Funeral home history visited

Published 12:42 pm Wednesday, April 29, 2009

By Staff
A few weeks ago I had a visitor who is a licensed funeral director and works with Williams Memorial Funeral Home.
Heath Wilson asked to go through some old issues of The Brewton Standard to see what he could find pertaining to the funeral home.
For those of you who do not know, we keep bound copies of The Brewton Standard here at our office. Many of them are old and fragile and are in no condition to be handled. The oldest paper we have is the volume for 1937 and the ones that follow, with some gaps. Other copies of the newspaper, on microfilm,  can be found at the museum at Jefferson Davis Community College.
Wilson was able to find what he was looking for quickly and I recreated a couple of the ads for him. He framed them and hung them at the funeral home.
In the early days of this community, there seems to have been several funeral homes in Brewton.
In 1945, Winfred O. Henderson and his wife, Voncyle, who were both licensed morticians, ran a large ad in the paper. It was most interesting for several reasons. The funeral home was located in a house on Henderson Street, which is no longer there. I have heard it called the Mason home (for Dr. Mason who lived there until he built another house on the corner of Evergreen and McLellan Streets), the Sowell house and the the Foshee house. Anyway, it was on the corner of Henderson Street and Evergreen Avenue.
In 1945 the Hendersons operated the Henderson Funeral Home in that location. In the ad in that year, they were waiting for W.O. Henderson’s brother, Willie Morris Henderson, to come home from his military duties during World War II, and join the staff at the funeral home.
Apparently, Mrs. Henderson took care of the ladies and children, while Mr. Henderson took care of the men. She was advertised to be the only female embalmer between Montgomery and Mobile.
Another interesting fact about the ad was the telephone number assigned to them. It was number 48.
Another item that I found of interest was a photograph in my collection. It is a 1914 Ford Model T hearse. The hearse was bought by J.W. Adkisson, who was an earlier mortician in Brewton. He bought it in the name of Brewton Undertakers from Sayers and Scovill Company, which was top of the line at the time. Adkisson bought the hearse on May 18, 1914 and paid $2, 750 for it.
When you think about history, you probably never think of this particular business, but let’s face it, someday we will all need this type of service.
So far as genealogical material, funeral homes can be sources of information. If you have a funeral home that has been in business for a long time, you can find many items of interest. For instance, Holman Funeral Home has been in existence for almost 80 years in Ozark. Before the Holmans took over the business, it was called something else, and records were there going back to the early 1920s. I was able to locate a relative who died in the early 1930s. On her record was the names of her parents and grandparents, finding yet another link for me to research.
If you have a story that you’d like for me to track down for you, please let me know. I love digging through the past. You can drop me a line by email at or give me a call at 867-4876.
Until next week, happy hunting!

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