The Freedom Trail and More

Finding ourselves outside of Boston, for several weeks we chose to take a closer look at the history of the area.  The colonial history of North America, and the fight for independence runs from here through Canada.  This is where we have spent our summer.  From the original 13 colonies through Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes we have hear the echos of history.  We have visited cities and forts who at times were governed by the French, British, and the upstart Colonies.  This is our view of what we visited in and around Boston.

 Plymouth Massachusetts offers the earliest look at our history.  Perhaps only symbolic, Plymouth Rock marks when William Bradford landed with the Mayflower Pilgrims to start a Colony in the  New World.  While moved from place to place over the years, this rock memorializes that landing.

Provincetown’s Pilgrim Monument

Though, as Province Town on Cape Cod with remind you, the Pilgrims landed there first.  Having missed their first intended stop closer to New York, the sailed north along the coast first anchoring in what is now Province Town Harbor, before finally landing at Plymouth.

Plymouth Rock Memorial

The Pilgrims made their 66 day voyage from England to the New World in the Mayflower.  The combined passengers and crew survived in the ship that was 106 feet long and 25 feet wide.  The Pilgrims and their livestock lived exclusively on the Tween Deck, rarely adventuring to the Main Deck.

 The Plymouth Patuxet Museums curate the Mayflower II.  An exact replica of the original.  Built by hand in 1957 and using the tools and techniques from some 400 years ago.  The ship was a gift from the people of England to the United States.  While the ship is kept seaworthy, it serves as a museum.  You can walk aboard where it is moored near Plymouth Rock.

 The Black Heritage Trail travels through Boston’s African American National Historic Site.  The free black community lived here, on the north slope of Beacon Hill.  The trail visits the homes and significant locations.

The Charles Street Meeting House served as both a church and center of activism for the Black Community

Acorn Street on Beacon Hill

The Lewis and Harriet Hayden House was the most active safe house along the Underground  Railroad

The Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial.  The 54th marched off to war in 1863 along Beacon Street, next to where this Memorial is found.

 The Freedom Trail begins in the Boston Common.  This is public square in the middle of Boston, and next to the Public Garden.  Two centuries separate these landmark public spaces.  The Common, established in 1634 was America’s first public park.  

 The Public Garden was the first public botanical park.  They have two varied histories, but it is difficult to tell them apart.

We did our Freedom Trail as a guided walking tour.  The Trail covers 2.5 miles from Boston Common to the Bunker Hill Monument.  You can undertake a self-guided tour, but we prefer to use a guide.  We find you learn much more history that way.

You followed the line of red bricks that marks this historical path.  Along the way you visit some 14 historical sights.  Our choice was to take the walking tour, with the idea of identifying the various museums to which we would return.

The 1795 State House if on Beacon Street, directly across from the 54th Massachusetts Regiment Memorial.  Here is were we began our tour.

 Our first stop was the Granary Burying Ground, one of the first graveyards in Boston.  It is the resting place of many Patriots in our fight for independence.  No one knows just how many souls are buried here and there was no real order, other than choosing a piece of open ground and planting the body and putting up the marker.  These headstones were ordered into uniform rows only when they began to use lawn mowers to cut the grass.

Our guide was in period costume and in the character of a colonial tradesman.  Here he sits on the Franklin Family Memorial.  Ben is buried in Philadelphia, but his grandparents are resting here somewhere close.

John Hancock’s memorial was erected over 100 years after he died.  He rests somewhere close.

 This monument marked the plot for the Paul Revere family.  His headstone is also found here, though it may not mark the actual location for where he reposes.

The Boston Latin School is the oldest public school in America, established in 1635.  The school graduated four Harvard Presidents, five signers of the Declaration of Independence, four Massachusetts Governors.  Notable dropouts include Benjamin Franklin, who’s stature graces the front plaza.

 Next stop is the Old South Meeting House.  In 1729 it was a Puritan house of worship and the largest building in colonial Boston.  Citizens gathered here in the days before the Revolution to challenge British Rule, including the Boston Massacre.  Within these walls, Samuel Adams launched the Boston Tea Party.

 Just steps down the street you find the Old State House.  It was the seat of colonial and state governments.  John Adams said that it was here that “the child of independence was born”.

The Kings Council Chamber

Our Declaration of Independence was first read aloud from the east balcony of the Old State House on July 18, 1776.  On the street below is the marker that’s the site of the Boston Massacre which took place on March 5, 1770.


 Faneuil Hall was an old market building built in 1742.  The second floor was where town meetings were held.  The Hall is still used today.  Notable speakers included Samuel Adams and Frederick Douglass as they spoke of the struggle for freedom.

Our tour ended at the home of Paul Revere*.  This was a “must visit” for a boy who was fond of Disney’s Johnny Tremain!  It is downtown Boston’s oldest residence, and home to his family of some 16 children.

* As photography isn’t allowed inside the home, these interior photos were copied from post cards.

 Another day found us driving to Quincy Massachusetts to visit the Adams’ birthplaces.  The birthplaces of John, the 2nd president, and John Quincy, the 6th president, are located mere steps away from each other, on on the same ground on which they were built.

These two homes, and a third called the “Old House” at Peacefield make up the Adams National Historical Park.  You can view all three via Ranger led tours.  The Rangers know their history and work to bring it alive in the 90 minute tours.  Many of the furnishings in the birthplaces are antique and represent their place in time.  Much of what you find in the “Old House” are originals and were owned by the family.

John Adams was born and grew up in this house.  His father was a minister, farmer, community leader and a cobbler during the winter.  It was in this house that John began his legal career.

This corner served and Adams’ first law office

John and Abigail moved into this farm house around 1764.  It was here that their oldest son, John Quincy was born.  Abigail managed the house and virtually everything else while John became more and involved in his law practice and politics.

When Abigail heard of the start of the war, she melted down her pewter spoons to make musket balls.  Much of the time in this home, Abigail was on her own while John was in Boston or in Europe. 

 The Adam’s purchased this “Genteel Dwelling House” 1788 after returning from his years abroad as a diplomat.  John continued to serve his country as both Vice President, and then as President, while living here before settling into his retirement.

 We found the Stone Library and the gardens very interesting.  The library was built in 1870 and houses over 14,000 family books and papers.  Many of which are priceless pieces of history.

 The tile floor is an intricate pattern that seems perfect.  However, when installed Charles Francis Adams asked for a single imperfection, revealing that nothing is ever perfect.  Can you find it?


This massive Black Walnut tree dates to when the Adams lived at Peacefield


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