Calhoun County

1988 Calhoun Undertakers

110 Years
1878 – 1978
by George W. Carpenter

After checking the funerals in our county for the past 110 years, I have decided that four families of undertakers handled sixty or seventy percent of Calhoun funerals, where the help of persons outside the family were needed.

The four families named on the cover were Imming, Fisher, Rose, and Hanks. At the end of the story of the work done by these families, I will list many other undertakers who worked in small areas, from two to ten years. Another section will be devoted to customes and funerals in Calhoun County many years ago.


April 7, 1875 was an important date in the Village of Brussels. A letter arrived from Washington, D. C. saying a post-office would be opened that day in Brussels and Henry Imming, manager of the general store and undertaker would be in charge of the office. His business place on Main Street, which is still standing today, was chosen as location for the new post-office.

While we do not have a record of his early funerals, we find a listing in the county records in his name on June 23, 1878, when he buried Catherine Andrews, 84, the mother of Dr. R. S. Andrews, in the Ebenezer M. E. Church Cemetery, a few miles west of Brussels. Henry, who passed away in 1901 handled many funerals in the eighties and nineties.

In the early 1900's, we find two of his sons, Herman, Sr. and John taking care of many funeral sin South Calhoun. At some funerals they worked together, while at other times they worked alone. In one period, Herman had 31 funerals while John had 17.

In the yar 1917, the next member to enter the funeral business was Herman Imming, Jr., known to everyone as "Mike." He was well known in the county having been a catcher on the Brussels baseball team, one of the outstanding teams in our area. He was married August 17, 1921 to Cecelia Brinkman by Father S. C. Schauwecker in St. Joseph's Church in Meppen.

Their home on Main Street in Brussels was altered several times so it could be used for showing bodies or even having funerals. At first, he used a horse drawn hearse, but in the late 1920's, he bought a motor driven hearse. His grandson, Joe Rose, in checking the old family records, said the average funeral cost less than $200. Many of the funeral bulls were paid in produce, grain, livestock, or even labor. Joe also checked the location of cemeteries in the 1946-1963 period where Mike handled the funerals. They were St. Mary's, Brussels, 60; St. Joseph's, Meppen, 28; St. Matthew's, Brussels, 22; St. Barbara's, Batchtown, 8; Deer Plain, 6; Seidler, 3; Wilson, 4; and many family or private cemeteries.

Mike's popularity in Calhoun was shown in the Democratic primary election of 1932, when he was a Candidate for County Coroner. While he had two well-known opponents, he received 176 votes in Richwoods Precinct, while the combined vote of opponents was 65. In his home precinct, Point, he had 396 votes to 46 for his two opponents. In 1963, he retired and sold his business to Hanks. When he died, his friend Paul Hanks took care of the funeral.

From the mid-1870's to the present is a long time, ninety years to be exact. During his time, the members of the Imming family were serving the families of South Calhoun.


Many people in the Hardin area in speaking of the Fisher family do not realize that two men were undertakers. Morris, Sr. served the community from 1866 until his death in 1896. He was succeeded by his son, Morris, Jr., who handled the business until his retirement in 1912. In the 46 years, they handled most of the funeral sin Central Calhoun.

Morris Fisher, Sr., was born and remained in Germany until the age of 15 when he joined relatives and friends in the East. He followed the trade of carpenter and builder until 1866 when he arrived in Hardin. Soon after his arrival, he started building houses and store buildings just a block south of the Calhoun Courthouse. One of the structures was a large two story building which he used as a store and undertaking establishment. One of the first funerals in the County records was January 3, 1878, when he buried Mary A. Mortland, 71, in the Hardin Cemetery.

When the building was destroyed by fire in March of 1885, he erected a larger two story building which is still standing in 1987. The Masonic Lodge rented the large upstairs as their meeting place until they erected their new hall across the street. He was the leading undertaker in Calhoun until his tragic death in the St. Louis cyclone of 1896.

During the last week of May, 1896, Morris Fisher, Sr. went to St. Louis to buy supplies for his store and undertaking business. Another Hardin business man, Mort Parker, went to the city of the same purpose, while a housewife, Mrs. Alford Godar, went to visit friends and relatives.

