Hearse at People's Mortuary Museum
Ohio Life

Peoples Mortuary Museum, Marietta

Bill Peoples’ museum houses a collection of interesting artifacts that offers insight into the funeral business and how it evolved over 150 years.

The sleek, black carriage is entirely hand carved. Built in 1895 by the Sayers & Scovill hearse company, it offers a glimpse into what the business of caring for the dead and the grieving looked like before funeral homes became commonplace in American society.   

“Back in those days, there were undertakers and morticians, but not funeral homes,” says Bill Peoples, funeral director and founder of the Peoples Mortuary Museum in downtown Marietta. “Everything had to be done in the person’s home, so they would load up that horse-drawn carriage. They would put chairs in it, maybe a tent and all sorts of embalming equipment.”

The carriage is just one of the fascinating items on display at Peoples’ museum. The attraction, which is located adjacent to the Cawley & Peoples Funeral Home, traces the evolution of both the industry and the Marietta business itself, which dates back to 1869.

“It’s very important to show people the history of the funeral industry,” says Peoples, “how people have grieved over the years and how it was done back then compared to how things are done now.”

The museum’s collection spans clothing, advertisements, automobiles and vintage caskets from the early 1800s through the 1950s. The museum opened 20 years ago as Peoples began to collect more and more antique funeral home cars, which expanded into hundreds of different items. Many artifacts were saved from the business’ past, while some were donated from other funeral homes. Peoples purchased still others to help document the evolution of the industry.

The museum is free. Just be sure to call ahead and make sure a staff member is available to take you through the guided tour before you drop by. While some items on display may unsettle some visitors, Peoples is quick to ensure that the museum does not indulge in the macabre.

“We don’t have anything that’s not tastefully displayed,” he says. “It’s a very tasteful, clean and pleasant atmosphere.” 

408 Front St., Marietta 45750, 740/373-1111, cawleyandpeoples.com