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Turns of the Centuries Exhibit > Family Life 1680-1720 > Child Life
This theme in other eras: 1680-1720 | 1780-1820 | 1880-1920

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.

Child Life : Fleeting Mortality

Parenthood in the eighteenth century often included the ordeal of watching one or more of your children die. New England was actually a healthier place to live than the English towns and cities from which the settlers came. Nevertheless, the absence of immunizations, fever-reducing drugs and antibiotics meant that illness claimed the lives of many infants and young children. The religious culture of the period assigned to every earthly event a divine cause--if a child died, it was God's will. A Puritan minister acknowledged the terrible and inscrutable power of God over life and death as he mourned in 1724 the deaths of New England's children: "O how unsearchable the Judgements of God, and His Ways past finding out. The lamps but just litt up, and blown out again."

This gravestone marks the final resting-place of John Williams. John was only five years old when he died in 1714. The symbols on his stone were familiar to people in the 1700s and expressed the community's hope for John's Christian salvation. Towns generally did not maintain their burying grounds; the notion of mowing and caring perpetually for park-like cemeteries was not typical of the time. Grass and weeds grew up undisturbed in burying grounds save for the livestock that might graze there. Gravestone art and cemeteries have changed over the centuries, reflecting changing religious and cultural beliefs and attitudes.


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Gravestone of John Williams Jr.

photographer   Amelia Miller (1926-2003)
date   1963
location   Deerfield, Massachusetts
height   3.0625"
width   4.4375"
process/materials   paper print
item type   Photograph/Photograph
accession #   #1996.12.0904.237.a-.bex

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See Also...

"A Study of Gravestones in the Old Cemetery at Deerfield"

"Albany Road Cemetery, 1696-1929"

Gravestone of John Williams Jr.

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