Stop 74: The Edwards Guest Home to the Sherman A. Milton Funeral Home
The ANNA LEE EDWARDS GUEST HOME evolved into the MILTON FUNERAL HOME at 13950 5th Street (pre-911 address of 502 South 5th Street).
A place of compassionate service, this late Victorian era architectural style includes a gable roof and sculptured block exterior with an interior of hardwood flooring that entails downstairs living area of 1,075 and upstairs space of a similar size with finished enclosed porches and an open porch onto the 1925 Crescent subdivision with a picturesque yard that remains today. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact origin date of the house or the builder as Pasco Property records reveal it was built in 1925, however the Dade City historical house listing created by the city’s historical preservation committee and then 2011 city official, Michael Sherman pen circa 1910. At the time the home was erected, the main entrance into Dade City was via 5th Street and the Edwards-Milton home was a particular show piece as it remains yet, a fine example of late Victorian style architecture. As for service, the location and businesses that dwelled there have served for thirty-six years as a bed and breakfast and fifty years as a Mortuary for the community.
Anna Lee Fields Edwards acquired the house after the passing of her husband, Matthew Henry Edwards in 1939 and lived in the home. She and her husband were natives of Alabama and her husband, Matthew Edwards was the brother of LaMarcus C. Edwards, one of the founders of Pasco Packing (later president of the Florida Citrus Exchange). Anna Lee Fields was the second wife and would have been age 43 at the time of her husband’s death with four teen children who attended Pasco High School. Resourcefully, Anna Lee Edwards created a business for herself that supported her family known as EDWARDS GUEST HOME with boarding accommodations for Dade City guests. At a time when the citrus industry was thriving in the community, visitors needed lodging for business trips as well as seasonal visitors. Edwards owned the house as a bed and breakfast service until her death in 1976, at which time it was purchased by Raleigh and Mildred Guymon who subsequently resided in the house for sixteen years.
In 1992, Sherman A. Milton purchased the home and it began a new life, facilitating for the second time a thriving business which continues today–this time as an elegant funeral parlor, THE MILTON FUNERAL HOME. Mr. Milton moved to Dade City in 1973 and initiated his mortuary business in a humble 1,000-square-foot house also on 5th Street before locating at the two-story Edwards-Guymon Home. He graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Inverness, Florida, and later studied business administration at Atlanta University and graduated from the Atlanta College of Mortuary. Booker T. Washington High School was a competitor with Mickens High School and both schools won a variety of sports titles over time. Each educational institution holds an array of important history which of course shaped both communities and Mr. Milton and his legacy. Historian Imani Asukile related that Sherman Milton was widely recognized as one of the most outstanding morticians in the industry in the state of Florida for his profession.
A man of the community, Sherman Milton was known as a humanitarian businessman of Dade City and the surrounding community, and provided guidance that included poignant benevolence of events surrounding memorials, funerals, and grief processes. Milton ran for the Dade City council in 1983. In an interview with Rosemary Brown for the Tribune in December 5, 1983, Milton said, “I am a man of challenges. I don’t take the easy road. I recognize need.” He was a member of the Florida Leadership Association and several fraternal organizations including Macedonia Masonic Lodge No. 188.
Outgoing and personable, in his leisure, Milton was also a member of an iconic community baseball team in Dade City during two decades. The group was known as the “9 Devils.” The accomplished team played over 400 games and lost only a handful in their time. Their comradery and team work served as an example and provided mentorship for many. Community folks observed that the team members worked at Lykes Pasco during the week and then played baseball on weekends.
When Milton’s daughter, Rosandrea moved to the community to help the family, Milton shared responsibilities of the business with her and she ultimately took over the legacy business in 2013.
The Milton Funeral establishment is an integral part of the self-guided tour, not only because of the heritage of Anna Lee Edwards and the leadership of Sherman A. Milton and the service traditions, but also as a part of the culture of the African-American community. As Imani Asukile explained in an article for the Tampa Tribune on October 16, 2009,
Every community has traditions and customs when it comes to burying its dead. Some bury their loved ones before sunset the next day…
In the Black community, weekend funerals are preferred, ‘although Sundays used to be the big day.’ White farmers needed their crops tended and were not in favor of the help taking off on Saturdays for funerals.
It is common for Blacks to hold up a funeral a few extra days to give loved ones a chance to be present.”
Asukile explained that African Americans have high expectations of their morticians. “Funerals in the Black community are full of protocol and pageantry. The processional calls the audience’s attention away from the deceased to the minister. The printed program that includes the obituary continues to evolve as a historical document. For a long time, official vital statistics rarely included blacks. Therefore, blacks used the funeral program as a way to document as much about the deceased as possible.” Usually lasting at least two hours, the preacher takes at least 45 minutes for the eulogy.
Sherman recalled a funeral he conducted in 2009 where all the male family members wore dress shirts, suits and ties that matched the attire of the deceased.
A legacy, the Milton Funeral business has served the Dade City community for fifty years and occupied the beautiful historical home as a meaningful service to the community for thirty-one years as of 2023.
COMMENTS: My name is Sherman Milton III and I just watched your YouTube video for the Dade City Historical Tour from the Dade City Merchants. I appreciate you putting that together I learned some new things about the funeral home as well as my grandfather. I had no clue he ran for city commissioner.