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City Document—No. 11. 








In Board of Aldermen, July 28, 1856. 

The Report and Order of the Joint Standmg Committee on Burial Grounds, 
on the petition of John A. Winslow and others, relating to the condition of the 
Tombs in the Burial Ground at Mount Vernon Place, was read, laid upon the 
table, and ordered to be printed. 

JOSEPH W. TUCKER, City Clerk. 


In Board of Aldermen, July 28, 1856. 
The Joint Standing Committee on Burial Grounds, to 
whom was referred the petition of J. A. Winslow, 
F. A. Todd, John J. Soren, F. Curtis, and others, 
relating to the condition of the tombs in the Burial 
Ground at Mount Vernon Place, beg leave respect- 
fully to 


That they have taken the subject matter of the 
petition into full consideration ; have given a hearing 
to the petitioners, and have examined the condition 
of the Cemetery and the Tombs. 

It appears, that in consequence of the action of the 
city government, no burials in the grave yard at 
Mount Vernon Place have taken place since the 
year 1849 ; and no new tombs have been built since 
that period. The number of tombs belonging to 
individuals is forty-one, the original cost of each, 


averaging from two-hundred and fifty to three hun- 
di'ed dollars. Most of these tombs have been used, 
and are still liable to be used ; one or two have been 
abandoned ; but the proprietors of others, owing to 
deep-seated prejudices, an unwillingness to sacrifice 
so much property, or, it may be, to associations of a 
character honorable to human nature, are very re- 
luctant to abandon their right to use them for the 
purpose of interment. 

The interments in these private tombs are by no 
means frequent, probably not exceeding one in the 
course of a month, and from the manner in which 
they are constructed, the Committee cannot entertain 
the idea, that these tombs, belonging to individual 
proprietors, are injurious to health. Indeed, as they 
are so seldom opened, and as a general thing, de- 
composition from previous interments must cease long 
before new burials take place, it is believed that with 
proper care and precaution on the part of the propri- 
etors, no inconvenience or annoyance from that source 
can occur ; and in the belief that public opinion must 
cause this odious custom of interments in the midst 
of populous communities to be abandoned in the 
course of a very few years, they do not recommend 
now the adoption of any stringent measures, with a 
view to hasten this result. 

The Committee have ascertained, however, that in 


order to accommodate the public, one or more Heceiv- 
ing Tombs, have been used m this Cemetery by the 
Superintendent of Burials, where bodies have been 
deposited, not merely a few days, or until reasonable 
time is given to prepare a proper burial place else- 
where, but for months, and in some cases, it may be, 
for years: and it is undoubtedly from the frequent 
opening of these Heceiving Tombs, where there are 
almost at all times bodies in a state of decomposition, 
that arises the unpleasant effluvia and annoyance, of 
which the petitioners complain. 

On the subject of burials in the midst of populous 
towns and cities, a great change has taken place in 
public opinion, within a few years. It is now gen- 
erally admitted that this practice, so common for cen- 
turies in many countries, particularly in Great Britain, 
as well as the practice of interments in the vaults of 
churches, is not only in contravention to the recog- 
nised rules of propriety and good taste, but in some 
cases, by impregnating the atmosphere with poisonous 
effluvia, is greatly detrimental to health. And thus 
we find that those Cities of the Silent, located in pleas- 
ant spots remote from the noise and hum of the busy 
world, among the fields, the pastures or the forests, 
surrounded by the charms of nature, improved by the 
hand of art, are multiplying in the land : and in a few 
years, public opinion will undoubtedly be the means 


of banivsliing burial places of every description from 
the midst of all thickly inhabited cities or towns, and 
breaking np a custom which had its origin in a bar- 
barous era, and has no advantages to recommend it in 
a more progressive age. 

The City of Roxbury, by an enlightened policy on 
the subject of burials, has done much towards giving 
a proper direction to the public mind. Interments 
in grounds belonging to the City, and formerly used 
for such purpose, have for years been forbidden by the 
City Council. Eligible lots in the Cemetery at Forest 
Hills are furnished at a reasonable price to all per- 
sons who wish to secure a beautiful and quiet resting 
place for the dead. A portion of these grounds is set 
apart for private burials, where any one may purchase 
a grave for the trifling sum of Qiiiie dollars^ and re- 
serve to himself the exclusive right of proprietorship ; 
and if unable or unwilling to se^jure this right, he is 
permitted to deposit the body of a friend or relative 
in the bosom of its mother, earth, by paying the small 
sum (two dollars) fixed upon by the Commissioners 
for the opening of the grave. 

While such facilities for burials at Forest Hills are 
furnished by the City Government, it can hardly be 
supposed that any one, unless under very peculiar cir* 
cumstances, can long continue as a place for sepulture, 
an unsightly brick tomb, in the centre of a popidous 


district. And the route to Forest Hills being always 
unobstructed, in winter, as well as in summer, there 
can hardly occur a case where an individual, however 
poor or humble, cannot with but little trouble, with- 
out delay, and almost without expense if he chooses, 
procure at Forest Hills, a last resting place for the 
remains of a deceased member of his family. 

Under these circumstances, taken in connection 
with the fact, that there is a large Receiving Tomb at 
Forest Hills, the Committee would recommend the 
adoption of the accompanying order, by the Board of 
Health, (as authorised by section 5, in chapter 257, 
of the Acts and Eesolves of 1855,) forbidding the use 
or establishment of any Receiving Tomb within the 
bounds of the City. 

The Committee feel unwilling to take leave of this 
subject, without expressing a hope that the conven- 
ience of the proprietors of Tombs in the old Burial 
Grounds, as well as a desire on their part to conform 
to the wishes of a large portion of their fellow citi- 
zens, and the improved usages of society, will induce 
them soon to abandon their tombs for eligible burial 
lots at Forest Hills. 

JOHN S. SLEEPER, Chairman, 

Cit2 ^^ lU^iwrij, 

In Board of Aldermen, July 2S, 1856. 

ORDERED, By the Board of Health of the City of Roxbury, that no Re- 
ceiving Tombs, that is, " Tombs used by undertakers as places of deposit for 
bodies committed to them for burial, for the purpose of speculation," shall 
henceforth be peroiitted to be used in the City of Roxbury ; and the Mayor is 
hereby authorized to cause the Superintendent of Burials to remove the con- 
tents of any Receiving Tombs now existing, and which have been accumu- 
lating within the past few years. 

Read, laid upon the table and ordered to be printed. 

JOSEPH W. TUCKER, City Clerk. 

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