Prior to the 1880s, most community funerals and wakes were held in the home of the deceased. The coffin, available for purchase at Abbott and Doty General Merchandise, would be taken by wagon to the Village Cemetery for interment. In 1882, the citizens of Worcester approved at Town Meeting the purchase of a horse-drawn hearse.
Built by A.C. Chase of Northfield in his carriage factory on East Street, it was described in a newspaper article thusly: "This elegant conveyance was finely trimmed with heavy silver plating by Mr. Chase, ironing by A.O. Smith, turned work by A.F. Spaulding and painting by William R, Bean." Usually two black horses with black plumes in the harnesses drew the hearse, which featured glass on three sides so the coffin within could be viewed as the black draped and fringed conveyance passed by. When not in use, the hearse was stored in the shed at the south end of the Village Cemetery.
Above the old hearse is pictured at the Bicentennial parade, but its ownership and location is currently unknown. Town records reveal no information about its possible sale. If anyone has knowledge of its whereabouts or information about its disposal, please call 802-223-5625 and ask for David. The Worcester Historical Society would like to bring it home.
Happy holidays to one and all from WHS.