Monday, May 12, 2008

Abigail Adams Cairn

There is a scene in the second part of the recently concluded HBO miniseries John Adams where Abigail and the Adams children are awakened from their sleep in the early morning by the thunder of British cannon fire during the Battle of Bunker Hill. In the early morning dusk, Abigail leads John Quincy and Charles up a nearby hill from their homestead where they see in plain sight the British ships bombarding the patriots and Charlestown aflame.

That hill is Penns Hill in present-day Quincy, and it is located about a half mile from the two saltbox houses owned by the family in June 1775. Those houses still stand and are part of Adams National Historical Park. And atop Penns Hill is the Abigail Adams Cairn, a stone monument that marks the spot where Abigail and the young future president watched the burning of Charlestown during the Battle of Bunker Hill. A plaque on the cairn reads: "From this spot, with her son, John Quincy Adams, then a boy of seven by her side, Abigail Adams watched the smoke of burning Charlestown, while listening to the guns of Bunker Hill. Saturday, 17 June, 1775." The marker was dedicated by the Society of the Daughters of the Revolution on June 17, 1896.

The Adams birthplaces are now located at the corner of a busy intersection on a main road filled with businesses and with a Dunkin Donuts right down the road, and suburban Quincy has now filled the land around Penns Hill. The cairn is located right in the middle of a residential neighborhood, and with the tall trees and houses that fill the landscape today, it's no longer possible to spy Bunker Hill.

The Abigail Adams Cairn is located on Viden Road in Quincy, just off Franklin Street.

UPDATE: A time capsule has been been found inside the cairn as it was being reconstructed. Find out what was inside


Anonymous said...

I can't tell you how sad this makes me. That Penn's Hill is just a neighborhood now... Wow.

dwillow said...

Today I attended the re-dedication of the cairn. They put a new time capsule in it and a new plaque. It is all very exciting as it was my great grandfather, John J. Stanton along with Tim Connell who were the stonemasons hand-picked by the Daughters of the Revolution to build the cairn. Very exciting to be part of such an interesting history. ~Deb Willow

Chris Klein said...


Sorry I missed the re-dedication. I would have like to have been there. Sounds like it was a great time.

I read the article in the Patriot Ledger and am eager to see the new plaque. I like that it includes this great excerpt from a letter from Abigail to John about the Battle of Bunker Hill: "This day, perhaps the decisive day is come on which the fate of America depends. My bursting heart must find vent at my pen." I think it gives more historical context to the cairn.