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Undertaking in
North Manchester
& Laketon

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Historical Society
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(submitted on April 1, 2011, an update to Mike McKee's article in Nov 2003 issue of the NMHS Newsletter)


Stewart & Ellwood-  Augustus E. Stewart (b.1855 – d. before 1926) opens an undertaking parlor at 216 E. Main Street in North Manchester about 1875.  The 1880 census lists his occupation as cabinet maker.  His residence is built at 104 W. Second Street in 1881.   Mr. Stewart has likely come to North Manchester sooner as several publications refer to him as one of the pioneers.   He is active about the town and serves as town trustee in 1892.   Stewart is joined by John C. Ellwood, (b.1848-d.1918) who comes to North Manchester from Ohio in 1876.  He is a cabinetmaker and a civil war veteran, possibly part of an embalming team.  This business is sold to Gara & Wise in January 1900.  Mr. Ellwood retires and Mr. Stewart remains with Gara & Wise as a salesman until August of 1902.  Later that month, on August 14, 1902, A.E. Stewart announces his purchase of A. Haines & Son Undertaking at 224 E. Main Street.                 



         John & Emma Ellwood


Jacob Meisner- Very little is known.  His name appears on the black and white sign to the right in this photograph and, apparently is operating from the Stewart & Ellwood building.    He is listed in Helms’ 1884 History of Wabash County as being an undertaker in North Manchester in 1879.










Stewart & Ellwood Undertaking 216 E. Main Street   Circa 1900       





 Siling Brothers, Tighlman & Milton, constructed a three story woodworking shop at 115 E. Main Street about 1857.  Along with tables, chairs and other household furniture, they built coffins.  Though not documented as undertakers, they probably performed some funeral related duties.  They are gone from town by 1861 and their business is sold to Joe Tilman, and later to Saul Argerbright.  Both continue to build coffins.  In the late 1870’s this building became the Young Hotel and burned February 25, 1943.

 Gara & Wise Furniture & Undertaking- Willis A. Gara (b.1863) and John K. Wise described by the News-Journal as very pleasant appearing gentlemen from Cerro Gordo, Illinois. They purchase the Stewart & Ellwood establishment at 216 E. Main Street in January 1900. A.E. Stewart stays in their employ as he is listed as a salesman for Gara & Wise in the 1901-02 telephone directory.   Evidence of this business had been preserved by the owners of 216 E. Main Street, with the words “Gara and Wise Furniture Undertaking” painted in the alley.  In the 1990’s all but the word undertaking was painted over.  In 2009 the brick alley wall was completely repainted by the owner.  This building is sold to Abram Burkhart in 1909 and was not used as an undertaking parlor after that time.  Through the years it has been several different businesses, and since the 1950’s has been an eatery and tavern.  In March of 2008, the author was allowed to search through basement of this building looking for any artifacts of the undertaking establishments that were there.  Nothing was found.

  A. Haines & Son- Circa. 1898. Open an undertaking parlor at 224 E. Main Street.  Melvin O. Haines (b.1876) is the son and local contact as Alfred Haines (b.1847) is from Middlebury and never actually lives in North Manchester.  They sell to A.E. Stewart in August of 1902.  Melvin Haines stays in the employ of Mr. Stewart, where he trains a young George Bender.  This location will be the site of several undertaking parlors until about 1922. The 1901-02 phone directory lists Haines & Son on the south side of Main St., 4 doors west of Mill.  Seen in this picture, the first room west of J.H. Butterbaugh Harness & Buggies.




Fogel & Walters- Furniture and undertaking.  Jacob Fogel and Charles M. Walters (b.1867-d.1945) formerly of Kewanna, Indiana, form this business in 1901.  In July 1903 they purchase Gara & Wise and operate from their location.  Mr. Fogel sells his interest to S.S. Gump in 1905.




