Conserving Eliot Burial Ground’s Oldest Grave Markers

Conserving Eliot Burial Ground’s Oldest Grave Markers

Chances are you have walked or driven right past one of Boston’s oldest cemeteries without even knowing it! The Eliot Burying Ground (formerly known as Old Roxbury Burying Ground and Eustis Street Burying Ground) is the oldest burying ground in Roxbury and one of the three oldest of Boston’s historic burying grounds. The oldest markers in the site date back to 1633. The last burial was held in 1854, excluding the additions to the family tombs.

Despite the harsh freezing and thawing winters of New England, many of the slate stones have withstood the test of time, while other stones require more intensive conservation. HBI has begun work with the Kelly Thomas of the Boston Parks Department to inventory and set a course for their preservation.

Roxbury Neck or Boston Neck was the only access road between the “main land” and peninsula of Boston

The burial ground is located on the corner of Eustis Street and Washington Street, which was known historically as Roxbury Neck, an isthmus that connected the city of Boston to the mainland city of Roxbury. Its position was so strategic that during the siege of Boston in 1775 that the burying ground was used as a site for fortifications. The colonists were able to control access to Dorchester and the entrance to the town of Roxbury.

Near the Eustis Street entrance is the Dudley family tomb for early Colonial governors. Buried there are Governor Thomas Dudley [1653], Governor Joseph Dudley [1720], Chief Justice Paul Dudley [1752] and Colonel William Dudley [1743]. The Dudley tomb is covered with an oval marble slab which took the place of the original plate of pewter that was cut out by American soldiers of the Roxbury camp during the siege of Boston and made into bullets.

The many layers of stone that make up slate are susceptible to splitting if water expands and thaws between the layers of stone.

The Minister’s or Parish Tomb contains the site’s namesake, John Eliot, and five later ministers of the First Church of Roxbury. Benjamin Thompson, schoolmaster and physician [1714], is also buried there as well as generations of early Roxbury families.

HBI looks forward to working on this important project…right in our backyard!