivalent time each morning, but closes an hour later.

Standing in the shadow of the new World Trade Center at the southern tip of Manhattan, St. Paul’s Chapel had seen a lot of changes since it was founded as a country church in 1766. When Andrew Gautier built the chapel in the Georgian Classical Revival style, it was surrounded by farmland and orchards.

In 1776, fire swept through Manhattan, destroying Trinity Church farther up Broadway. St. Paul’s was saved by a bucket brigade, which makes it the oldest public building in continuous use in Manhattan and the only remaining colonial-era church in New York City.

After his inauguration in April 1789, George Washington came here to pray. His pew has been preserved beneath the earliest known painting of the Presidential Seal.

The chapel’s steeple was added in 1794. Reports of the time called St. Paul’s the “most elegant and imposing church edifice in the city.” Its bells were added over a number of years, but the first was installed in 1797. In 1831, they tolled for former President James Monroe, whose funeral service was performed inside.  He was buried for a while in the New York Marble Cemetery, then later moved to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.

The exterior of St. Paul’s Chapel, with the Montgomery monument

Permanent New Yorkers has a very brief listing on St. Paul’s Churchyard, but says it is the final resting place of Revolutionary War hero General Richard Montgomery. His monument is on the outer wall of the chapel, facing Broadway. Montgomery was the first American officer to die in the Revolutionary War, killed during the Battle of Quebec in 1775. The Continental Congress ordered his monument, making it the first public memorial in the States.  Decades after his death, his bones were removed from the garrison in Quebec and reburied under the chapel’s portico.

Also remembered here is Irish patriot Thomas Addis Emmet, who was exiled for trying to free Ireland from outside rule, a crime for which his brother was hanged. Emmet’s grave says that he suffered for his country, but found a new home in the US. He served as the Prosecutor General of the State of New York, defending Robert Fulton’s steamship patents in court. He is buried in the graveyard of St. Mark’s in-the-Bowery.

A green space in the city.

Actually buried in the graveyard are lesser known patriots, including the man who forged George Washington’s combat sword, the chief doctor during the Revolutionary War,  soldiers who served in the Revolution, and the printer who founded the New York Journal.

A sign relates the story of George Frederick Cooke, an actor who died in 1812. In life, he was best known for his portrayal of Shakespeare’s Richard III, which was viewed by an audience of 2000 in New York. His protégé, British actor Edmund Keane, erected Cooke’s tombstone in the churchyard. In 1821, his skull was stolen from his coffin. The Graveyard Shift: A Family Historian’s Guide to New York City Cemeteries (my review is here) reports that, “Cooke is said to wander around St. Paul’s Churchyard, looking for his head….Some believe that his skull is used in stagings of Hamlet.”

Broken tombstones

The Graveyard Shift also estimates that burials ended in the cemetery in 1823, when a ban was passed on interring anyone south of Grand Street. However, interments in the vaults probably continued until 1851, until those were banned as well. The stones in the pretty, tree-shaded graveyard are in bad shape, whether the slate has broken over the years of winter or the images have been rubbed away.  Grave rubbings of the fragile stones are now forbidden.

After surviving the fire of 1776 and the intervening years of change and acid rain, St. Paul’s Chapel escaped destruction once again when the World Trade Center towers collapsed on September 11, 2001. Although its graveyard was drifted with debris from the towers, the chapel served as a shelter for 14,000 volunteers who slept in their clothing in the pews as they combed through the wreckage for survivors, then victims. The rescue workers were fed, offered counseling, and given a place to rest, free of charge, at St. Paul’s. These intense eight months are commemorated by an exhibit inside the chapel called Unwavering Spirit.

The World Trade Center rises again.

The congregation continues to work for peace and serves as a place of pilgrimage for all people.

