Tag Archives: Massachusetts

The Challenge of Researching Portuguese Ancestors

If you were to visit Lowell, Massachusetts before . . . say, 1890, you would not have met many men walking about the city named João or Manuel.  The Portuguese began arriving en masse in New England in the late 19th century and had established, by the first decades of the 20th century, sizable communities in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.  Most of these Portuguese hailed Madeira or the Azores, island possessions of mainland Portugal.  The three pages attached below are taken from the Lowell, Massachusetts City Directories for 1884, 1894, and 1910.  The surname Silva, one of the most common Portuguese surnames, does not appear at all in the 1884 directory.  Just ten years later, in 1894, ten Silva men are listed in the Directory.  And, by 1910, this number had grown to 42 individuals with the surname Silva.

1884 Lowell City Directory

1894 Lowell City Directory

1910 Lowell City Directory

If you’re among the roughly 1 in 20 Americans who today claim Portuguese ancestry, you’ve likely discovered that Portuguese genealogy presents some challenges.  Records are not as widely available as they are for other Western European countries, and often are not translated from Portuguese. Additionally, vital records (birth/baptism, marriage, death) are frequently church records whose form and content vary widely depending on the time and region of the record.  As an added challenge, many Portuguese arriving in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries changed their names either to appear more American or so others would be more able to pronounce their names. In my own research, I’ve found Machados who became Marshalls and Pereiras who became Perrys.   To add to the challenge, first names are often translated too. José becomes Joe and João becomes John.  There’s some evidence of this in the Lowell City Directory listings above, where many of the Silvas use Anglicized names like Joseph, Frank, John, and Louis.

It took me what felt like forever to find my grandmother’s Machado family in the 1920 U.S. census and with good reason.  When I finally found them, they were listed as an Irish family with the surname “Marsh”  (Below, see lines 54-57.)  Sometimes, the errors recorded in census records tell you more than the true information that was recorded.  From this record, I can get an idea of how my great-grandfather’s pronunciation of “Machado” sounded to a native English speaker from Massachusetts.  How she ever ended up listing them as English speakers from Ireland though, I’ll never know.  They were light-skinned Portuguese folks with light eyes, but likely spoke broken English at the time.

Admittedly, the challenges of Portuguese genealogy are many, but the Portuguese people have a rich history. Who wouldn’t want to learn more about one’s ties to a culture that gave us some of the world’s great explorers, e.g., Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan, as well as fellow present-day descendants like Tom Hanks and Meredith Vieira? The Portuguese even had their own crazy set of royals (which they overthrew during the Revolution of 1910).  And Portuguese history is full of interesting stories that are not well-known in the English-speaking world.  Perhaps one of the most curious tales to have occurred during the nearly eight-century history of the Portuguese monarchy is that of the legend of Pedro I.  The legends goes that Pedro I was so distraught that his wife, Inês de Castro, had died before he became King that, when he eventually ascended the throne in 1357, he exhumed her body, put her upon the throne, bejeweled and dressed in a rich gown, and then required each of his new vassals to kiss her hand as a show of fealty to their new queen.

By Litografia Epaminondas Gouveia. Rua do Rangel, 16. C. Frese [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Cigar wrapper depicting Ines de Castro upon her throne

When I first started researching my grandfather’s family, I vaguely knew that he had come from Madeira, a Portuguese island about 600 miles from mainland Portugal and 400 miles from Morocco that had first been settled by the Portuguese about a decade after Henry the Navigator had sponsored a voyage there in 1419. When I later read his obituary, it rekindled a memory that he had been born in its capital city of Funchal.  I also knew his parents names had been John and Frances.  With his birthdate, it was a good start.

While genealogy records seem to abound for ancestors from the British Isles, Portugal’s ancestral records are relatively unexplored. Even a few years later I started researching, online resources were still fairly limited. There were a few people in Portugal willing to help out through the internet, but with the foreign currency issue (how to pay them), and the vague unease associated with internet transactions, it seemed more trouble than it was worth.  I tabled further research for a while, content to know that my ancestors came from Madeira, from its capital city Funchal – until I was fortunate enough to land a temporary work assignment in Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon. In April 2004, I arrived in Lisbon to work the assignment, and to perfect the Portuguese I had been learning in Brazil.

