Monday, December 1, 2008

Pioneer undertakers

Further to yesterday's post about Orlando's earliest graveyard, I would like to introduce ye rabbits to the city's earliest undertakers.

Until the arrival of Edgar A. Richards, a carpetbagger from Massachusetts, most folks in this little corner of heaven oversaw the burial of their own family and friends.

Mr. Richards made things easier on the grieving survivors, though, with his ready supply of coffins at his furniture store . . . not to mention a willing shovel.

But, it wasn't until 1887, when Elijah Hand came to these parts that embalming of bodies was introduced to our funerary customs.

Before Hand's arrival, there was a custom that anyone who died before noon had to be buried by sundown. Anyone who died after noon would be buried the next morning.

But, with Mr. Hand's introduction of embalming fluid, funerals could be postponed a few days . . . a very convenient thing when you consider how difficult travel conditions could otherwise restrict turn-out for a good wake.

After a couple of years in competition with each other, Mr. Richards and Mr. Hand teamed-up to serve the community.

Ironically, while Mr. Richards' fine obelisk may still be seen at Greenwood Cemetery southeast of downtown Orlando, Mr. Hand (father of local embalming) was himself embalmed and sent back to his old hometown of Shelbyville, Indiana, for burial!

That being said, Mr. Hand's son Carey remained in Orlando and it is his name that has become synonymous with the funeral business right up to the present day.

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