History of the Mortuaries and Funeral Homes of Riverton
In the early day, “undertaking was associated with the furniture business as they made the coffins and buried the dead. George Dobler is reported as being the first mortician in Riverton. He was associated with the Dickenson & Dobler Furniture and Undertaking Parlor. George Dobler had been given a mortician license while he was in legislature.
This business was sold to Chamberlin Furniture and Undertaking Company of Casper in September of 1915. W. R. Phillips was the manager. A new building was erected and moved into in August of 1916.
In January of 1917, W. R. Phillips and George M. Rhodes bought Chamberlin Furniture and it became Phillips Furniture & Undertaking Co. Niels L. Olesen joined Phillips Furniture in June of 1917.
In April of 1919, Niels L. Olesen opened the Niels L. Olesen Company, which included a mortuary. He was the first in Riverton to advertise he had a Lady Assistant. His office was located in the Masonic Temple Building.
On 18th of July 1919, W. R. Phillips sold his business to Chas. H. Long and his sons Kesner L. & Clyde H. Long from Casper. On Jan 1st, 1920, Long changed the name of the business to C. H. Long & Sons Furniture & Mortuary.
In March of 1920, Niels L. Olesen merged with Riverton Hardware and Long bought the undertaking part of the business.
In August of 1922, Clarence Arthur Cowan of Thermopolis took over the undertaking part of C. H. Long & Sons and it became known as Cowan Mortuary, although it was still located in the C. H. Long & Sons Furniture store. He also advertised he had a Lady Assistant.
In August of 1923, Ernest E. Davis of Riverton Hardware and C. A. Cowan of Thermopolis formed a partnership known as Cowan & Davis Mortuary. After Mr. Cowan’s death, Davis was associated with the widow Hazel Cowan. Ernest Davis worked under Dobler’s license until the transfer papers could be arranged by George Dobler who was a lawyer. A correspondence course with John Benson was also arranged.
The Wyoming Health Department asked that the funeral business be separated from the furniture and hardware business and an embalming board was established. Jon Benson of Lander was the Secretary of the State Board. Dr. Albert Benjamin Tonkin of Riverton was the first state health officer appointed.
In January of 1925, Ernest E. Davis bought out Cowan’s interest and it became the Davis Mortuary. After the Mountain View Cemetery was founded, Ernest promised to look after selling the lots and keeping the records. In 1934, E. E. Davis setup the first actual funeral home in Riverton which was a small house that was located at 607 East Main. They added a flower shop to this building and Ernest’s wife Helen Davis enrolled in a floral school in Denver. They eventually sold the flower shop to Viola Andrews. A new funeral home was build in 1936 and was located near the corner of Main and Sixth Streets. The open house was held on the 7th and 8th of November1936.
E. E. Davis sold the business March 1st, 1951 to his nephew Percy T. Davis and it became known as the Percy T. Davis Funeral Home. It was later changed to Davis Funeral Home. In 1964 the new funeral home and chapel was built at 2203 West Main. Larry Lee joined the firm in 1954. He left the firm about 1989. Percy’s son Bob Davis joined the firm in 1977, as well as his son-in-law Patrick Hutchison in 1985. They continue to run the business today, along with Jamey Kirkland, who joined the firm in 2001.
In 1968, the Lenard A. Short Mortuary was founded, but was only in operation about one year. It was located at 1st and Jefferson Streets.
The funeral record books in possession of the Davis Funeral home began in 1918. They were passed from Phillips Furniture and Undertaking, to C. H. Long & Sons to Cowan Mortuary, to Cowan and Davis Mortuary, then to the Davis Funeral Home.