Wednesday, July 20, 1949
So funerals were not uncommon in the settlements. It was then the school-house witnessed a different scene from those of ordinary days. When the children were absorbing the three R's"reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic," the little room would be completely filled with the coffin, friends and relatives.
The sad event even took on a suggestion of a subdued and entirely respectful holiday. There were not too many diversions from the daily grind, and the atmosphere would be charged with the excitement of unrestrained human emotional suffering. Some enjoyed a morbid curiosity over this display of grief, especially if unusual circumstances brought about the funeral in the first place. Long, drawn-out illnesses from consumption and other ailments, accidents from drowning, or other catastrophes, always lurked in the background. Newly-born babies were sometimes lying, too, in their mothers coffins. Many, of course, attained a good, old age, but whenever death visited the settlement, a funeral, of course, would follow.
My aunt, who was a pioneer in this country, told me about taking her little girl to her first funeral, which was held in the school-house on the edge of the village. That would have been over 75 years ago. The deceased was a little girl about four years of age, the age of the child. The circumstances were unusual, but I have forgotten them. The whole ceremony was uncommonly sad, accompanied by great weeping and sobbing. Lugubrious hymns were sung by a choir, and put all the sorrow possible into the mournful tune and heart-breaking words. The sermon, which the little listener understood only by the dubious tone of voice of the preacher and his suggestive motions, added to her fear and apprehension. When the last hymn died dolefully on the summer air, the whole congregation was sobbing unrestrainedly. Then the little coffin was opened and the people were invited to "view the remains." The scene which followed was almost overpowering even for grownup folks, but when my aunt lifted up her little girl to see the still child in her coffin, she burst into wails and sobs louder than those of the parents, and she hastily took her home. The mother never allowed her little daughter to attend funerals again. Most of them left sensations of depression and foreboding hard to overcome, so unbridled were the emotions called forth by their grief.
Their sorrows, their joys, their above their dust in many country labors are over, and passes wave grave-yards. We shall walk reverently there, for they founded a commonwealth.