Useful links:

St. Paul’s homepage

St. Paul’s Stands, a slide show of the 9/11 damage of the churchyard

Tombstones of St. Paul’s Churchyard

New York City Cemetery Project listing

Historical images of the Chapel and Churchyard

The CemeteryRegistry.us listing for St. Paul’s Churchyard

Cemetery Travel links:

My recent visit to St. Paul’s

My first visit to St. Paul’s, in April 2002

Graveyards of Colonial New York City on Cemetery Travel:

Cemetery of the Week #41: Trinity Churchyard

Cemetery of the Week #65: the African Burial Ground

Weekly Photo Challenge: Near and Far

St. Paul’s Churchyard, Manhattan

The challenge for this week is to show perspective.  I like this photo because it captures both proximity and distance, but also spans time from the colonial graveyard to 21st-century Manhattan outside the cemetery gates.

I took this photo on my iPhone on our first day in New York City.  We were jet-lagged and it was hot (or at least, it seemed hot to people used to San Franciscan summer).  My daughter dragged her feet and whined about having to visit a cemetery.

Stories always make her perk up and connect to the places we visit, so I told her briefly about the 9/11 attacks.  I pointed out the skeleton of the new World Trade Center rising nearby.  I told her about the planes and the firemen and the people who died.  I told her about the photo I’d seen of this churchyard snowed over with debris fallen from the towers:  insulation and financial papers and children’s drawings, things blown out of the offices above.  I told her about the rescuers who’d slept in the church while they searched for survivors and the empty t-shirts that hung on the fence when I visited last time, eloquent memorials to the first responders who were lost when the towers fell.

St. Paul’s Churchyard stands as a symbol to me.  My feelings are complicated, threaded with horror and sadness, but at the heart, I felt compassion and connection there.  The graves are old. They endure.  The world swirls around them, but here, in this shaded green place, a traveler found peace.  May the world find peace as well.

Cemetery of the Week #75: St. Paul’s Chapel churchyard

Cemetery of the Week #61: Granary Burying Ground

The Granary Burying Ground in springtime

Old Granary Burying Ground
101a Tremont Street at Bromfield
Boston, MA 02108
Telephone: (617) 635-4505
Founded: 1660
Size: 2 acres
Number of interments: 5000, or perhaps as many as 8000, under 2345 markers
Open: Daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., although some areas may be closed during the restoration work.

This weekend and throughout the summer: The Freedom Trail Organization offers a full schedule of historical tours, led by a costumed guide. The schedule is here. Tickets range from $6-$12.

Established in 1660 in an attempt to alleviate the crowding at King’s Chapel Burying Ground, the Granary Burying Ground takes its name from a grain storehouse that once stood nearby. More than 2300 — and perhaps as many as 8,000 — corpses lay inside this small patch of ground, which barely covers two acres. One source estimates that as many as 20 bodies lie beneath each tombstone.

Unfortunately, few of the grave markers actually mark graves any longer. Around the dawn of the 20th century, groundskeepers re-aligned the gravestones to make it easy to mow between them. In some cases, the footstones — which once marked the foot of a grave like a footboard on a bed frame — now lean against their headstones. At least they hadn’t been lost altogether. Perhaps during the current renovation, some well-meaning soul will set them back up the way they belong.

Paul Revere’s gravestone

The Old Granary Burying Ground is the final home of many of Boston’s Revolutionary War patriots, including James Otis (“Taxation without representation is tyranny.”), Robert Treat Paine (signer of the Declaration of Independence and first Massachusetts Attorney General), and victims of the Boston Massacre, including Crispus Attucks.

In the center of the graveyard stands a granite obelisk labeled Franklin in large, proud capitals. It marks the grave of Benjamin Franklin’s parents, Josiah and Abiah. The original stone he’d chosen was replaced by this one in 1827, erected by local citizens who wanted to lay claim to the glory of their native son, despite the fact that he’d preferred to be buried in Philadelphia. One of my antique postcards incorrectly identifies the monument as Franklin’s own, a misconception that was undoubtedly good for tourism.