Three things about Portugal: 1. the Portuguese of Lisbon is very distinct from the Portuguese of Brazil; it varies verbally and grammatically to a greater extent than American English differs from British English. 2. the Portuguese of Madeira sounds a lot different from the Portuguese of Lisbon. 3. Madeira is an autonomous region of Portugal and is considered somewhat separate, both culturally and geographically, from mainland Portugal.

Even from Lisbon, Funchal is still a two-hour flight.  But, by 2004, Portugal had begun to put some of its genealogical information online. Already armed with my grandfather’s date of birth and his birth city, I requested his birth record from the government-run website. A few weeks later, the baptismal record arrived.  And, as I opened it, I thought ‘what luck!’ The certificate included not only details around his birth, but also details about his parents and even grandparents. And, it showed that my family had come from an even smaller village on Madeira a generation earlier, called Caniςo.

Topographic data from the NASA Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM3 v.2) (public domain)

Topographic and administrative map in French of Madeira

Even in 2004, a few well-planned online searches for Caniςo popped up some very specific hits, including one to a distant cousin who had, several years earlier, researched the family back almost 500 years to the early 1500′s. A quick email, and a day later, he had sent me an Excel spreadsheet listing out every ancestor and cousin in the family, their baptisms, marriages, and even how they were all related to each other. I later found a book indexing all of the Madeira records and tied out all of the records and verified his accuracy.  These days, much more is available online for Madeira, and you don’t really need a book only available in Portugal.  You can research marriages, baptisms, passport applications, and more at the Madeira Archives website at:

http://www.arquivo-madeira.org/homepage.php

At this point, the website and its indexes are only available in Portuguese, but with the knowledge of a few terms, you should be able to navigate the website quite easily.  From the homepage above, click on “bases de dados”.  For marriages, search “casamentos”.  Baptisms and Passports are the next two links in Portuguese words that will look familiar to English speakers.

I still stare sometimes at the earliest names on that list.  When I look at the earliest, a direct ancestor who was born in 1535, I  wonder what his life was like all those years ago on Madeira, and just how many descendants he has in New England, the United States, and in the many other regions of the world.  In years, 475 are a lot.  I don’t have his date of death (those seem to be less consistently recorded than dates of baptisms and marriages), but it’s probably a safe bet that he had long since passed away before the Pilgrims first stepped on Plymouth Rock in 1620.


The Grand Fires of 1904 – Lowell, Massachusetts and Fire’s Constant Threat

Image of 1904 Fireman

1904 Fireman - Lowell, Massachusetts. From: Lowell Sun. 14 Jan 1904; 7.

Fire was a danger never far from the minds of our ancestors at the turn of the last century.  In 1904, Lowell, Massachusetts, then a manufacturing city of 95,000 residents and the 39th largest city in the United States¹, suffered a record-setting year in terms of fires, alarms, and losses suffered.  Before the year would end, just over 700 alarms were called into the Lowell Fire Department; five of those alarms included a fatality.  The year’s largest fires claimed Lowell’s iconic Huntington Hall and one of its largest department stores – O’Donnell & Gilbride’s.  The Old City Hall – dating from 1830, St. Patrick’s Church- the city’s first Catholic church, and even the Central Fire Station were nearly lost as well.  Through this post, and a series of posts to come, I will cover each of the grand fires of 1904 in detail.

All five of the city’s fire-related deaths during 1904 were women and girls who had passed too closely to open flames in an age when hemlines swept floors.  Mrs. Celia Green died in February after stepping on a match.  Two others, Mrs. Rose Churchill and Miss Alice Sullivan, just four-years-old, died after passing too closely to burning leaves.  Another woman, Mrs. Marion Ainsworth, died on September 23 after suffering from burns caused from her oil stove the day before.  The last, Mrs. Ellen Leary, 75, died on Christmas Eve after her clothes caught fire from a falling oil lamp.

