The Cheevers are a very notable family in Revere’s history, for they gave Revere its first settled minister, its first public school, and officially gave Revere the land for Rumney Marsh Burial Ground.
There are nine recorded Cheever burials in RMBG:
- Anna (died 11/10/1740, age 36)
- Elizabeth (died 5/10/1727, age 64)
- Hannah (died 7/1/1724, age 23)
- Joseph (died 6/22/1751, age 4)
- Nathan (died 9/30/1774, age 81)
- Two Sallys (the first died 11/20/1786, age 12, the second died 12/27/1790, age 11 days)
- Sarah (died 1/30/1704/5, age 47)
- Reverend Thomas (died 12/27/1749, age 92).
All of these graves are intact and legible, and can be found in a cluster of graves in the rear of RMBG. Cheever Street, off of Broadway near the American Legion Building, is named after this family.
Anna Cheever was born in Lynn on March 7th, 1704/5. She had three children with her first husband Nathaniel Fuller: Margaret, Nathaniel, and Samuel. Samuel is buried near Anna in RMBG, and Benjamin Shurtleff notes that Samuel was “killed with a gun” when he was 14 years old. Anna married Nathan Cheever in 1738/9, and they had one child named Joshua.
Hannah Cheever was born on April 15, 1710, to Ebenezer and Abigail Brooks in Malden. She married Nathan Cheever in 1721 and they had one child, also named Nathan. Her epitaph is weirdly spelled to 2020 eyes, but is spectacular: “For mee to Live shee said is Pain / But for to Die is Grater gain / Sence of My losse, would Call thee back again / But out of love wee bid thee thair remain / Till wee yet left Behind our Course Fulfil / To Meet thee on ye toop of Zion hill.”
Nathan Cheever was born on March 16, 1704 to Reverend Thomas and Sarah Cheever. He was chosen to be a constable for Rumney Marsh in 1726, and was made a selectman in 1739 after the incorporation of Chelsea. He was married to the previously mentioned Hannah from 1721 until her death in 1724, and then to the also previously mentioned Anna from 1739/9 to her death in 1740. After these two short marriages he seems to have lived out the rest of his life as a widower. His son Joshua gave Revere the land for RMBG in his will. Nathan’s house was built on what is now Fenno Street in 1721, was moved to Olive Street in 1890, and torn down in 1935.
These girls were the daughters of Deacon Joshua and Abigail Cheever.
Sarah Cheever’s maiden name was Bill, and she was the first wife of Reverend Thomas Cheever.
Reverend Thomas Cheever
Thomas Cheever was born on August 23rd, 1658 in Ipswich. His father, Ezekiel, was the colonial era’s preeminent schoolmaster, whose career included being named headmaster of Boston Latin School in 1670 (at which point it had already been around for 35 years). Thomas had a notable brother, also named Ezekiel, who was a court clerk during the Salem Witch Trials.
Thomas graduated from Harvard College in 1677 and began his religious career in Malden in 1679. He was dismissed from his post in 1686, and did no more preaching until being named pastor of Rumney Marsh in 1715. According to a book called Corey’s History of Malden Massachusetts 1633-1785, Cheever’s dismissal was due to an accusation of adultery, “speaking such words as are scandalous breaches of the Third Commandment” (taking the Lord’s name in vain), and uttering “light and obscene expressions (not fit to be named) in a Salem tavern.”
When Benjamin Shurtleff sums up Cheever’s career in his history of Revere, he says that “His early ministerial life was clouded by grave charges, but whatever his faults may have been, he nobly redeemed them by a long life of useful and honorable service, and died greatly respected and beloved.” In addition to his service as pastor, which ended when he asked to be relieved due to old age in 1747, Thomas took a page from his father’s book and opened Revere’s first public school in his home in 1710. He taught until at least 1719, when the town stopped keeping school records until 1728.
Shurtleff’s book says that Cheever’s home was on the “northwest corner of Fenno Street and Broadway.” Shurtleff also reports that in the 1870s the house became known as “the Beehive” due to the number of people living in it. This apparently included two women known as Crazy Mary and Cracked Amanda; unbelievably, Shurtleff includes no further detail on these women.
Researched and written by Brendan O’Brien, December 2020. Photographs by same unless otherwise indicated.