Manus Hand

Visiting John Adams' Grave

Here I am in Quincy, Massachusetts on September 12, 1991. I spent one leisurely week of a two week vacation with my wife -- four months pregnant with our first child -- driving the eastern seaboard collecting dead president pictures.

By mid-afternoon of September 12, we had reached Quincy, Massachusetts (the "C" in Quincy is pronounced as a "Z"), where John Adams and his son, John Quincy, rest. We reached the Adams National Historic Park at roughly 4 PM, lollygagged in the apple orchard for too long, then made our way to the guest house where we told the National Park Service guides there that we would like to both tour the house and see the Adams crypt. The crypt is in the basement of the Unitarian Church, about six or eight blocks from the Adams house, and we were told that the crypts are not open to the public, and only by special permission of the church could we even see the church itself. And we had missed the final house tour of the day. Our schedule was loose, so we could have waited until morning, but we had planned to drive out of the city that day. So....

Undaunted, I somehow convinced the guides, without actually saying so, that I was writing a book, and their earlier reticence to help changed immediately. A guide was "assigned" to us, and she not only telephoned the rector of the Unitarian church at his house and arranged for him to meet us at the church to show us to the crypts, but she gave us a personal tour of the house. The outbuilding which served as Adams' library was particularly impressive. This is not shown to the general public, so if you ever have occasion to visit the Adams site, make sure to ask if they will show you the library.

After the tour of the house, then, my wife and I hurriedly walked the half-mile or so to the Unitarian Church, where we didn't have long to wait for the minister. He showed us in and proceeded to sit us down in the pew where Adams worshipped and to recount for us the very detailed history of the First Unitarian Church of Quincy (formerly Braintree), Massachusetts. He was obviously well-versed in the history of his charge. We listened politely, but our main interest, of course, was in being shown to the crypts.

Finally, we were shown down the stairs to the basement, where two locked doors open on a wall, revealing the crypt behind. Four granite sarcophogi are within -- those of John Adams, his wife, their son John Quincy, and John Quincy's own wife, in that order, from left to right -- with the doors to the chamber being situated between the male and female of each couple. The coffins of the four had initially been in mausoleums in the very little and very interesting and storied cemetery across the street (through which we had walked on our way to the church), but had long ago been moved into the church for the sole purpose of increasing tourism and church coffers.

The crypt was a little cramped for walking room around the backs of the sarcophogi, but I made my way to the head of the coffins, where my wife photographed me as you see above.

Returning upstairs, the final part of the church which the minister made sure to show us was the donation box. After making sure we knew where and what it was, he turned his back and took a position a step or two away from it and us, waiting to let us out the locked door until he was sure that some money had gone from our pockets to his church. The whole brief visit to Quincy was actually quite comical.

...White ...Novanglus, as penned by John Adams, Briton...