Monday, May 6, 2019

Nashville Funeral Homes and Undertakers.

For many decades after Nashville was founded the bodies of deceased family members were displayed (if at all) in the home of the deceased or a relative's home, before burial. Coffins were usually purchased from local cabinet and furniture makers. Before the 1860's burial was hurried. In the Civil War years, Nashville undertaker W. R. Cornelius began the practice of embalming. Cornelius acted as the undertaker for the United States Goverment throughout the war.

Early newspapers carry advertisement for cabinet makers. John and Thomas Deatherage, John C. Hicks, Samuel C. Robertson, Joseph Ward, Samuel G. Cheatham, Joseph Ward and James B. McCombs are among those whose names are found before 1825.

Elias Dobson, Coffins made on the shortes notice... Nashville_Whig_Mon__Nov_8__1824    
By mid century there were a number of undertaking businesses in the city. Most also had a separate business for furniture making. W. R. Cornelius would become one Nashville's better known undertakers. Cornelius born in 1824 was reared in Pennsylvania and came to Nashville about 1847. In 1853 he was operating under the title McCombs, Cornelius & Co.  In 1859 he had partnered with Mr. Cain.



After Nashville was occupied by Union troops in 1862, W. R. Cornelius became the undertaker for the U.S. Government. In 1863 he partnered with Dr. E. H. Lewis of New York. De. Lewis brought with him the practice of embalming.

Undertakers did not begin to offer rooms or parlors for the viewing of bodies and funeral services until the 1880's. These parlors were usually just store front rooms in a commercial building or in a warehouse. In 1902 Mr. Finley Dorris brought change to Nashville's undertaking business by opening a funeral parlor in a residence. Mr. Dorris renovated the old John Hill Eakin home on Church Street. He combined the double parlors and furnished them as a chapel where funeral service could be held. Mr. Dorris had been in the funeral business since 1880. He got the idea for his funeral home after visiting similar establishements in the northeastern United States.

Old homes converted into funeral parlors became common. Over one hundred years after Mr. Dorris opened his funeral home, there are still many funeral businesses occupying old homes in Nashville. Metro Nashville Archives has a collection of rotogravure prints that were in the Sunday edition of the newspaper. One Sunday the rotogravure section featured images of Nashville Funeral Homes.

The National Funeral Home, 209 Woodland Street, Mrs. Letty Sweeney, Metro Nashville Archives

Sweeny Funeral Home, 321 Woodland Street, Metro Nashville Archives

Wiles Bros Funeral Home, 129 8th Ave. So., Metro Nashville Archives

Dorris, Karsch & Co., 129-131 9th Ave. No., Metro Nashville Archives

Crafton & Co., 610 Russell Street, Metro Nashville Archives

Gupton Undertaking Co., 215 8th Ave. So., Metro Nashville Archives

Rain, Pettus, Burnett, 2101 Church Street, Metro Nashville Archives

Davis, Austin & Co., 1607 Broadway, Metro Nashville Archives

M. S. Combs, 201 25th Ave. No., Metro Nashville Archives

In 1931 there were 22 undertaking businesses listed in the Nashville City Directory.
 1. Austin, Charles K. Co. 1621 Broadway
 2. Combs, M. S. & Co.  201 25th Ave. No.
 3. Crafton & Co.  625 Cedar St.
 4. Crowder, Charles L. 709 Cedar St.
 5. Dorris, Karsch & Co. 129-131 9th Ave. No.
 6. Gardner, K. Funeral Co. 1511 Jefferson St.
 7. Gupton Undertaking Co. 215 8th Ave. So.
 8. Hill, Zema 1306 South St.
 9. Hockett, William  1207 Edgefield Ave.
10. Irving A. M. Murray Co.  921 Main St.
11. Johnson-Brown Co.  172 Lafayette St.
12. Martin & Rollow  1715 Broadway
13. McGavock, Wm. H.  422 4th Ave. No.
14. Moore & Crowder  314 Cedar St.
15. Rains, Pettus & Edmondson  2101 Church St.
16. Ransom & Morris 1602 Cedar St.
17. Roesch, Johnson & Charlton  1529 Broadway
18. Sweeney, Mrs. Letty  209 Woodland St.
19. Sweeney Funeral Home 321 Woodland St.
20. Taylor & Co. 449 4th Ave. No.
21. Wiles, Bracey & Marshall  129 8th Ave. So.
22. Wilkerson Co.  124 7th Ave. No.