Gump & Walters Furniture and Undertaking firm formed by Samuel S. Gump (b.1869-d.1940) and Charles M. Walters in 1905 probably at the site of the former Gara & Wise and Fogel & Walters, 216 E. Main Street.  In February 1906 Gump & Walters invest in their first motorized hearse.  It is black in color and cost $1800.00 In 1910 they move to the newly constructed 229-31 E. Main Street then refered to as “Gump Block”. The 1914-15 telephone directory lists the firm at 229 E. Main Street.  By 1912  J.W. Dewey (b.1875-d.1948) who is a cashier with the Lawrence National Bank, joins the firm to form Gump-Walters & Dewey.  Mr. Dewey is an inactive member of the firm. Employed with the firm for six years is Garber D. Wright (b.1890-d.1981) a 1910 graduate of the Indianapolis Mortuary School.  In about 1918 he leaves this career and becomes a longtime Lagro township farmer. This business is dissolved in October 1918 when S.S. Gump purchases the interest of Mr. Walters. Mr. Dewey pursues his banking interests and serves as vice-president of Indiana Lawrence Bank until his retirement in 1945.  Apparently bitterness exists between Gump and Walters and an injunction  is filed by Gump against Walters.  Walters is restrained from practice for a short time.  In 1919 Arthur C. Paulus joins S.S. Gump and Ohmer Gump to establish Gump Bros. & Paulus.  This business dissolves the next year and S.S. Gump & Co. operates until August 1920.  Arthur C. Paulus is the son of LaFayette Paulus that operated Paulus & Son in Sidney, IN sometime after the turn of the twentieth century.  This undertaking parlor is thought to have been operated from their home near the first cross road north of Sidney.   Mr. Gump, a farmer, attended Bridgewater College and graduates from Manchester College’s 3 Year Bible Course in 1903.   In 1893 he is elected to the ministry of the Hickory Grove (Ohio) German Baptist Brethren.  After leaving North Manchester around 1920, he resides in Riverside, California where he is a broker in real estate.  He died July 2, 1940 in San Bernardino, CA.     

  J.W. Dewey, circa 1915








Gump-Walters & Dewey sign at 229 E. Main Street.  The “Gump Block” Circa 1915



 Southwest corner of Mill & Main Streets, Gump Block being built in 1910. 227,229,231 E. Main Street.




 Garber D. Wright on the Gump & Walters horse-drawn delivery sleigh at Mill & Fourth Streets in 1913.

Gump-Walters & Dewey Furniture and Undertakers in 1913. 
Garber D. Wright is the man on the far left.  Third from the left is J.W. Dewey.               


 Gump, Walters & Dewey, 1913 Interior

  Inside of Gump-Walters & Dewey in 1913.  


Interior (1913) of Gump, Walters & Dewey

Inside of Gump-Walters & Dewey in 1913.  Garber D. Wright is to the right of the large pole. 
Though not positively identified, the other men in this picture probably include S.S. Gump, Charles Walters, and J.W. Dewey.

N. Manchester Furniture Store ca.1920

This picture is at a North Manchester furniture store probably at 205 E. Main Street. Though not positively identified, research suggests the man on the right is Charles M. Walters and the man on the left is Jacob Fogel. Their undertaking parlor was located at 216 E. Main Street in downtown North Manchester, IN. Circa 1903. 


      Ralph E. Gottschall          Alpha (McKee) Gottschall            

      Ralph E. Gottschall                Alpha (McKee) Gottschall

O.A. Gottschall & Son. -  Ralph E. Gottschall (b.1895-d.1973) and his wife, Alpha (McKee) Gottschall (b.1895-d.1973), open an undertaking parlor at the B.F. Shilts residence on the northeast corner of Mill and Main Streets.  Their opening was March 16, 1920 and by March 29 they had relocated over the Oppenheim store opposite Dr. Wright’s dental parlor.  Ralph’s father Owen A. Gottschall has a financial interest in the firm but is not a licensed mortician.  Charles M. Walters is employed with the Gottschall’s and possibly purchases part interest for in the February 24, 1921 edition of the News-Journal, the firm is advertised as Gottschall & Walters  but then by April it is once again called O.A. Gottschall & Son.  The Gottschall family relocate to Ladoga, Indiana later in May of 1921 where they operated a funeral home from 404 N. Washington Street and later moved to 203 N. Washington Street.  The Gottschall family was in business there until 1948.   Walters operates from their former location for a short time in 1922.  Ralph and Alpha Gottschall retired to Deerfield Beach, Florida where they were tragically killed in an auto accident in 1973.  Charles Walters is later employed with A.L. Turner and George N. Bender, and through the 1920’s is primarily involved in the theater business.

 A.L. Turner & Son- Operate from January to December 1921.  They purchase the stock and building from Gump Bros. and operate from 231 E. Main Street.  The son's name is Mack, and they have operated parlors in Mentone, Bourbon, Argos and Rochester.  Arthur Paulus is an undertaker with the firm at its founding but later moves to Chicago.  He is replaced by Charles M. Walters. Allen L. Turner has been in the banking business for quite some time.  George N. Bender purchases them December 14, 1921.  On March 23, 1922 Turner & Son purchase the Naftzger hardware.   Later, in May 1925 A.L. Turner trades the Naber farm for the Sidney Hardware. 

