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The History of the Smith-Weismantel Funeral Home

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By Jolene Hawkins

Every town as it was formed had certain trades that would be established. A church or two,  schools, a general store for your dry food, canned goods, sewing items, clothes and more, maybe a newspaper office and a furniture/funeral store.

Why did the same person usually run the furniture and funeral business? Because building caskets used the same tools and wood as did a chair, table, couch or other household furniture.

In 1867, S.B. Gaylord, who was an undertaker in Springville, had ready-made coffins on hand or he would make them to order. There was also Pingrey, Herbold and Prior, and many other people who sold furniture who were also undertakers. Pingrey had his furniture display on one floor and the caskets on another floor. According to an ad in the paper, he would answer the undertaking calls first.

So what about the history of the Weismantel Funeral Home, located on East Main Street?

The first deed for the 17-acre farm was given to Abraham Middaugh in 1817. The property changed owners many times until James Kingsley bought it in 1836 and built a home for his future bride. Tragically, she died before the house was finished.

It remained unfinished until 1865 when it was purchased by James and Charlotte Richmond and they completed the original building. After going through 12 other owners, William A. Weismantel and his brother, Herman, moved their funeral business from Pearl Street to this site. An addition was added in 1958.

Looking back to 1949 inside the funeral home you would find a beautiful home set among ancient trees, a Hammond organ to add quieting tones of religious music, guest and sleeping rooms for out-of-town relatives, along with comfortable cushioned chairs. There’s also a spacious sun parlor with lounge chairs and an adequate parking space in the rear to provide orderly and honorable procession to the cemetery.

The driveway passes through a coverway at the main building so friends and relatives may enter their cars in safety and privacy. Accommodations provide for several funerals at the same time with privacy for each group and even a retiring room for smokers has been provided.

The Weismantel Brothers own all their own equipment including a Cadillac ambulance, funeral hearse and are prepared to render funeral service at any distance, whether a mile away or 100 miles.

William Weismantel Sr. began his civic career when he was 16 years old after his father, a German born blacksmith, died. As the oldest child, he had to earn money for his mother and younger siblings. He took a job in Buffalo with Johnson & Wilkins Undertaking Firm. Mr. Weismantel started his funeral home in 1914 and remained in the business until 1968 when he sold it to his son. William, along with his brother Herman, his partner in the funeral home, also ran a furniture business from 1923 to 1952.

By 1973, they offered 24-hour service seven days a week. The funeral home offers funeral services in quiet stately chapel rooms, the preparing of the bodies for viewing and burial, supplying metal or wood caskets, vaults and even clothing for the deceased, or working with the churches and arrange for cremation.

In 1970, Jim Oatman was an employee of the funeral home and purchased the business in 1977, forming the Smith-Weismantel Funeral Home Inc., which he was the president and manager until 2011.  He was a member of the Erie Niagara Funeral Directors Association and the National Funeral Directors Association.

In 2012, W. S. Davis Inc. bought the funeral home and carry on the tradition that was started back in the 1800s: providing caring, loving attention to the love ones left behind after one dies as they go through the grieving process, helping them each step of the way.

We here at the Lucy Bensley Center are fortunate enough to have burial records, funeral cards, cemetery records even some undertaker records, to assist folks as they research families in the area.  We are open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  and are located at 23 North Buffalo St. in Springville. Contact us through email at lucybensleycenter@gmail.com or call 560-1981.

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