In the 1850s, Hannah and William Root shared their home with their children and extended family. Hannah Root’s father, Leonard Simpson, lived with the family and passed away on October 11, 1856. During the month of October, visitors to the William Root House will see the home decorated for mourning as it would have been at the time of Leonard Simpson's death. Curtains will be drawn, and rooms will be adorned with black crepe and ribbons. Special tours will teach visitors about 1850s mourning practices and superstitions about death.
WHAT: Mourning in the 1850s
WHEN: The Root House Museum is open Wed.-Sat., 11am-4pm. Special night tours will be offered every Fri. and Sat. night in October from 7pm-10pm, and also Halloween night, Oct. 31.
WHERE: William Root House Museum and Garden; 80 N Marietta Parkway, Marietta, GA 30064
INFORMATION: 770-426-4982; roothousemuseum.com/mourning
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: During the 1850s, Hannah and William Root shared their home with their children and extended family. Hannah Root’s father, Leonard Simpson, lived with the family and passed away on October 11, 1856. In the 1850s, only those invited would attend a funeral. Special funeral invitations were made with a black border; the width of the border would indicate how closely related the guest was to the deceased.
Antebellum parlors were used for guests, family gatherings, and special occasions such as weddings and funerals. During a funeral, the coffin would have been kept in the parlor with the feet of the body facing towards the door. Many of the items in the parlor would have been draped in a black fabric. The fabric, called crepe, was commonly used for funerals because it was inexpensive and had a matte, lusterless surface that was deemed appropriately solemn for mourning. It was also customary to have flowers for a wake. Lilies were the most commonly used flower at this time because, in the “language of flowers,” lilies symbolize purity.
In the dining room, some of the furnishings would have been moved around according to need. During a funeral, furniture would have been moved to the side to make room for chairs for the ceremony. Funeral guests would have been seated across the hall from the parlor so they could view the ceremony through the doorways without being too close to the family and the body. They would be permitted to see the body one at a time after the ceremony. A traditional food for funerals was funeral biscuits. These were shortbread cookies made especially for funerals. They would have an image imprinted on the cookie, such as a heart, cherub, winged head, hourglass, or skull. It was customary to serve the funeral biscuits with beer or ale, and they were usually dipped in the ale before being eaten.
ABOUT THE WILLIAM ROOT HOUSE MUSEUM AND GARDEN:
Owned and operated by Cobb Landmarks and Historical Society, the William Root House Museum and Garden offers an authentic look at life for a middle class Georgia family in 1850s. The simple frame house is more typical of its time and place than the grand plantations and columned mansions people typically imagine when they think of the Old South.
Visitors to the museum will learn the story of the house, the Root family, and life in antebellum and Civil War Georgia. Tours include opportunities for visitors to actually handle historic artifacts and to test their skills with various 19th century games. Using electronic tablets, visitors can analyze historic records, family photos, archaeological information, and more. These primary resources help explain how the Root family lived, and how the house has evolved over time.
For information about the Root House, hours of operation and admission call 770-426-4982 or visit http://www.roothousemuseum.com/.