  Joseph H. Bonner & Sons- Furniture & undertaking, established in 1875 in the area of 205 E. Main Street.  Joseph H. Bonner (b.1842-d.1906) settles in North Manchester in the late 1860’s.  By 1883 he has established himself in the lumber, saw mill, and livery business.  From 1872-1881 he is in the hardware business with L.J. Noftzger.  By 1905 the Bonner family have business interests in Arkansas and J.H. Bonner’s sons, Blaine H. Bonner (b.1881-d.1942), John C. Bonner (b.1884-d.1974), Will Bonner and Harry W. Bonner (b.1878 –d.1940) carry on their father’s business interests after his death on Nov. 15, 1906.  In December 1916 they purchase an auto hearse.  By 1918, John C. Bonner is the resident manager of the establishment when they sell the furniture & undertaking parlor and relocate to Memphis, Tennessee.  They have large timber and sawmill interests at Heth, Arkansas across the Mississippi River from Memphis. A forest fire destroys their timber and saw mill in November 1924.  In 2007, all floors, including the basement of 205 E. Main Street were searched for possible artifacts.  Unfortunately, nothing was found.   


John Bonner 1920              J.H. Bonner & Sons Hearse ca.1917

John Bonner 1920                J. H. Bonner & Sons hearse in Oaklawn Cemetery around 1917


Bender Funeral Home- Founded by George N. Bender (b.1882-d.1950) in February, 1918.  A 1907 graduate of Chicago School for Embalmers, he is employed as a licensed undertaker for A.E. Stewart and by 1915 is the store manager and undertaker for J.H. Bonner & Sons, located at 205 E. Main Street.  His funeral home is a consolidation of J.H. Bonner, which he purchases in January 1918; A.E. Stewart in 1920, and A.L. Turner in December 1921. With his purchase of A.L. Turner, Bender separates the musical instruments and phonographs from the furniture and undertaking.  He will move the musical stock to his own store located next to the Indiana State Bank, (the former Bonner store at 205 E. Main street) and the furniture and undertaking will operate from the Turner store, (at 231 E. Main street) as it is better suited for such operation. Charles M. Walters and Paul Landis, experienced undertakers will be retained.   Landis will later establish his own funeral home in Warsaw, Indiana in 1925.  On May 12, 1919 Bender announces the addition of an “auto ambulance” and in 1926, son Todd B. Bender (b.1906-d.1975) joins the family business.  In 1929 George Bender moves his business to 205-07 W. Main Street which he purchased in a 1925 sheriff’s sale.  It had been the Bonner family residence since their purchase of it in a 1904 delinquent tax sale.  This building was a project of George Lawrence that began in 1883 and was completed in 1886.  An addition to the library room was added to the residence around 1900.


 Bender Funeral Home in 1929         
 Bender Funeral Home in 1929      


 Bender Funeral Home 1974

  Bender Funeral Home 1974


  George & Nina Bender circa 1945                   Audra Tilman 1977                        Aubrey DeLaughter circa 1965

     George & Nina Bender circa 1945                                 Audra Tilman 1977                          Aubrey DeLaughter circa 1965

 Sometime before 1935 Bender adds to the brick carriage house; offices, preparation room, and casket selection. The Bender family will operate from this location for the next 56 years. George and Todd Bender both serve as Wabash County Coroner from 1928 to 1936 and 1936 to 1944 respectfully.   It should be noted that Audra P. Tilman (b.1884-d.1977) served as the Bender Funeral Home secretary for 34 years, from 1930-1964.  Although never a licensed mortician, she was indeed a very active member of the firm and did the record and bookkeeping until the age of 80.  Another notable name in history of Bender’s is Aubrey X. DeLaughter (b.1909-d.1970) who, also never a licensed mortician, spent 31 years in funeral service as an employee of the Bender family from 1939 until his death in 1970.  George Bender dies in 1950, and his widow Nina P. Bender (b.1882-d.1963) assists her son with the funeral home until her death.                    



