A piece of history finds its home: Pre-Civil War funeral carriage given a fitting resting place

CHURUBUSCO — Sheets and Childs Funeral Home, directed and owned since 2017 by Miles Wilson, houses the oldest piece of Churubusco funeral history.

The coffin carriage was purchased in 2012 by the Sheets and Childs Funeral Home after it spent nearly 70 years in the rafters of an old barn.

The carriage dates back to before the Civil War and was purchased second-hand by David Roberson in 1860 from a man who was both a grocer and an undertaker. The carriage cost him $300 worth of gold. It provided roughly 60 years of service to the Roberson’s funeral business, which was run out of their still-standing home, before it was stored up in the rafters of the largest barn on the property. The carriage stayed there as the Robersons’ sons, grandsons and great-grandsons took over the property.

It wasn’t until 1995 that Greg Hull, great-grandson of David Roberson, had the carriage brought down and restored.

Fast forward 17 years, and Hull decided to put up the carriage for auction. Knowing Sheets and Childs is the oldest continuing business in Churubusco — it dates back to 1872 — and the carriage was the oldest piece of funeral history in the area, Hull reached out to the funeral home to inform them of the auction. Sheets and Childs bid on and won the carriage.

Now, the carriage resides in a specially built room on the south side of the Sheets and Childs Funeral Home. For design inspiration for the carriage house, the funeral home looked at its own past. Prior to the funeral home’s construction, an old police station used to stand in the location. Sheets and Childs had the carriage house constructed just like the old police station and even used four bricks from the original building to complete the structure.

The carriage room has just enough space to walk around the carriage. Next to the carriage sits two coffin-making stands, Roberson’s old cane and other coffin-making tools. On the walls hang relics from the Roberson’s past, such as the Robersons’ embalming diplomas, class pictures and a newspaper article from the early 1900s about the Robersons and the carriage. Roberson’s son, D.A. Roberson, could build two adult coffins or five infant coffins a day, an unfortunate but honest reality of the times, said Wilson.

Though the carriage saw its first outing since the 1920s in the parade this year, it is now at rest in its home until its next event. Those wishing to view the carriage can walk by carriage house and peer into its large windows or contact the funeral home.

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