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  • Writer's pictureHistoric Columbus

Early Funeral Businesses in Columbus

SOURCES: “Striffler Has Long Record” (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 1936); “New Undertaking Business Opened” (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 1923); “Striffler-Hamby Traces Roots Back to 1883” (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 1984); “David A. Striffler Dies at the Age of 81” (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 1964); “Thelon Ashmore Hamby, Jr.,” City of Progress by Margaret Laney Whitehead and Barbara Bogart, 1978; “David A. Stiffler,” Columbus on the Chattahoochee by Etta Blanchard Worsley, 1951; and “Parkhill Cemetery Incorporated,” Columbus: Georgia’s Fall Line Trading Town by Dr. Joseph B. Mahan, 1986.

 

The history of D. A. Striffler, Inc. morticians, dates to 1883, the year David A. Striffler was born in Cass City, Michigan. Also in that same year, Charlie Herring went into the funeral business in Columbus.


Above: An advertisement in the Ledger-Enquirer, 1889.

Below: An advertisement in the Ledger-Enquirer, 1909.


Early city directories showed Herring practicing from a residence at 1013 Broad, at 1226 First Avenue, and moving in 1902 to 1211 Broadway in Columbus and continuing there until 1921. This location was damaged by a tornado, and Herring moved to 1400 Broadway, where he operated until 1930. Herring and Charlton L. Torbett owned the first two of the earliest funeral homes in Columbus.


In 1908, Torbett wanted to hire an embalmer and he contacted the Cincinnati College of Embalming for help. One of the students reading a notice placed on the bulletin board was D.A. Striffler, from Michigan, who wanted to go South and live in Florida. He figured Columbus was on the way to Florida, so he sought the job and got it. He planned to work here for a couple of years, then move to Florida.


Sometime later, Charlie Herring developed an infection in his hand and found it difficult to carry on with his work. Torbett sent Striffler over to help Herring. This move was more than temporary, and Striffler stayed on through several changes in ownership.



Above: (L) Charlton L. Torbett and (R) David A. Striffler

Below: An advertisement in the Ledger-Enquirer, 1925.


By 1923, D.A. Striffler and partner, J.M. Britton, opened a new undertaking establishment to be conducted at 301 17th Street, a two-story brick building they remodeled for a funeral home. The new business operated under the firm name of Striffler and Britton. Within two years, Striffler and a man named Tippins became partners in the business. In 1930, Striffler bought out his partner and moved from 1400 Broadway to 1015 13th Street.


The Striffler Mortuary on 13th Street was the first building constructed in Columbus specifically for use as a funeral home. It cost $35,000 at the time. In that same year, 1930, a youth named Thelon A. Hamby, Jr. entered Columbus High School and walked past the building on his way to and from school.


Above: 1015 13th Street - T. Firth Lockwood, architect, and Cooper Lumber Company, builder.

Below: Reception Room

It was in 1932 that T.A. Hamby began working part-time at Striffler Mortuary. He came on Fridays and worked on the weekends, which earned him the nickname "Friday." The pay, he recalls, was $10 a week, which seemed good money at the time.


Hamby was born in Atlanta on Jan. 13, 1916, and came with his family to Columbus at the age of 18 months. After graduating from Columbus High in 1934, he worked full-time for Striffler. He attended Williams College of Embalming in Kansas City and graduated in 1938. In 1939 he received his degree in Mortuary Science from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Two years later, in 1941, Mr. Hamby received a degree in Management from the National Foundation of Funeral Service, Evanston, Illinois. During World War II, from March 1943 to November 1945, he served in the Navy Air Force.


Above: Chapel at 1015 13th Street, seating 300.

Below: (L) Thelon A. Hamby, Jr. and (R) Owen D. Edge



Owen D. Edge and D. A. Striffler began the development of Parkhill Cemetery in 1936. They reserved 200 acres of farmland five miles from downtown at 4161 Macon Road. Situated on gently rolling terrain dotted with pines and hardwoods, Parkhill is a nondenominational cemetery still growing and developing. Sixteen gardens, a lake, and five miles of winding, paved roads are inside this fenced property.


In 1954, Striffler Mortuary was incorporated as Striffler-Hamby Mortuary Inc., with Hamby as vice president. D.A. Striffler died on Sept. 23, 1964, and Hamby took over the business under a survival agreement. As the city continued to grow and population areas shifted, new plans were made for Striffler-Hamby.


In 1972, the firm opened a $500,000 mortuary chapel at 4071 Macon Road on four acres of land adjoining Parkhill Cemetery (pictured below). Under T.A. Hamby's presidency, the company continued to operate at both locations. In 1980, Striffler-Hamby purchased Buice Chapel in Phenix City and renamed it the Striffler-Hamby Phenix City Mortuary. The next year, Striffler-Hamby sold its mortuary at 1015 13th Street to the Columbus Women's Clubhouse Association. The 13th Street building is still standing but has been vacant for several years.



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