Boston in Suffolk County, Massachusetts — The American Northeast (New England)
From Colonial Burying Ground to Victorian Park
In the 19th century, burying grounds were transformed into “parks.” Many families removed their ancestors to newer cemeteries, such as Mount Auburn and Forest Hills. At Copp’s Hill in the 1830s, the cemetery department “organized” the gravestones into rows; installed paths, steps and walls; and built a small building where you are now standing. The “View of Copp’s Hill” published in 1851 shows Bostonians promenading through the burying ground. Additional changes were made in 1878. Today, visitors can see portions of the Charleston waterfront through the trees and buildings.
In 1716, the first lighthouse in North America was built on Little Brewster Island in Boston Harbor. George Worthylake (c. 1673-1718), the first lighthouse keeper, lived on Little Brewster with his wife Ann, at least five children, and their slaves Shadwell and Dina. Worthylake lit the tower for the first time on September 14, 1716. He also served as a harbor pilot.
Tragedy struck on November 3, 1718, as reported in the Boston Newsletter: “On Monday last the 3d Currant and awful and Lamentable Providence fell out here, Mr. George Worthylake (Master of the Light House upon the Great Brewster [called Beacon Island] at the Entrance of the Harbour of Boston) Anne his Wife, Ruth their Daughter, George Cutler, a Servant, Shadwell their Negro Slave, and Mr. John Edge a Passenger; being on the Lord’s Day here at Sermon, and going home in a Sloop, dropt Anchor near the Landing place, and all got into a little Boat or Cannoo, designing to go on Shoar, but by Accident it overwhelmed, so that they were Drowned, and all found and Interred except George Cutler.”
The tragic event was witnessed by their teenage daughter, Ann Worthylake, and her friend Mary Thompson. Young Ann Worthylake married stonecutter John Gaud within months. He may have carved the triple gravestone of George, Ann, and Ruth Worthylake (F-257.) Benjamin Franklin, then a teenaged apprentice to his brother John, reported in his Autobiography that he wrote a “wretched” poem about the mass drowning called the “Lighthouse Tragedy” that was sold on the streets of Boston.
Location. 42° 22.041′ N, 71° 3.356′ W. Marker is in Boston, Massachusetts, in Suffolk County. Marker can be reached from Hull Street, on the left when traveling east. Marker is located along the walking trail in Copp's Hill Burying Ground. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Boston MA 02113, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Unusual Gravestones (here, next to this marker); Seventeenth Century Copp’s Hill (a few steps from this marker); Copp’s Hill Burying Ground (within shouting distance of this marker); Gravestone Art: Skulls, Wings, and Other Symbols (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Copp's Hill Burying Ground (within shouting distance of this marker); African Americans at Copp’s Hill (within shouting distance of this marker); Welcome to Copp’s Hill Burying Ground (within shouting distance of this marker); The Mathers (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Boston.
More about this marker. The top of the marker contains a picture of the “View of Copps Hill c. 1851 engraving from Epitaphs from Copp’s Hill Burying Ground by Bridgman. Courtesy of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities.” Under this is a picture of “Boston Light c. 1729, by William Burgess. Courtesy of the Mariners Museum, Newport News, Virginia.”
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Take a tour of the markers found in Copp’s Hill Burying Ground.
Also see . . . Copp's Hill Burying Ground. Details of the Freedom Trail from the City of Boston website. (Submitted on May 12, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.)
Categories. • Cemeteries & Burial Sites • Colonial Era •
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Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on May 12, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 1,389 times since then and 4 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on May 12, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.