Once considered one of the most influential state judges, Lemuel Shaw was born in West Barnstable, Massachusetts on January 9th 1781. For most of his early life, Shaw was educated at home by his father and in 1796 he was admitted into Harvard University. Shaw began his life-long career studying law in 1801 under David Everett, a well-established New England newspaper editor. In 1802, Shaw accompanied Everett to New Hampshire where he could assist with legal paperwork. There he met his first fiancee, Nancy Melvill, the daughter of the famous Major Thomas Melvill of Boston. The engagement was short-lived as Nancy passed away soon afterward.
Shaw was admitted to the Plymouth County Massachusetts bar in November of 1804 and began practicing law in Boston. With his election to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1811, his participation on the Constitutional Convention of 1820, and his election as State Senator in 1821, Shaw slowly climbed the legal ladder to eventually assume the Chief Justice position on the Massachusetts State Supreme Court where he served from 1830 to 1860. There are a number of defining cases on Shaw’s court that continue to stand out through history. One of these such cases is, Commonwealth V. Aves (1836) which dealt with the transportation of slaves into free states.
In 1836 Mary Aves Slater arrived in Boston to visit her father, Thomas Aves. Accompanying Mary, was a six year old slave girl named Med who was deemed the property of Mary’s husband. When members of the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society heard the young slave girl was in Boston they hired a lawyer to sue the Aves family for her freedom. They argued that since slavery had been abolished in Massachusetts and Med’s owner willingly brought her to a free state, she is no longer a slave. Shaw wrote the unanimous decision for the court stating that “Slavery was contrary to natural right” and that any slave brought to Massachusetts could not be forcibly detained or removed. This precedent was used across many northern states to advance legislation that stated that any free state automatically guarantees freedom to any person within it’s borders, including individuals considered to be slaves in the south.
Another case Shaw ruled on that continues to capture the morbid interest of generation after generation is famous murder case, The Commonwealth V. Webster (1850). The details of the case begin with a debt owed to beloved socialite, George Parkman from a Harvard Medical professor, John Webster who was constantly dogged by financial instability. Webster had guaranteed Parkman a loan collateral of a cabinet full of valuable minerals in exchange for $400. Parkman soon found out that Webster had used this same cabinet of minerals as a collateral for a different loan.
George Parkman had tried to collect the money Webster had earned from giving his medical lectures from Harvard University in order to pay back the $400 debt Webster had accrued. This type of public humiliation enraged Webster so much so that shortly after, George Parkman disappeared. In the case hearings, evidence was brought to Shaw’s court that Parkman’s remains were discovered by a suspicious janitor who began chiseling through a hollow-sounding wall in Webster’s office after hours while his wife kept watch. The janitor found a secret compartment behind the wall. Adjusting his lantern, the janitor was able to see the charred remains of George Parkman. The Parkman-Webster murder case is one of the earliest cases on record that used forensic dental evidence to identified partially cremated human remains.
During the trial of John Webster, Lemuel Shaw stated for the jury one of the most famous historical outlines of the legal principle of “reasonable doubt”,
“The evidence must establish the corpus delicti, as it is termed, or the offence committed as charged; and, in case of homicide, must not only prove a death by violence, but must, to a reasonable extent, exclude the hypothesis of suicide, and a death by the act of any other person. This is to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. Then, what is reasonable doubt? It is a term often used, probably pretty well understood, but not easily defined. It is not mere possible doubt; because everything relating to human affairs and depending on moral evidence is open to some possible or imaginary doubt. It is that state of the case, which, after the entire comparison and consideration of all the evidence, leaves the minds of jurors in that condition that they cannot say they feel an abiding conviction, to a moral certainty, of the truth of the charge. The burden of proof is upon the prosecutor.”
The jury convicted Webster of the murder of George Parkman and on April 1st of 1850 Lemuel Shaw handed down the indictment saying: “That you, John W. Webster, be removed from this place, and detained in close custody in the prison of this county; and thence taken…to the place of execution, and there be hung by the neck until you are dead. And may God, of His infinite goodness, have mercy on your soul!”
After 30 years of an influential career, Shaw resigned from his bench and, shortly after, he took ill. Within a few months after his retirement, he passed away and was buried at Mount Auburn on Harebell path.
