Remembering Paul Revere
Today, May 10th, is the anniversary of Paul Revere’s death in 1818. Revere was 83 when he passed from natural causes, closing out a life both “honorable and useful” according to his obituary in the Columbian Centinel. For the Paul Revere House staff, this is a strange anniversary. Typically at least one staff member visits his grave in Boston’s Granary Burying Ground and leaves flowers to note the occasion, but we will not be able to visit Paul in person this year.
Paul Revere was survived by only five of his sixteen children, and neither of his wives. Rachel Walker Revere had died in 1813 at the age of 68, the same year his son Paul Revere Jr. had passed away at 53. Revere suffered great losses over the course of his life, and when his ended, many mourned. Revere had made almost incalculable contributions to his home town and various community and fraternal organizations through his life. Though he was an active and engaged Freemason for most of his adult life, there is no evidence that he enjoyed a Masonic burial.
We can only presume that Revere would be shocked at his national reputation today. It was only long after his death, in the 1860s, that Revere’s life came to be so strongly associated with the midnight ride of 1775. Revere’s obituaries do mention his military service, but the ride is not mentioned specifically. Other attributes highlighted were his character, business acumen, and strength of mind and body.
Prior to his posthumous fame in the late 19th century, Revere’s businesses and surviving children helped keep his name alive, thanks in large part to Joseph Warren Revere’s leadership in maintaining the Revere copper mill in Canton, MA. His descendants would go on to fight in the Civil War, and help establish his 19 North Square home as a museum in 1908, among other things.
“Cool in thought, ardent in action, he was well adapted to form plans, and to carry them into successful execution,” wrote the author of Revere’s obituary for The Boston Intelligencer. Reflecting on Revere’s life by reading through his obituaries reminds us that a life well lived leaves a lasting impact on our family, friends, and communities.
Adrienne Turnbull-Reilly is a Program Assistant at the Paul Revere House