|Quincy, MA||Summer 2003|
There are four members of the Adams political family interred in the belly of the United First Parish Church in Quincy, Massachusetts. Three of them — John, Abigail, and John Quincy — were members of the congregation. The fourth, Louisa Catherine, was Episcopalian and attended services at a different house of worship. So as not to separate her from her husband of half a century, Louisa was disinterred from the outdoor vault at Hancock Cemetery on December 10, 1852 and brought with JQA to the neighboring church’s freshly-expanded cellar crypt. This created the first instance of multiple U.S. presidents and first ladies sharing a burial space. William Howard and Nellie Taft reside not far from John and Jacqueline Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery, and James and Elizabeth Monroe occupy the same section that John and Julia Tyler do in Richmond, but only the Adams pairs rest precisely next to one another.
Memorial tablets are affixed to the exterior wall of the basement crypt where the Adamses rest. The Abigail Phillips Quincy Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution was responsible for Louisa’s tablet, which was placed in 1930. The verbiage, though antiquated by today’s standards, conveys that Mrs. Adams excelled in the roles she undertook, such as aide to her prominent politician-husband.
While I was an intern at the Church of the Presidents in summer 2019, church historian Bill Westland informed me that the space where John Quincy and Louisa’s remains are held was previously a storage space for farming equipment. In 1852, to accommodate the former first couple’s transfer from Hancock Cemetery, the wall separating the storage room and the crypt was removed. This doubled the burial chamber’s length to roughly thirty feet. The two additional sarcophagi and coffins were brought in via the doorway that had functioned as the entrance to the storage room, and that opening was subsequently closed off with a new wall.
The four Adamses are entombed within sarcophagi carved of Quincy granite, with their names — followed by a period — incised on the lids of their respective tombs. A fact commonly-cited about Louisa was that she was the first U.S. first lady to be born abroad. Born in 1775 in Great Britain, she was the lone presidential spouse who entered into the world outside of the U.S. (or the Thirteen Colonies, pre-1776) from 1825 until Melania Trump in 2017. Mrs. Trump was born in 1970 in Yugoslavia (present-day Slovenia).
My passion for grave hunting has brought me into contact with a number of other taphophiles. I connected with fellow enthusiast Emma in 2020 after she made a social media post with an image of her visit to the burial site of Declaration of Independence signer Thomas Heyward, Jr. We finally met in person in 2021, which we documented with photos in the Adams crypt, such as this picture of us standing between Louisa and John Quincy’s sarcophagi. Emma’s blog is called Deadventure Time.
"The faults of my character have never been corrected, owing to a happy, but alas a visionary education; which have made the disgusting realities of a heartless political life, a source of perpetual disappointment[.]"
- Louisa Catherine Adams
in a letter to her son, Charles Francis Adams
Following her death in Washington, D.C., Adams was first laid to rest inside the Causten family vault in Congressional Cemetery, shown here. Her occupancy of the Causten vault overlapped with that of one of her predecessors as first lady, Dolley Madison. After a short period, Mrs. Adams’s remains were removed and transported north to Quincy, Massachusetts. After several months in the Adams family vault in Hancock Cemetery, she was exhumed again in December 1852 and placed in her permanent grave within the expanded crypt beneath the First Parish Church.
Sources Consulted and Further Reading
Isenberg, Nancy and Andrew Burstein. The Problem of Democracy: The Presidents Adams Confront the Cult of Personality. New York: Viking, 2019.