The History of Funeral Transports | Funeral Homes
After funerals at funeral homes in Rockford, IL, the funeral procession makes its way to cemetery where the deceased will be buried. The funeral procession is led by the hearse, which carries the deceased. The mourners, starting with the deceased’s immediate family, follow slowly behind.
But hearses are the latest form of funeral transportation. Many other systems have been used in the past to transport people who died to their final resting places.
In the ancient world, people were wrapped up when they died, and a group of mourners would carry the wrapped body to the grave. We see examples of this in the New Testament accounts of Lazarus in the grave and of Jesus after he was crucified and resurrected. It’s interesting to note that in the account of Lazarus, no spices were used as part of burial preparation to control the odor of the decaying body, whereas with Jesus, the women who witnessed the crucifixion prepared spices to take to the tomb.
This practice of mourners carrying the wrapped body to the grave was common until the invention of the wheel. Once the wheel was invented, carts were constructed for all types of use, including funeral transports.
A specially constructed cart was made for funeral transports. It was a long flat cart, called a bier, that was long enough and wide enough for a body, and it served both as a means to transport the deceased to the grave and to display the deceased before burial while the funeral service was conducted. A horse would pull the bier from the place of death to the cemetery.
Funeral homes sometimes still use biers today to move deceased people easily. Modern biers, also known as “church trucks,” are manufactured using aluminum.
As time went on and people began to be a little more mobile, moving in and out of rural areas, the need arose for funeral transportation for deceased people to and from towns and cities. In Britain, corpse roads were created specifically for funeral transportation, to accommodate transporting deceased people from a town or city to a church and then to a rural cemetery, or from the country to a church and then to a cemetery in the town or city.
America also had corpse roads, which are also known as coffin roads or bier roads. These funeral transport roads spawned many of the legends and superstitions about ghosts and apparitions harassing those traveling on these roads or following the mourners back to their homes. One of the most famous of these kinds of tales of ghastly horror is recounted by Washington Irving in his famous novel, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Because of the superstitions surrounding corpse roads, by the 1800s mourners routinely took a different route home after the funeral and burial of the dead person. This ensured that no ghosts followed the mourners back to their homes. Some people still will leave a cemetery by a different way than they came.
In the 1800s, trains abounded and funeral trains for famous people became more common. Starting with President Abraham Lincoln, many past and present presidents have had funeral trains to carry them from their homes to the Capitol after their deaths.
When Henry Ford invented the automobile, funeral transportation for the common person changed again. Hearses were an inevitable adaptation of the automobile, because they allowed deceased people to be carried further and faster, a necessity in a world where the Industrial Revolution was at its peak and global mobility increased dramatically.
For more information about funeral transports at funeral homes in Rockford, IL, our compassionate and experienced team at Collins & Stone Funeral Home is here to help. You can visit our funeral home at 128 S 5th Street, Rockford, IL 61104, or you can call us today at (815) 965-1515.