“Life is uncertain, Death is sure, Sin is the wound, Christ is the cure.” Reads the epitaph on the headstone of Capt. John Baker in a little known cemetery on Peter’s Hill at the Arnold Arboretum. The inscription highlights the large part religion played in the lives of early American settlers.
The cemetery was established by the First Church of Christ, after needing another church closer to their growing congregation. They built the church known as the Second Church of Christ and established the cemetery on Peter’s Hill in 1711. By 1733, the church was no longer in use and has long since been demolished but the burial ground still remains. Now called the Walter Street Burying Ground it contains the graves of early settlers and a single large tomb for Revolutionary soldiers. During the Revolutionary War, soldiers stayed at the Loring- Greenough House in Jamaica Plain, which served as a military hospital. Many of them died of smallpox and were originally buried in the house’s garden. In 1867, the
remains of the soldiers were moved to the Walter Street Burying Ground. In 1902, during the widening of Walter Street, the remains of 28 bodies were discovered, and transferred to nearby Mount Hope Cemetery. In honor of the soldiers, a marker above the sidewalk reads, “In memory of Soldiers of the Revolution who died in the hospitals at Jamaica Plain and were buried in this lot. 1775-1776.”
Spread out amongst large Hawthorn trees are 10 of the 13 original headstones of the burying ground. One of the earliest is a double stone for Grace and Benjamin Child, husband and wife. Nearby is the stone marking Benjamin’s brother, Joshua, whose wife Elizabeth is also buried in the area. There are other headstones etched with old New England names like Baker, Weld, and Child.
A large number of the headstones have the skull and wing imagery so common headstones of that time period. This ancient burial site is certainly a trip back into another time.
Sources: City of Boston, Harvard
Image Credit: Angela Mark, Harvard, Boston.gov