From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.
James B. Davis arrived in Leavenworth determined to support the free-state cause of Kansas. It was the winter of 1855. He was among the leaders of 300 Immigrants coming from Crab Orchard, Ky.
Some settled in Leavenworth, others made their way to the Oak Mills community of northern Leavenworth County. Death was the final reality in the newly-formed territory, so Davis and his son, Thaddeus, opened a manufacturing business Feb. 28 at 102 Delaware. He specialized in making coffins.
The business of death in those days was conducted quite differently
than today, the current owner of Davis Funeral Chapel said recently.
"I would image they started to work the minute they got here," Davis Moulden explained. "People were dying all the time back then and they needed someone to take care of them in a respectful way."
J. B. Davis arrived in Leavenworth about six months after the town was founded in May 1854. The first territorial census taken the next year indicated the population of the newly formed city was 8,061. Davis became a manufacturer and dealer of furniture, coffins and metallic burial cases. Advertisements from the time boast of having "all sizes always on hand and furnished at the shortest notice."
The undertaking business was often associated with the furniture business in the early days of Kansas history. J. B. Davis and Co. also sold sewing machines by the time his business had moved to 410 Delaware.
Thaddeus Davis took up his father's business and assumed his place in the Leavenworth business community. He also was a close friend of William "Buffalo Bill" Cody. He remembered where Cody's father had been buried in the now abandoned Mount Aurora Cemetery.
When the famous showman would return to his boyhood home, he and Thaddeus would roam the Pilot Knob area searching for the long-lost grave of Isaac Cody.
After the turn of the century, Thaddeus' son, James d. Davis, opened his own business in the 600 block of Shawnee. It was another cold day in February when the Davis Funeral Chapel opened in 1909. The next year, James C. Davis purchased the present building at 531 Shawnee.
This Davis was known at "Big Hearted" Jim. He was a successful politician and served the city as mayor while the present city hall was constructed in the early 1920s.
"Jim Davis followed the golden rule platform in his campaigns for mayor and in his business. That's the way it's been run ever since," his grandson says.
Moulden's earliest memories are of his grandfather. As a boy, he lived across the street from the funeral home. The proud grandfather would take his daughter's only child over to the funeral home so he could be near him.
"I remember his funeral. When the big hearse drove by city hall, they tolled the bell at the fire station for him," Moulden said.
After this death, the responsiblity of operating the funeral home fell to daughter, Margaret, and her husband, c. E. "Pete" Moulden.
"Margaret Moulden was a true lady," her daughter-in-law, Debbie Moulden, said. "She was a graduate of Stephens College and taught school before she was married. She was a good person to work with and a good teacher. She never hurt anyone's feelings on purpose."
Debbie Moulden pointed to Margaret Moulden's community involvements including being elected the first woman to serve on the Leavenworth Waterworks Board.
"Those early days for my parents were some hard times," Moulden said. "That was the Depression and my parents lived in the castle across the street from the funeral home. They would hold wedding receptions and dinners in their home and do all the catering."
By the time Moulden was 14 years old, he knew what his future would hold. He graduated in 1963 from the Commonwealth College of Mortuary Sciences in Houston, Texas. He joined the business as a licensed funeral director.
LeRoy Fevurly was a young man some 40 years ago when he started working for Davis Funeral Chapel. He became a licensed funeral director and embalmer upon graduation from the Kansas City College of Mortuary Science.
Mrs. Moulden worked part-time during her early years of marriage while taking care of the couple's two daughters. During the past 10 years, she has served as a full-time administrative assistant.
"We are the oldest continously family operated business
in Leavenworth," Moulden said. "I know we were the first
in town to operate an undertaking business and that probably makes
us the first in the state, too. That's quite a lot to live up
"But we would not have been in business so long if we hadn't treated people right."