Dying at 19

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There are 55 stones with this early style iconography in the Albany Burying Yard, some in sandstone and others in slate. The death's head may appear grotesque to us in the 21st century, but in it was not unusual; the head represented the spirit, the two mouths enabled the spirit to speak, and the nostrils permitted the spirit to breathe.

Dying at 19

The stones provided lessons to be learned. They not only marked the place where the remains of a body lay, but also proclaimed the freeing of the soul. That, of course, was the most important outcome of death - that the soul was now free to soar to heaven. The body itself was simply a housing or a shell - and after death it could be laid to rest in the ground, unconsecrated, unblessed ground.

The floral and vine decorations on many of the stones can be seen in furniture and in architecture, particularly doorways, in this time period. Later in the 18th century, perhaps when life was somewhat easier for the English colonists, the macabre skeleton image, with its jack o'lantern features, gave way to more human-looking faces with rounded cheeks, more humanistic eyes complete with eyeballs, wreaths of curls surrounding their heads, and wings. Sometimes these "angels" had wildly flapping wings, narrow eyes, and heads crowned with masses of wavy hair.

Members of the Soule family of Barre, Massachusetts, were stone cutters and were the first itinerant stone cutters to appear in Deerfield. More than 20 different carvers are represented on the Albany Road Burying Ground.

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Solomon Ashley and a man named John Locke were partners in the stonecutting trade. Their stones can be identified by three motifs : 1 a six pointed star or rosette within a circle; 2 a simply-executed angel with a few ringlets for hair and very plain, unfeathered wings; 3 by a long, narrow coffin with an occupant.

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By the time that Ashley and Locke were in business, after the American Revolution, harder stone material - marble, schist, granite - were in use and they allowed for less fine detail. After the American Revolution, symbols associated with the neo-classical period began to be fashionable. These symbols, borrowed from ancient Greece and Rome, began to flourish in architecture, clothing, ceramics, silver, and even gravestones. Herculaneum and Pompeii, ancient cities in Italy, long buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, had been uncovered in the mid-eighteenth century and the wall painting and architectural details of these domestic buildings had already begun to influence design in Europe and in the British Isles.

But the new thinking was slower to take hold in this country. Appearing in the late s and continuing into the 19th century, the designs included urns , swags , wreaths, and weeping willow trees. These neo-classical motifs appear also on needlework art created by the young women of the time. Mourning or memorial art was offered in the newly-formed academies and needlework schools. During the period following the death of George Washington in an unparalleled expression of grief swept the country.

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Mourning pictures became the fashion and daughters and other family members embroidered and painted these memorials in honor of their dearly departed. Mourning embroideries became the most popular form of schoolgirl needlework at many of the most fashionable academies throughout the land. Indeed, it was fashion, much more than melancholy which led to the overwhelming preference for mourning pieces.

The embroidered memorials were often executed in silk threads on a silk ground. Not all of the memorials included tombs, weeping willows and urns. Some took the form of coats of arms, embroidered on a satin ground with silk threads and enhanced by gold and silver threads.


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Other memorials included family registers with the names of the married couple and their marriage date, followed by the birth and death record of their children. Some were embroidered and others were lettered on paper. Later, printed forms were available for calligraphy and painted decoration. Records of family births and deaths had long been kept in special pages in family Bibles, but creating a record to put on the wall was a new idea. In the graveyards, classical expression included the most expensive stones, the table stones - flat table-like stones supported by four or six columns , which were either plain or fluted.

Their cost was approximately five times the cost of a set of head and foot stones. The table stones in the Deerfield burying yard show major amounts of deterioration. They are all made of sandstone and, because of the material and large flat surface exposed to the elements; none of the decoration nor the lettering is legible today. Damage to many of the stones has occurred during the past years. The weather is a major culprit - frost heaves cause cracks, settling, and tipping. Trees cause problems as their root systems expand.

Some of the stones have toppled, perhaps nudged too often by one of the grazing calves or sheep, or from a too shallow original setting; some have been mended or even replaced. Vandals have not been a problem. The Albany Road Burying Yard was closed for burials around when it was considered "full.

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On March 3, , the Town appointed a Committee to view a place for a new burying Ground. Such rental shall include perpetual care.

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The Board of Directors of the Association laid down some rules:. Does an increased population demand that more rules and regulations be imposed upon the citizens of that society? Rural cemeteries became picturesque gathering places for family outings where people took delight in the sobering influences of the presence of death. Aided by melancholy writers in the style of Hawthorne and Poe and by the paeans to nature published by Thoreau and William Cullen Bryant, the public created a popular culture centered on the sentimentalization or "domestication" of death and people were stirred by ruins or monuments set in a place of nature.

As there were changes in the attention paid to the landscaping of public spaces, like burying yards or the newly designated cemeteries, there were also changes in the rituals attached to dying. Before the Civil War, the care of the dead was largely the domain of the deceased's family and neighbors. The corpse was customarily laid out on a board that was draped with a sheet and supported by chairs at either end. The body was washed, almost always by a female member of the household, and wrapped in a sheet for burial. A local carpenter or furniture maker in Deerfield, the coffin maker was a wheelright named John Death, until he changed his last name to Dickinson , supplied a coffin, a simple pine box with a lid.

The undertaker, often the same carpenter or furniture maker, or perhaps the owner of the local livery stable, took the coffin to the house and placed the body inside. With the family and friends gathered around, the minister performed the appropriate religious rituals, and then the undertaker conveyed the coffin to the graveyard. Around the time of the Civil War, embalming gained wider use in order to preserve the corpses of the dead soldiers whose families wanted them shipped back home, sometimes a considerable distance. Embalming was not a new nor a mysterious art - its practice dated back to ancient Egypt - but the Puritans regarded it as distasteful and unnatural.

This began to change with the death of Abraham Lincoln. In order to make the long, slow journey by train from Washington, D. The marvelous effects of embalming were witnessed by the huge audience that gathered along the train route of Lincoln's funeral procession. His body was displayed, not in a simple pine box, but in an ornate mahogany casket - now the more preferred term for coffin - with silver-plated hardware and a silk-draped interior. This set a new standard in the business of dying. By the late-nineteenth century, caring for the dead had become a business.

Embalming, promoted as a public-health measure, now took place in a funeral home rather than in the home of the deceased.


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