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John Adams

Interment Location Visited Sequence in Graves I Have Visited
Quincy, MA Summer 2003 1st Declaration Signer visited; 1st President visited; 1st Vice President visited

Photographed October 30, 2019.

The United First Parish Church in Quincy, Massachusetts, is nicknamed “the Church of the Presidents” because it holds the remains of John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams, who served as the second and sixth chief executives respectively. Also known as the “Stone Temple,” the church was constructed primarily from granite gifted by John Adams, who did not live long enough to see it erected. The 25-foot Doric columns on its portico were carved of granite from a different quarry, as the former president’s quarry was not that deep. This 1828 building is the fourth to house its congregation, which was originally formed in 1636 as a branch of the Church of Boston. It has been independent since 1639 and Unitarian since 1750.

The presidents are joined in the basement crypt by their wives, first ladies Abigail Adams and Louisa Catherine Adams. The tomb was privately controlled by descendants until it was deeded to the congregation in 1903. Those who were unable to enter the burial chamber in the preceding decades did have memorial tablets they could read in the sanctuary upstairs. The tablet to the right of the altar was commissioned by John Quincy Adams to commemorate his late parents. The bust of John Adams atop it was sculpted by artist Horatio Greenough.

Photographed June 7, 2019.
Photographed October 30, 2019.

John and Abigail Adams’ sarcophagi are viewable through the wrought iron gate to the family crypt. This photo shows the second president’s grave decorated with a wreath, shortly after it was placed to commemorate the 284th anniversary of his birth. The tradition of laying wreaths at the interment sites of all late U.S. presidents on their respective birthdays began during the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson.

The U.S. flag that rests on John Adams’ sarcophagus sports 15 stars and 15 stripes, which is accurate to the time he was president. Likewise, his son’s sarcophagus is covered by a flag with 24 stars and 13 stripes, which was the banner’s design for the entirety of his White House tenure from 1825 to 1829.

Photographed July 29, 2019.
Photographed May 9, 2004.

The Adamses were the first famous people whose graves I visited, back in summer 2003 when I was eight years old. No pictures exist from that outing. I returned to the church on Mother’s Day 2004 to remedy that situation, holding 1950s Louis Marx Company figurines of the Adams presidents as my father photographed me beside their real-life counterparts. Immediately after I completed my history master’s degree in 2019, I interned with the church’s History and Visitors Program and led tours of the Adams crypt three days a week.

 


Fast Facts

Born: October 30, 1735 in Braintree, Massachusetts

Spouse: Abigail Smith Adams (m. 1764-1818)

Political Affiliation: Federalist Party

Vice Presidential Term: 1789-1797 under George Washington

Presidential Term: 1797-1801

Vice President: Thomas Jefferson

Died: July 4, 1826 in Quincy, Massachusetts

Cause of Death: Heart Failure

Age: 90

Last Words: “‘Help me, child, help me.”

Interment: United First Parish Church, Quincy, Massachusetts

"Our American Constitutions, indeed, are still in some respects imperfect deficient and erroneous. They must be amended, or We shall never have either a National or a State Government. All will be Governments merely of exclusive and monopollizing Parties if not Factions. It is certainly difficult to convince The People of the Truth, when it interferes with their Prejudices."
- John Adams
May 17, 1821 in a letter to daughter-in-law Louisa Catherine Adams

Sources Consulted

Adams, John. John Adams to Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams, May 17, 1821. Letter. From National Archives, Founders Online. Accessed December 13, 2021. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-03-02-3905.

Deion, Kurt and Bob Damon. “Church of the Presidents.” Clio: Your Guide to History. Updated June 21, 2021. Accessed December 14, 2021. https://www.theclio.com/entry/84857.

Treadway, Susanna Boylston Adams Clark. Susanna Boylston Adams Clark Treadway to Abigail Louisa Smith Adams Johnson, July 9, 1826. Letter. From National Archives, Founders Online. Accessed December 30, 2021. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-03-02-4665.

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