History

We have years of experience caring for families, from all walks of life. Each family comes to us because they know we are leaders in our profession, dedicated to excellence in service, and have the highest integrity.

Our History 

E. Harper & Son Funeral Home is the oldest continuously family-owned and operated funeral home business in New Haven and Allen County. We provide the families of Allen County with a caring, homelike atmosphere born of the experience of four generations with deep roots in our family-centered and church-oriented community.

The business originally began as a funeral home and furniture business owned by Henry Tenge and located on the corner of Middle and Broadway Streets. Brent Lovell, a cabinetmaker, purchased the business in 1872 and later sold it to the first Harper family member, Edward, in 1889. Edward Harper (1855-1928), son of William Harper of County Tyrone, Ireland was also a cabinetmaker and was serving as Jefferson Township Trustee when he purchased the business. His parents were among the original settlers of eastern Allen County. His father William helped to organize the township in 1840 along with Jared and Alanson Whitney, Aretas and Reuben Powers, Henry Castleman and Joseph Gronauer.

At the time Edward Harper purchased the business, few embalmings were performed. The body was kept in a special coffin lined with metal that allowed the body to be packed in ice. A small window was situated over the face and allowed family and friends to view the deceased. On the day of the funeral, which was held in the family's home, Mr. Harper removed the body, dressed it and placed it in a casket. He employed his skills as a cabinetmaker to finish many of the caskets himself, often crafting the handles and exterior covering and applying the inner lining. He kept one or two already trimmed for display purposes and would send samples of various materials to families' homes so they could make their selections. As embalming methods were perfected, Mr. Harper took week-long embalming courses offered in Fort Wayne by traveling trade companies. This was contrary to some funeral homes of the time in Allen County whose owners did not receive the necessary training. Mr. Harper performed embalmings in the home of the deceased until around 1910 when the business moved to a new building erected on family property at what is now 1244 Summit Street.

Emmet Edward Harper (1884-1958) joined his father in the business in 1902, which was renamed Ed. Harper & Son Undertakers. Emmet married Fannie Greenawalt (1889-1980) and she joined him in the family business. Both Emmet and his wife held Indiana and Ohio Funeral Directors licenses. Until 1947, Indiana law required one to only declare ownership of a funeral establishment to receive a license from the state. After 1947, schooling and testing were required to obtain a license to operate a funeral home.

In 1924, Emmet moved the business to 939 Main Street, a two-story brick Italianate former boarding house where he lived with his family on the second floor. Three of their six children, George, Homer and Stanley, became licensed upon graduation from mortuary science institutions. George (1910-1954) helped his father and retained his license until his death. Stanley (1926-) worked in the business from 1948-1971 as a funeral director and embalmer. Emmet remained semi-active in the business until his death in 1958.

Homer Hugh Harper (1923-2006) joined his father in the business upon discharge from the US Navy in 1946, attending Blackburn College and graduating from the Indiana College of Mortuary Science. In 1947, he married Erna Verle Van Hoek (1924-1987) who was a partner in the family corporation. The family of four (Kristine, Gregory, Lisa and Mitchell) lived above the business on Main Street. The family also maintained an ambulance service until 1979.

In 1953, the building underwent renovations to expand the chapel and office spaces and add more modern conveniences and additional parking. Sons Greg and Mitch were the first in Allen County to become licensed emergency medical technicians. Homer remained a well-known figure in the town and was active in community affairs and the business into his 80s, when he retired in 2004.

Greg Harper became a full partner in the family business in 1974. He attended Hanover College and Indiana University Fort Wayne, graduating from the Indiana College of Mortuary Science in 1974. A new, expanded modern facility opened in 1981 located at US 930 E and Werling Road, the former site of the Schnelker farmstead. This new facility came with substantially larger chapels and visitation areas, more off-street parking, two covered porticoes, and is fully handicap accessible.

Over the past century the business has seen many changes.  From horse drawn hearses and ambulances to the automotive hearse and ambulances which were purchased in 1913,  embalming and restorative art came into existence, procedures have moved from family residence to the funeral home, and caskets are no longer assembled on premises. After WWII is when our current trend came to be, with calling at the funeral home and a service at the funeral home or church.  This unique family owned business remains committed to meeting the needs of the families of Allen County.