johnson county funeral home history

Funeral Home History

    From the dawn of time man has loved, protected and taken care of those with in his family. Whether it was a burial in ground near a home, or a shallow grave covered in stone on the trails, respect was never lost for those that gave the foundations of our families.

    When a family member passed the women would take upon themselves the chore to ready the body. Bathed, perfumed and clothed the women took this chore out of necessity. The men would build a coffin and have it ready for the dearly departed. When prepared the body was placed right within the house and family came to pay their respects at the home of the deceased.

    In an article written by Peter L. Muldoon, "From Furniture Factory to Funeral Home." from the Smithsonian quarterly we learn that it was common that the actual trade of the funeral business has come forth from the carpenters and cabinet makers of yesteryear. In North Carolina many funeral homes were operational in the late 1800's and early 1900. The same is true of Johnson County.

    In Johnson County we had several that spring from these humble beginnings. The Paintsville Furniture Company with Frank J. Conley at the helm, The Mountain Furniture Store with Guy W. Preston. In early Johnson County we also find the Jones Funeral Home by J. A. Jones, the Paintsville Funeral Home by Lloyd Preston and the Phelps and Son Funeral Home.

    The Mountain Furniture Company was under the management and supervision of Guy W. and J. Langley Preston. Guy Preston first started in the Masonic building then moved to the location that is now know as Maggard's Furniture. It  was in the late 1930's that J. C. Maggard bought the building and the Rev. Preston moved into the one time residence of John Wooten Castle on Main Street. At this time he renamed it the Preston Funeral Home. After a short while this establishment after a fire was sold and Guy's Funeral Home was created. Guy ran this home until his death in 1952.

    The advertising that accompanied was not exactly what many thought to be fitting for a funeral home much less from a man of the cloth. He gave his rates as being true costs for running his business. For only $149.00 he said he could get the job done and done right. He claimed that others were "a buzzard or a trader or trafficker in dead bodies." He took out this ad July 1, 1948. His ads were immediately rebuked by the officers and directors of the Kentucky Funeral Directors. The resolution was unanimous and in complete agreement the "advertising under the name of Guy's Funeral Home, G. W. Preston, owner and operator," was found to be "untrue, unethical and very misleading." This appeared in the Paintsville Herald as an paid advertisement. Never missing an opportunity to give  publicity to the funeral home ads were even taken out when a new member joined the business. Nov 10, 1949 an ad heralded the hiring of Glance Preston.

    The Jones Funeral Home was started by John A Jones on Main street. He later moved to the corner of Second and Church streets. It was in the mid 1950's that James Preston came aboard and thus the was born Jones-Preston. The current location was moved to in the 1970's. It should be noted with great distinction that Mr. Preston had the foresight long before others the concept of the integration of funeral services and cemeteries. With urbanization of Johnson County many had no claim to the small family cemeteries that were located on family land. It was James Preston who founded the Highland Memorial Park in Staffordsville.

    The Paintsville Funeral Home was begun by Lloyd H. Preston who had served his apprenticeship under the direction of Fletcher H. Fielder at the Home Furniture Company. Lloyd, after his apprenticeship, went on to become a funeral director. The Home Furniture Company was located in the addition to the Noah VanHoose grocery store at the corner of Euclid and Preston in the Grabnickle section of town. In close approximation was the Paintsville Hospital. The arrival of a new combination ambulance and Funeral car made the paper in January 1930. This vehicle was tooted as being the newest model and having all the conveniences needed for the best service. Lloyd and Fletcher became more than just business associates. They were also close friends. So much so that Fletcher named Lloyd to be the executor of his estate when the time came. After the death of Fletcher and business matters settled Lloyd moved to Pikeville where he stayed where he became associated with what was known as the Preston and Baker Funeral Home. Lloyd returned to Paintsville in 1948 and purchased the Paintsville Furniture Company. His wife Julia, proved to be a valuable asset in the field of advertising and public relations. It was her idea to have lady attendants on staff. An idea liked in the community. The business prospered.

    When looking at the rites and rituals that have followed us through the centuries and what we have now we note many of the same being done today. An article appeared in the Herald calling for a law to be passed prohibiting the barbaric custom of an open casket. Today that is the norm. The writer felt that this made the funeral like a parade where people who rarely spoke to the loved one now gaped at the departed and made despairing remarks of the pallor of death.

bulletFuneral Home Ads from long ago

Want to read more:


Death Rituals in Appalachia


History Of Funeral Customs


Shaw Davis Funeral Home

Special thanks to Walter Preston who provided the background material for this article and to The Paintsville Herald for permission to post articles from past issues of the Herald. Without this help this article would not be possible.

Johnson County Funeral Homes in Current Operation

Jones Preston Funeral Home Incorporated
  807 S. Mayo Trail, Paintsville, KY 41240
  (606) 789-3501
Preston Funeral Home
  136 Main St., Paintsville, KY 41240
  (606) 789-4212
Paintsville Funeral Home
  236 2nd St. Paintsville
Phelps & Son Funeral home
  3804 KY 321 S., Hager Hill, Kentucky 41222