John Hancock’s monument

It’s common for visitors to line up to be photographed beside the monuments of Paul Revere and Samuel Adams. Also in the graveyard is the monument to John Hancock, although he may no longer lie beneath it. One story says that grave robbers stole his hand first, whether because they couldn’t remove his rings or because a collector wanted the hand that signed the Declaration of Independence. His body may have vanished during the restoration of his gravesite. I don’t know how much truth there is in these allegations.

Another gravestone that attracts pilgrims is that of Mary Goose. Mary was the first wife of Isaac Goose, whose second wife Elizabeth may or may not have been the famous Mother Goose. Legend has it that Elizabeth’s son-in-law collected her stories into Songs for the Nursery, or Mother Goose’s Melodies, but scholars find it suspicious that no copy of the original book survived. Many of the Mother Goose tales date back to France in the late 1600s. Still, some old guidebooks to Boston identify Mary as Mother Goose.

In the Granary Burying Ground, ornamentation on gravestones runs a gamut from the early awkward death’s-heads common in King’s Chapel Burying Ground to anatomically correct skulls to cherubs with portrait-like faces. I particularly liked the cherubs with hair etched by a delicate tool. These “soul effigies” indicate a huge shift in Christian philosophy, from the Puritan belief that only the Elect will rise to Heaven while their bodies moldered in the grave to a general sense that all souls took flight upon the body’s death and Heaven was available to all.

Some of the stones can be traced to particular carvers, which demonstrates an advance in how people valued graveyards. Once tombstones were acknowledged as works of art — instead of a necessary evil — artists wanted to claim to their designs. Some carvers even autographed their stones. Henry Christian Geyer advertised his talents in the local papers. He was a fisherman who had studied birds well enough to put realistic wings on his cherubs.

Unlike earlier headstones, the Granary stones offer epitaphs that record how the survivors felt about their losses. These seemed to have come into fashion in the late 1700s. One that struck me said:
“To this sad shrine who ’ere thou art draw near
Here lies the Friend most joy’d, the Son most dear
Who ne’er knew joy, but Friendship might divide
Or gave his father Grief, but when he died.”

The Granary Burying Ground is guard by a small Egyptian-style gate. Egyptian grave ornaments didn’t come into fashion until after Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign nearly two centuries after this cemetery was founded. The granite gate was designed by Solomon Willard, architect of the Bunker Hill Monument. It was quarried in nearby Quincy and unveiled in 1840.

In 1879, the last body sank into the dirt of the Granary Burying Ground. Now it invites visitors to touch history.

ETA: More information about John Hancock’s monument and his missing hand, via Gravely Speaking.

Useful links:
Interesting tidbits about the Granary Burying Ground and a map of Boston

The Granary Burying Ground is getting a facelift.

My review of a guidebook to Boston’s historic burying grounds

Other Revolutionary War heroes on Cemetery Travel:

Cemetery of the Week #18: King’s Chapel Burying Ground in Boston, Massachusetts

Cemetery of the Week #33: Old Dutch Burying Ground, Tarrytown, New York

Cemetery of the Week #41:  Trinity Churchyard, New York City, New York

Cemetery of the Week #43: Christ Church Burial Ground, Philadephia, Pennsylvania

Cemetery of the Week #73: St. Paul’s Chapel churchyard, New York City, New York

Cemetery of the Week #43: Christ Church Burial Ground

Benjamin Franklin’s grave

Christ Church Burial Ground
Arch Street between 4th & 5th
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106
Telephone: (215) 922-1695
Established: 1719
Size: two acres
Number of interments: An estimated 6500
Open: In December, on Friday and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., weather permitting. Please call for more information. Closed January and February, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Open March through November, Monday-Saturday 10 a.m to 4, Sunday noon to 4, weather permitting.
Admission: $1 Students, $2 adults, and $25 for groups up to 25 people.
Guided tours: an additional fee of $3 for adults and $1 for students. In December, tours are by reservation only. From March to November, guided tours are given from 11 to 3:30 p.m. An historian leads  visitors to Colonial and Revolution-Era people and tells their stories.

The brick wall of the Christ Church Burial Ground, built in the 1770s, has a gap through which Benjamin Franklin’s grave is visible. Franklin’s tombstone has a large slab, almost as big as a bed sheet, carved with the names Benjamin and Deborah Franklin and the year 1790, the year of his death.

Franklin was buried near the wall because that is near the grave of his four-year-old son Francis, now remembered by a small brass plaque. The child died of smallpox. Franklin’s daughter Sally and her husband lay in the grave beside him. She raised money for the Continental Army and later sewed shirts for American soldiers.

Even during his lifetime, Franklin had been Philadelphia’s most famous citizen. He was responsible for the paving, lighting, and patrolling of the streets, along with improving the postal service, which made Philadelphia the communications center for the entire country. Franklin founded the nation’s oldest subscription library in 1731. He was also instrumental in founding the Pennsylvania Hospital and the “oldest continually active mutual fire insurance company in the country.” In 1757, he traveled to London as an unofficial ambassador to the Crown. When he returned to Pennsylvania in 1775, he joined the Second Continental Congress, which included John Hancock, George Washington, Patrick Henry, and John and Samuel Addams. Afterward, Franklin sailed to France, where he helped to get diplomatic recognition of the United States. At the end of the Revolutionary War, he negotiated the treaty with Great Britain, then returned to the United States to attend the Constitutional Congress in 1787. He was one of only five men who signed both the Declaration and the Constitution.

When he died in 1790, 20,000 Philadelphians followed the cortege to the Christ Church Burial Ground. In 1850s, bricks were removed from the wall to allow people to view Franklin’s grave. The custom of scattering coins on the grave began at that time, when a bride would toss a coin for luck onto the grave on her way to Christ Church to be married. Franklin’s marriage to Deborah had been long but not especially happy. Franklin married Deborah in 1730, when he was 24 and she 22. She died of a stroke 44 years later while he was in London. He’d been gone 16 years.

While Franklin’s is the most visited grave in the cemetery, the graveyard holds the remains of five signers of the Declaration of Independence, including George Ross, who served three years in the Continental Congress; Francis Hopkinson, a composer who designed currency; and Joseph Hewes, a delegate to all five Provincial Congresses who signed the Declaration for North Carolina.

In the Burial Ground rests John Dunlap, the Declaration’s first publisher. His descendents continue to be members of the Christ Church congregation. Also in the graveyard lies Colonel Edward Buncome, who died in nearby Germantown during the Revolutionary War and was buried here. A bronze plaque inside the cemetery’s wall remembers William Henry Drayton, signer of the Articles of Confederation and a member of the Continental Congress from South Carolina. His unmarked grave is now lost.

The cemetery contains a “Who’s Who” of Pennsylvania naval officers, including Commodore James Biddle, who received the Congressional Gold Medal for capturing the HMS Penguin during the War of 1812. Before his career was over, he’d signed treaties with Turkey and China and landed in Japan. Although two of the commodores were moved to newer family plots in Philadelphia’s lovely Laurel Hill Cemetery, Commodores Thomas Truxton (one of the first six captains appointed after the United States formed its Navy) and William Bainbridge continue to lie here. Bainbridge’s obelisk was restored by officers and alumni of the U.S. Naval Training Center in Bainbridge, Maryland, named in his honor.

A number of Philadelphia mayors also lie in the Christ Church Burial Ground, including Matthew Clarkson, a Continental Congressman who was mayor during the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793.

My tour ended at the grave of Dr. Benjamin Rush, acclaimed by the American Psychiatric Association as the father of psychiatry in America. Our guide said that Rush was the most radical of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He was suspicious of slave-owners and wanted to see the practice of slavery banned in the new country. The other signers, nearly all slave-owners themselves, voted him down. While serving as the surgeon-general of the Continental Army, Rush campaigned for the removal of George Washington as commander. After the war, he served as treasurer of the U.S. Mint, advocated scientific education for women, wanted public clinics opened to treat the poor, and authored the first textbook on psychiatry in America, which demanded that the insane be treated with respect. When he died, John Addams wrote, “I know of no character, living or dead, who has done more real good in America.”