What’s surprising is that there were not more far more deaths in Lowell.  707 alarms were called into the Lowell Fire Department in 1904, and those were fairly well-distributed throughout the year, averaging about 60 alarms each month.  What caused these fires?  Chimneys were the most common cause in 1904, constituting about 17% of the alarms for that year.  Grass fires were a distant second at 7%.  Improper use of matches resulted in a good number of calls to the fire station during that year, as well, and resulted in about 5% of the year’s alarms.  However, the causes of the alarms truly were varied – ranging from sparks setting a roof on fire to failed attempts to thaw frozen pipes.  A wooden spittoon was blamed for one fire and rats’ nests in wall partitions were blamed for five others.

National Register of Historic Places listings ...

St. Patrick's Church - Lowell, Massachusetts; Image via Wikipedia

1904 began with three disastrous fires before January was even half over.  The first, on January 9, sparked in the Odd Fellow’s Building on Merrimack Street, and threatened to spread across a narrow alley and burn down Lowell’s Old City Hall Building, even then a valued part of Lowell’s early history.  The Fire Department responded quickly and effectively and protected the Old City Hall Building, which still stands today on Lowell’s Merrimack Street.  The damage from that fire was contained to the top two stories of the Odd Fellow’s Block.  Just two days later, on January 11, an overheated smoke pipe in the boiler room of St. Patrick’s Church (the city’s first Catholic church, dating from 1853²) started a fire that quickly spread throughout the landmark church, and grew so large that it threatened the nearby St. Patrick’s Home, a five-story women’s boarding house and Notre Dame Academy, a day and boarding school for the daughters of the city’s mill workers, housed in another five-story brick building.  In the end, the boarding house and the Academy were saved, but the fire caused losses of $160,765³ and major damage to the church’s interior, which would not be completely rebuilt until two years later, in 1906.

Lowell's Central Fire Station - Taken by Author

The worst fire, however, occurred on January 12, the night after the St. Patrick’s Church fire.  That fire resulted in an even larger loss of $161,422 and shut down one of the city’s largest department stores, O’Donnell & Gilbride.  The fire started late in the evening at the Fellows Block near the intersection of downtown Lowell’s Middle and Palmer Streets and quickly spread to three other large brick buildings on Middle, Palmer, and even Merrimack Streets.  Before it was extinguished four hours later, the fire threatened the Central Fire Station itself and even the entire downtown area.  Together, the three fires (all occurring prior to the middle of January) resulted in more than 80% of the city’s annual fire-related losses (4).

Historical Marker on Downtown Lowell's Merrimack Street

Historical Marker telling the story of Huntington Hall/Merrimack St. Depot

Although not the largest fire of 1904, the Huntington Hall blaze of November 6, 1904 left the longest-lasting scars on the downtown Lowell landscape.  Rebuilt from a previous fire of just seven years earlier, Huntington Hall was jointly owned by the Boston & Maine Railroad and the City.  Since 1853, Huntington Hall had served downtown Lowell as its main train station and public hall at the intersection of Merrimack and Dutton Streets.  The Hall was not rebuilt after the 1904 fire, but the arches that stand today in its place on Merrimack Street replicate the Hall’s first floor entrance to the train station, which was also known as the Merrimack Street Depot.

Over a series of posts during the next few weeks, I will be covering each of these fires in detail.  Each has its story to tell and, in the case of the Huntington Hall and Fellows Block fires, has left a lasting scar on the downtown Lowell landscape we see today.  The firemen fighting these blazes fought bravely and amid significant peril to their own lives.  Fire was an ever-present danger to our ancestors who were alive in the first years of the 20th century.  Stories have survived to show that citizens banded together to help each other through this fear, to escape the fires as they raged, and to recover from the losses they suffered.

Footnotes:

1.  To put this in perspective, consider that today, Atlanta is the nation’s 40th largest city, with a population of 420,000.

2.  It should be noted that the original St. Patrick’s Church was built in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1831.  The stone structure that suffered the 1904 fire was constructed a generation later, in 1853.  It still stands today in Lowell’s Acre neighborhood.

3.  This is quoted in 1904 dollars.  For perspective, consider that the annual payroll for Lowell’s entire department of 176 firemen was $110,000 that year.

4.  This excludes the damages caused by the Huntington Hall Fire, which occurred in November and was still being valued at the end of 1904.  The total valuation of that fire’s losses approximated $70,000.