It was five minutes to five on Wednesday afternoon, May 27, 1896, a fierce tornado, or cyclone as it was called in those days, hit the levee district where dozens of packet boats were loading and made ready to leave. Our Hardin citizens were on the Steamer Odil ready to leave for a trip up the Mississippi and Illinois River, including a stop at Hardin. The Odil was torn loose from the wharf and crashed against the Eads Bridge and completely destroyed. Parker jumped from the boat into the stream and was saved. Fisher and Mrs. Godar were among the dozens of passengers who were drowned. It wasn't until four days later that the bodies of the Hardin residents were found many miles below St. Louis.

When there were no identification papers on Fisher's body, Monroe County Coroner took the body to Columbia, the County Seat, for burial. When word reached Hardin of the finding of a body, Morris Fisher, Jr. and Jim Linkogle went to Columbia where the body was disinterred and identified as Morris Fisher, Sr. The body was taken to Hardin for services and burial, and the undertaking business was placed with Morris, Jr., a young man of 28. We do not know if he had been associated with his father before 1896, but we note that he retired 18 years later at the age of 46.

It wasn't until ten weeks after his father's death that Morris conducted his first funeral, August 8, 1896, the burial of Rebecca Scott, 61, a native of the Hardin area. About eleven years later, October 16, 1907, a tragic accident took place in which four men were drowned in a boating accident five miles south of Hardin. An inquest was held by County Coroner, A. B. Lowe, of Batchtown, and the bodies were given to Fisher for burial. The first funeral was that of Harvey Angel, 32, who was buried in the Hardin Cemetery. The next day services were held for Jeff Hunt, 27, while the other two men were buried the third day. In the morning, service were held for Gideon Bazillion, 41, who was buried in Hardin, while John Lammy, 36, was buried at Indian Creek in the afternoon. It is possible that there is no one living in Calhoun who remembers attending these four funerals.

His last funeral was conducted at the time of much excitement in the area; the murder of a young woman at a Michael farm home, May 1, 1912. The woman, Pauline Fulton, from another county, had been a guest at a home in Michael Hollow. As she was playing a piano in the parlor, a jealous boyfriend shot through the window killing her. The man was soon in jail and the body was taken to the Fisher establishment in Hardin. She was buried the next day in the cemetery in Michael. According to our record books, this was his last funeral service. All of his supplies and equipment were then turned over to his friend, John Rose, of Kampsville.

Most people around Hardin remember Morris, Jr. when he was a partner with his sister, Mrs. Jennie Carter in the Fisher Store. She operated the women's and children's department with the aid of her daughters, Nina and Cuba. Morris was helped in the grocer and hardware department by Art Williams. He seldom left his home except on Sundays to attend services at the Presbyterian Church, where he was a member. He passed away in 1940 and is buried in the Hardin Cemetery.

Before 1896, Mr. Fisher, Sr. made many of the caskets used in his business. However, when a family wanted a more expensive casket, one was ordered from a St. Louis Company, the same as is done today. More than 50 years after his death, and after Fisher-Rose was out of business, an old storage building was torn down. In an attic room was found fifteen or twenty old caskets made by the Fisher family. While they would bring high prices today from antique dealers, they were hauled to a dump and burned.


One of the best known Calhoun undertakers in the 1900-1930 period was John Rose of Kampsville. As a young man, he taught school at Columbiana and Gilead, and then decided to join his father, Thomas A. Rose, one of the communities' busiest men. He operated a general store, handled the undertaking business, and was agent and warehouse operator for the Eagle Packet Co. We do not know when John went into business for himself, but his name appears with m any Kampsville funerals listed in County records after 1900. One record tells of his handling the funeral of his brother, Charles Rose, Kampsville policeman, who was killed in 1910. One May 1, 1912, Morris Fisher sold his business and equipment to John Rose, which meant that Rose would be conducting most of the funerals in Hardin, Gilead, Hamburg, Michael, and Kampsville, until his death in 1934.

In some cases, he went to the homes to prepare the bodies for burial, but other times it was taken to the buildings in Hardin or Kampsville where caskets and other equipment were kept. His daughter, Minnie Baumgartner of St. Charles, Missouri, recalls her father working on caskets, lining them with a pink and shirred satin and wide black lace. She also remembers the large black horses with fancy black harness and the large black hearse. Many older people may remember this ornate hearse with the high driver's seat in front and highly polished brass lamps on each side. Occasionally, when the roads were in bad condition, a second team was attached to the hearse.

