The city’s first funeral home developed from a family furniture business

Agnes Heinrichs, wife of Heinrich Heinrichs, purchased property on the southwest corner of Jefferson and Capitol from the Jefferson City Land Company in 1857 for $2,097. On this property, the Heinrichses built a house and a furniture manufacturing business. This business would eventually develop into the first funeral home in Jefferson City.

Natives of Prussia, the Heinrichses arrived in New Orleans in 1851 with their many children. On the passenger list were: Heinrich, 55; Agnesa, 50 years old; Jakov, 23 years old; Johann, 20 years old; Matilda, 16 years old; Joseph, 18 years old; Lina, 14 years old; Heinrich, 12 years old; Teresija, 7; Agnesa, 6 years old; Wilhelm, 5; and Johann, 3. The youngest, Johann, may have been Jacob’s son.

The 1860 census shows the Heinrich family with a furniture store and six children living with them, including: Jacob, a carpenter; Henry, bookkeeper; William, age 15, laborer; and John, age 13, some names are Americanized. Two daughters, Theresa and Agnes, were domestic servants.

Jacob and Henry would later be listed as carpenters and would take over the job. In 1867, Jacob placed an ad in the newspaper as an undertaker. “All kinds of coffins constantly on hand, at the old stand on Jefferson Street near the Levee.”

By the 1870 census, Henrichs had died and Agnes was living with Jacob, an undertaker, William, a barber, and John, a clerk. Henry Heinrichs, a carpenter and his family are listed next door.

In 1874, the Heinrich children lost their mother, Agnes. And before her estate was settled, Henry’s house and furniture business were lost in a fire in February 1876. According to The State Journal, “Tuesday night the fire alarm went off in the bitter winter air. Few were on the streets. But in moment, everyone rushed in the direction of the great bright light that illuminated the center of the city. It was not long until the truth was known and the report flew across the city with lightning speed, The Furniture Store ‘Heinrichs’ is Burning.'”

The fire engine was not far away as it was located at the intersection of High and Madison. The fire started in the basement where the department of the factory was located. The workers made mattresses from “Excelsior”, also called wood wool, a wood chip product used as stuffing or padding.

They lost the fine furniture on the first floor and John Heinrichs’ desk with all the account books. The newspaper reported that other buildings were in danger and “Great flakes of flame were carried by the east wind and enveloped the clapboard factory, the Hibbard residence, and fell with alarming profusion around the governor’s mansion.”

John F. Heinrich eventually took over the business in 1879, moving it to one of the warehouses under Bragg Hall at the corner of Monroe and High streets. Then in 1897 the business was moved to 207-209 East Main (Capitol). John became known as the “Furniture King” of Cole County and was called that. He was engaged in entrepreneurial and upholstery services and sold carpets and furniture.

In the Sunday News and Tribune in 1935, an article described four generations of Heinrichs in the funeral business. But the article does not start with Heinrich, but with Jacob. “When Jacob Heinrichs came to Jefferson City in 1861, such places as funeral homes were unheard of. Thus the Heinrichs family became identified with the funeral business. Jacob Heinrichs was a carpenter. He was called upon again and again to construct coffins and although no one knows how many he made in his time, the number probably rose to several hundred. It fell to the furniture maker to construct coffins for the dead, and the two naturally evolved together.”

The article says that Ivan was the son of Jacob. But as many family stories unfold over the years, Jacob and Heinrich seem to have become blurred. The article states that Jacob “was of age when he came to America. His wife and fifteen children came with him.” In fact, Jacob was 23 years old when he arrived, and his parents were old and had many children.

John was mayor from 1910 to 1911, was a member of the school board for 12 years, served on the board of Lincoln University and was president of the Germania Club.

Under Charles Heinrich, John’s son, funeral services became a well-known business requiring extensive embalming services and equipment. Charles sold the furniture business, and he and his son, John, continued the funeral business. In 1931, the Heinrichs’ home at 712 E. High St. it was turned into a funeral home. Before that, the funeral was held in the home of the deceased. The house is now High Street Retreat. After Charles’ death in 1942, the business was sold to the Dulle family.

Deborah Goldammer has retired from state government and is now pursuing her interest in Cole County history.



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