More About Granary Burying Ground

The third oldest cemetery in Boston is the Granary Burying Ground, established in 1660, just one year after Copp’s Hill Burying Ground was laid out, and thirty years after Boston’s oldest cemetery, King’s Chapel Burying Ground, was established just a block away. Located on Tremont Street, the land was once part of the nearby Boston Common, and was originally called South Burying Ground. In 1717, the cemetery was enlarged by taking part of the highway on the eastern side (Tremont Street today). In 1737, the cemetery was re-named Granary Burying Ground, for a 12,000-bushel grain storage building that stood where Park Street Church is today. Over a million people visit this historic cemetery each year.


Of the 5,000 people who are buried here, 2,345 graves are still marked today.


Judge Samuel Sewall (1652-1730) is buried beneath a red sandstone table stone in the northwest portion of the cemetery. Sewall was one of the nine judges on the 1692 Court of Oyer and Terminer, and the only judge to apologize for his actions when the tragic events were over. He was the chief justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court of Judicature for many years, and is also remembered for his 1700 essay, “The Selling of Joseph,“ the first recorded anti-slavery document in the country. He also wrote an essay in 1725, “Talitha Cumi,” which refers to the “right of women.”


Sewall kept a journal from 1673 to 1729, one of the most important historical documents of the colonial period. It includes first-hand accounts of some key moments during the witchcraft trials of 1692, among them the pressing death of Giles Corey. Sewall’s brother Stephen, the Court Clerk during the trials, lived in Salem, MA and took in the first afflicted girl, Reverend Parris’s daughter Betty, for the duration of the proceedings.


Samuel Sewall is the great-great-great-grandfather of author Louisa May Alcott. Sewall’s sister, Anne Sewall Longfellow, is the great-great-great-grandmother of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.


The beautiful obelisk in the center of the cemetery marks the graves of Benjamin Franklin’s parents. Benjamin Franklin, one of seventeen children, was born on Milk Street in Boston in 1706. His schooling ended at ten years old, when he began to work for his brother James and learned the printing trade. James Franklin’s The New-England Courant was the first independent newspaper in the colonies. Benjamin moved to Philadelphia when he was seventeen, and became a successful editor and printer there, as well as a writer, politician, inventor, postmaster, humorist, scientist, and diplomat. He was one of the greatest of America’s Founding Fathers. Benjamin Franklin is buried in Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia.


According to Robert Allison in his book A Short History of Boston, Franklin was influenced by Cotton Mather. Franklin mocked Mather’s advocacy of inoculation to combat disease in his early writings, using the pseudonym “Silence Dogood” in reference to Mather. Later, in a 1784 letter to Samuel Mather , Franklin said, “I have always set a greater value on the character of a doer of good, than on any other kind of reputation,” and credited Mather’s 1711 essay “Bonifacius,” or “To Do Good,” as a major influence on his life.


Also buried here are:


John Endecott (pre-1600-1665), the first governor of Massachusetts; Paul Revere (1735-1818), silversmith, engraver, and Patriot during the American Revolution; three signers of the Declaration of Independence – John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Robert Treat Paine; and the five victims of the Boston Massacre.


95 Tremont Street