Turkey Drovers – Traditions from Thanksgiving Days Past

Female wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) take...

Wild Turkeys, Image via Wikipedia

It turns out that wild turkeys are incredibly difficult to move across long distances.  In the days before refrigerated travel, a national roadway system, and even railroads, driving turkeys across long stretches of land was the province of men called turkey drovers.  From 1790 to about 1830, turkey drovers walked turkeys to market, literally, at a top speed of about one mile per hour.  In Massachusetts, this meant driving, or walking, a flock of turkeys from Central Massachusetts to the meat market in Brighton, just outside of Boston.

Each fall during the nation’s first decades, turkey drovers could be seen driving their turkeys across the lesser travelled byways of New England; the horse traffic of the day apparently proved a worthy distraction that slowed the driving of the turkeys even more.  Turkey driving was a dawn-to-dusk activity.  At the first sign of darkness, turkeys bolt for trees, ascend into them, and roost for the night.  For this reason, turkey drovers, usually travelled in covered wagons and took turns protecting the roosting turkeys from predators (both animal fauna and humans) as well as from simply wandering off.

Another peril in turkey driving: turkeys tend to crowd together when being driven and will trample each other.  To overcome this, men called shooers divided the turkeys into lots of up to 75 birds, and led the turkeys along their route using a long pole, with a piece of red flannel attached to the end.

So, when picturing the Thanksgiving Days of yore during this year’s holiday season, add the turkey drover and his large flock of turkeys to your conjured images.  Happy Thanksgiving, readers!

 


In His Words – Dickens’ Visit to Lowell, Massachusetts, 1842

By Francis Alexander (1800-1880) ([1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Charles Dickens in Boston, 1842

Were your ancestors among the crowds gathered to meet a young Charles Dickens when he visited Lowell, Massachusetts in early February 1842?   Dickens, a young writer of rising fame at the time of his visit, had yet to write A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities.  His fame had largely been won by his earlier works, including the Pickwick Papers and The Adventures of Oliver Twist.

Charles Dickens had arrived in Lowell to view its mills, newly built in a city incorporated just five years before – and only created as a town just a decade earlier.  Dickens arrived in downtown Lowell by train and was met at the station by a “gentleman intimately connected with the management of the factories”.

So impressed was Dickens with the large, populous, thriving city that he dedicated a chapter of his later travelogue, American Notes for General Circulation, to a discussion on Lowell.  The crowds watched Dickens step from the train into a dirty winter day in Lowell.  Dickens later remarked that the dirty snow provided a stark contrast to the newness of the city, something which struck the Englishman as interesting enough to note.

As he took in Lowell, Dickens saw a new wooden church, with no steeple and still unpainted, that reminded him of the packing box the city might have recently arrived in.  Further on, he saw a large hotel, likely the Merrimack House, “whose walls and colonnades were so crisp, and thin, and slight, that it had exactly the appearance of being built with cards.”

Lowell's Merrimack House, 1886 City Directory

He saw the Merrimack, “the very river that moves the machinery in the mills (for they are all worked by water power) [and] that it seems to acquire a new character from the fresh buildings of bright red brick and painted wood among which it takes its course.”  Dickens imagined that Lowell’s bakeries, groceries, or bookbinderies had just taken down its shutters for the first time, opening their businesses just as he was arriving.

While in Lowell, Dickens visited a woollen factory, a carpet factory, and a cotton factory to see them in their “ordinary working aspect”.  Dickens arrived at the first mill as dinner hour was concluding and he saw the mill girls, ascending the stairs, returning to work.

A Page from the 1836 Lowell City Female Directory, showing a list of mill girls, including Lucy Larcom - of later fame.

He later remarked:  “They were well dressed, but not, to my thinking, above their condition: for I like to see the humbler classes of society careful of their dress and appearance, and even, if they please, decorated with such little trinkets as come within the compass of their means.”

Women's Fashions from the 1840's

He remarked on the mill girls’ “extreme cleanliness”, in their bonnets, good warm cloaks, and shawls.  He also found them “healthy in appearance, many of them remarkably so, and [that they] had the manners and deportment of young women:  not of degraded brutes of womanhood.”

