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

Death comes even to those for whom dying provides a living.

“And where,” I hear you ask, “are the eternal resting places of these people, 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 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 son 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. Ad is from the 1938 Polytechnic High School yearbook.

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.” The new owner of the building has restored it.

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. Brothers William and Bailey Fakes were born in Tennessee, moved to Texas, and opened their furniture store in Fort Worth in 1876. Clips are from the 1878 and 1885 city directories.

William T. Fakes lived in this house on Royal Avenue at West 7th Street on the western edge of downtown.

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 in Quality Hill.

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)

This entry was posted in Advertising, Cities of the Dead, Life in the Past Lane. Bookmark the permalink.

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

  1. Patty Fenoglio says:

    Thank You, very interesting piece. One correction however:
    S.D. Shannon was the father of Oliver Shannon, not the brother as stated. Oliver Shannon was my grandfather. My father is Jack Shannon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *