The graveyard surrounding St. Paul’s Church follows the historic tradition of the churches of England and Europe. The Puritans of New England, and particularly those of the Massachusetts Colony, viewed the established church and its practices as heretical. They developed community burial grounds separate from their meeting houses. Contrary to the practices of the Puritans, the Church of England in pre-revolutionary America continued the ancient tradition of burying parishioners within the consecrated ground of the church complex. St. Paul’s churchyard is a rare surviving example of this tradition in New England.
The first burial took place on July 17, 1742. The Reverend Matthias Plant recorded in his diary the following, “Elizabeth, Dater of Ambrose Davis & Margaret, was ye first corpse interred ye new churchyard, by ye waterside, aged 17 months.” The graveyard now contains over 300 graves, including many people of significance in the history of Newburyport, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the United States. Most of the burials span the period from 1741 to the early part of the 1800s, although burials in the yard continue until the present.
The graveyard contains a variety of wonderful examples of the art of gravestone carving, one of the earliest American folk arts. Often done by itinerant stone carvers, the carvings were done on flat stones meant to represent a door or portal to a new life or a passage to the unknown. The earliest images capture the puritan inspired grim, skeletal death head signifying the triumph of death over life. Later images depict the more optimistic, prosperous chubby faces of the winged cherubim or “soul effigy” guiding the soul of the deceased to heaven. Post-Revolutionary War tombstone images often show the secular images of the urn and the willow commemorating the deceased through symbols or even a carved image of the deceased.
The gravestones and monuments also display the lyrics and poetry of the times. Verses were most often taken from the psalms or other biblical scripture, but some are taken from the poetry of John Milton, Alexander Pope, Edward Young, or the popular hymns of the day. These poetic verses speak of the grief of those left behind, the inevitability of death, the virtues of the departed and the firmness of their Christian faith in the surety of eternal life.
The inscriptions poignantly document the prevalence of infant mortality and the frequency of women’s death during childbirth. Second wives (and husbands) are common in the yard. Consumption or pulmonary tuberculosis was most often an inevitable killer of both sexes, and most frequently in the prime of life. Ironically the inscriptions on the marble tombs of the wealthy have long eroded and are unreadable due to pollution and the harsh New England climate, while the gravestones of those with lesser means or status done in local slate appear to have been carved yesterday. St. Paul’s graveyard truly contains “the stones that speak.” Spend time among the graves and enjoy your visit to this special place.
Tour of the Notable People Buried in the Churchyard
(Begin the tour by walking the path to the two mausoleums left of the entrance to St. Anna’s Chapel. These mausoleums look a little like tables with gravestones for tabletops.)
1. Joseph Atkins (1680–1773) and Mary D. W. Atkins. Joseph Atkins was a lieutenant in the British Navy before emigrating with his family to Newbury from the Isle of Wight in 1728. He became a wealthy merchant involved in the West Indies trade and active in both church and community. Joseph Atkins first suggested the construction of a church to accommodate the people at the “waterside” of Newbury. He, with other merchants and sea captains, raised by subscription the money for the building that became St. Paul’s in 1741. Atkins served as a vestryman, warden and generous benefactor of the church. He purchased and donated the land St. Paul’s Church now occupies. His second wife, Mary Dudley Wainwright, was the daughter and great-granddaughter of Governors of the Massachusetts Colony. He died on Jan. 21, 1773 at the age of 92 years old, “highly esteemed by those who knew him”. His “virtuous and amiable Relict (widow)” Mary died in 1774 at the age of 82. Their portraits hang in the Historical Society of Old Newbury.
An account of Joseph Atkins can be found on page 27ff of the book Joseph Atkins: The Story of a Family (1891).
2. Edward Bass (1726–1803) The Reverend Edward Bass was the first American Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts and the second Bishop of Rhode Island. He served as Rector of St. Paul’s for 51 years, prior to, during, and after the American Revolution. Thanks to his efforts St. Paul’s was one of only two Anglican churches in Massachusetts to remain continuously open during the Revolutionary War, the other being Trinity Church in Boston. By his leadership during these tumultuous times, Bishop Bass ensured the survival of this church and played an important role in the transition of the Church of England in America to the Protestant Episcopal Church of America. His wives, Sarah Beck Bass 1732-1789 and Mercy Bass 1755-1842 are buried on either side of his mausoleum which contains a long inscription of his virtues.
(Walk to the large gravestone by the right of the entrance to St. Anna’s Chapel)
3. Samuel Cutler (1752–1832) Samuel Cutler was a merchant engaged in world trade, and the president of a Newburyport insurance company. During the Revolutionary War, he was captured from the brig Dalton on which he was ship’s clerk, and taken to the Old Mill Prison near Plymouth, England. From June to October of 1777 he kept a detailed journal of the experiences and the privations he and his fellow shipmates suffered before his daring escape back to America. After the War he became friendly with John Quincy Adams who spent 1787 and 1788 in Newburyport as a law intern. Their lives and loves as bachelors in the Newburyport society of the times are recorded in Adam’s diary. In 1832, Cutler aged 79 and his wife Lydia aged 63 drown when the schooner Rob Roy capsized after being struck by a “white squall and upset” between Newburyport and Portland, Maine. He served for many years as a vestryman and a warden of St. Paul’s, a church “to which he was strongly attached”. The inscription reads: “They were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided.”
4. Samuel Allyne Otis (1770–1814) A prominent merchant and banker in Newburyport, Otis came from a family intimately involved in the American revolutionary struggle. His father, Samuel Allyne Otis, became the first Secretary of the US Senate where he served for 25 years. His portrait by Gilbert Stuart hangs in The National Gallery of Art. His Uncle, James Otis, was called by John Adams the “first American patriot” after uttering the phrase, “Taxation without representation is tyranny!” in the Old State House in Boston. Another Uncle, John Otis, was a General in the Revolutionary War, known for his quick temper and wild behavior. His Aunt, Mercy Otis Warren, influenced politics and the revolutionary cause through her “behind the scenes” participation in committee meetings. She was an ardent revolutionary, and is considered the first female playwright and historian in America. Otis’ brother, Harrison Gray Otis, was a lawyer, businessman, and politician. As a leader of America’s first political party, the Federalists, he became a US Senator and Representative, Mayor of Boston and served several terms as President of the Massachusetts Senate. His stately home stands on Beacon Hill. Samuel Allyne Otis died at age 44 and is buried with his 8 month old daughter Abi(gail) and next to his wife Elizabeth (Coffin) who died in 1803 at the age of 28 years.
(Walk to the front of the graveyard by the Summer Street wall, in front of the granite bench)
5. Flora Marston (1769-1788) This stone records the only known burial of a person of African American descent in this Anglican graveyard. We know nothing of Flora’s life except that she died at 19 years old. Her mother Delia Marston was a “mulatto” woman who had been a slave and servant to Benjamin Marston of Marblehead, an ardent loyalist who fled to Canada. Of her father we have no record except he carried the slave name “Nero”. It was common practice to re-name African slaves after classical figures from ancient Rome or Greece in the 1700s. Miss Marston died five years after slavery was no longer recognized by Massachusetts’s courts.
(Walk to the right toward High Street to the second row)
6. Wyatt St. Barbe (1737-1819) St. Barbe was a seasoned sea captain who commanded ships during the Revolutionary War and later carried merchant trade around the world. In 1784 Thomas Jefferson, along with John Adams, was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to France by the new nation. Nathaniel Tracy, financier of the Revolutionary War, persuaded Jefferson, accompanied by his young daughter Patsy and slave John Hemmings brother of Sally Hemmings, to sail with Captain St. Barbe to London aboard Tracy’s ship the Ceres before continuing to Paris. Jefferson’s account of the voyage is contained in his journals. St. Barbe is buried with his 18 month old son George who died in 1805 and next to his first wife Lydia who died in 1801.
(Walk toward the main church and stop halfway at the large marble gravestone)
7. John Brickett (1774-1848) Dr. John Brickett was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts. He served in the Revolutionary War, and later became the first physician in the new town of Bethel, Maine before returning to Newburyport to practice. In 1829 Capt. Abel Coffin arrived in Boston from Siam with the Siamese twins Chang and Eng. The twins, who became traveling performers, were exhibited in Newburyport before traveling throughout the country and later the world. Dr. Brickett was appointed their personal physician and traveled with them until they became their own managers. He died at the age of 75.
(Walk to the opposite side of the churchyard, to the far right corner by Market and High Street)
8. Dudley Atkins Tyng (1760–1829) Dudley Atkins Tyng was a grandson of Joseph Atkins. He changed his name to Tyng on the request of a third cousin in order to continue the male line of the Tyng family. An eminent lawyer, he was appointed in 1795 by George Washington to be Tax Collector for the District of Newburyport. As a staunch Federalist his appointment was threatened by the growth of Jeffersonian Republicanism, so in 1805 he took the position of Reporter of Decision at the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. As such, he wrote the decisions of the court, the oldest court in continuous existence in the Western Hemisphere, according to protocols and standards he developed and that continue to be used in statute law to the present. He was remembered as a man of “strong mind, eminently practical and benevolent.”
9. Anthony Gwyn (1710–1776) Capt. Anthony Gwyn (or Gwynn), was born near Swansea in Wales. He was a mariner, merchant and a founder of St. Paul’s Church. He served as warden and almost continuously as a vestryman from 1745 to 1771. A relief portrait of Gwynn is carved on his gravestone with him stylishly attired in a coat, eight-button vest, cocked hat, wig and holding a staff. A patch covers his left eye. It is the earliest surviving secular effigy on a gravestone in New England. It marked a break with the religious iconography of prior gravestone art. The original gravestone, attributed to Henry Christian Geyer of Boston, was removed in 1982 and placed on permanent loan to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. This cast replica replaces the original.
(Walk to the back of the graveyard and stop halfway with your back to the 2nd mausoleum)
10. Alice Cutler (1746–1826) Alice Hooper Fowle Cutler was the daughter of Robert “King” Hooper, one of the wealthiest men in New England prior to the American Revolution. A Marblehead merchant and businessman, like many staunch loyalists of his class, he lost everything in the war and died a bankrupt man. Alice Cutler survived the revolution, raised eight children and buried two husbands. Their graves, Jacob Fowle (1742-1778) and Joseph Cutler (1745-1801), lie on either side of her own modest stone. Her portrait was painted by John Singleton Copley on the occasion of her first marriage to Jacob Fowle when she was 21 years old. It hung for many years in the Boston Athenaeum and the Reception Rooms of the U.S. State Department in Washington DC. She died at the age of 81.
(Turn to face the church, walk to the mausoleums by the side of the church in the middle of the graveyard)
11. Patrick Tracy (1711–1789) Born in County Wexford, Ireland Patrick Tracy was a seaman, shipmaster, and ship owner who became the most prominent and wealthy merchant of his day in Newburyport. His vessels carried goods to almost every part of the world. Tracy was a generous benefactor of St. Paul’s Church. He built the Tracy Mansion in downtown Newburyport for his son, Nathaniel, now serving as the public library.
Nathaniel outfitted a large number of privateers during the Revolutionary War and enjoyed prodigious wealth. He lavishly entertained at the Tracy Mansion the prominent people of his day, such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette. Eventually reduced to poverty, he died at an early age in 1796.
