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Gravestone of John Williams Jr.
(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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New England was actually a healthier place to live than the English towns and cities from which the early settlers came. Nevertheless, the absence of immunizations, fever-reducing drugs and antibiotics meant that illness claimed the lives of many infants and young children. John Williams, Jr. 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. This death's head with wings symbolized the belief that John's soul lived eternally although he had died in the flesh. The vines twining up the headstone were a visual reminder of Jesus' statement in the New Testament that "I am the vine, you are the branches." Gravestone art and cemeteries have changed over the centuries, reflecting changing religious beliefs and cultural attitudes as well as fashion.
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