Sewall's diary is full of references to Quakers — he clearly kept a keen eye out for them. Of particular interest to me are his references to Quaker burials.
In June of 1685, a small group of Quakers asked Governor Simon Bradstreet for permission to build a fence around the graves of the "Boston Martyrs" — Marmaduke Stephenson, William Robinson, Mary Dyer, and William Leddra — on Boston Common. These four Quakers had been executed in 1659 (Stephenson and Robinson), 1660 (Dyer), and 1661 (Leddra), for the crime of returning to Massachusetts to proselytize after being banished on a previous occasion. Their fellow Quakers wished to honor them and, no doubt, draw attention to their own continued presence in the colony. This was a particularly sore subject in 1685, as the colony's charter had been revoked the previous year, partially due to concerns about the lack of religious toleration in Massachusetts. When Governor Bradstreet brought this request before the Council, it was unanimously denied. Sewall, writing in his diary, noted that, "it is very inconvenient for persons so dead and buried in the place to have any Monument" (Sewall Diary 17 June 1685).
The Quakers were not big on obeying earthly authorities, so they went ahead and built the fence anyway.
In August, Sewall passed by the gravesite on his way to Dorchester and saw
a few Feet of Ground enclosed with Boards, which is done by the Quakers out of respect to som one or more hanged and buried by the Gallows: though the Governor forbad them, when they asked Leave.Of course, today, there is a big statue of Mary Dyer next to the State House, but this commemoration was a dramatic gesture of defiance in 1685.