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Boston Tea Partier from Harvard has commemorative marker placed on his grave

  • Justin Peavy and Kristin Harris, actors for Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum leave a commemorative marker at the gravesite of tea party participant Elijah Houghton.

  • Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum has honored 87 participants of the tea party since 2019. Elijah Houghton was one of those participants.

  • Revolution 250 Coordinator Jonathan Lane; Evan O’Brien, Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum Creative Manager; John Lee, Town of Harvard Cemetery Commissioner; Stu Sklar Town of Harvard Selectboard Chair; Krsitin Harris, Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum actor and Justin Peavy, Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

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HARVARD — On Dec. 6, 1773, a collection of colonists ripe with revolutionary fervor dumped 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor — their contributions kick-starting America’s separation from Great Britain hasn’t been forgotten.

Elijah Houghton of Harvard was one of the 125 known participants on that historic night. On Tuesday, his gravesite received a commemorative marker, placed by town officials, representatives from Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum and the consortium of organizations Revolution 250.

Houghton was a farmer who spent his entire life in the Nashoba Valley town. After the Boston Tea Party, Houghton would become involved with the Revolutionary War, marching to Cambridge on April 19, 1775. He served in the armed forces until 1780 and returned to Harvard until his death in 1819.

Select Board Chair Stu Sklar said he was proud to have Houghton be from Harvard.

“I think people are pretty excited about it. I am very excited,” Sklar said.

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum has honored 87 participants of the tea party since 2019. Elijah Houghton was one of those participants.

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum Creative Manager Evan O’Brien said it was people like Houghton who were responsible for the historic event. The notable names often associated with the event like John Adams, Samuel Adams and John Hancock were not aboard the three ships.

“The people that actually took part in the Tea Party were the ordinary citizens of Boston, and the surrounding towns that came to Boston during the tea crisis, just like Harvard,” O’Brien said. “This crisis drew all these people that were interested into the city at the time, all of the participants were tradesmen, they were common laborers. A large majority of those were actually young apprentices, teenagers and young adults.”

Ordinary people are just as worthy of commemoration, O’Brien said.

As the story goes the colonists had disguised themselves as Indigenous people, wearing headdresses and buckskins — except that’s only partially true.

Revolution 250 Coordinator Jonathan Lane; Evan O’Brien, Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum Creative Manager; John Lee, Town of Harvard Cemetery Commissioner; Stu Sklar Town of Harvard Selectboard Chair; Krsitin Harris, Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum actor and Justin Peavy, Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

O’Brien said the common depictions of colonists headdresses, buckskins and loincloths are inaccurate. Rather the colonists would have used Indigenous imagery in a more symbolic way.

“That’s not what they would have worn,” O’Brien said. “It would have been hoods, blankets, darkened faces with soot and coal dust to both show some symbolism of Native Americans, but also have this shroud of secrecy and anonymity, and to protect their identities.”

Tracking down the involvement of those involved wasn’t an easy process, O’Brien said it was a secret many took to their graves. Some did begin to talk after British rule had ended and through using both firsthand and word of mouth accounts, they were able to assemble a list.

“I think there were more people involved than what history says, but it’s strange that the tea party was both a well-rehearsed event and well planned. But also so secretive that you don’t really know what those master plans were,” O’Brien said.

Commemorating Houghton’s grave is part of a larger effort on the part of the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum to honor all of the participants. Since 2019, there have been 87 commemorations. Those who served in the Boston Tea Party rest in each of the New England states and surrounding states including Pennsylvania and New York.

The furthest south a person is buried is in Alexandria, Va., and the furthest west is Cincinnati, Ohio.

Through recognizing Houghton, Sklar thought about the war monuments in town.

“We don’t have a Revolutionary War (monument), we’re going to fix that,” Sklar said.

Houghton was not the only Revolutionary War veteran to be buried in Harvard, Sklar said. “We have a revolutionary veteran that got smallpox in Bolton and was buried in Harvard. In his bed — bed and all, they buried him on Poor Farm Road.”

Sklar said the town is also home to one of the only remaining Shaker “lollipop” cemeteries anywhere, inspired by the shape of the cast-iron grave markers. Harvard was the second Shaker settlement in the United States and the first in Massachusetts.