Century Funeral Home

During the Civil War, African-American soldiers were responsible for removing dead bodies from the battlefields and keeping records for burial sites of soldiers killed in combat. Embalming was necessary to preserve the bodies of Union soldiers who died in the South so that they could be shipped back home for services and burial in the North. Black assistants to military doctors were trained and did much of the embalming. These experiences prepared many soldiers for work in the burial industry, allowing them to serve their brothers and sisters in a time of grief and preserve numerous funeral customs associated with their African heritage.

After the Civil War, funeral parlors were among the first businesses opened by African-Americans. For decades, formerly enslaved people and their descendants were excluded from a spectrum of trades, and higher education remained mainly out of reach. One notable exception was the profession of a mortician, a specialized field for African-Americans that managed to thrive despite a culture of racial division. Concerns about how Black bodies were being laid to rest by White undertakers fueled the desire by African-Americans to have their family members buried by Black undertakers whom they believed would bury their dead with care and dignity. A willingness to meet this community need while earning a comfortable living led would-be entrepreneurs to the funeral business.

At the turn of the 20th century, African-American churches began forming Burial Societies, which collected money from church members to pay for their funerals, coffins, and graves. These burial societies became a forerunner to what we know today as pre-need funeral plans, where a person can pay monthly in advance for a funeral. Since there was money to support these businesses, Black funeral homes began opening their doors around this time. Like many others around the South, a local undertaker founded this funeral home with the simple idea of providing unparalleled service to the families within his community.

By the 1920s, African-Americans were allowed and encouraged to go to mortuary schools and start businesses to serve the increasing number of Blacks moving to cities for industrial and manufacturing jobs. When someone died at home, their body was laid on a cooling board for preservation, and the funeral director had to provide the ice for the cooling board. In these rural communities, the deceased were often casketed and viewed in the family home. The first hearses were four-wheeled horse-drawn carriages.

This funeral home was one of the first Black funeral homes in the area. The original owner handed down the family business to his son, who continued the legacy his father created. The funeral home remained family-owned until it closed. Its last owner ran the funeral home for more than 30 years. During that time, he buried his wife and their children, who also worked at the funeral home. The last funeral to be conducted here was that of the owner. Although several years have passed since the owner’s funeral and the subsequent closing of the funeral home, pamphlets from his funeral remain in the chapel today.

Funeral Home
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Funeral Home
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Funeral Home
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Funeral Home

Funeral Home
Funeral Home
Funeral Home
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Funeral Home
Funeral Home

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7 comments

  1. These photos are utterly impressive. Giving the age and looks of the furniture, coffin and embalming tools left behind, this funeral home was way behind in time. I’m surprised to see the embalming solutions and the hearses still left behind after the closing of its doors. I enjoyed these photos as I love being taking back in time to see how things were back then. Another awesome pick, thank you so much for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love looking at all your photos, question though, if the last funeral took place 30+ years ago…how is it that someone’s cremains are there from 2016?

    Like

  3. My first question, as always, is why the abandonment? Who does this belong to? Those vehicles are a real treasure!
    Thanks for the cool share!

    Like

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