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City Document—No. 11.
JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE
JOSEPH G. TORREY, PRINTER.
CITY OF ROXBURY
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.
CITY OP EOXBTJET.
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-
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
CITY DOCUMENT— No. 11. 5
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
CITY DOCUMENT— No. 11. 7
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.