Undertaking a Furniture Business

Benjamin Friedrich Haenichen, one of the original immigrants (only his name is spelled Haenigen in Zion on the Mississippi), married Friedericke Sophie Hoeschel (another one of the original immigrants) on July 17, 1842 in someone’s home in Altenburg.  Both Friedrich and Sophie came to America alone.  Here is their marriage record from the Trinity, Altenburg church books.

Haenichen Hoeschel marriage record
Haenichen/Hoeschel marriage record – Trinity, Altenburg

It must not have been very long after this wedding that this couple was back to St. Louis.  Their first child, Benjamin Friedrich Haenichen, Jr., was born in 1843 and the baptism is recorded at Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis.

Benjamin, Sr. was called a joiner, which is a more antiquated term meaning a furniture maker.  Benjamin, Jr. would follow in his father’s footsteps.  In 1876, Benjamin, Sr. died, and Benjamin, Jr. became the executor of his will.  His wife, Sopie, had died in 1870.  There are indications in the probate records that Benjamin, Sr. had done quite well for himself and his family.  It put a smile on my face to see on an inventory list of his property, there was included the words, “one Bible”.  One of the items found in those probate papers was this bill:


We see both Sr. and Jr. on this receipt.  We also see that the address for their business, and probably for their residence as well, was at the South-West corner of Barry Street and Carondelet Avenue.  A special aerial map of St. Louis was made in 1875 that shows this intersection.  Carondolet Ave. would later be changed to Broadway.

Carondelet and Barry Streets map

Another item found in the probate papers was this receipt:


This must have been the receipt for some of Benjamin, Sr.’s funeral costs.  I find it interesting that an undertaker’s business also included livery stables.  Also, the fact that 25 carriages were contracted for this funeral at $5.00 each (which was a lot of money in those days) indicates that Benjamin, Sr. had done quite well in his furniture business.  It is somewhat puzzling to me though, that a “matallic” coffin was ordered.  I would have thought that a man whose son was in the furniture business also would have made a wooden coffin.

In 1878, we see Benjamin F. Haenichen in the furniture business at the same address as his father’s business.  Previously, on September 11, 1870, Benjamin had married Marie Schaap at Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis.  This couple was apparently still living in the old Haenichen house/business.

Haenichen 1878 city directory

It is in the 1880’s that we see a change occurring in how Benjamin’s business is described.  Here is an image of the 1882 St. Louis city directory:

Haenichen 1882 city directory

We see Benjamin listed under the category: Undertakers.  Interestingly, on the right you can see Benjamin’s brother, Frederick G., listed as an upholsterer at the same location.

It seems that every day that I research for these posts, I learn something new.  I now know that if you study the history of undertakers, you will find that many of them were also in the furniture business.  In the days before funeral homes, when a family member died, one of the first people you contacted was a furniture maker to construct a coffin.  Dead bodies were often laid out in coffins in people’s parlors before being taken to be buried.  If you want to read an interesting article about the history of the undertaking business you can find it here:


Apparently, Benjamin F. Haenichen also had transitioned from being a furniture maker to being an undertaker (or both).

It is about this time also that you start seeing people in the directories described as being enbalmers.  Enbalming had been around for a while, but it was a controversial procedure until President Abraham Lincoln’s body had been enbalmed before his body made a very public journey by train to his burial place in Illinois.  After that, enbalming a body became more accepted.  Here we see Benjamin in the 1889 city directory where both undertakers and enbalmers are both listed.

Haenichen 1889 city directory

It would be many years yet before people in the funeral business would be described as funeral home directors.  Also, one of the characteristics of funeral businesses is that many of them eventually put “& Sons” in their title.  So many of them remain as businesses that remain in the family for several generations.

Benjamin Haenichen, Jr. would die in 1902, and he would be buried in Concordia Cemetery.

Furniture makers in Perry County were also called undertakers on some of the death records.  Charles Boehme, a furniture maker in Altenburg is one such person.  Another one was Gustav Oehlert, who was the main character in the post titled, Often in a Coffin.  Gustav was known for taking naps in the coffins located inside his store.

Today happens to also be the day that Dr. C.F.W. Walther died in St. Louis in 1887.  He was buried in Concordia Cemetery.  Here is a photo of his mausoleum.


Here is my question:  What is the chance that Benjamin F. Haenichen was the undertaker for the funeral of his pastor, Rev. C.F.W. Walther?  He had been a faithful member of Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis for a long time.  His business was also located very near that church.  Who knows?  Maybe Benjamin was a busy man on May 7 in 1887.

Oh, and by the way, Benjamin was also baptized (probably by Rev. C.F.W. Walther) on May 7, 1843.  That baptism was not done in Trinity’s church building because they didn’t have their own building yet.  And in case you’re wondering what Benjamin’s grave looks like, here it is.

Haenichen grave

Pretty impressive, huh?

Also, in 1922, after his wife, Marie, died, we see that in her will that the following provision was included in that document.

Marie Haenichen will portion

The Haenichen family certainly seemed very interested in supporting their church and Synod.


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