Concord, MA: History, Museums, Places to Stay
When the red-coated ranks of British regulars tramped westward from Boston on the fateful morning of April 19, 1775, little did they know that they were about to catapult the sleepy village of Concord, Massachusetts into the history books. The British captured the rebels’ stores of ammunition and flour and dumped the lot into the millpond in the center of town before being faced down at the Old North Bridge by a freelance militia that sent them scurrying back to Boston.
Before continuing the engagement known as the Revolutionary War, the frugal Yankees of Concord fished the bullets and barrels of flour out of the pond and found that the flour in the center of each barrel was still dry. The loaves of bread baked from that flour must have been especially toothsome to the patriots of Concord.
“Four friends who walked in Concord’s pleasant ways / Long years ago. They dwelt and worked apart, / But now the world has crowned them with its bays, / And holds them close forever to its heart,” wrote poet John Clair Minot in praise of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. The burial place of these men has become a destination for literary pilgrims.
Authors’ Ridge is easily reached by entering the cemetery through Prichard Gate, off Bedford Street (Route 62), eastbound from Monument Square. Wend your way through the hollow to the far side, following the engraved marker posts. A winding path from the foot of the ridge leads you first to the Thoreau family plot. The Hawthorne family plot is on the left.
Next you will find the gravestones of the Alcotts — father (A.B.A.), mother (A.M.A), and three of the four children, whom we fondly know by the names of the characters in Louisa May’s book Little Women: Louisa May “Jo” (L.M.A.), Abba May Alcott Nieriker “Amy” (M.A.N.), and Elizabeth Sewall Alcott “Beth” (E.S.A.). “Meg,” Anna Bronson Alcott, is nearby with her husband, John Pratt.
Farther along the ridge is the gravesite of the Five Little Peppers books’ author, Margaret Sidney (nee Harriet Mulford Stone, married name Mrs. Daniel Lothrop).
Not to be missed is the Emerson family plot. Granite posts and chains delineate the area, and a sizable, irregularly shaped chunk of rose quartz, in which is embedded a bronze plaque, marks Ralph Waldo’s grave.
In addition to these luminaries resting on Authors’ Ridge, gravesites throughout the cemetery capture contributions to and notable moments in American history. Explore this grove to find Ephraim Wales Bull, for example. Bull was the originator of the Concord grape — which is familiarly used in most grape juices today — and is remembered with the words, “He sowed, others reaped.”
Anne Rainsford Bush: Although not a household name, Bush holds an interesting place in American history as the first woman licensed to drive an automobile.
Franklin B. Sanborn espoused a life of writing and reform activism but is perhaps best known for his participation as a member of the “Secret Six,” a group who financed John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry (an event many consider the start of the U.S. Civil War).
Last, but not least, the graceful phrase “A Heritage of Beauty” memorializes sculptor Daniel Chester French.
NOTE:To request a map of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, call the Concord Public Works Cemetery Division at 978-318-3233. Cemetery open daily 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Free.
We approached Concord not as the British had, on the Lexington Road (built in 1636 as the Bay Road, it is the oldest road in town), but from the north on meandering Route 119, known as the Great Road in the days of the Minutemen. Today, the rebellious village is an oasis of civility only minutes from the pounding traffic of Route 2 and Route 128. We checked into the c. 1870 Hawthorne Inn, a bed-and-breakfast on the Lexington Road, and set our suitcase beside a canopied bed in a room with a fireplace. We parked the car under the trees beside the inn and set out on foot to see the sights of Concord. We wouldn’t need the car again until we left town.
Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.