Image courtesy of the Library of Congress
Congressional Cemetery, as it later became known, is the burial site for 80 Members of Congress. It is also home to 169 cenotaphs.
On this date, the funeral of Lewis Williams
of North Carolina was held in the House Chamber. His was the ninth funeral
held there, and one of just 32 such services for Members who died in office. Williams had been in the House almost 27 years and was, as John Quincy Adams
put it in his eulogy, the “Father of the House
,” as its longest serving Member, as well as a man of “ardent patriotism.” His death caught Washington by surprise. Newspapers reported that “On Monday, he was at his post in the House of Representatives attending to his public duties; at noon on Wednesday he lies a lifeless corpse.” The funeral
itself followed a pattern well-known in Congress, which lost several Members to death that Congress. The coffin, covered with black velvet and marked only with an inscribed silver plaque, was brought into the Chamber and placed before the Speaker’s chair. The service was conducted by a chaplain, and the many dignitaries, from President to the most junior Member of the North Carolina delegation, followed the pall bearers in procession from the Capitol. The mournful group was conducted to Congressional Cemetery on the banks of the Anacostia River, where they deposited the body in the receiving vault, awaiting transport to Williams’ home state.