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Death in Early New England | Rites, Ritual, & Remembrances

Death in Early New England | Rites, Ritual, & Remembrances

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Death in early New England came early and often during those harsh first decades of settlement.

Epidemics, hunger, accidents and childbirth contributed to a heavy toll in New England. Disease in some cases erased entire families, and almost always affected the majority of individuals in the communities. For most families, death was still a private affair. Traditions brought over with European customs and others that were strictly American were eventually interwoven, and these ceremonies, tokens and portraits of remembrance became part of these rites and rituals of mourning. Other forms of remembrance were carved into stone with heart-wrung epitaphs, the cause of death and brief biographies. Burial sites themselves evolved from family plots and church graveyards to public, garden-like cemeteries. </p>

Historian Robert A. Geake explores the development of rites and rituals of death in this New World.


Galvinzed, wrapped steel.


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