could be Buffalo's crossing the platte

 Research Papers

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Embalmers in Kearney

Some terms

Undertaker – One whose business is the arrangement of funerals

Funeral Director – also called mortician or undertaker. Plans and arranges the funeral service. May also be involved in dressing, applying cosmetics, and placing the body in a casket. Might also embalm.

Embalmer – one who preserves human remains to make them suitable for public display.

Background on embalmers

Embalming dates back to ancient Egypt but for royalty and the wealthy
        Not always available in westward expansion

U. S. – 1894 - Virginia passed the first law requiring an embalming license.
        They set up 5–member state board which granted the licenses.
        By 1900, 24 states had laws  [including Nebraska]

– 1899 - Board of Embalmers was established to examine and certify embalmers.

        This board was appointed by the state board of health.
        1931 legislation required all funeral directors and undertakers in Nebraska to register.

Kearney – No embalmers until 1899
        All were called “undertakers” don’t know if they did any embalming

Early Kearney
Switz – the first undertaker [no embalming schooling]
        – did have competition

John M. Costello – Came from Iowa to Center Township in late 1880’s
        1889 - July – purchased property in Kearney (boom period)
                October – built a carpenter’s shop on corner of 24th & 2nd Ave
        (1890) – following fall opened furniture & undertaking business
        (1898) – Operated for 8 years, then closed business and moved to Sioux Falls, SD
        (1909) – Returned 11 years later & opened a new furniture store in the Keen’s building
                Added undertaking with E. C. Joliffe, licensed embalmer the following year
        After a couple of years he retired and moved back to Sioux Falls
        Costello was never registered as an embalmer
        Could not find any information about Joliffe

Almon G Bower
        First name in the Embalmer’s Book, 9 Oct 1899
        Continued to renew the license through 1923
[book ends about then so probably registrations were kept at state from then on]

Bower was the only licensed embalmer in Kearney until 1906
        1. His son, Vern Bower, completed embalming school & was licensed
        2. John Thulin registered his license

John Thulin
A Swede who Immigrated to US in 1879, coming to Loomis area
Came to Kearney the following year and lived here the rest of his life
Boarded with Frederick Switz & work as a cabinet maker
Worked at a variety of furniture and home furnishing jobs

1906 – Upholsterer for A G Bower
Registered his embalmer’s license 1906-1911

[Might have left Kearney for a while about 1912-1916]

Back in Kearney again in 1917 – Clerk for Switz Paint & Glass

1918 – Registered the embalmer’s license again

Then he started doing upholstery working out of his home

1940 – Retired
1953 – died; buried in Moses Hill Cemetery at Loomis

[Did he work as an embalmer part time when needed?]

A Third Undertaking Business in Kearney

H. L. Crawford
Moved with family from Pennsylvania (1883) to Columbus, Nebraska
(1886) – Family moved to homestead in Cedar Township
        Father died in 1890, farmed until 1908

1908 – Moved to Kearney mother and brother
        Worked for a while as manager of a grocery store
        Then attended embalming school in Chicago and worked there for a while
1910, March 3 – Registered his embalmer’s license in Buffalo Co.
        Worked for Bower for about three years.
1913 – Bought Miller Furniture & Undertaking in Ravenna
        Stayed about 15 years, sold business, moved back to Kearney
1928 – Crawford Funeral Home first advertised in Kearney at 123 E Lincoln Way [southwest corner of 25th & B]
        Harry, wife Margaret, & two adopted daughters lived at 705 E 22nd
End of 1935 moved funeral business to their home.
        Original facility was remodeled for a doctor’s clinic.
Continued to operate into the 1950’s.
Harry died in 1958 and is buried at Ravenna.

Others and How Did They Fit In?

E. A. Miller – the new competition to Switz
1909 – E A Miller opened his business
        County clerk; started funeral directory business in 1909 with hired help
First registered his embalmer’s license in 1910
Renewed through 1915

Continued in business until his sudden death in 1920

E. R. Parks
1891 – Born in Cuming Co. Nebraska
        Moved with family to Center Township
1911, Feb – Married Florence Miller, daughter of EA Miller
        He went to work for father-in-law
1918 – Registered embalming license

[don’t know if he had gone away to school or if On the Job Training was enough to pass the test for the license]

Then came 1920

1920, Jan – [1920 census] Living with wife and 4 children at 116 E 25th, Parks Undertaking
        March 5 – E. A. Miller suddenly died
        March 9 – Hub newspaper announced Parks To continue operating Miller business
                J. H. Moore, an expert embalmer from Omaha was coming to work there also
        April 1 – Business sold to Ira Anderson of Omaha & G W Arthurs of Kearney

1922 – [City Directory] Farming, living at 220 E 26th

1923, Nov. – Hub announced the family was moving to California

1930 [census] – managing a soda fountain in a Los Angeles drug store
1940 [census] – selling roofing materials in Los Angeles

A. E. Atkins
Registered his embalming license in Feb 1918

No evidence he was an undertaker or worked for one,
        He was proprietor of ABA Oil Co.
Except for one 1921 article about death of Ira Anderson’s wife
        All her pallbearers were in the recent past or current undertakers in the county

C. L. Maddox
Lived at Miller
1900 - Attended UNL
        Worked at Miller Hardware Store
1902 – March-July – He and 2 Kearney friends traveled on west coast

before Sept., 1905 – Got married

1908 – Went to Omaha and purchased a cylinder Buick
        Having a car made him & his wife popular in their social circle.

Worked out of Miller as a traveling salesman for lighting company
He and Weinbrandt [his father-in-law] were operating a pool hall in Miller

1917 – Feb – Moved to Kearney
        Attended embalming school
        According to City Directory - traveling salesman for Switz Glass & Paint

1919 – Registered embalmer’s license

1920 – Living in Kearney, salesman for lighting company
        President of Bar-T ranch organization which was producing rodeos
        One scheduled at Kearney Amusement Park –
        He & John Stryker booked the shows from offices in Kearney

1924-31 – Operated Maddox Furniture Exchange

Paul A Garber
Registered in Buffalo Co. in June 1912 only.
        Hub Jan. 9, 1912 – Took over as foreman [of buildings and grounds] of State Tuberculosis Hospital

[Only piece of information I could find about the man in Kearney.]

William McLachlin
First showed up in Kearney in 1920 - Living next door to Bower funeral home, working there
1922 – Registered his embalming license
        Working as embalmer for Bower
1961 – died of heart attack, funeral by Johnson-Horner

Frank Egerblade
Grew up at Bradshaw, Nebraska
1922 – Registered embalming license with county
        Working for Anderson Undertaking
1923 – Got married

Left Kearney in about 1926 for the West Coast
        Lived a couple of years in Seattle, working as embalmer
1928 – living in Stockton, CA working as embalmer
1930 – Living with wife and 2 children in San Luis Obispo, working as an embalmer

Closing Stories

A York, NE truck driver called a mortuary ambulance to come to his home.
He then committed suicide using his pistol and was found by the ambulance drive.
His wife had died three years previously and he had three children 16 & under.
[This may have been his way of being sure the kids would not find him.]

A man drove his car into the driveway of a mortuary before committing suicide by shooting himself in June 1933.


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Revised: 02/06/2018