Boston: King's Chapel & Burying Ground

Just as the Granary Burying Ground that was the focal point of our study last week was not affiliated directly with the Park Street Church next door, today's site contains both a chapel and cemetery that are not under common administration.  And as much history as our previous two stops may have provided, neither one can compete with the age of King's Chapel and the King's Chapel Burying Ground.  As Boston's oldest cemetery, this site housed the only burial location in the city for thirty years following its inception in 1630.  Historical individuals such as Mary Chilton (the first woman from the Mayflower to set foot on the New World), John Cotton (a highly-influential 17th century Puritan minister), and John Winthrop (the first colonial governor of Massachusetts) are buried here, but no more than half of the 1,000+ graves on the property have a surviving headstone or footstone.  In the image below, note the proximity and size difference of King's Chapel Burying Ground (left) compared to Granary Burying Ground (right).

The church was formed quite a few years afterwards, in the summer of 1686, as the very first congregation of Anglicans in a colony full of Puritans.  This was no small distinction at the time, considering that was the same year Massachusetts leaders forced Roger Williams to leave the colony and found Rhode Island, and even the task of negotiating with city officials for the purchase of additional land was a contentious process.  But eventually the congregation was allowed to expand from its original wooden building to its current stone structure.  During the American Revolution, the church's reference to "King" was apparently unacceptable to residents and, for a brief time, the name was changed to "Stone Chapel".  Today King's Chapel is home to a Unitarian Universalist congregation, boasts the oldest pulpit in continual use in America, and continues to call worshipers to service each Sunday with a bell cast by Paul Revere in 1816.  The church's website fully embraces their history, containing photographs and lists of their leadership through time, announcing historical tours, and even posting a History Blog program -  Join me next week as we go to school and see a familiar face!


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