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The Story of Heaton-Bowman Funeral Home


David J. Heaton,Heaton-Bowman-Smith & Sidenfaden Chapel, the oldest funeral home in the State of Missouri and the oldest business firm in the City of St. Joseph, was founded in 1842 by David J. Heaton at Sparta, Missouri, the former county seat of Buchanan County.
St. Joseph was originally a trading post settlement know as Black Snake Landing, located on the banks of the Missouri River. It was a supply and starting point for westbound wagon trains. Mr. Heaton, primarily a cabinet maker, also built caskets and served as arranger and director of funerals. With the arrival of Joseph Robidoux, a French-Canadian Settler to the Landing, the community began to expand. Robidoux and his family were aggressive and by 1843, the growing settlement was incorporated and named for St. Joseph, after his patron saint.

Mr. Heaton moved into the immediate area of the city and established a cabinet shop/funeral home on First Street. Through the years, it moved and expanded in several locations to meet the city’s needs. In 1844, the business moved to the corner of Sixth and Francis Streets and remained there until 1859, when it was destroyed by fire. Following the fire, Mr. Heaton devoted his attention exclusively to undertaking. From 1852-54, Mr. Heaton served as city Coroner and was the city Fire Marshall. In 1875, the firm moved to 109-111 South 7th Street, when David E. Heaton( son of the founder) helped bring the business into the 20th century. He did two-thirds of the undertaking in the city and conducted between 600-800 funerals annually. He was up-to-date in everything that pertained to embalming and caring for the dead. He manufactured his own goods, turning upwards of 1000 caskets per year out of his plant. The manufacturing was entirely under the supervision of George J. BeGole, (who would later own the funeral home). In 1876, the firm became known as D.J. Heaton & Company and moved to 207 North 6th Street. David E. Heaton purchased the firm from his father in 1881 and moved to 707 Edmond under the name D.E. Heaton and Company. In 1896, David J. Heaton was declared the first licensed undertaker in the United States and was presented with a gold-headed cane by the “Sunny Side” Journal. Upon his death in 1898, it was so stated on his tombstone in Mt. Mora Cemetery.
Frank A. Bowman,The year 1913 saw the merger of David E. Heaton with George J. BeGole and the formation of Heaton-BeGole Undertaking Company. For the first time, ambulance service complemented the range of services provided by Heaton-BeGole. In 1921, David E. Heaton died. George J. BeGole became president/manager and the firm moved to 319 South 10th. This new location was a well known landmark that had been originally built as a residence, served as a boarding home, and finally the city public library. In 1927, Heaton-BeGole & Bowman Inc. was formed. George J. BeGole died in 1942. Frank A. Bowman, then acting manager, headed the new company, Heaton-Bowman Funeral Home.