Another incident remembered by Minnie was when the flu epidemic broke out during World War I, and thousands of service men died in the Army camps. A body was shipped to Kampsville for burial and it was supposed to have been accompanied by a soldier from the camp. When the body arrived, without the escort, it had to be buried immediately. The escort had been separated from the body and he did not arrive in Kampsville until the day after the funeral. Then it was found that the U. S. Flag had been buried with the casket, so it was necessary to disinter to remove the flag. Rose, sho was provoked by the escort getting lost on the way to Kampsville, made a remark to the escort, remembered by many of the old timers: "You ar a H__ of a soldier. You can't even keep up with a dead one."

Rose was interested in his profession and became one of the first licensed embalmers in the area. His daughter remembers the many ways John was paid for his services. Many times he came home leading livestock, while another time he accepted a rare watch which had to be wound with a key. The first trouble he had with his first motorized hearse, which he bought in 1923, was getting it from Carrollton to Kampsville. The Illinois River was filled with floating ice for weeks.

John Rose passed away in 1934, four days after conducting a funeral. He is buried in the Summit Grove Cemetery with many members of the Rose Family.


It wasn't until September of 1945 that I attended a funeral where arrangements were handled by C. C. and Paul B. Hanks. It was a funeral of my friend, Arthur Buchanan, of Hardin. The body was kept at the home in North Hardin, while services and burial was at Indian Creek. The funeral sermon was given by C. C. Hanks, at request of his longtime friend, Art Buchanan.

It was June 12, 1913 that Clifford C. Hanks became a funeral director and opened his business in Pearl, Illinois. After he had completed a course of study in Chicago, at the Barnes Institute of Sanitary Science and Embalming in 1912, he purchased the funeral business of Mr. Roy Gant. The first hearse owned by Mr. Hanks was black, highly carved with carbide lights on each side for night driving. It was drawn by horses and kept until the late 1920's when it was given to a neighbor who had helped the family in many ways.

In 19243, a Model T Ford hearse was purchased. A chassis was bought and the ornately carved gray body placed on the chassis. Paul remembers that about half the time they couldn't start the motor. Many Pearl residents have said the vehicle was pushed more miles than it was driven under its own power.

A Chevrolet chassis with a gear shift was bought in 1926, but the body of the old hearse was kept and mounted on the Chevrolet chassis. In 1929, Richard Harmon of Pleasant Hill and C. C. Hanks purchased Miller Motor Hearse with a Hudson Motor. Frank Ward of Pleasant Hill, a successor t Harmon in the funeral business has had several columns in the Pleasant Hill Messenger about the hearse. In one article, he said: "Mr. Harmon did not wish to give ambulance service, and as Hanks gave this service, the hearse was usually kept a Pearl. The tow directors arranged the hours for each funeral so as not to interfere with each other. The plan usually worked, but at times when Harmon needed the hearse, it was at Pearl. Then someone (usually me) drove my Model T over to Hanks to get the ambulance, and then return it after the funeral." When Paul read the article, he said he was the one who drove the hearse many times between the two towns. In the late 1930's, both Harmon and Hanks purchased a new Packard Hearse for their business.

A custom carried on by the Hanks family in the early days was the lining of graves with muslin or cheesecloth material dyed in color. Mrs. Hanks would dye bolts of cloth in an old iron kettle. When a family desired this service, the material would be placed on the sides of the grave at an extra charge of seventy-five cents. We understand that the person who went into the grave and placed the cloth on the sides with large headed roofing nails was young Paul Hanks. This was his introduction to the funeral business.

A number of years later, Mr. Hanks purchased the funeral business in Kampsville that had been operated by the Simpson Funeral Home of Carrollton. At first they rented rooms in the Armstrong property for visitation purposes. After several years the Hanks purchased the property, but when no longer in use, the house was sold to Northwestern University.

In January of 1940, C. C. Hanks purchased the funeral business in Hardin from Kenneth Sidwell. Rooms were rented on the ground floor of what was previously the Bailey Hotel. This was located on the southeast corner of Park and Main Streets. After a short time, the funeral home was moved to a house owned by Andrew Campbell, at the corner of Park and Franklin Streets.