    Todd B. Bender 1960                     James B. Finley 1979             Michael E. Snyder 1979

       Todd B. Bender 1960                           James B. Finley 1979              Michael E. Snyder 1979

 After a 43 year career in undertaking and funeral service, Todd Bender sells the funeral home in 1969 to James B. Finley (b.1924-d.1981), an employee since 1948, and Michael E. Snyder (b.1936-d.1996) a son-in-law who joined the funeral home in 1961.  Jim Finley’s retirement in 1976 leaves Mike Snyder sole owner until he sells Bender Funeral Home to Mike Garrett & Gary Sloane Mortuary of Wabash, Indiana in 1985.   Garrett & Sloane dissolve in 1992 and the business is then purchased by Ken & Kathie Grandstaff and Steve & Jane Hentgen, of Wabash, Indiana.  In 2010 it operates as Grandstaff-Hentgen Funeral Service. 

E.P. Paul- (b.1878-d.1936) First name Earl, he opens an undertaking parlor and furniture store at 224 E. Main Street in 1924.  This has been the location for A. Haines, and A.L. Turner.  The Paul family came to town from Pyrmont in Carroll County, Indiana in the 1920’s and lived on North Sycamore Street.  The family consisted of the parents and children Thomas, Gladys, Galen and John.  He is one of the first undertakers to advertise in the local News-Journal.  “Rendering Conscientious and Unstinted Service” proclaim his ad, along with phone numbers Eel River 641 and Rex 104.  Ambulance service and lady assistant are also offer.  He is advertised as a funeral director rather than an undertaker, which is about the period of time that this term changed.  E.P. Paul closes his business in 1929 which will be the last of the old store front undertaking parlors in North Manchester.  He relocated to Bourbon, IN where he operated an undertaking parlor until his death in 1936.


 E. P. Paul and son Thomas Paul circa 1930

             E.P. Paul (left) and son Thomas Paul (right) at 224 E. Main Street about 1930.

Wright Funeral Home- Founded by Walter L. Wright (b.1897-d.1967) at 405 N. Mill Street on May 1, 1929.  This is the former residence of J.W. Dewey and family.  He is assisted by relative Dr. Glenn E. Wright, a neighbor and local dentist.  He is listed in the 1914-15 telephone directory as an employee of J.H. Bonner & Sons.  Like Mr. Bender, Walter Wright has purchased a large residential home just blocks from downtown.  Funeral homes are now replacing undertaking parlors.  Wright moves to 203 E. Main Street on April 5, 1934 and later closes his business by December 6, 1934.  He is later employed by George N. Bender for several years, served as a Wabash County deputy coroner, and retired from Eddingfield Mortuary at Wabash, Indiana in about 1965.

  W.L Wright Funeral Home 1929-1934 & L.P. Burgess Funeral Home 1943-1964

W.L. Wright Funeral Home 1929-1934 & L.P. Burgess Funeral Home 1943-1964




Burgess Funeral Home- Founded at 313 N. Mill Street by Lewis P. Burgess (b.1889-d.1964) on February 9, 1935.  In October 1943 he acquires and relocates to 405 N. Mill Street, the former Wright Funeral Home. Burgess Funeral Home will operate from this location for the next 21 years. The business was closed with his sudden death on March 26, 1964.


            Lewis P. Burgess 1960                      L.P. Burgess Funeral Home 1935-1943

                   Lewis P. Burgess 1960                       L. P. Burgess Funeral Home 1935-1943


Dickerson Wayside Funeral Chapel- Founded by Rev. & Mrs. Leonard Custer, they have a vision of a newly constructed, one level funeral chapel on State Road 114 at the west edge of town. Well known to the community through their service in the Church of the Brethren, the Custer’s introduce their new facility with an open house held November 16 & 17, 1963.   It has been built to serve specifically as a funeral chapel, offering large visitation rooms, opposite the numerous small rooms found in renovated old homes.


Bruce Young, Rev. Custer, Rev. Lester Young

Left to Right- Bruce Young, Rev. Leonard Custer, Rev. Lester Young
at the front entrance of Dickerson Wayside Funeral Chapel.  April 1966







Off street parking is also a feature of the new chapel, which was built by Frantz Lumber Co.  Eldo Renicker, Noah Yoder, and Walter Coning doing the carpentry.  The Custer’s are truly pioneers of the contemporary funeral homes we know today.  Mr. Neville H. Dickerson, who manages the firm, relocates his funeral practice to Connersville, Indiana in December, 1967, and his portion of the business is purchased by Darwin DeLaughter.



DeLaughter Mortuary in 1968

DeLaughter Mortuary in 1968.  A 1962 ambulance/hearse is in front of the building.


