“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Downtown in Boston in Suffolk County, Massachusetts — The American Northeast (New England)

Tragic Events

Tragic Events Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bill Coughlin, April 14, 2009
1. Tragic Events Marker
Inscription.  Three hundred years ago this location did not have ideal conditions for a graveyard. There were many underground springs which made it soggy and damp. Tomb owners routinely found their tombs filled with water, with caskets and bodies floating about. Since the grass grew quickly, the Boston selectmen, always looking to turn a profit, rented the Granary Burying Ground as pasture to gravedigger James Williams (d. 1734), with the proviso that the renter make good all damages “which may happen to the graves by reason of his Cows going there.” By 1740 gravediggers complained that the burial ground was “so filled with Dead Bodies, they are obligated oft times to bury them four deep . . . . ” In 1795, a panel of physicians warned of the health dangers from the “crowded state of these grounds and the exhalations which must frequently arise from the opening of graves” as well as it “being almost impossible to dig new graves without disturbing the relics of the dead already interred.”

On the evening of July 3, 1728, young Harvard graduate Benjamin Woodbridge (ca. 1708-1728), age 20, and Henry Phillips, age 22, quarreled at the Royal Exchange
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tavern. A challenge was given and they adjourned to Boston Common for a duel. Woodbridge was stabbed by Phillips and died the next day. Henry Phillip’s father was Boston’s leading bookseller and part of the French Huguenot community, so Henry fled to France where he died of grief within a year. Woodbridge was buried at Granary at the request of his father, Magistrate Dudley Woodbridge of Groton and Barbados.

James Otis (1725-1783), lawyer, politician, and writer, graduated from Harvard in 1743. Otis was an eloquent author and orator for the patriot cause, who John Adams described as “a flame of fire.” He vigorously argued against the British Writs of Assistance, acts that allowed customs officials to enter private property to search for contraband. Otis was Boston’s most brilliant attorney and he served in the Massachusetts General Court until 1771. In 1769, British official John Robinson hit Otis in the head during a tavern brawl, which led to the end of Otis’ career. “I hope when God shall take me out of time into eternity, that it will be by a flash of lightening,” Otis wrote his sister, historian Mercy Otis Warren. As he wished, Otis died in Andover, Massachusetts, in 1783, after being struck by lightening during a thunderstorm. James Otis is buried with his wife, Ruth (Cunningham), an alleged Tory, in her family’s tomb (Tomb 40).

Dr. David Townshed
Marker in Granary Burying Ground image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bill Coughlin, April 14, 2009
2. Marker in Granary Burying Ground
was a volunteer surgeon at the Battle of Bunker Hill. He became the surgeon general of the Sixth Continental army in the American Revolution, serving from 1775-1783. He and his wife, Elizabeth (d.1833)), are buried in Tomb 55.

Rev. Jeremy Belknap (1744-1798) was born in Boston and graduated from Harvard College. He served as a minister in Dover, New Hampshire, until moving to the Federal Street Church in Boston in 1787. A published historian, Belknap’s greatest contribution was as the catalyst for the founding of the first repository of America’s history, the Massachusetts Historical Society, in 1791. He was also an early and ardent abolitionist and a benefactor of the Massachusetts General Hospital. He was buried in Tomb 33, but his granddaughter moved his remains to Mount Auburn Cemetery in 1837.

Tomb 21 is the burial place of two colonial schoolmasters, John Tileston (1735-1826) and Rufus Webb (1768-1827). Tileston was the headmaster of the North Writing School for 57 years. Webb was the master of the South Writing School for many years.

Esther (Martin) Lovering (ca. 1772-1798) married Joseph Lovering, Jr., a tallow chandler of Roxbury, and died at the age of 26.

Samuel Black (d. 1750) was a successful merchant. Unmarried, his will directed his executors to “free my negro boy Leicester and give
Grave of James Otis image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bill Coughlin, April 14, 2009
3. Grave of James Otis
Here lies buried
James Otis
Orator and Patriot of the Revolution
Famous for his argument
against Writs of Assistance
Born 1725 – Died 1783

Massachusetts Society – Sons of the Revolution
him 400 (pounds?) at the expiration of his term of apprentice-ship” and to sell all his real estate “as my brothers and sisters are in Ireland.”

Captain William Claghorn (ca. 1733-1793) was a prosperous New Bedford shipowner and merchant who died unexpectedly in Boston. His epitaph reads:
To the memory of
Who died in a fit of the Apoplexy
On a visit to this Town
Feb’y Ye 24th 1793,
In the 60th Year of his Age.

Here lies entomb’d, beneath
the turfed Clod,
A Man belov’d, the noblest work of God;
With friendly throbs, thine heart
beats no more,
Clos’d the gay Scene, the Pomp
of Life is o’er.

Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Cemeteries & Burial SitesColonial Era. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #02 John Adams series list. A significant historical date for this entry is July 3, 1660.
Location. Marker has been reported missing. It was located near 42° 21.424′ N, 71° 3.711′ W. Marker was in Boston, Massachusetts, in Suffolk County. It was in Downtown. Marker could be reached from the intersection of Tremont Street and Bromfield Street, on the left when traveling north. Marker is along the walking trail in Granary Burying Ground. . Touch for map
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. Marker was in this post office area: Boston MA 02108, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this location. James Otis (a few steps from this marker); Park Street Congregational Church (within shouting distance of this marker); Paul Revere Buried in this Ground (within shouting distance of this marker); Granary Burial Ground (within shouting distance of this marker); Granary Burying Ground (within shouting distance of this marker); Manufactory House Site (within shouting distance of this marker); Park Street Church (within shouting distance of this marker); John Phillips (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Boston.
More about this marker. The bottom right of the marker contains a partial map of Granary Burying Ground with the location of the marker indicated. The center of the marker features a ca. 1920 photograph of the Granary Burying Ground, courtesy of the Bostonian Society and Old State House. Below this is an engraving by an unidentified artist of James Otis (1725-1783) and an oil painting of Jeremy Belknap (1744-1798), both courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Take a tour of the markers found along the walking trail in Boston’s Granary Burying Ground.
Also see . . .  Granary Burying Ground. Details of the Freedom Trail from the City of Boston website. (Submitted on May 9, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey.) 
Credits. This page was last revised on January 30, 2023. It was originally submitted on May 9, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 2,052 times since then and 54 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on May 9, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey.

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Nov. 29, 2023