From the Iveson Photo Collection
I have an idea where the funeral was for the Iveson child– but it was not in Strangfield. Because Tillbury, Ontario was 8 km from Comber/ Strangfield, Ontario, I assume that is where these photos are from. These were given to me to some research by a local Lanark County family.
|Name:||William Robert Iveson|
Until the 1900s, folks were buried only in a shroud (aka winding sheet) or in a 6-sided coffin. The casket, that rectangle we think of today, was late to show up on the scene. The 6-sided coffin was favored because its special shape kept the body snugly in place, minimizing the problem of shifting weight. Perhaps more importantly, the 6-sided coffin (also called a “toe pincher”) allowed the family to literally cut corners by tapering the rectangle at both ends. This means the box took up less area than a rectangle so there was less dirt to move when hand digging the grave. Since one cubic foot of loose top soil weighs about 60 pounds, every shovel full counted.
Family and friends cared for the body and kept it laid out at home for as many days as it took to build, dig, and in some cases, wait for signs of decomposition to ensure no one was being buried alive (a popular fear for many years). Economic resources, immigrant status, and religion all influenced what folks did during the viewing, but vigiling the body was common. Death care was a personal, handcrafted endeavor, and involvement in the process was a demonstration of compassion and emotional investment in town, village or prairie life.
The change from community-led funerals to the use of hired help was a change that rolled out very slowly and unevenly across the US as towns grew into cities, and community gave way to anonymity. Even close friends might not be able take time off from their new city-styled employment to personally assist in the potentially multi-day vigil, funeral and burial.
Miasma theory was finding a home in the public consciousness, supporting the idea that the essence of death which was present in air that surrounds cemeteries was dangerous. To counter this bad air, cemeteries were being moved to rural, bucolic spaces where the fresh air of the countryside could exert a cleansing quality on this dangerous miasma-filled cemetery air. City center burial grounds were getting full, some as early as the late 1700’s following Philadelphia’s yellow fever epidemic, and by 1831 the town-centered burial grounds of big cities were being moved to the outskirts. The famous Mt. Auburn Cemetery, 4 miles outside the city of Boston, is the first cemetery built addressing the new sensibility: it was designed to be a magnificent park and garden, conducive to picnics, Sunday strolls, away from the heart of town and in fresh, flower scented air.
From the Iveson Photo Collection
By the end of the 19th Century, the job of Undertaker was a trade which was regularly seen on census records, even in rural areas. Though transportation and coffin building were being outsourced in cities, dying at home and caring for the dead was still a community and family affair in rural areas, remaining common through the 1940s. In many rural areas of the country, family and community funerals never ceased.