He continued:  “I cannot recall or separate one young face that gave me a painful impression ; not one young girl whom, assuming it be a matter of necessity that she should gain her daily bread by the labour of her hands, I would have removed from those works if I had had the power.”

He examined their boarding houses, which he noticed were carefully guarded by the mill owners.  He observed that no one could enter the houses who had not undergone the most “searching and thorough inquiry”.

Dickens observed few children working in the mills and noted that Massachusetts state law forbid their employment during more than nine months of the year.  He visited the present-day Lowell General Hospital – which was “some distance from the factories, and on the highest and pleasantest ground in the neighbourhood” and that the building itself had first been constructed as a private residence for a wealthy merchant.  He stated that the weekly charge for each mill girl was three dollars, but girls were not turned away if they lacked sufficient funds.  The girls appeared to be well-paid.  Dickens had learned that, as of July 1841 – about six months before, almost one thousand mill girls had opened accounts with the Lowell Savings Bank for a total of $100,000.

In concluding his thoughts on Lowell, Dickens stated three facts, which he assumed would startle his contemporary readers:

First, he observed that each boarding house had a joint-stock piano.  Next, he noted that almost all mill girls subscribed to a circulating library.  Last, he wrote that they had also created a periodical known as “The Lowell Offering” – written exclusively by them, despite their twelve-hour workdays.  Dickens was so impressed that he bought several editions of the periodical and read them “from beginning to end”  and compared it favorably to many of the English Annuals he had read.  Within the pages of The Lowell Offering, Dickens found stories about mill life with ‘appropriate’ undertones of self-denial, contentment, and appreciation for nature’s beauties.  Perhaps he also read the work of Lucy Larcom, a regular contributor to the magazine, and now quite probably the most famous of the Lowell mill girls.

Dickens did not spend the night in Lowell – but returned, after dark, by the same railroad he rode into town that morning.  He had the misfortune of sitting next to a passenger who spoke at such great length about the merits of American travel books written by Englishmen, that Dickens pretended to fall asleep on the car as he watched the light from the wood fire in the passing darkness outside.


The Civility of the Past – Our Ancestors’ Experiences with Public Transport

Do you commute to work using public transportation?  There’s a certain etiquette, a set of norms, that is easily observable when you are on the bus, the train, the subway, or even a plane.  There’s a prevailing thought out there that civility is a “thing of the past”.  But, was it?  Did our ancestors live in a world where people took just one seat on a horsecar, or politely inquired about the space beside a sitting passenger before sitting on the edge of their coats?  The answer is: “hardly”.

Books and articles written on etiquette can be a dry read, but they can also be a valuable and interesting source of insight into what everyday circumstances were like for our ancestors – and provide a perspective into just how little society, at least from the standpoint of social interaction, has changed in the last 120 years.  If etiquette books cautioned electric car (trolley) riders not to open the window next to them without first asking those seated behind them, then it’s likely that they did.  And, it’s also likely that the woman behind them, as her elaborately ringleted hair was assaulted by the twin furies of wind and road dust, thought of just how she would craft the next sentence of an etiquette book admonishing this.

James Henry Stark, in his Stranger’s illustrated guide to Boston and its suburbs, includes a list of horse railroad rules that had been established by the various Horse Railroad Companies of Boston by 1882:

Horse Railroad Rules:  

  • Getting on or off the front platform, riding on the steps, or talking with the driver is prohibited.
  • Never get on or off a car while it is in motion; notify the conductor, and wait until the car is stopped.
  • No disorderly or intoxicated person will be allowed to ride in the cars.
  • No smoking is allowed on the cars, excepting on the three rear seats of the open cars.
  • Full fare will be charged for children occupying seats which may be required by other passengers.
  • Articles lost in the cars may be inquired for at the offices of the different companies.
  • Peddling in the cars is prohibited.
  • No dogs allowed in the cars.
Truly, the list of rules reads eerily similarly to what might be encountered on an MBTA bus or subway car today.  A Good Housekeeping article on The Etiquette of Travel from several years later in 1889 provides similar insights, and also suggests that the behavior observed in Boston-area horsecars was not unique to just Boston.  Good Housekeeping advises that each traveler should not occupy more than one seat, fill seats around them with packages, or show a “disobliging spirit” when asked by a standing passenger to remove their things from those seats.  As I write the first draft of this post – on a rush hour commuter rail train heading into Boston – it’s obvious that this advice applies equally well to today’s public transportation ridership.
By Heywood, John B. -- Photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A Horsecar outside Scollay's Building in Boston's Scollay Square

