Along Boston’s Freedom Trail Part I
Sometimes going to work isn’t bad at all, specially when it requires me to visit places I have never seen. In connection with my multimedia job, I recently had to travel to Boston, home of Paul Revere, the famous ship USS Constitution and a destination on my bucket list.
I flew into Boston a day ahead of my business meetings so I could play tourist. An avid history gal, I’d made reservations downtown at one of the oldest hotels, Boston’s Park Plaza, off Arlington Street. Arriving through its immense main glass doors, my eyes swept up the multistory lobby, decorated in marble and shining brass. There was a touch of old world elegance everywhere, including the well dressed, helpful people at the front desk. My room on the 10th floor was a mixture of period and modern, with a large comfortable bed and a view out the window of the bustle ’n busy of Boston down below. Taxis and people were darting in all directions, even at this time of the evening, so the reputation that Boston never slept, might be true. Returning downstairs, I enjoyed a sea-scallop supper in the restaurant, complete with a waitress who’s Boston accent rolled delightfully off her tongue.
She asked where I was from and when I said, “ Montana … here to see Boston’s famous historic sites,” she signed, saying, “ The West … someday I’m going to go see your cowboys up-close and those Yellowstone Park buffalo.” I assured her they were both well worth the trip.
Tummy full, I wandered outside for a walk, enjoying the hubbub of the city and the faint music from the nearby pub before heading to bed. Later that night, I was rather surprised when I was awakened in the wee hours by a spirit, passing by the end of my bed in his elegantly tailored suit and starched high white collar. It seems I had encountered a hotel “gentleman ghost” … a rather quiet, filmy fellow, he never looked directly at me but drifted past and through the closed door … oh I do LOVE historic places!
I had only one day, so I set out early the following morning, in comfortable shoes, ready to find some real American spirit. I had read about the famous “Freedom Trail,” a 2.5-mile brick-lined walking tour route past 16 historical significant sites in Boston, so I headed out to follow that red-brick road! It didn’t take me long to come across beautiful Boston Common, established in 1634, it is America’s oldest public park. Puritan colonists purchased the land rights to 44 acres from the first settler of the area, Anglican minister William Blackstone, whose statue resides along one of the many tree-lined paths. This pasture became known as the “common land” and was used to graze livestock until 1830. The Common was the place where huge bonfires and fireworks celebrated the repeal of the Stamp Act and the end of the Revolutionary War. More then once it was the site for puritanical punishments and home of the whipping post, known as the stocks. Pirates, murderers, and witches were hanged within the Commons from the tree known as the Great Elm, now gone. Here too, Charles Lindbergh promoted the idea of commercial aviation. It was delightful to walk under the coolness of this tree-filled, rolling grass park and I learned citywide festivals and performances are held throughout the year here.
My trail then led me to the Granary Burying Ground, one of the oldest historic cemeteries in Boston and where many famous (and infamous) Bostonians are buried. Here, tucked between tall buildings is a fenced grassy area, a few feet above street level. I stepped up the steps through an iron and stone gate, where rows and rows of slate headstones rest under the large shade trees. The graveyard was started in 1660, due to overcrowding at the old burying grounds. It was referred to as the Granary because a 12,000 bushel grain storage warehouse had been built on the site, which was later moved. As I wandered the paved paths, I discovered that here lie buried three of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, John Hancock, Samuel Adams and Robert Paine. I was surprised to see how simple and plain the gravestone of Paul Revere was, its waist-high square top sprinkled with little stones and flags, left there as silent tokens of admiration. Here too are nine Massachusetts governors, veterans of the Revolutionary War and men, women and children, of different nationalities, from all parts of the world. I read tragic tales of duels and slave trading throughout the site. Puritans, Anglicans, Catholics and Africans, many who were patriots, rest beside Tories, goldsmiths, merchants and scavengers. Each name and story engraved on dark slate, memorialized in stone, some so worn they had all but disappeared or broken beyond repair. America’s history is written on these stones and I said a quiet prayer while I walked.
One of my favorite headstones was for Mary Goose, wife of Isaac Goose, its smooth slate face engraved with 1690 beneath a grinning winged skull. A small boy was reading the names on the headstones to his mother as they walked along and when they came to Mary’s, I heard him excitedly proclaimed … “Mom, look!! It’s Mother Gooses grave!”
To be continued …
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