DeLaughter Mortuary- Founded in January, 1968 by Darwin & Valeria DeLaughter.  They operate from the former Dickerson location at 1401 State Road 114 West.   Construction of additional off-street parking is added in 1972.  A longtime ambulance provider, DeLaughter discontinues the last funeral home ambulance service in Wabash County in 1988.  He serves as Wabash County Coroner from 1976-1984 and again from 1992-1996.  The DeLaughter’s retire in January of 2007 after 39 years of service to North Manchester and surrounding communities.                                                                                                                                                                  

DeLaughter-McKee Mortuary- On February 1, 1992 Michael & Kelly McKee become partners in the firm. Mike is a great-nephew to Ralph E. & Alpha (McKee) Gottschall, undertakers who operated in North Manchester during the 1920’s.  Mike is employed with the Bender family from 1979 –1985.  In 1992, at 1401 State Road 114 West, reconstruction is done to the interior, and a third off street parking area is added. In 1998 a major addition begins that adds a third visitation chapel, handicapped accessible restrooms, and a dining room for family dinners.    

McKee Mortuary- In January of 2007, Mike & Kelly become sole owners of DeLaughter-McKee Mortuary.  That summer, a three bay garage that was east of the main building is removed.  This added thirteen additional parking spaces with two spaces dedicated to handicapped parking.  The name of the firm was officially changed to McKee Mortuary in January of 2009.


Mike, Kelly, Abby & Mattie McKee

Mike, Kelly, Abby & Mattie McKee




McKee Mortuary 2009

McKee Mortuary 2009

                                                    AT LAKETON


Henry Ogden (b.1823-d.1911) son of Pleasant Township pioneer Elihue Ogden, is said to have been a cabinet maker and later handled coffins and funeral furnishings.  He came to Wabash County in 1839 and settled in Laketon around 1850.  His coffins were made of walnut and he bought velvet in North Manchester for the inner lining.  He is recognized as an undertaker in the 1882 county directory.  Sometime around the turn of the 20th century, along with Loren O. Wertenberger (b.1875-d.1966), Ogden & Wertenberger Undertaking Co.  was established.  Henry Ogden died May 27, 1911 and is buried in Laketon Cemetery.

 In 1919, Mr. Wertenberger and his son-in-law Ralph Vories, established Wertenberger-Vories Funeral Home.  It was located downtown probably the same location as Ogden & Wertenberger and in 1923 was moved to Lake and Potawatomi streets in Laketon. Ralph Vories entered military service in June 1944 and business was temporarily suspended until his return in 1947.  Mr. Wertenberger, more fondly known as “Kernie” is said to have been a kind and courteous man.  At one time he was in the hardware business with Howard W. Rager and in 1926 sold his portion to Robert Fulton.  A musician, he and his wife Mae with daughters Deloris, Maxine and Marjorie, performed with their small orchestra in the local churches.  For many years he served as conductor of the Laketon Band.  Also a dog trainer, Kernie had several terriers that put on shows for the local citizens in Laketon. 

 His undertaking parlor was equipped with small living quarters, preparation room and later a large room for the display of caskets was added to the south end of the building.  The parlor was seldom used during this period of time for visitations were still being held in the family home.  He had a black hearse which he kept for many years.  The Wertenberger family residence was the first house east of the funeral parlor which Mr. Wertenberger had built new.  Laketon native Charles Moyer worked under Kernie Wertenberger and later established his own funeral home in Akron, Indiana.  They remained life long friends and when Mr. Wertenberger died in 1966 at the age of 91, Charlie Moyer was called to have charge of the funeral.


L.O. Wertenberger& his first motorized hearse in 1925  in front of Laketon Harware Store


L. O. Wertenberger in front of the Laketon Hardware store with his first motorized hearse in 1925

Credits and references

 I wish to express my appreciation to the following, who without their help and information, this publication would not have been possible.

                                                         - Mike McKee


Cemetery Inscriptions of Wabash County, by Lester H. Bennie

A Sense of Place, by L.Z. Bunker, MD

History of Wabash County, By Helms

Tales of the Old Days, Billings

The News-Journal

Straws In The Wind, by Harry Leffel

North Manchester Public Library

Evelyn Trickle

North Manchester Newspaper Historical Data File, By Harry Leffel

Oaklawn Cemetery

Gump Family History, by Arlo Gump

The American Funeral, by Robert Miller

Barbara Welborn

Mary Jane Finley

Matthew Snyder

William Eberly

Nelma Stoner

Barbara Amiss

Harry Ogle

Brooks & Jefferson articles from the Historical Society Newsletter.

North Manchester Center for History

John Conley

Shirley Anderson