Original publication information: "Blessed Are They That Mourn’: Expressions of Grief in South Central Kentucky, 1870-1910. Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, 85(3), 213-36.


During the nineteenth century, Americans were gradually changing their funeral and burial practices in an effort to soften death's harshness. In large northern communities, the professionalization of undertaking services and the opening of community cemeteries on the outskirts of population centers occurred prior to the Civil War.1 But in rural areas such as south central Kentucky, changes in burial customs transpired primarily between 1870 and 1910. While adapting the etiquette described in period literature, south central Kentuckians sought to establish expressions of grief which would testify to their traditional values of family, community, and religion


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