In December of 1946, Paul B. Hanks, son of C. C. Hanks, having been separated from ilitary service, completed a course of study at the St. Louis College of Mortuary Science. He became fully licensed as an embalmer and funeral director.

In January of 1947, the residence of Mrs. Zita Schrieber, located at the corner of South County Road and Childs, was purchased. Extensive remodeling was done, and in June of that year, a modern funeral home was completed and opened for business. This was the first such facility for Calhoun County, and since it was opened very few people have been returned to their residences for visitation.

In 1948, Paul Hanks became part owner in the Hanks firm, and he and Mrs. Hanks, the former Loretta Mack of Carlinville, resided in the apartment adjoining the funeral home in Hardin. In 1951, Paul was called back into service during the Korean Conflict. Loyal and Virginia Linthicum then joined the Hanks firm, Loyal being a licensed embalmer and funeral director. The Linthicums stayed with the firm until 1961. Marquis and Betty Berrey, formerly of Batchtown, then joined the firm and are employed to this date. One July 4, 1986, the Berreys completed 25 years with the Hanks firm.

The H. A. Imming family of Brussels served the South County area for funeral needs. The Moenning family of Meppen had at one time kept a supply of caskets, serving the Meppen community. In 1964, Mr. Imming was in poor health and decided to retire from the funeral business. The Hanks firm purchased his business. Mr. Imming had operated his business in his residence. A new chapel was constructed at the south edge of Brussels, and this new facility has been much appreciated by the residents of South Calhoun. Mr. C. C. Hanks died March 26, 1966.

In July of 1985, the Hanks business was purchased on a long-term agreement, by Richard and Helen Gubser of Jerseyville. The Bubser name has been familiar in the funeral business in this area for many decades. Paul and Loretta Hanks are still very much active in the business. Extensive remodeling of the Hardin facility was completed in January, 1987. The traditional funeral service so long provided by the Hanks family will continue to serve the residents of Calhoun, South Pike and neighboring areas. Since 1913, thousands of people have been served by the Hanks establishments. Phil Gress, a licensed embalmer and funeral director joined the firm in 1985.

Other Undertakers

While much time has been spent telling of the four families that handled most of the Calhoun funerals, there were other undertakers who spent a number of years in different areas of the County.

In South Calhoun, we find Anton and Casper Cappel, Henry Fortschneider. Some books mention Conrad and Charles Wittmond and Herman Stahl, but they were casket salesmen and did not go to homes to prepare the bodies or to the cemeteries for services. In the Meppen area, we find Martin Hazelhorst, Sr. and Herman Grille, while at Batchtown, the men who worked as undertakers were H. Dorworth, John Earley, Ellis Inman, Peter Sagez and a Mr. Morton. It should be mentioned that Mr. Moennig made dozens of caskets at his workshop for people in the community.

In the early days in Hardin, Ed Athy and Norvell Ruyle of Hamburg handled many of the funerals. In the Kampsville neighborhood there are mentioned in early records, F. Mosler, August Dickerman, and a Mr. Oberjohn. In the early 1930's two popular undertakers were John Sutter of Kampsville and Kenneth Sidwell of Hardin. Sutter sold to Simpsons and purchased the Eddy Funeral Home in Pittsfield. Sidwell sold to Hanks and moved to Arizona for his health.

The First Fifty Years

This is a period that our county records give little information about deaths and burials. The cemetery and church records are either incomplete or unavailable, but we are sure that most of the work was done by relatives and friends and few undertakers were available.

Recently a fine book was written by Mrs. Velma Vanausdoll of Shipman, and a native of the Apple Creek region of Greene County. One section of the book was called: "Death, Customs, and Funerals." Her story fits Calhoun County so well that I asked permission to reprint some of the paragraphs in this book. Permission was granted and here is Mrs. Vanausdoll's story.

Death, Customs and Funerals

"Yesterday's gone, and today's manners, morals, and customs are those of a new world.