Nathaniel had his father’s full length portrait painted by noted artist John Trumbull in London. It now hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Patrick Tracy married three times. His first wife Hannah (Carter) (1718-1746) and second wife Hannah (Gookin) (1723-1756) are buried on either side of his mausoleum. His third wife Mary (Dalton) (1713-1791) is buried in a nearby mausoleum with her first husband Michael and son Tristram Dalton.
12. Tristram Dalton (1738–1817) Educated at the Governor’s Academy and Harvard College, Tristram Dalton became a wealthy businessman like his father Michael Dalton. As a young man he ardently adopted the revolutionary cause. In post-revolutionary America he became a prominent politician like his lifelong friend and Harvard classmate John Adams, serving as a member of the Mass. Senate and Speaker of the Mass. House of Representatives. In 1789 he was chosen as a Senator from Massachusetts to serve in the first session of the US Senate and represented Congress at the inauguration of George Washington at Federal Hall in New York City. Not re-appointed as federalism became increasingly unpopular, he was eventually reduced to poverty by the Washington DC real estate market crash and the consequences of the War of 1812. In his last years he served as a Surveyor in the Boston Custom House, a commission arranged by President James Monroe, until his death at 79. A portrait study by John Trumbull is owned by the Yale Art Gallery at Yale University. He lies buried in the mausoleum he originally built for his mother Mary (Little) (1713-1791) in 1792. His widow Ruth (Hooper) followed him in 1826. She is buried in an anonymous grave on Boston Common. They had no surviving children.
(Walk to the mausoleum (table-like gravestone) farthest to the rear of the church)
13. Alpheus Crosby (1810–1874) Alpheus Crosby married into the prominent Cutler family of Newburyport in 1834. Tragically, his young wife Abigail who is buried with him died 3 years later in Paris during a sabbatical European tour. For more than twenty years, he was a Professor of Greek Language and Literature at Dartmouth College. Grammar textbooks he wrote then are still in use. After retiring as Professor Emeritus he began a new career as the second Principal (after his friend Horace Mann) of the Salem Normal School, now know as Salem State College. He was an educational innovator, an ardent abolitionist and a forward thinking supporter of the rights of women. In 1864 he helped found a fund to provide financial aid and educational support to African Americans following the Civil War. When he and his second wife adopted two African American orphans, they scandalized the city of Salem.
(Walk to the far left corner of the graveyard, nearest the brick wall)
14. Jonathan Loring Woart (1807–1838) The son of a prominent Newburyport merchant and banker active in St. Paul’s Church, J. Loring Woart was ordained in the Episcopal Church after graduating from Harvard College and the Virginia Theological Seminary. In 1835, he traveled to Tallahassee, Florida to accept an offer to be the first Rector of St. John’s Church in this new capital of the Florida territories, recently ceded by Spain. Woart, with Frances Eppes, Thomas Jefferson’s grandson, established the first Episcopal Diocese in the territory. Tragically, he and his young wife Elizabeth died in the explosion of the steamship Pulaski off the South Carolina coast. He and his wife’s bodies were transported back to Newburyport for burial in the family plot. His brother John went on to become the rector of Christ Church (Old North Church) in Boston in 1840 where he served for 13 years before traveling to the Western Frontier.
(Turn toward the church and walk to the marble obelisk monument)
15. James Morss (1779–1842) The Rev. Dr. James Morss D.D. was the rector of St. Paul’s Church for 39 years following the death of Bishop Bass. As a young boy of “humble circumstances,” he was apprenticed at an early age to become a joiner or skilled carpenter. After a short time in that profession, he fell so badly on the ice that his arm was permanently damaged. The calamity proved a blessing. With the support of patrons, he graduated with honors from Harvard College in 1800. He and his wife Martha built the house at 190 High Street known locally as “The Court of St James” because of the elegant style in which they lived. The bell in St. Paul’s tower, first rung in 1900, is dedicated “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of Reverend James Morss D.D. Rector of St. Paul’s Church, Newburyport, Massachusetts, 1803-1842.” His monument tells us he was a “sound Divine” (theologian).