Support Monument Preservation – Gove & Tuckerman

October 1, 2021

Mount Auburn’s collection of monuments and funerary art gives meaning and symbolic significance to the Cemetery’s historic landscape. Dating from the early 19th century through to today, every memorial contributes to the qualities that help make this place of comfort and inspiration. The wide-ranging diversity represented in the monuments, from contemporary flush markers to lavish Victorian sculptures, helps create the aesthetic richness and unique texture of Mount Auburn’s designed landscape.

Preserving our historic monuments and buildings is a priority, and a challenge. After years of exposure to New England weather, many monuments, particularly marble ones, now require an extra level of care and maintenance to protect and stabilize them. Each year, several important monuments are selected for specialized conservation that goes beyond standard maintenance work. Currently, we are raising funds to support the preservation of two that are urgently in need of care: the Gove and Tuckerman monuments.

The Gove Family monument (Lot #2577 Spruce Avenue at Trefoil Path) depicts two sleeping children on a pedestal. The monument was carved in marble by sculptor William Freeley circa 1856.

The word cemetery was derived from a Greek word that means “sleeping place,” and the founders chose this reference carefully when naming Mount Auburn, which was designed to be a tranquil and beautiful place in contrast to the overcrowded burial grounds of the day. Victorian gravestones for children commonly featured images of sleeping children, and 19th-century artists used these figures to gently represent eternal rest. The sentimentality of the Victorian era led to a cult of childhood replete with symbols of children’s innocence and purity. In the 1850s, the mortality rates for children under 1 year were estimated at over 200 deaths per thousand, with much higher mortality rates for children under 5. The high rate of infant and childhood mortality contributed to the popularity of gravestone designs with symbols such as sleeping children, empty cradles, and lambs.


Woman in blue looks at tall brownstone monument
Curator Meg Winslow examines damage on the Tuckerman Monument 

Joseph Tuckerman (1778 – 1840) (Lot #222 Oak Avenue) was a Unitarian Pastor who devoted his life to city mission work. He graduated from Harvard College in the same class as Unitarian Minister William Ellery Channing (Lot #678, Greenbriar Path), and he roomed with Joseph Story (Lot #313 Narcissus Path). Tuckerman was one of the founders of the Boston Society for the Religious and Moral Improvement of Seaman (1812), believed to be the first aid society for sailors in the U.S. He also established the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry, which still operates today.

Joseph Tuckerman’s monument, erected in the 1840s, is made of brownstone in a medieval style, with a bas relief portrait and gently curving hip roof. Part of what makes the monument significant is that it was designed by architect Hammatt Billings, and the portrait was by local carver Joseph Carew. It is signed at the base of the portrait by Carew, and at the base of the monument by Billings.


Donate today and join us in preserving our most significant monuments! Or contact Jenny Gilbert, Interim Vice President of Institutional Advancement at 617-607-1970 or

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