Copp’s Hill Burying Ground

Copp’s Hill Burying Ground which is in the North End of Boston, Massachusetts, is named after shoemaker William Copp from whom the town purchased the land. Located on a hill, it overlooks the harbour and the banks of the Charles River, and because of its height, the British used this vantage point to train their cannons on Charlestown during the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775. The epitaph on Captain Daniel Malcolm’s tombstone at Copp’s Hill is riddled with the marks of British bullets.

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As Boston’s second oldest burying ground, it contains more than 1200 marked graves and 272 tombs, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Most of the stone markers were placed before 1825. The quality of the engravings depended on the skill of the carver and the budget of the person buying the memorial stone. In 1838 new walking paths were installed and the gravestones were arranged in rows. Consequently, many of the gravestones no longer mark the location of their owner’s grave.

O my Friends remember that the Lord giveth
& taketh away, & blessed be the name of the 
Lord. O my Husband & Children, dry up 
your tears, & remember that you must all follow 
me sooner or later, where we must all lie till Christ 
our Saviour bids us arise; for thy will must be done. Amen

80% of the gravestones have a Death’s Head carving used as a symbol of death and mortality since medieval times. Winged skulls evolved during the 18th century and reflected the Puritan religious influence.

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Winged effigies were common in the latter part of the 18th century.

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The urn is a classical symbol for death and the weeping willow is associated with mourning. These two images which are found together became popular during the American Revolution.

Example of the Urn-and-Willow Design
Example of the Urn-and-Willow Design

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Heraldic symbols and coats of arms are also found on headstones within the grounds. The tomb of William Clark, seen here, was later taken by Samuel Winslow, who had his name carved on the gravestone.

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Here Lyes The Mortal Part/ Of / William Clark Esq. The legend is almost illegible describing Clark as An Honorable Counsellor for the Province, and A Despiser of Sorry Persons and Little Actions.

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