When this century was young, people in rural areas did not go to hospitals. If one broke a leg, the country doctor came to his home, set the broken bone, and told him to stay off it a couple of weeks. If one had appendicitis, there was a good chance the operation would be done on his own kitchen table, and if one was sick for weeks, or even months, the neighbors came in and brought prepared foods, and stayed to help with the cooking and housework, and sit up nights with the sick or dying, and neighbor men took care of the outdoor chores. That sounds as though the men did not help inside, but they did. There were nearly always two or three men to sit up, especially with the dying.

As soon as death came, someone (in my memory, my mother) was called on to lay out the corpse. She washed the body and dressed it in the funeral clothes, combed the hair, tied up the lower jaw, and put pennies on the eyelids and folded the hands neatly. Embalming was not required by law, and undertakers were seldom brought in.

While this was being done, the sexton of the local church was tolling the death knell – a slow tapping of the church bell – one beat for each year of life of the deceased.

Black crepe was tied to the doorknobs, and a large black wreath tied with a black crepe bow was fastened to the outside of the front door. Any portraits of the deceased were draped with black crepe for 30 days, and sometimes the crepe was never removed. A veil of black crepe was put over each hive if bees were kept. It was believed that the bees left if they were not told when there was a death in the house.

Someone might go to town and buy a coffin, or the men either of the family of the neighborhood might build one, and the family went into mourning garb. All the women wore unrelieved black, and a widow wore a long heavy black veil (no wonder they often fainted before the funeral was finally over). The men work black armbands, and everyone in the family had a handkerchief with about a half-inch black border. Friends and relatives at a distance were notified of the death on black-bordered stationery, and for several months the family used the mourning stationery for any necessary communications.

The corpse was laid out in a cool room, usually the family parlor, sometimes a spare bedroom, and friends and neighbors came in to share the death watch. Often what I felt should have been quiet respect for the dead and the bereaved took on more the aspect of a small party or a family reunion, but at least the friendly support was there until the funeral.

Funeral services were held in the home more often ant in the church, and a "funeral parlor" was unknown. The music was songs and hymns sung by the assemblage, usually without instrumental accompaniment.

The hearse wasn't much like the ones we see today. Of course it was horse-drawn – a huge black box with crepe-draped sides (only the most expensive had glass sides), and a fringed top. The horses had black pompoms or plumes on the hames, and black crepe or feathers on the temples.

All six pallbearers actually carried the coffin out and put it into the hearse, and at the cemetery, carried it to the graveside and helped the grave digger lower it and six or more flower girls actually carried flowers (many of them handmade wreaths and sprays from the gardens of the donors), and after the grave was filled, the flower girls gave the final tribute when they placed the flowers on the grave."

Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was once known, has always been a time to visit the graves of loved ones. Flowers are usually placed on the graves, and the cemeteries look beautiful. The advent of the power mower and artificial flowers has completely changed the looks of cemeteries. The old custom of having a "cemetery cleaning" prior to Memorial Day is almost a thing of the past. Not so once, when survivors and neighbors would assemble with sickles and scissors to mow and clean the cemetery. Naturally, a picnic lunch was always enjoyed at the cemetery cleaning. Thanks to the powe mower most cemeteries now look like a village lawn.

I am taking the liberty to use a fine article by Linda Nolte telling of a death in South Calhoun.

The Wake and Burial of Benedict Sackman

The following are part of a series of articles written by members of the history class of Brussels Community High School. Larry Underwood is the history class instructor. The bits of Calhoun's history uncovered by the students make interesting reading.

By Linda Nolte

In the olden days things were quite different as you known. One of the biggest differences between now and yester-year was the way the dead were taken care of. In this story, I will tell you how my great-grandfather was prepared for the wake and how he was buried.

On May 31, 1919, Mr. Benedict Sackman died. He had been ailing and bout 6:00 in the evening, Mr. Sackman slipped off into a peaceful, eternal sleep.

The members of the family tried to spread the word by the telephone, but on that particular evening the telephone wouldn't work. The family then contacted the nearest neighbors who then told the rest of the friends.

The wake was held the same night that he died. Since there was no undertaker and no funeral parlor, his son, Ben, made a rough lumber box that he was laid in for the wake which was held in his home. The box Mr. Sackman was to be laid in was filled half full with ice that was gotten from an ice house of Mr. Eilerman's that was along the Mississippi River. The ice was bought in 100 pound blocks, then hauled to the house by horse and wagon. When it got to the house the ice was chopped into small pieces to place n the box. Big tubs were placed underneath of the box to catch the water as the ice melted. He was kept this way for two days.

