Funerals of the 1800s

Doing some research for my latest book, Her Heart’s Secret, which is the third in the Bonnets and Beaus series I am writing, I found fascinating information on funerals of the 1800s. What did I learn?

(1)Funerals were held in homes either in the parlor or in the decease’s bedroom.

For your information, a few years ago I learned from visiting a historical home that the reason no one uses the term parlor is because parlors were connected to death. Thus this is why today we call our place where we watch television, read, etc. our living room. We live in there, not die in there.

(2)The body would be displayed in the parlor or in that person’s bedroom and sometimes were removed by the undertaker to be embalmed. If removed, the deceased was taken out feet first in fears the dead person may look back into the house, and this could lure others to join them in death.

(3)Someone had to be with the body day and night. This was done out of respect or to ward off evil spirits. Family would stay with the deceased during the day and close friends would come at night.

(4) If there was no family or friends to take care of the deceased, the person was taken to a funeral parlor.

(5) Since no telephones, smart phones, etc., existed, family alerted the death by placing black crepe on wreaths, over doors, doorknobs or doorknockers. this announced the family was in mourning. Neighbors would offer to help the family, express their condolences and bring food.

(6) Home clocks were stopped to prevent bad luck.

(7) Mirrors were covered or removed from the house based on the fear if someone saw a reflection of the deceased in a mirror, they too could die. In addition, some believed the loved one’s soul could get trapped and unable to pass to the other side.

(8) Family photographs also could be turned face-down to prevent deceased close relatives and friends from being possessed by the spirit of the dead.

(9) Family members would build the coffin.

This is a poem my mother would recite:

Did you ever think when a hearse rode by? That sometimes you and also I would be riding down in that same old hack never, never to come back.

They put you in a parlor with flowers and mourners all standing around.

Then they bury you six feet under the ground and all goes well for about a week when the coffin begins to leak. The worms crawl in and the worms crawl out until there’s nothing left of you.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment. God bless.

About janetsyasnitsick

Visit blog for writing, marketing tidbits to dazzle your creative endeavors. New book: Courtships and Carriages, a sweet Christian romance, (two proposals but who wins Gwen's heart?). Other works: Ruth Ann Nordin's and Janet Syas Nitsick's anthology, Bride by Arrangement; Janet's five-star, inspiring-historical romance, Lockets and Lanterns; 10th place story, "The Silver Lining;" and Best of Year book, Seasons of the Soul. Background: former journalist and language-arts teacher.
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5 Responses to

  1. Paige J says:

    That poem got to me when the coffin begins to leak. And I’ve heard of some of those old tales about pictures and mirrors. Old time photos of the dead surely give me the willies!! Thanks for the info. It’s fun to learn!! Also, so grateful we don’t do the in home thing anymore!!

  2. Another reason someone sat with the corpse was to make sure the person was really dead before being buried. When my dad was a boy, a man dug his way out of his grave. Imagine how horrifying that would be.

  3. Thanks for following me, omniamethodist. I appreciate that. God bless.

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