The article also tackles the issue of a group of two or three people, turning over the seat in front of them (an option still available on some of today’s commuter rail trains) and taking over a space usually available for up to four people.  If you change out today’s baseball caps for Victorian bowler hats and today’s tight-fit jeans for yesterday’s long-hemmed corseted profiles, an image emerges of later comers milling about in the aisles, unsure whether to continue standing, or force themselves into a conversation among friends, in order to sit awkwardly among them, and likely ride backwards, facing the rear of the train.  If you’ve ridden the commuter rail for any time during the cold weather months, you’ve likely endured the discomfort of an oblivious seat companion brushing beside you and abruptly sitting atop your coat.  This appears to have been equally vexing to Victorian-era passengers, maybe even more so, in an age of long dresses.

For longer journeys, perhaps the present-day equivalent of a Boston to New York City journey by train, etiquette advised our ancestors to prepare their luncheons carefully and thoughtfully so that their companions would be spared the indignity of watching them eat chicken wings or legs with their fingers.  They were also advised to throw their debris, be they peanut shells or orange peels or even chicken bones, from their open windows – since the sight of these scattered across on trolley floors or window sills was considered unsightly.

When imagining or exploring the world of the ancestors we are researching, we sometimes consider it to be far more foreign or unfamiliar than it really was.  Our ancestors commuted just as we do now and faced situations that still ring familiar today.  Civility is not truly a “thing of the past”; rather, our perception of 19th century US culture probably incorporates a greater degree of civility than what truly existed.


If you were to walk . . . Boston’s Scollay Square and Tremont Street, 1895

Boston Scollay Square - John Winthrop Statue, 1897 via Wikipedia Commons

If you were to walk . . . through Boston’s Scollay Square and down Tremont Street, into what those alive in 1895 called “the congested district”, you would feel the crush of people and electric car traffic on what, even then, was considered a narrow road.  On this midsummer workday, as you walk southwest through the Square (in an area that now borders the rather bereft expanse known as Government Center), you see that the Square is actually a triangle, and oddly shaped at that, that makes the old-timers reminisce about the now-demolished Scollay building, whose footprint caused the irregular shape.

You escape the old men by pretending to study the statue of Governor John Winthrop, an early governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  The statue is easy to study – since it dominates the Square.  Winthrop is depicted in bronze and granite, newly arrived in the New World, holding the colony charter in his right hand;  his left hand holds a Bible.  Behind him, the stump of a freshly felled tree stands, rope attached – presumably to the boat that had just brought him ashore.

Boston - Hemenway Building - Scollay Square, via Boston Public Library

It works; you’ve escaped the old men, no small feat in an age when sidewalks were uneven and clothes were constricting.  Their stories of the Scollay Square of yore fade into the hum of the traffic.  You pass by the statue, and onto the top of Tremont Street.  You pass by the Hemenway Building (tallest building, at left), at the intersection with Court Street.  It marks the site of a house that once lodged George Washington during his stay in Boston in 1789.  You pass other pedestrians, both afoot and aboard the electric cars.  Most are returning from work; some visit the area’s many banks, shops, theaters, newspaper offices, or railway stations.  As you brush shoulders with these other poor souls battling the foot and street traffic, you catch some rushed words about how grand the new subway will be, how it will push this mess of an electric car system underground, and ultimately how it will make both travel by street and by rail more efficient and reliable.

With Scollay Square at your back, the sidewalks of Tremont Street lead you past the Boston Museum at 28 Tremont, between the intersections with School and Court streets.  You step inside to escape the crush of humanity on the street and see the statues, paintings, even coins – standard fare for a museum, maybe, but you also hear that the Museum is Boston’s oldest theatre – dating to 1841.  One of the most prominent playhouses in the city, its fame these days lies in the introduction of foreign plays premiering in the US, including English comedies.  1,500 people can be seated inside.  The best seats will set you back $1 – some seats can be found for 50 cents or even less.

