In the 1630s, the northern-most slope of the Shawmut Peninsula (or Boston) was a prominent landmark. Settlers soon discovered its strategic overlook of the Harbor and of the Charles River to the west and found the steep hillock well-protected from the "three great annoyances, of Woolves, Rattle-snakes and Musketos." The settlers first built a wind-powered grinding mill here and called the slope, Windmill Hill. Later it was known as Snowhill and finally Copp's Hill.
William Copp, after whom the hill and burying ground are named, was a cobbler who once owned the land here. The gravestones of his children, buried in the 1660s, are still here at the hill's crest. Other settlerrs were buried nearby when the Town bought the site in 1659 and called it the North Burying Ground. Over the years, three sections were added to the original, although today they appear as one.
During the occupation of Boston, British troops manned a battery at Copp's Hill and rained fire onto nearby Charlestown during the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775.