previous next


Funerals.--As the Established Church of the mother country made a formal service over the remains of its members, it was deemed expedient and Christian, by the Puritans, not to imitate such examples; and, accordingly, they buried their dead without funeral prayers. Neither did they read the Scriptures! What they could have substituted for these simple, rational, and impressive rites, we do not know, but presume it must have been a sermon and a hymn. The first prayer made by a clergyman at a funeral, which we have heard of, was made by Rev. Mr. Wilson, of Medfield, at the funeral of Rev. Mr. Adams, of Roxbury, Aug. 19, 1685. The first one made at a funeral in Boston was at the interment of Dr. Mayhew, 1766. The pomp and circumstance of grief were certainly not forgotten on this side of the Atlantic. At the burial of a rich man, a magistrate, or a minister, there was great parade and much expense. Mourning-scarfs, black crapes, pendulous hatbands, common gloves, and gold rings, were gratuities to the chief mourners. The officers accompanying the funeral procession bore staffs or halberts, robed in mourning. The dead body was carried, not by hired men, but by the near friends of the deceased; and the funeral train was often stopped to allow fresh bearers to take their turn. When a female was buried, females walked first; when a male, the men. At the grave, the coffin was opened, to allow the last look. On the return to the house, a repast was served; and there were eating and drinking on the largest scale. In a town near Medford, the funeral of a clergyman took place in 1774; and the record of charges runs thus: “For twelve gold rings, £ 8; Lisbon wine, Malaga wine, West India rum, £ 5. 16s. 8d.; lemons, sugar, pipes, and tobacco, £ 3. 8s. 6d.; gloves, £ 40. 1s. 6d.; death's-head and cross-bones, 15s.” The funeral of Captain Sprague (1703) cost £ 147. 16s.

“ The Grand American Continental Congress,” assembled at Philadelphia, 1774, agreed with regard to funerals thus: “On the death of any relation or friend, none of us, or any of our families, will go into any further mourning-dress than a black crape or ribbon on the arm or hat, for gentlemen; and black ribbon and necklace, for ladies; and we will discountenance the giving of gloves and scarfs at funerals.” This resolve suddenly changed the New-England customs; and the new customs then introduced continue to hold their place.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
John Wilson (1)
P. Sprague (1)
Thomas Mayhew (1)
Christian (1)
Nathan Adams (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1774 AD (2)
1766 AD (1)
1703 AD (1)
August 19th, 1685 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: