J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

“All interred in the same grave with him”

Yesterday I started to look into the question of whether Christopher Seider, memorialized on a stone in the Granary Burying-ground, was actually buried there in 1770.

Celebrate Boston’s page on grave-robbing [perhaps an odd topic to celebrate] says:
Christopher Snider, 1st Martyr to the Noble Cause, was likely buried at Central Burying Ground, and not at Granary as commemorated.
As evidence, the page points to a statement about little Seider that Gov. Thomas Hutchinson put into his history of Massachusetts:
A grand funeral was, however, judged very proper for him. Young and old, some of all ranks and orders, attended in a solemn procession from liberty tree to the town-house, and then to the common burying ground.
The Seider family lived near the south end of Boston Common on Frog Lane (now Boylston Street). So it might make sense to place his body in the cemetery nearest their house—what we now call the Central Burying Ground (shown above, courtesy of Wikipedia).

The problem with that analysis is that the phrase “common burying ground” didn’t rule out the Granary Burying Ground because that, too, had been carved from land originally assigned to Boston Common. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff’s A Topographical and Historical Description of Boston confirms that the cemetery beside the Granary was sometimes called by the Common Burying Ground. Hutchinson might also have used the word “common” to mean not the Boston Common but the tombs and graveyard space that Boston owned collectively.

Likewise, at different times Bostonians referred to both the Granary Burying Ground and the Central Burying Ground as the South Burying Ground and as the Central or Middle Burying Ground. As more cemeteries were opened to the south, the labels shifted. In 1770 the middle cemetery was the one beside the town granary.

We have clues from period newspapers about where Christopher Seider was buried. We start with the report of the funeral for the first four victims of the Boston Massacre, published on 12 Mar 1770 in both the Boston Gazette and Boston Evening-Post:
The Bodies were deposited in one Vault in the middle Burying-ground
Furthermore, the 19 March Gazette said Patrick Carr was interred in the same vault:
His Remains were attended on Saturday last from Faneuil-Hall by a numerous and respectable Train of Mourners, to the same Grave, in which those who fell by the same Hands of Violence were interred the last Week.
A year later, the 7 Mar 1771 Massachusetts Spy reported:
On Tuesday last the anniversary of the Boston Massacre, at noon, and after nine in the evening, all the bells in town tolled; and at dark was exhibited in the chamber window of Mr. [Paul] Revere in the Old-North square, a set of transparent paintings, representing, in the fourth window a monumental obelisk, bearing in front the bust of young Seider; and on the front of the pedestal, the names of the five persons murdered by the soldiery on the fifth of March, and all interred in the same grave with him:
Thus, contemporaneous newspapers stated that all the Massacre victims and little Christopher Seider were interred in the same vault in the Middle or Granary Burying Ground. Which means the 1906 stone in that cemetery today doesn’t have to move. (Phew!)

TOMORROW: The missing monument.

1 comment:

G. Lovely said...

Great sleuthing! Thank you.