Mount Auburn Cemetery and Perkins

Photograph of Mount Auburn Cemetery showing gravestones, a tree, and the Chapel in the background.

Photograph of Mount Auburn Cemetery showing gravestones, a tree with orange leaves, and the Chapel in the background.

November 26, 2019

About 2 miles northeast of Perkins School for the Blind, there is a National Historic Landmark that has ties to many notable Boston figures of the 19th century. It is an urban wildlife refuge, arboretum, and botanical garden. It is also the final resting place of many notable figures with ties to Perkins School for the Blind.

Over concern that crowded urban cemeteries might promote the spread of contagious diseases, Dr. Jacob Bigelow (1787-1879) came up with the idea of Mount Auburn Cemetery. The cemetery was founded in 1831 as the nation’s first rural cemetery and helped start a movement for public parks and public gardens in the United States. By the 1840s Mount Auburn was considered one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country and in the single year of 1848 an estimated 60,000 people visited the cemetery. 

Its popularity extended to more permanent stays and several founding figures of Perkins are buried or memorialized at Mount Auburn Cemetery.  

Dr. John Dix Fisher died on March 3, 1850, at age 53. A white marble monument in his memory stands near the main entrance of Mount Auburn Cemetery. It not only mentions his advocacy for education for the blind but describes him as “Physician and Friend to the Poor.”

Location: Lot #108 Central Avenue

Two tiled photographs of the Fisher monument.

Image Description: Two tiled photographs of the Fisher monument. The first shows a white marble four-sided monument with a pointed tip and a tree with yellow leaves in the background. The second tiled photograph is a close up of the inscription, “The Early and Efficient Advocate for the Education of the Blind.” There are inscriptions on all for sides that include, “The Physician and Friend to the Poor” and “Erected to the Memory of J.D. Fisher MD by Those who Loved him for his Virtues. He died in Boston March 3, 1850, Aged 53 years.”

Thomas Handasyd Perkins died on January 11, 1854, at age 89. In 1843 he commissioned Horatio Greenough to sculpt his Newfoundland dog which rests on top of the family’s underground tomb. Read more about the Perkins Monument on the Mount Auburn website. 

Photograph of the Perkins family tomb.

Image Description: Photograph of the Perkins family tomb which is “guarded” by a marble Newfoundland dog sculpted by Horatio Greenough, that lies obediently over the top. Inscriptions for family members decorate all four sides of the marble slab that covers the underground tomb. The inscription for Thomas Handasyd Perkins is worn away.

Mount Auburn Cemetery is also the final resting place of Perkins’ founding family the Howe's. Samuel Gridley Howe, Julia Ward Howe, and their children: Julia Romana Anagnos, Maud Howe Elliot and her husband John, Florence Marian Hall, and sons Samuel Gridley and Henry Marion Howe are next to each other. Read more about Julia Ward Howe and Samuel Gridley Howe on the Mount Auburn Website.

Location: Lot 4987 on Spruce Avenue


Image Description: Two tiled photographs of the graves of Samuel Gridley Howe and Julia Ward Howe. The first photograph is a close up of Samuel Gridley Howe’s gravestone. The inscription reads, “Samuel Gridley Howe. Born November 10, 1801. Died January 9, 1876.” The second tiled photograph is a close up of the gravestone of Julia Ward Howe. The inscription reads, “Julia Ward Howe. Daughter of Samuel Ward. Wife of Samuel Gridley Howe. Born May 27, 1819. Died October 10, 1910.”

Other famous figures buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery with ties to Perkins Include:

Isabella Stewart Gardner
Dorthea Dix 
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Charles Sumner

Sources: (links open in new window)

Mount Auburn Cemetery Website

Mount Auburn Cemetery Map, Friends of Mount Auburn, 2018.

National Park Service, Mount Auburn Cemetery,

New England Historical Society, Mount Auburn Cemetery, a 19th Century Tourist Attraction