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Undertaking a common sideline for early furniture businesses

Where in the World?

September 24, 2011|By Harry Enoch
  • An illustration shows the Dudley Furniture Co., now the Grant, Rose & Pumphrey law office.
Handbook of Clark County, 1889

Early American families cared for their dead on their own. The deceased was “laid out” at home, the family kept a vigil for several days as visitors came by, then burial took place in a family or church graveyard. A carpenter or cabinetmaker was usually hired to make the coffin. That began to change in the mid 19th century when furniture dealers, who sold coffins as a sideline, began offering to “undertake” all the after-death responsibilities, first in the home and then in funeral parlors. A common feature in undertaker advertisements was prompt service. In addition to Winn Furniture Co., there were a number of other Winchester establishments in the furniture and undertaking business. Notices for two of them turn up in early issues of the Winchester Democrat.
From 1874 until 1881, Edward S. Jouett and James D. Simpson ran ads as “Joiiett & Simpson” offering furniture, dry good, carpets and queensware at their store “under the Odd Fellow’s Hall” on the west side of Main St. (The Hickman Lodge of the I.O.O.F. at 64-66 S. Main was erected before the Civil War; it was replaced by the present hall, built in 1889 at the same location.) The ads stated, “Will attend promptly to the Undertaking Business.” The proprietor was Edward S. Jouett (1831-1894), a grandson of Revolutionary War hero, Jack Jouett of Charlottesville, Virginia, and nephew of Matthew Jouett, the famous portrait artist. Born in Mt. Sterling, Edward settled in Winchester where he married Catherine Reed, a daughter of Dr. James Reed. Both of their sons, Edward S. Jr. and Beverly, were noted attorneys.
Edward’s sister Sarah married Dr. Hubbard Taylor, and their daughter Mary Ellen Taylor married James D. Simpson (1845-1921). While Edward focused on the furniture-undertaking business, his nephew had multiple interests. James D. Simpson was the son of Irish immigrant and noted Clark County jurist, James Simpson. James D. followed his father into the law but soon turned to banking. He was a major stockholder of the Citizen’s National Bank and later served as the first mayor of Winchester.
In 1881 as Jouett and Simpson turned their attention to dry goods, Frank Dudley entered the furniture-undertaking business in his new building at 49-51 S. Main. Francis Hubbard “Frank” Dudley (1832-1906) was born in Warren County, Missouri, of Kentucky parents. His grandfather Ambrose Dudley had been a pioneer preacher at the Baptist church at Bryan’s Station. Frank Dudley had quite a varied career before settling in Winchester. He joined the Forty-niners in the California gold rush, served in the Confederate army during the Civil War, was engaged in steamboating on the Mississippi and was secretary of an insurance company in Cincinnati before moving to Clark County in 1868, where he was connected with the bankruptcy court, helped found Emmanuel Episcopal Church and became a 32nd degree Mason. In 1881 he advertised in the Winchester Democrat “F. H. Dudley, dealer in furniture, carpets, wall paper, window shades, queensware, glassware and general housefurnishing goods.” The ad went on to state that “He will attend all calls in the undertaking line on the shortest notice.”
One of the Winns’ biggest competitors over the years was H. H. Hall. Henry H. Hall (1859-1938), a native of Falmouth, came to town in 1891 and established Winchester’s first Western Union office. The partnership of Hall, Miller and Tracy founded H.M.T. Furniture Co. and Undertaking in 1902. They located in Vic Bloomfield’s building that Winn Furniture Co. had vacated after the fire. Two years later, “owing to the immense increase in our business,” the company moved into the brand new building just completed by William S. Massie at 17 S. Main (most recently “The Paint Center”). The partnership was eventually succeeded by H. H. Hall alone. Hall advertised a full line of furniture, home furnishings, undertaking and a “Cadillac Limousine Ambulance at your command day or night.” Hall was said to have been “one of Kentucky’s first licensed embalmers and funeral directors,” and he “introduced the first motor funeral procession in Winchester.”
Around 1935, Hall relocated from the Massie Building to the Masonic Temple on Court Street (called the Fraternity Building now). Henry H. Hall died in 1938 and left most of his estate to his wife Ollie; his will stated, “I do this because she furnished the money, worked and helped me make the furniture business what it is.” In testimony before the probate court, Ernest Edgington stated that he had been in the employ of Henry H. Hall for approximately 22 years. Hall was succeeded in business by the Edgington Furniture Store and Funeral Home in the same building. Edgington later moved the funeral home to 289 S. Main St., and was succeeded there by Rolan G. Taylor.

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