By ALISON HENDERSON
Dade Co. Historical Society
The cemetery chosen for the 2022 Dade County Historical Society Cemetery Walk has tombstones in need of care and repair. Can you help preserve the cemetery we’ve chosen for 2022? Yes, you can! Repairing old tombstones is costly and your donations will be welcomed. Contributing to the ongoing maintenance of grounds is another way you can help any of our county’s cemeteries. For more information about donating, contact us at DCHSGAforever@gmail.com.
An interesting movement called “the beautification of death” began in the mid-1800s. Prior to this time, most funerals and times of mourning were in the home. Neighbors came to sit with the family and body for a few days while others dug the grave or brought meals.
As cemeteries in the city began to fill up, cemeteries were moved to the outskirts of town. These rural cemeteries were beautifully landscaped and became destinations for family outings involving sharing picnics and enjoying nature.
The simple coffin was replaced by the increasingly elaborate casket, which was built by the local furniture maker rather than family or friends. In the 1800s furniture makers built caskets as needed. Some casket makers began mass producing caskets in the 1860s to meet the demands of the Civil War.
As Abraham Lincoln’s body was displayed on the long train journey from Washington, D.C. to Springfield, Ill., thousands of Americans viewed firsthand the effectiveness of embalming. As embalming became more common, it moved to being done in a funeral home rather than the family home. All of these services began to be offered together as packages by the newly named funeral directors in funeral homes.
The movement of death services from the family home to the funeral home came to cities much earlier than rural areas. Home visitations and funerals were still common in rural areas through the 1940s and continued in some areas for even longer.
Alison Henderson is a member of the Dade County Historical Society.