Category Archives: Boston

Servant to John Hancock

Among the gravestones in the Old Granary Burying Ground in Boston is this one, near John Hancock’s grave.

Gravestone of Frank, Servant of John Hancock

                                                                  Servant to
                                                          John Hancock, Esqr.
                                                             lies interr’d here
                                                           who died 23 Janry

This is a great example of an 18th century gravestone and is one of my favorites.  Although settled some, it is still very readable and the carving is crisp and very clear.  I would like to know more about Frank.



Skeletons in the Cemetery

One of the things I like about cemeteries is the art that can be found and the symbols which are used.  The stone of Ruth Carter is one of my favorites.

Grave marker of Ruth Carter, The Old Granary Burying Ground, Boston

HE  26  1697/8

I like this stone for a few reasons.  First is just the age of the stone.  This is one of the oldest (but by no means the oldest) at the Old Granary Burying Ground in Boston, MA.  There is a wonderful carving of flowers and an urn across the top of the stone.  But the thing that really strikes me is the skeletons on the sides of the stone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Skeletons were used on gravestones to symbolize life’s brevity.  Here we see two different skeletons on the stone.  The one on the left looks like he is smiling, while the one on the right appears sad.

Also notice the year of Ruth’s death.  It is carved as 1697/8.  This is not a mistake. The old Julian calendar was replaced by the more accurate Gregorian calendar in 1582. However, the British Empire did not recognize the change until 1752.  When they did begin using the new Gregorian calendar, the first day of the year changed from March 1 to January 1.  Therefore, any dates between January 1 and March 1 of any year between 1582 and 1752 would be represented by showing a “double year”, one for the old calendar and one for the new calendar.  So Ruth died on January 26 1697 by the old Julian calendar, but January 26 1698 according to the new Gregorian calendar.


Posted by on April 14, 2011 in Boston, Symbols, Old Granary Buring Ground


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Death and Father Time

Symbolism is prevalent on gravestones. This image is one of my favorites (so much so that I used it as the banner for this blog) because of the symbols and the wonderful carving.

Death against Father Time with the candle of life

In this image, we see Death, represented by a skeleton, trying to extinguish the candle of life.  On the opposite side of the candle is Father Time, hourglass in hand, attempting to prevent Death from putting out the candle.

This wonderful carving is on the gravestone of Rebecca Gerrish, located at King’s Chapel Burying Ground in Boston.


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The Copp Boys

While out in Boston a couple of weeks ago, I of course took the time to roam through the cemeteries.  Since I was without a car, I went through the cemeteries which are close to the downtown area and those on the Freedom Trail, a 3 mile walking tour through Boston which goes by the historic sites, such as Paul Revere’s house and the Old North Church.  One of the cemeteries on the Freedom Trail is Copp’s Hill Cemetery, where I found this stone.

David and Thomas Copp Grave Marker

David Copp, son of David and Obedience, died at the age of 2 Weeks, on December 22, 1661.  Thomas Copp died at the age of 2 years and 3 quarters, on July 25, 1678.  Notice that some of the letters in the carving are raised above the other letters.  This was not an uncommon practice.  If the person carving the stone ran out of room, he would often carve the remaining letters above the others, rather than discarding the whole stone and starting over.

Also of interest on this marker is the use of the term “3 quarters” when referring to the age of Thomas.  I think that this is the first time I have seen this wording on a grave marker.


Posted by on April 2, 2011 in Copp's Hill, Boston


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