As three staff members gathered around a table in the crematory showroom surrounded by urns to discuss the history of the Boze-Mitchell-McKibbin Funeral Home, they were prepared to elaborate on its 150th year in business.
As dots began to connect through research in partnership with the Daily Light, it turns out the funeral home's history is a few years richer — nine to be exact.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Charlotte McKibbin, president of the company, sat at a wooden table and explained the room was formerly the chapel. Office manager Vicky Dyess quickly joined the conversation, as did Chelsea McKibbin-Langford, the chief operating officer.
All three women stated they take great pride in the family-owned business, which allows staff to provide a more sentimental service.
The late Joe McKibbin, Charlotte's husband, was 33 years old when he purchased the funeral home in 2001. It had been corporately owned since 1985, which was when it was sold to Centurion, a corporate company based in Houston.
Centurion later merged with Service Corporation International, an outfit that operates more than 1,500 funeral homes and 400 cemeteries in 24 states.
“He had been in the funeral business forever and came from a small town in Kansas,” explained Charlotte of her husband, who passed away in 2014. “He always wanted to own his own funeral business in a small town.”
In the time since the McKibbin family has taken over the business, they have established two additional locations in Ennis (2004) and Italy (2018). Charlotte said the company serves approximately 280 families a year.
“We were only doing 120 when Joe bought it,” Charlotte elaborated.
Charlotte said the turning point for the business came after the business model shifted away from the corporate mandates associated with the new ownership.
Dyess has been on staff for 30 years and observed the business led by several individuals. With confidence, she agreed Joe purchasing the home was the turning point.
“It changed totally,” Dyess emphasized. “It was more personable and about the families than the bottom line.”
Charlotte said she has 40 years of experience in the funeral business and worked at a Dallas family business when a corporate company bought it out.
She explained the workflow structure at a family-owned business allows an employee to see the whole family through, whereas, a corporate company has staff tasked with different jobs, which results in several people interacting with the family.
Information provided by the Texas Funeral Directors Association detailed approximately 14 percent of funeral homes in the U.S. are corporately owned, with that number increasing to about 20 percent in Texas. The study found that the majority of family-owned funeral homes are more likely to operate in rural areas rather than urban cities.
“When someone dies, we are on 24-hour call,” Charlotte explained. “Jordan or Ronny — one of them will go, and they will take somebody with them. When they go on the call, they wait on the family and see them all the way through to the funeral for the most part you see the same face.”
Chelsea said most corporate funeral homes only offer structured packages for a service, which does not leave room for accommodations. “It’s either take it or leave it,” Chelsea said.
Charlotte expressed corporately owned funeral homes have a lot of positives. “Corporate business has a lot of good things about them such as from a managerial structural back end,” Chelsea said.
150-ish YEARS OF HISTORY
According to a Waxahachie Daily Light article dated June 22, 1975, the funeral home was initially established as Spalding Furniture and Undertakers on the corner of Elm and Main Street in 1898. Documents provided by the funeral home disclose Spalding Undertaking was established in 1869.
“The name and location has changed several times since them,” the article read.
Waxahachie resident Peggy Crabtree’s great-grandfather, John Henry Spalding, established the business. Crabtree scrounged up a genealogy book along with several hand-written letters and vintage photographs to help determine nail down the timeline.
Henry was born April 29, 1835, and moved to Waxahachie in 1860. Crabtree was confident that her great-grandfather created the business the same year he moved to Waxahachie.
“He and his younger brother, Benjamin Franklin Spalding, owned the Spalding Furniture and Undertaking and it was right there on the east side of the square,” Crabtree detailed.
Henry had to sell the business after he and constituents floated the note to the postmaster. A book in Crabtree’s possession detailed that, in 1872, “My great-grandfather sold his share of the furniture business to his younger brother Ben and then he became town marshal and was town marshal for 10 years before he was killed off in 1882.”
Henry Manuel later became a co-owner with Benjamin, which changed the company name to Spalding and Manual Furniture and Undertaking. Benjamin's nephew, Sterling Price II Spalding, eventually took the business over with James L McCartney in 1892.
“He was the last Spalding to actually own it. It was Spalding Undertaking up until the 30s I think,” Crabtree said.
The funeral home moved into the current building on West Main Street in 1936, which once served as a Masonic Temple. Freemasons that formed in 1860 constructed the building in 1925. This served as the third building to house the Waxahachie Masonic Lodge No. 90. The Freemasons would gather in the upper levels of the five-story building.
Jim Cooper, who served as the Masons secretary for more than 20 years, stated James F. Saxon purchased the bottom floor.
“Then WWII came along and, unfortunately, the majority of the members of the lodge were drafted and went into the Army, Navy Air Force or whatever,” Cooper explained. “It left the lodge in dire financial difficulty because according to the grand lodge laws, anyone that is on active duty in the military is not required to pay dues and is still considered an active member.”
Funeral documents showed the business took the name, Boze-Mitchell, in the 1930s, but was later called Spalding-Omohundro Funeral Home, according to a 1937 Daily Light article.
A 1975 Daily Light article stated, when James F. Saxon and Thomas Champion purchased the funeral home, it was renamed Saxon-Champion Funeral Home. A deed presented by the funeral home showed Saxon later bought the entire building for $12,000.
Historic Waxahachie, Inc reported that, in 2018, the Masons sold the bottom floor of the building to Saxon-Boze Funeral Home, while the Masons used the levels above until 1992. The Masons obtained an air-title for the second and third floors until this time.
A deed from the Ellis County Clerk’s office showed the name changed from Saxon-Champion Funeral Home to Saxon-Boze-Mitchell in 1950.
The Renaissance Revival-style building displays traditional characteristics of symmetry, ornate windows, and a low roofline. Over the years, the lower floor exterior enlarged in 1967.
The 1975 article stated co-owners Pat Boze and Clovis Mitchell announced plans to double funeral chapel seating, creating a seating capacity of 357 and provide 100 additional parking spaces. The existing building also would undergo a remodel to provide six individual family rooms. Restrooms were eventually expanded and three arrangement offices were added, while the brick chapel was erected in 1976.
The building was entirely refurbished in 1997.
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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450