Letter to the Editor

The story of Boston's Old North Church -- revised

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

EDITOR's NOTE: After publication of the following Open Forum letter, we were contacted by both the Rev. Steve Ayres, the current vicar of the Old North Church, and Nikki Stewart, Executive Director of the Old North Church and Historic Site in Boston, who offered corrections.

We've reposted the original letter, as well as corrections in brackets:

Dear Editor,

Author David McCullough is a fantastic writer of historical biographies and paints vivid picture of our country.

Back in 1953, I visited the Old North Church in Boston. Outside it a statue of Paul Revere commemorates his famous ride on April 18, 1775.

McCullough vividly describes the bitterly cold winter in Boston in 1775. To avoid freezing to death, fires had to be built to keep warm. A chord of wood was $20. A huge elm known as the Liberty Tree was chopped down and burned for warmth. {CORRECTION Old North Church was never torn down for firewood. It is a brick building.}

Our guide at the Old North did not tell us that the British Gen. Howe was desperate for some type of warmth. He ordered that the Old North Church be town down and used for fuel in 1775 during December.

American patriots were furious. British soldiers were housed in their homes and ate their food and even slept in the patriots beds.

The Old North church was built in 1649 and rebuilt in 1676. Then it was ordered torn down by British Gen. Howe, who ignored its historic value (It was rebuilt later). {CORRECTION Old North Church was built in 1723 and has never been torn down/rebuilt.}

Today it is occupied by an active congregation of the episcopal Diocese of the state of Massachusetts.

Worshipers from the Old North Church united with worshipers of the New Brick Church. Dr. Lathrop was their minister. { CORRECTION Old North Church never merged with New Brick Church.}

In 2009, an archaeologist began examining the 37 tombs in its basement. He discovered that about 1,100 bodies were buried in the basement crypt. Each tomb is sealed with a wooden or slate door.

This crops was in use between 1732 and 1860. In the 1850s, the doors were covered over by plaster.

Now in 2020 tours run by the church take visitors down to view the crypt and up to see the ringing bell tower.

No doubt they wear face masks and observe social distancing.

Helen Ruth Arnold,

Trenton, Neb.

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