In Collaboration with the Brookline Fire Dept, the current town hearse has returned to the site where the town’s first hearse was “found”. The town pound, where hearse #1 resided many years ago is just a few steps behind the barn where hearse #3 now resides.
Peter Webb was able to search all but 12 of the 1893 to to 1956 town reports for references to “hearse.” His facts are incomplete. Further research can fill in the gaps, but here’s what he has come up with on the story of Brookline’s hearse.
Parker, at p. 308, says that the town voted to buy a hearse in 1819. However, he reports that the town took no action to do so and later rescinded the vote. He states that the town again voted to buy a hearse in 1826. In 1893 and 1898 (starting at my town report search), JA Hall was paid $8 to house it.
Peter hasn’t reviewed the 1899 town report, but Parker, at p. 385, says the town voted that year to spend up to $500 to by a new hearse. In 1901, the report says that AA Hall housed the hearse for $8, and that there was an article on the town warrant proposing to put double doors in the bottom of the “old Town House” to house it. From 1903 to 1905, it was housed at that price by JA Hall heirs. In 1906 WH Pritchard was paid $22.25 to paint and repair; JA Hall estate was paid $8. There is a 9/6/06 “Milford Cabinet” article on the burning of the JA Hall homestead. It states that”[t]he town hearse, which was purchased a few years ago was completely destroyed.” Here endeth town hearse # 2.
Parker, at p. 398, says that in 1907, the town voted to spend $600.00 for a new hearse. The 1908 report, p. 10, says the following expenditures were made for a new hearse: WC Boutelle, getting hearse from depot, $2; Walter Corey, cover for hearse, $5.46; Walter Corey, insurance for hearse, $6.25; OD Fessenden, lumber for hearse house, $28.89; Arthur A. Goss, carpenter, $17.50; HJ Drew, painting and paint, .85; National Casket Company, $470; freight, $11.35; Swett, Whitcomb and Marshall, time and expense, $13.26. In 1911, 1913 and 1914, WE Corey was paid $5 to insure the hearse. At p. 71, Parker (1914) says that “the wreck of the town’s first hearse” was in the town pound (repeated at p. 308). Here endeth town hearse #1.
Mr. Corey insured the hearse for $3.44 in 1916 and $3.75 in 1918. There is a warrant article in the 1918 town report to appropriate funds for runners for the hearse. The 1919 report provides that $75.00 approved for the runners was not expended, and that WJ Whitlock was paid $2 for repairs. From 1920 to 1943, the references to ”hearse” are usually a reference to “hearse hire” as included in the general cemetery revenues. There’s no hearse reference in the 1944 to 1950 reports.
The 1951 warrant included an article (#17) to authorize the sale of the hearse. Mark Fessenden reports that the hearse was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Hobart (Chappy) Powers around 1951 -1953. The Powers family donated it to Brookline Fire Department on August 1, 1966. The Fire Department retrieved the hearse from the barn that formerly stood at 100 Old Milford Road, and worked for the ensuing years to restore the hearse, in preparation for the 1969 Brookline Bicentennial. It was housed since it was acquired by the BFD in the Fire Station.
In 2019, the BFD agreed to have the hearse housed for public display at the Brookline Historical Society barn. Therein resideth Brookline hearse #3, purchased by the town in 1907 or 1908, now in its 111th or so year.
Any additional information on the hearse would be gratefully received.