Manners And Customs.
among the guests, and the person that it struck, it was believed, would be the next one of the company to be married. After good wishes for the future welfare of the wedded pair, and a kiss to the bride by every man present, the assembly would depart to their respective homes.
Burials. - Death is surer even than taxes, hence it is to be expected that early in our county annals we should learn of provisions being made to inter the dead. As far back as 1746, Campanius records that at the Swedish graveyard at Tinicum "the first corpse that was buried was Andrew Hansan's daughter, Catherine, and she was buried on the 28th of October, which was Simon's and Jude's day."
In the Duke of York's laws it is stated that the private burial of servants and others had occasioned much scandal, that by such a custom it could not be ascertained if death had resulted from natural causes or violence, "for remedy whereof, and for the greater decency of burials," it was provided that a public burial-place should be set apart and fenced in each parish, and before any corpse should be buried three or four of the neighbors should be called in, one of whom must be an overseer of the poor, whose duty it was to view the body, and if there were not suspicious circumstances, "yet according to the decent custom of Christendom they may accompany it to the grave." The burial of a free person or an indentured slave in any localities other than the public graveyard was interdicted by law, unless in their lifetime the deceased had signified their desire of being interred elsewhere.
Funerals in the early days were as extravagantly costly, the circumstances of the people considered, as at the present day; not in the undertaker's bill or carriages used, for the corpse was borne to the place of interment, we are told by William Worrall, during the greater part of the last century on men's shoulders, the coffin being swung on poles, so that the funeral procession, generally walking, might wind along the pathways with more ease, for they often followed the footpaths over the fields to the place of sepulture, but in the feasts given to those who attended the ceremonies. The poles spoken of by Mr. Worrall must have been the primitive bier, which are alluded to in the records of Chester meeting, under date of Seventh month 30, 1706, in which "it is agreed at this meeting that a decent bear bee Keept aft every Grave Yard, and that every preparative (meeting) within the limits of this meeting do get one made speedily."
As soon as a death occurred in a family the neighbors came in and made arrangements for the funeral, scouring the brass-work until it shone like new coin, for the old furniture was decorated with many brass ornaments, scrubbing the uncarpeted floors, dusting, baking, and cooking, until the house of mourning was fairly put to rights and the repast prepared for the funeral day. Warners were started out on horseback to ask persons to be present at the burial services, who on riding to the door of the dwelling would announce in monotonous tones, "Thyself and family are respectfully invited to attend the funeral of Thomas Smith, Fourth day next at two o'clock," while others would make frequent visits to the cross-road store to lay in groceries and other necessary articles needed for the table. Others of the neighbors would take their place as watchers over the body, which, stretched on a cooling board with a sheet over it, was never left alone. At night lighted candles were placed in the room, and refreshments provided for those who were sitting up with the corpse. The pictures and looking-glasses in the room where the body lay were covered with white muslin, so that the dead figure would not be reflected therein.
After the body was interred, in the case of the death of a man of means, all the company would return to the house and the will would be read. The disposition of his estate by the deceased would afford a topic of conversation in the neighborhood for a week at least.
The following is a bill for funeral services of one John Middleton, of Delaware County, Pa., in 1719. The original copy is in the possession of Taylor Thompson, undertaker in New Garden township, Chester Co. It is as follows, verbatim:
The custom then was, and it was continued until the beginning of this century, when a young unmarried woman died, the body was borne to the graveyard by young girls, doubtless introduced by the early Irish settlers, and a like custom prevailed at the funeral of a child. Miss Sarah Eve,1 in her journal, under date of July 12, 1773, records: "In the evening, B. Rush, P. Dunn, K. Vaughan, and myself carried Mr. Ash's child to be buried; foolish custom for Girls to prance it through the streets without hats or bonnets." The custom of young girls acting as pall-bearers at the funeral of their female companions and young children seems to have continued in Philadelphia during the second decade of this century, for in the diary of Miss Hannah M. Wharton, under date of Dec. 19, 1813, it is recorded: "We have had a melancholy occurrence in the circle of our acquaintance since I last wrote, in the death of the accomplished and amiable Fanny Durdin. Six young ladies of her intimate acquaintance, of which I was one, were asked to be the pall-bearers. We were all dressed in white, with long white veils." Mrs. Catharine Ulrich informs me that she can remember, about 1825, when
|1 Penna. Mag. of Hist., vol. v. p. 194.|