Searching for Captain Daniel Malcolm's gravestone in Copp's Hill Burying Ground in Boston

From an informative marker in Copp's Hill Burying Ground:

Fascinating people from Boston's history lie in this burying ground. Look to the left for the double [it's actually a triple] Worthylake gravestone, dating from 1718. Worthylake was the first keeper of the Boston Light. He and his wife and daughter drowned as they rowed to town from Noodle's Island (now East Boston) on a November Day.

If you were at the Copp's Hill Burying Ground on Wednesday, you may have heard a man with an English accent calling across the cemetery, "Did you find it? Is it from 1769?", to which an American woman shouted, "No, but I don't think that this is Snowhill Street!" Were Tony and I looking for buried treasure or for a long lost relative? Nope! We were on the quest of an interesting story - something that people who make YouTube videos and bloggers seem to have in common.

After spotting the aforementioned Worthylake family triple gravestone without any difficulties, Tony and I were stumped by the next set of clues:

"Wander down the path towards Snowhill Street and turn in, behind the tree on the left, to find the Daniel Malcolm stone of 1769. This merchant of Fleet Street opposed the British Revenue Acts by smuggling 60 kegs of wine into Boston from a ship. Legend says that British soldiers read his epitaph and then used the stone for target practice, leaving bullet marks on it."

When Tony spied a large white monument at the bottom of the cemetery, he remarked that it would have made a good target and noted that some of the notches looked like bullet marks. But as we weren't near Snowhill Street, we went back to re-read the marker before spreading out like a pair of detectives on a difficult case. It wasn't long before Tony pointed to the stone in front of him and said, "I think that this is it" before adding that he wasn't sure because there weren't any signs of bullet marks. Since we were following the Freedom Trail and I was feeling rather patriotic, I couldn't help but reply that perhaps there weren't any marks because the British soldiers weren't very accurate marksmen. But a strange thing happened when I put the camera's viewfinder to my eye. There they were -- the marks from the bullets, including a perfect shot that punctured the death's head on the gravestone.

Captain Daniel Malcolm's tombstone is on the left.
Ann Malcolm's tombstone is the smaller one of the right.

A "winged skull" or "death's head" is carved on the gravestones of Captain Daniel Malcolm and his wife, Ann Malcolm, just as it is on 80% of the tombstones in Copp's Hill. A symbol of death and mortality, the death's head has been used since the medieval period and reflects the influence of the Puritan religion.
Here he's buried in a 
Stone Grave 10 feet deep
who departed this Life
october 23rd 1769
Aged 44 Years
a true son of Liberty
a Friend to the Publick
An Enemy to oppression
and one of the foremost
in opposing the Revenue Acts
on America.


  1. Now the story is how did you not see the holes? They look so obvious. That's such a curious thing--makes me wonder what else we might be missing by not seeing the world through a lens.

    I love old graveyards too. Philadelphia has some fine ones. And in Kentucky where I went to college, friends took me to a graveyard to see a tombstone with my name on it! Yikes. And my last name is not that common. Oh well.

    It's it interesting the difference in cemeteries? Pere Lachaise looks like a city, with robust architecture, streets and the such. Here our cemeteries are graveyards.

  2. It was really odd - I'm not sure why I didn't see the holes at first but it was one of those times when I felt like rubbing my eyes in disbelief. Maybe it was the angle or the light - in any case, the holes aren't as visible as they appear in the photos. When I was at the "Occupy Boston" demonstration, I had to keep telling myself to take my eye away from the viewfinder and to watch the march with both eyes so that I would get a feeling for the scope of the movement. But it seems as if there's something to be said for looking through a camera lens, too!

    I agree - "Yikes!" - I wouldn't like seeing my name on a tombstone either. Like you, I have an unusual last name so it would give me the shivers.

    Pere Lachaise feels like a peaceful place while Copp's Hill feels like a "burying ground". Those death head's on the tombstones are scary and make me want to cling on to life for as long as possible. I wonder if it's due to the difference in religion/culture...Puritan vs. Catholic. Copp's Hill dates back to 1659 and Pere Lachaise to 1804. The difference may also be due to wealth. Some of the people buried in Pere Lc probably had more money to spend on their tombs than the early settlers in Boston.

  3. I agree, the death heads do give the scary sensation, but the skull is a common enough symbol throughout art history, especially say, at the base of a crucifix; although I am not particularly fond of it. It's so prevalent in fashion now, but you wouldn't find me buying/wearing it.

    1659--that's a good ole cemetery. I remember visiting one in Maryland when I lived there and we saw four members of the same family who had died in 1918 of, what we supposed was the flu epidemic. I didn't put those pieces together to come up with the cause, I was there with two nurses. History writ on gravestones.

  4. As you know, I've got a lot to learn about art - I didn't know that the death's head is that common. I'm going to keep an eye out for it now.

  5. Yes, on your next Louvre visit, note the skulls in the Renaissance paintings.

  6. Daniel Malcolm's tombstone is looking very old.

  7. As a tourguide in Boston, who frequents Copp's Hill, I will say the eye of the skull is not a musket ball hole. The others on the headstone are, but that was a common skull to use, with the carved out eye socket.


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