Useful links:

Famous people and a map of Christ Church Burial Ground

Some context for the burial ground

A lovely springtime photo of Christ Church Burial Ground

Other Revolutionary War heroes on Cemetery Travel:

Cemetery of the Week #18: King’s Chapel Burying Ground in Boston, Massachusetts

Cemetery of the Week #33: Old Dutch Burying Ground, Tarrytown, New York

Cemetery of the Week #41:  Trinity Churchyard, New York City, New York

Cemetery of the Week #61: Granary Burying Ground, Boston, Massachusetts

Cemetery of the Week #73: St. Paul’s Chapel churchyard, New York City, New York

Cemetery of the Week #41: Trinity Churchyard

Alexander Hamilton’s grave

Trinity Churchyard
74 Trinity Place (Broadway at Wall Street)
New York, NY 10006
Founded: prior to 1697
Number of interments: Tens of thousands, according to The Graveyard Shift
Open: Weekdays 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday and Holidays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. On Sundays from 7 a.m. to 3.

One of the oldest surviving graveyards in Manhattan is Trinity Churchyard, at the head of Wall Street. The original New Yorkers used the area north of the church as a graveyard even before the King of England granted land to the parish in 1697. Three centuries later, skyscrapers overshadow the spire of the old church and its beautiful old tombstones.

The most famous permanent resident of Trinity Churchyard is Alexander Hamilton, who served as George Washington’s aide-de-camp, commanded troops at the Battle of Yorktown, became the first Secretary of the Treasury and conceived a plan to pay off the debts incurred during the Revolutionary War. He died in 1804 died after a duel with then-Vice President Aaron Burr.

The original monument still marks Hamilton’s grave, erected by the Vestrymen of Trinity Church, who I’m sure were thrilled to score such an illustrious addition to their churchyard. Hamilton’s epitaph reads, “The Corporation of Trinity Church Has erected this Monument In Testimony of their Respect For The Patriot of incorruptible Integrity, The Soldier of approved Valor, the Statesman of consummate Wisdom, Whose Talents and Virtues will be admired By Grateful Posterity Long after this Marble shall have mouldered into Dust.”

Other historic personages buried in the old churchyard were not immediately celebrated by their contemporaries. Francis Lewis, the only signer of the Declaration of Independence buried on Manhattan Island, lies in Trinity Churchyard somewhere. Trinity’s Register of Burials lists him, without noting the location of his grave. Instead, he’s remembered by a bronze plaque placed near the church in 1947 by the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration. Also buried here is Robert Fulton, a painter who developed the first practical steamboat as well as a submarine for use in torpedo attack. In 1901, eighty-six years after Fulton’s death, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers erected a monument to him.

Remembered at the time of his death was William Bradford, the first man in the Colonies to assert the freedom of the press. On his 200th birthday in 1863, an exact copy replaced his original gravestone at the behest of the New York Historical Society. That same pride in the city’s history shielded Trinity Churchyard’s priceless real estate from changes that might have engulfed it.

You can pick up a cemetery guide inside the church. The church encourages people to eat their lunches on the cemetery benches and to come inside for a service or to see the crypt. A schedule of events, including concerts or readings of Shakespeare, is online here.

Useful links:

A History of Trinity Episcopal Church

Photos of the church and churchyard

Gravestones of Trinity Churchyard

Books I’ve reviewed that reference Trinity Churchyard:

The Graveyard Shift: A Family Historian’s Guide to New York City Cemeteries

Permanent New Yorkers

Graveyards of Colonial New York City on Cemetery Travel:

Cemetery of the Week #65: the African Burial Ground

Cemetery of the Week #73: St. Paul’s Chapel churchyard