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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Dem Bones

That boneyard you see in the picture of the old Boston City Hall is behind King's Chapel, stop number 5 on the Freedom Trail. Here's the church itself:

That building is pretty old; finished in 1754. But there was a wood-frame version of it standing in that very spot on the corner of School Street and Tremont since 1689. That's old. There's a bell cast by Paul Revere behind those louvers in the tower. Everybody needs a hobby, even midnight riders.

The Parker House Hotel is across the street to the right in the picture. My wife and I stayed there once, and we stumbled across the street to poke around. I've lived around here for most of my life, but the Freedom Trail was just for tourists as far as the locals are concerned. I'd never been inside. At any rate, it's really beautiful in there. It's like an icebox made from Quincy granite. It's still a working church. Unitarian now, not the original Anglican sort of thing. It's all the same to me, a Hibernian, raised Catholic. To paraphrase former Mayor James Michael Curley: A Unitarian is a fellow who believed Jesus Christ was just a pleasant fellow with whiskers who walked around in a bedsheet.

My brethren Irishmen think Boston really got going when we all moved to town after the famine in Ireland made Boston an Irish City. Observed dispassionately, we've driven it into the ground, more or less. If you stand in that chilly boneyard, and read the names on the stones worn almost smooth by nothing but the gentle rain over and over, you see who built this place out of nothing.

Winthrop. Dawes. Emerson. Chilton...

Look at Mary Chilton. Moldering in the earth behind the church -- a decade before the first church was even built. Passenger on the Mayflower at just fourteen, her father was the oldest passenger at sixty-four. She is said to have been the first person ashore at Plymouth when she got excited and waded ashore from the rowboat.

Her father died, still on the Mayflower, in 1620. Her mother six weeks after. I'd wade ashore, too. She married John Winslow, had ten children and died in Boston in 1679. Me, I'm just amazed there was a Boston to die in. People such as she made it.

All sorts of people can claim ancestors on the Mayflower. According to Wikipedia, Mary Chilton is claimed by Pete Seeger, Pamela Harriman, Jane Wyatt, the woman who called herself "Betty Crocker," Vincent Price, Elliot Richardson, Dan Quayle, and former governor of Vermont Howard Dean.

My own friend Steve is a descendant of Mayflowerer... Mayflowerite... Mayfloweritizen... Mayflowerionette... Mayflower dude John Alden, I believe. Figures. John Alden was hired to be a crewman, but decided to stay on and join the settlement. Steve's Irish, like me, and is still banging nails into houses for these damn Yankees.

5 comments:

Anwyn said...

I'm going to Boston this weekend. All these Boston posts are very helpful and timely. Thanks!

I'm looking forward to being a tourist. Impossible for somebody who's never been there before to begin to be blase about some of these places.

liverpool said...

liverpol is a city in which the population strongly identifies itself as Liverpool Irish.I was brought up to think it as our city..not the English...but we didnt build it...celebrating our 800 year old charter this year but the cruelty of the English colonialists is what we learned as kids...I know better now.

tjl said...

Sippican's Boston posts are provoking a mini-wave of blog tourism. Anwyn, Boston's a beautiful city and you'll love visiting, but whatever you do, don't attempt to drive! The narrow winding streets are all one-way in the wrong direction. Heed this warning and take a taxi or the subway.

Anwyn said...

Thanks, tjl. I'm staying with a friend who has a car, so she's used to whatever's best to do in the various areas. We're going to do the Freedom Trail, so I imagine a lot of walking that day.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

The Parker House Hotel is across the street to the right in the picture. My wife and I stayed there once

Did you have the yeast rolls?