Friday, September 10, 2021

Ye largest Funeral

‘Went to Boston. Saw ye largest Funeral perhaps that was ever in Boston. 8 or 10 thousand present.’ This is from a diary kept by the reverend John Marrett, born 280 years ago today, who visited Boston immediately after the infamous so-called massacre. A few very brief extracts from Marrett’s diary have been published - thanks only to his being a descendant of a more famous relative and clergyman, Henry Dunster, the first president of Harvard College.

John Marrett was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 10 Septenber 1741, the sixth and youngest child born to his mother, Mary (née Dunster). His father died when he was six years old. He entered Harvard College in 1759, graduating in 1763, but remained working on the family farm for a while. He was ordained in 1774, and preached in various places through Massachusetts and Maine. In 1775, he moved to Woburn. He married Martha Jones in 1779, and they had two children, though one died soon after birth. He remained in Woburn, and died in 1813. 

The only biographical information about Marrett available online, it seems, can be found in Henry Dunster and his Descendants by Samuel Dunster published by Central Falls in 1876 (and freely available at Internet Archive). The book includes around 10 pages with details of Marrett’s life, as well as brief extracts from his diaries and letters. The first entry below concerns the Boston Massacre, when British troops shot and killed several people while being harassed by a mob on 5 March 1770. The editor has added a note to this entry stating that the original contains a much longer and graphic account of the Massacre.

8 March 1770
‘Went to Boston. Saw ye largest Funeral perhaps that was ever in Boston. 8 or 10 thousand present - four men buried in one grave who were shot by the Centry Guard of regulars on Monday night last.’

17 June 1775
‘Preached at home very thin meeting the men gone down to the Army on the Army yesterday. Last night 3000 of our army went to Charlestown and entrenched on a hill. But before they had prepared their cannon the shipping and Regulars by land attacked them. After much fighting we were obliged to quit the entrenchment and the town. Many killed and wounded on both sides The shipping annoyed us much. The town laid in Ashes! The adjacent country gone down - 1000 of the Regulars killed & wounded not more than 200 of ours.’

19 May 1780
‘Morning, Thunder & rain at home. An uncommon Darkness from 1/2 past 10 clock A. M. to 1/2 past one P. M. So dark that I couldnt see to read common print at the window nor see the hour of the clock unless close to it and scarcely to see to read a Bible of large print, people left off work in the house and abroad. The fowls, some of them went to roost. It was cloudy, wind S. W. The Heavens looked yellowish and gloomy what is the Occasion of it is unknown. The moon fulled yesterday. Many persons much terrified never known so dark a day People lit candles to see to dine.

25 August 1803
‘Mrs M dangerously Sick of a Fever.’

11 September 1803
‘Preach’d A.M. - dismissed the People P.M. 1/4 past 4 o’clock my wife died.’

12 September 1803
‘Busy in sorrow preparing for the funeral.’

14 September 1803
‘fair - The funeral of Mrs Marrett. Ministers Revd Messrs. Clark, Stone Dr. Cummings Dr. Osgood, Fisk, Adams - A very large collection of People. The procession reachd from meeting house into the Burying Yard & not all went. The whole conducted with Great Decency and propriety. My people exceedingly Kind and helpful. They propose to defray the funeral Charges.’

18 September 1803
‘Sabbath. Preached at home. Funeral Sermon on the death of my wife.’

16 June 1806
‘The great and Solar Eclipse. The Sun totally covered. The Stars appeard bright Dark as a Moon-Shine night as the eclipse went off could see the moon with the sun.’

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