When Those Who Bury the Dead Are Dead (Part 1)

Death comes even to those for whom dying provides a living. “And where,” you ask, “are the eternal resting places of those who escort us to the Undiscovered Country from whose bourn no traveler returns?”

Glad you asked.

gause obit s-tGeorge Gause, of course, is the best known of Fort Worth’s early undertakers. He died December 18, 1938 in the Quality Hill home that was both his home and his funeral parlor.

gause gravegause grave flatGeorge Gause is buried in Oakwood Cemetery not far from John Peter Smith, who donated land for both Oakwood and Emanuel Hebrew Rest cemeteries. (Photos show the Gause family monument and George Gause’s tombstone.)

gause-with-wilkes-panel-570x768But perhaps the first of our early undertakers to need an undertaker himself was John T. Wilkes, an early partner of Gause. In the second half of the nineteenth century, because livery stables provided horses, hearses, and carriages for funeral processions, livery stables often branched out into undertaking. And so it was with Gause and Wilkes: Both men began as livery stable owners and then partnered in a livery stable-undertaking business. Both men were hard-core horsemen: They raced horses at the driving park and were members (along with Timothy Isaiah “Longhaired Jim” Courtright and future police chief James Maddox) of the fire department’s horse-drawn hook and ladder company No. 1.

wilkes 4-18-87 and 5-31-94 gazIronically, undertaker Wilkes is buried without a headstone. It has disappeared. He is buried in Pioneers Rest next to his brother Richard (himself a fireman), who died in 1887. John T. Wilkes died in 1894. He was living over the funeral home of former partner George Gause. Note the weathered skull and crossbones. Clips are from the April 18, 1887 and May 31, 1894 Gazette.

shannon adAnother early partner of George Gause was Samuel David Shannon, who had worked for Gause’s Palace livery stable. In 1906 Shannon was an alderman of the city of North Fort Worth and working at the Swift packing plant when he and Gause started North Fort Worth Undertaking Company in Sam Rosen’s Ye Rosen Inn on North Main Street. In 1931 Shannon and brother Oliver would buy Fort Worth Undertaking Company, located at Lamar and 10th streets. S. D. Shannon’s company continues as Shannon funeral homes. Clip is from the March 3, 1907 Telegram.

shannon 46Samuel David Shannon, a resident of Grand Avenue, was a state representative and held positions with the city of North Fort Worth and Tarrant County. He died in 1946.

shannon graveHe is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery.

shannon meissner 35 cdBy 1935 S. D. Shannon had a funeral home on the North Side and another on the East Side at Nashville Avenue and Avenue B. James Raymond Meissner worked for Shannon on the North Side and then on the East Side. About 1945 Meissner bought Shannon’s East Side location and operated it as Meissner Funeral Home for more than thirty years. Clips are from the 1935 and 1945 city directories.

evans for meissner 1976In 1976 the Meissner funeral home was the festival center for a vigil for Queen Rosa of the Evans gypsy (Roma) clan. Several members of the Evans and Mitchell families are buried at Shannon Rose Hill Cemetery.

meissner james raymondMeissner was one of the local undertakers who went to New London in east Texas in 1937 to help after the school explosion that killed about 294 people, mostly children. When his own end came, James Raymond Meissner gave his business to his former employer: Meissner is buried in Shannon Rose Hill.

meissner funeralThe 1937 mission-style building that housed Meissner’s funeral home looks as if its organ should continuously play the hymn “Hotel California.”

ware combo 5-28-55 dmnGeorge Gause’s best-known partner, of course, was John Morton Ware, who married Gause’s daughter Louise and was added to the company name about 1923. Ware is buried in Greenwood Cemetery. Clips are from the 1941 city directory and May 28, 1955 Dallas Morning News.

fakes 78 and 85Just as livery stables branched out into undertaking, so did other businesses that had a natural connection. Carpenters, for example, made coffins and thus branched out. And furniture stores that sold coffins and other funeral trappings sometimes branched out into undertaking. So it was with Fakes & Co. Furniture Company. Brothers William and Bailey Fakes were born in Germany, moved to Texas from Tennessee, opened their furniture store in Fort Worth in 1876. Clips are from the 1878 and 1885 city directories.

fakes obits 10-3-95 gaz 12-20-09 dmnIn the mid-1890s both Fakes brothers moved to Dallas. But when Bailey Fakes died in 1895 he was buried in Fort Worth’s Oakwood Cemetery. William Fakes died in 1909 and is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Dallas. Clips are from the October 3, 1895 Gazette and December 20, 1909 Dallas Morning News.

robertson funeral home UTALLouis P. Robertson worked for the Fakes brothers for nine years. Then in 1881 he bought the brothers’ undertaking department and established L. P. Robertson Undertaker. Photo shows Robertson’s funeral home at Taylor and 10th streets (see tower of 1893 city hall on right edge). This building would receive the bodies of aviators Vernon Castle in 1918 and Ormer Locklear in 1920. Robertson’s funeral home would evolve into today’s Robertson-Mueller-Harper. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)

moore rmhgrand mooreIn 1929 Robertson-Mueller-Harper would buy the former home of real estate millionaire James F. Moore on Pennsylvania Avenue at Ballinger Street.

robertson comboLouis P. Robertson is buried in Greenwood Cemetery across the drive from William J. Bailey. “And who,” you ask, “was William J. Bailey?” Read on:

When Those Who Bury the Dead Are Dead (Part 2)

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8 Responses to When Those Who Bury the Dead Are Dead (Part 1)

  1. Jeff Cummings says:

    Thank you Mike Nichols for preserving history. I have found your site in doing research for a Funeral Home in the Polytechnic Area, the Shannon-Meissner Funeral Home. I am working on rehabing/restoring that wonderful building, which was scheduled to be razed last year. Could you reach out to me directly if possible with any further information or photos you may know of. Even knowledge of stories from locals of the area, something I could follow up on. As an architectural preservationist and a kid from the 1960s west fort worth, I can not begin to show my appreciation of your efforts. Thank you!

    • hometown says:

      Thanks, Jeff. And thank you for saving that grand old building. As for photos, even the Historical Resources Survey book for the East Side has a photo of only the garage, not the main building. The Star-Telegram and W. D. Smith archives at UTA Library might have something. I could not find a mention of the building being planned, started, under construction, or completed in the S-T. When I played Little League and Pony League baseball on the East Side, at some point Meissner Funeral Home sponsored a team because one year my uniform had “Meissner Funeral Home” embroidered on the back of the jersey.

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