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Deaths and Funerals in Colonial America

Shows how death and funeral customs differed in the New England, Middle, and Southern Colonies.
by

Tate Honaker

on 9 November 2012

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Transcript of Deaths and Funerals in Colonial America

Deaths and Funerals in Colonial America By: Tate, KC, Will, and Brandon Deaths and funerals in Colonial
America were much different than
how they are now. Back then, colonists would use a variety of ways to communicate a death or funeral.One of these is that individuals would knock on the doors of family and close friends of those who knew the deceased and give news on their passing.Items were also handed out to signal a death, these items would be something like a glove or a handkerchief. Also, people called "Warners" would hand out cookies called "deathcakes." But, today we mainly use technology to be informed. In about 1680, colonists began to erect headstones and other memorials beside graves.

In the late 16th century, inscribed slabs called "ledger stones" were sat in the aisles of churches. When the space below was full, the dead and their stone marker was sat outside.

Floor level gravestones were common for gentry in English churches. It wasn't until the late 17th century when upright headstones become popular. In the 18th century, mourning became an elaborate ritual in dress and etiquette. The front of a parlor was set aside for the purpose. Potters
like Wedgwood produced tea services in black
basalt with teapots with weeping women on their lids. Silk weavers whose business had been declining, bloomed again. A black crepe was hung in festoons around the coffin, from the skirts of the hearse, and around the hats and staffs of the somber mutes, who were part of the show. After the death of George Washington in 1799 the colonists went into a period of mourning. Wearing mourning jewelry was thought to connect a relative with the deceased family member.
Rings were a popular mourning jewelry, they symbolized eternity.
In mourning, pictures or paintings would have many symbols.For example, a ship sailing means the departure of the soul, and the oak tree represents strength. If you were to see an oak tree being cut down or laying on its side, that would represent death or being cut down in your prime. Death One half of the 102 pilgrims that landed in Plymouth died.

In the healthiest of places, 1 out of every 10 kids died within their first year of life.

In places like Boston, 3 out of 10 infants died within their first year of life.

Cotton Mather, a Boston Priest, had 14 children and 7 of them died as infants.

40% of children in the 17th century failed to reach adulthood. Mourning Mourning Symbols Headstones Then and Now Funerals in the Southern Colonies were different than the funerals in the New England or Middle Colonies.
Upper class funerals in the South were major social events. Since plantations were so spread out, the family with the loss contacted many friends. When the guests arrived they were served cake and West Indian Rum. After the funeral service, the mourners followed the coffin to the place of burial. There was sometimes as many as 500 people on horseback to a graveyard. This type of funeral custom was practiced commonly in the later years of the colonies. Southern Funerals Funerals in the New England Region had some unique customs. The funeral sermons didn't offer individual eulogies for the dead. Funeral monuments were kept plain and simple in this region. An interesting thing about New Englanders is that they would engage in massive bouts of eating and drinking. It was very common for even children to drink large amounts of alcohol. New England Many funerals were simple, but not Puritan funerals. Puritan funerals became increasingly elaborate and expensive and tombstones less plain. They went from wooden, to stone and heavily decorated. Corpses began to be embalmed in order to allow time for families to plan funerals and for guests to gather. Puritan Funerals Funerals in the Middle Colonies had different traditions that were followed. There was no common procedure that was followed. This is because different religions and different families followed their own funeral customs. One similarity that all three regions shared is that they cared for the dead. They all carried out some sort of funeral acts. Middle Colonies Slaves did not get funeral ceremonies.They could not afford it, and often didn't have the right to. The only way a slave could have a funeral, is if its owner was willing to pay for it, which was very rare. Slave owners thought that the slaves would plot an escape at funerals. This is a reason why slaves could not have funerals. Slaves www.digitalhistory.uh.edu

www.history.org

memory.loc.gov Sources
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