Funeral Homes and Directors
St. Louis undertaking practices echoed those in other parts of the country, with the earliest services provided by area livery stables. The earliest of these firms were the Wm. H. Donas livery stable at 2809 North Grand in 1807 and in 1810 John Decker’s livery stable at 12 North 19th Street. Many others soon followed. James A. Thomas offered a “Coffin Warehouse” at 5 North Second Street in 1840. Five years later, William A. Lynch opened his business as an “undertaker and cabinet maker” at 132 35th Street.
In 1868, the first St. Louis business to incorporate the title of “funeral home” into its name was the Schrader Funeral Home which opened its doors at 14960 Manchester in what is now in Ballwin, St. Louis County. It was founded by Frederick Schrader, a carpenter and cabinet maker who, in 1846, emigrated from Hanover, Germany, to St. Louis. That family business remains in operation today as St. Louis’ oldest family-owned funeral home.
Over the years, literally thousands of private businesses have offered undertaking services to the St. Louis community. Because each of these businesses is a private firm, the scope and location of whatever records they may have kept is, to say the least, problematic. When the owner of an undertaking firm died or decided to close the business, the family often retained the records and often eventually lost or destroyed the records. In some cases, a new owner purchased the business and the earlier records possibly transferred with other assets. But tracing who owned what is sometimes nearly impossible.
Volunteers from the St. Louis Genealogical Society have, over the past several years, compiled a directory of all known funeral home businesses in the St. Louis area, and this data is now available. Spearheaded by Maurita Lutton, with assistance from Margie Giblin and Jeani Ward, this database contains information on nearly 3,400 “funeral homes,” including those early livery stables and undertakers. They gathered their information from monument companies, cemetery records, St. Louis city and county directories, telephone books, and funeral home directories. Information in this database includes:
- Firm name (and any known alternate names)
- Beginning and ending years of operation (if known)
- Reference to what records (if any) are available
- Source(s) used for each listing