Stop 18: The Coleman & Ferguson Funeral Home (moved to location in 1923)
Henry W. Coleman and William N. Ferguson played a very fundamental role in the evolution of Dade City, Florida. Without them, the progression of the town would have a very different trajectory. You heard about them at Stop 1 regarding the first courthouse which they ingenuously leased to the new county of Pasco in order to persuade the vote for Dade City as county seat…and you will hear about them at this stop as well as many later stops including their brick mercantile business on Meridian (Stop 34).
To learn about the location that Lowman’s Law Firm occupies at 14233 7th Street today in the beautiful frame house, one must understand those two business partners. They came to Florida via train in 1884, with the intent of purchasing a store in Wildwood, Florida that was up for sale but when that did not come to fruition, they got back on the train that happened to stop at Fort Dade. Coleman and Ferguson had already devised a new back-up plan to travel on to Bartow but with drenching rain, and several folks on the train with ailments, they disembarked. Hearing of them and their plight, an industrious local fellow Hunter Henley who happened to be clerk of the court, realizing that Fort Dade was in real need of some entrepreneurs, persuaded them to consider staying. Coleman was from Georgia and had worked in a store where he befriended the son of the owner, D.P. Ferguson who was William’s father; and there, William and Henry became pals. They were very different personalities but formed a solid and compatible partnership.
Well, they bought a small sand lot on Main Avenue for $100 from Reuben Wilson in the very north part of town. Within ten days they had erected a general store and opened for business on December 1 of 1884.
They were detoured a bit on their trajectory when the Seaboard Railroad platted the city south of old town where their general store was located. In response, the duo bought a block in the center of the new town. The town had been edged to the south to accommodate the railroad, on Meridian Avenue and the town took on the name Dade City. They built a second store there which succumbed to fire in 1896, and they then built a third wooden frame building.
Okay, I am getting to the point. That third frame building which is the beautiful home-style structure you are no doubt experiencing while gazing at the location that housed their mercantile business (this very space) The structure was subsequently moved in 1923 to 7th Street where it was used as a store and funeral home while a fourth business site, a three-story, red-brick building was constructed.
This third spectacular frame building assembled by Coleman and Ferguson was moved via rolling it over huge logs by a horse team from the Meridian site north (around the corner) to 7th street where it has stood for over 97 years. The distance they moved the building is about a block but it must have been a site to behold with the huge draft horses in their heavy leather harness hitched to the enormous logs.
Also note that the space now used by Lowman’s as a law office is 5,500-square feet, two-story building, made of heart of pine wood which has not been unattainable since the 1930s. In 1975, a breezeway was built to connect the Lowman location to the yellow brick building behind it.
Coleman & Ferguson Funeral home which was corporately owned, closed in 2005 when it was purchased by Hodges Funeral Home. A stipulation on the sale was that the third cog in the story of Coleman and Ferguson’s department store evolution which proudly stands on 7th, could never be used again as a funeral home.
A long-time colleague and wonderful friend of the author, heard a humorous story from one of her colleagues, teacher/coach and sportscaster, Gerald Newton about this location. Gerald who taught in Dade City and Zephyrhills schools for many years was moonlighting at a job with Coleman & Ferguson in their funeral parlor enterprise. He explained that for some reason, the funeral parlor had several bodies ready for preparation and the staff was working to capacity. Gurneys were lined up in the back of the building in the breezeway and as each was taken to the embalming room, they were on a tight schedule. As Gerald was instructed to move the next gurney, he noticed its occupant was tossing and turning a bit. Startled more than a little for a six-foot five athlete, Gerald let out a bit of a startling command, What on earth? It became clear that the gentleman on the gurney was a bit inebriated from some partying in downtown Dade City and as he was meandering home, noticed the gurney and decided to lie down for a nap. As Gerald was getting the fellow a cup of coffee and offering a ride home, he said he had to admit that this was one of the scariest but more humorous incidences he had encountered at his part-time job at the funeral parlor.
The signature marketing logo of Coleman & Ferguson was similar to the contemporary slogan “If You Build It, They Will Come,” from the beloved film, Field of Dreams as the sentiment was very similar. Coleman & Ferguson largely through Coleman’s daughter, Sara Elizabeth “Essie,” coined a phrase, “And They Came Back Again,” with a powerful black cat. With four buildings and a stock of produce, tools, clothing, and equipment that was unmatched, Coleman and Ferguson counted on their faithful clientele to be there as they moved from one to another location and restocked.
What is next? Passing by some lovely shops continuing to head north, you will come to a large complex!