Boston's Tremont Street, 1895, via the Scientific American, 31 August 1895, Pg. 1

You next walk past the Massachusetts Historical Society, housed at 30 Tremont.  It’s likely open; its normal hours of operation are 9 A.M. to 5 P.M..  And, an added bonus, the admission is free.  Inside, such wonders await as an oak chair brought over on the Mayflower, a vial of tea purported to have been thrown into Boston Harbor during the Boston Tea Party, and even the sword of Miles Standish himself.  Its library, said to contain almost 40,000 books and over twice as many pamphlets, contains, within its collection, the largest trove of literature related to the Civil War anywhere.

Continuing along Tremont, you next approach the Granary Burying Ground, but you struggle to see the graves over the tops of the electric cars.  Established in 1660, the burial ground was originally part of the Boston Common, separated some time later by the construction of the town granary, which stood on the present-day site of the Park Street church.  If you manage to cross Tremont, to stand beneath the Burying Ground’s shady canopy, you’ll be able to make out some familiar names within its fences.  Paul Revere is buried there.  As is Peter Faneuil, who donated the market house and hall that now carried his name.  You’ll see the most prominent monument with the cemetery, one marking the graves of Benjamin Franklin’s parents.  More meandering will reveal the graves of the victims of the Boston Massacre, three signers of the Declaration of Independence, and nine governors of Massachusetts – colonial and post-Revolution.  Don’t think you can just walk in through the curve of the high, ivied gateway.  All would-be visitors are to apply for admission at No. 12 Beacon Street, at the office of the superintendent.

By Heywood, John B. -- Photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

King's Chapel and Burying Ground - Boston, Tremont Street

Beyond the Massachusetts Historical Society building and the Granary Burying Ground, lies the King’s Chapel Burying Ground, and beyond that, King’s Chapel.  The Burying Ground, Boston’s oldest cemetery, dates its oldest burials to 1630.  A quick wander inside reveals the graves of many of Boston’s earliest prominent citizens.  You pause at the grave of Mary Chilton, who, as an eager 13-year-old, leapt from her boat as it approached Plymouth’s now-famous Rock in 1620, thus becoming the first European woman to touch land in Massachusetts.  The walls of Boston’s City Hall building (its entrance on School Street) frame the rear of the cemetery.  The dark granite wall of King’s Chapel, with its formidable stone tower, forms another boundary of the cemetery.  From across Tremont Street, the well-known Houghton & Dutton Department Store casts a long late-afternoon shadow across the graves.

Across the School Street intersection, you see the Parker Hotel (now the Omni Parker), first opened in 1855.  Inside, a room for the night, “with service and electric light”, can be had for $2, a fairly considerable sum in a day when nightly rates range from 50 cents through $3.  The hotel’s “European plan” rates do not include the cost of meals, a concept the hotel was the first to introduce to the US.  You next pass by the Tremont Temple, newly built just two years ago, near Tremont’s intersection with School Street.  The Temple sees most of its traffic on Sundays, but you might see concerts or lectures there on weeknights in its Lorimer or Parker Halls.  If you return on Sunday, you might even catch a sermon by its minister, Dr. Geroge Lorrimer.

By U.S. Stereoscopic Co. -- Publisher [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Brewer Fountain - Boston Common

Past the Park Street Church, Boston Common emerges on the right of the street.  Its nearly fifty acres of green grass shaded by mature elms are certainly inviting, calling to you from behind its black iron fence.  Your eyes are drawn first to the Brewer Fountain, in place now for nearly 30 years.  But, there’s also McDonald’s, across the street at 132 Tremont.  McDonald’s, not of the type your 21st-century consciousness might recognize, sits near St. Paul’s Church and is a fashionable women’s clothing store.  Its light lunches at midday attract large crowds; some are shopping; some come just to watch the scene unfold.

Whether you opt for the merchandise-themed therapies offered by McDonald’s or choose to experience the aesthetic relaxation awaiting you at Boston Common, either is a welcome respite from the congested streets and sidewalks of Tremont Street.

By Walker [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Map of the Scollay Square Area, Boston - 1883