Winter is an ideal time to get familiar with the year-round resident birds of Mount Auburn. If you are a beginner birder this time of year offers the opportunity to see and hear the common birds of the area without the distractions of migrants or foliage on the trees.
During the winter months, in addition to Sparrows, Blue Jays, Robins, Cardinals and Crows, you might see a Great Blue Heron, a Cooper’s Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk or a Red-tailed Hawk and possibly a Great Horned Owl or a Screech Owl.
There is also the potential for seeing any of the following birds here during the winter months: American Kestrel, White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadee, Brown Creeper, Dark-eyed Junco, Downy Woodpecker, European Starling, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, Hooded Merganser, House Finch, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-winged Blackbird, Tufted Titmouse, White-throated Sparrow and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.
Join us for a Winter Birding Walk!
Including the Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery in your will or estate plan is a simple way to make a meaningful contribution to this treasured organization. A bequest is a gift made to Mount Auburn through your will or trust at the time of your passing. A bequest is also an extraordinary demonstration of commitment that costs you nothing in your lifetime, all while supporting public education, the care of the horticultural collection, preservation and conservation, enhancements to the landscape, and protection of wildlife habitat. Your bequest language can specify how your gift will be used by Mount Auburn upon receipt.
How You Benefit
*Planned gifts come out of your assets at the time of your death and therefore do not diminish your current income
*You may alter your bequest or trust designation at any time
*Your bequest or trust designation is entirely free from federal estate taxes, whereas if it were left to an individual, a significant amount might go to federal estate taxes
*You receive immediate benefits as a member of the Remembrance Society, such as invitations to private receptions, recognition in the Annual Report, and more
How It Works
*Notify Mount Auburn of your intent by calling 617.607.1949
*Include a bequest provision in your will or revocable trust (see sample text below)
*Upon your passing, the Friends of Mount Auburn receives the bequest you specified
Types of Bequests
Mount Auburn receives a specific dollar amount from your estate
Mount Auburn receives all or a percentage of the remainder of your estate after the payment of any specific bequests and expenses
Mount Auburn is designated as a beneficiary of the remainder of your IRA or qualified pension
Mount Auburn is designated as a beneficiary or owner of your life insurance policy
Sample Bequest Language to review with your estate planning professional
The following language in your will would create such a gift: “I give the sum of ______________dollars ($___________) [or ____________% of my estate] [or description of securities or other property] to the Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery, a federally tax-exempt 501(c)(3) with offices at 580 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. This gift is unrestricted [or a specific designation].
The Remembrance Society
The Remembrance Society was established to honor those who choose to include Mount Auburn in their will and/or estate planning. Members enjoy a variety of benefits in gratitude for their generosity, such as invitations to private receptions, recognition in the Annual Report, and more. Please contact Jude Bedel, Director of Individual Giving at 617.607.1949 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Mount Auburn Cemetery’s Council of Visitors is comprised of Cemetery friends, leaders in horticulture, historic preservation, educational programming, landscape enhancement, and community leaders who support the Cemetery in accomplishing its mission and maintaining the highest standards of excellence. Learn more about the Council of Visitors.
Mount Auburn Cemetery Council of Visitors 2018
Caroline Mortimer, Co-Chair
Franklin A. Reece III, Co-Chair
John Airasian, Founding Member
Jane M. Carroll, Founding Member
Susan W. Paine, Founding Member
Peter W. Ambler
Elizabeth E. Barker
Virginia J. Brady
Joanna H. Breyer
Eliza E. Burden
W. Douglas Burden
Thomas N. Byrne
David B. Dearinger
Peter Del Tredici
Alan J. Dworsky
Suzanne R. Dworsky
Suzanne W. Dworsky
Liz Goodfellow Zagoroff
Patricia N. Grandieri
Lt. Col. David Hencke
Richard M. Hunt
Ann Holton Jenne
Clare Walker Leslie
Caleb Loring III
Julie Moir Messervy
Jeffrey H. Munger
H. Betsy Munzer
Mark Kimball Nichols
Harold I. Pratt
E. Denise Simmons
Deborah L. Smith
Sherley G. Smith