Two neighbors dug Mr. Sackman's grave. Other neighbors shaved and dressed him in his burial clothes. Then they placed him in his coffin.

The coffin was bought from the Samuel White Store in Batchtown, Illinois. They were kept in the upper part of the two story structure.

On June 2nd Mr. Sackman was hauled in a hearse, which the county owned, to St. Barbara's Church in Bachtown, Illinois. He was buried by Father Wardenin, who was Meppen's priest at the time, but did offer mass at St. Barbara's Church once a month. Mr. Sackman was the last person that Father Wardein buried before he left for another parish. After the mass, Mr. Sackman was taken in the hearse to St. Barbara's Cemetery where he was buried. His funeral was largely attended by friends and relatives.

Other Customs

Little can be added to the information given in Mrs. Vanausdoll's article and Linda's story. In Calhoun, the term "wake" was used sometimes, but it was usually called "sitting up." The custom is said to have started in some European countries where the people believed in ghosts or evil spirits. The family thought a group of men had to be present to prevent the stealing of the body. In this country, some believed hoards of rats, cats, other animals would invade the house and steal the corpse. In Calhoun, many homes had lighted candles in the room where the body of the deceased was kept. The men who were sitting up would go into the room many times during the night to inspect the candles. The men usually sat in the kitchen where coffee and food was served several times during the night. In Calhoun, it was a serious occasion.

Another practice in the old days was placing articles in the casket of the deceased. In Calhoun, Mr. Hanks remembers the placing of pictures and religious articles, canes, crutches, tobacco, cigarettes, a wedding gown, gold chain and other jewelry as keepsakes of the deceased. Each of four children of one family was given a gold watch at confirmation. Many years later, as each died, the watch was placed in the casket. The most unusual article to be place in a casket was a spade.

A custom in some communities was to have each pallbearer wear thin white gloves. The gloves were placed on the casket and lowered into the grave. On Saturday morning, April 15, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln passed away. When you visit his home in Springfield, you will note that the clock in the parlor was stopped at 7:22, the exact time of his death. This same custom was carried on in many Calhoun homes. Another custom was the covering of a mirror. It is said that anyone who looked into the mirror in the presence of the deceased would be the next to die.

One of the greatest changes is the digging of the graves at the cemetery. In the old days, the neighbors would dig the grave as they felt honored to be allowed to do this service for the family. Now according to state law, all burial must be handled by a licensed undertaker as he is the only person that can get a burial permit from the County Clerk's office. Now the graves are dug with a back hoe by a man who works for the undertaker. A highly geared mechanism is used to lower the casket and vault instead of using reins of the harness of horses.

Tents, artificial grass, heaters during cold weather, chairs, and other conveniences are now used in our cemeteries to comfort the families and to mask the harshness of the open grave.

Up until the mid-1930's, it was very common for the embalming of the deceased to be performed at the residence. Embalming, then and now, was not required, but if that operation was not performed, burial was usually made that same day, or the following day. The practice of removal soon became standard procedure, and embalming is now done in funeral establishments. The education given the present-day embalmer, and the chemicals and cosmetics available have completely changed the embalming procedure.

Funeral directors prefer to use clothing for burial purposes that the deceased wore during his or her lifetime. However, most do have on hand suits, sport coats and slacks, and dresses. These are full-cut clothes, and are of the same material as street clothes. They cannot be compared to the Apparel once known as "shrouds." A shroud for men was composed of a jacket front, a shirt of white paper or cardboard, and a little black tie. The ladies' shrouds were usually black fronts with white lace collars. For both men and women, black material was wrapped around the body from the waist down.

Caskets at that time were all of wood construction. Usually they were covered with moleskin material, or had some form of a plush covering. The more expensive type of covering was a high pile plush material. The casket interiors were usually put in by hand, and a selection of linings was available. Most caskets were white, gray or black. If the deceased was under 21 and single, everything was white; over 21 or married, the gray or black selection was used.

The present day selection of metal caskets came into prominence when steel was no longer needed for the "Great War" effort. A choice of one or two cloth covered caskets is all that is usually available now.

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