Vintage Hearse: Scott Funeral Home, Chatham, Virginia

Scott Funeral Home's Vintage Hearse

Kenneth P. Scott, Sr., drives Scott Funeral Home's vintage hearse in a late-1950's Chatham Christmas parade.

The above photograph shows one of the first appearances of Scott Funeral Home's vintage Sayers and Scovill hearse after it was purchased and brought to Chatham by Kenneth P. Scott, Sr.

Kenneth's brother Curtis recalls that the purchase was made in the late 1950's, from the widow of a funeral director in a town near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. "She had been approached by antique dealers wanting the lanterns on the hearse, but she wanted to keep it intact, and not just sell the lanterns," he remembers.

Fortuitously for Kenneth Scott, she conveyed her wishes to the comptroller of Hess and Eisenhardt in Cincinnati, which was at that time the parent company of Sayers and Scovill. The comptroller and Kenneth Scott had met on several occasions (the Scotts had been buying new Sayers and Scoville hearses for some time), and knew of his search for a horse-drawn hearse, so the connection was made.

Sayers and Scovill's first hearse had been built in 1876. This Pennsylvania example which Kenneth Scott, Sr., was considering buying was an early model, thought to have been produced around 1880. Kenneth Scott, Jr., now recalls, "I do remember that he asked the owner many questions about the hearse and told us all about it before he traveled up to Pennsylvania to see it and purchase that day, to Mother's surprise."

The horse-drawn hearse, with Kenneth Scott, Sr., at the reins, was a feature of numerous Christmas parades in Chatham, and the Bicentennial parades in both Chatham and Danville. Since Mr. Scott's death, the hearse has remained in storage in the basement of the Scott Funeral Home building in Chatham.

Asked whether the hearse might be available for use as a final conveyance for a local citizen, Curtis Scott explains that unlike his late brother, "I'm not a horseman." And furthermore, caskets of today are too long to fit into the 120-year-old vehicle.

Even today, though, Scott Funeral Home retains its long-term practice of using exclusively Sayers and Scovill hearses. Explaining his father's loyalty to Sayers and Scovill, Kenneth Scott, Jr., says, "Dad . . . proudly would tell anyone about the superior differences in engineering and manufacturing to other hearse companies."

Kenneth Scott, Sr., eventually became a silent partner ("with a Mr. Calvin," explains Curtis Scott) in a Sayers and Scovill dealership for the states of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, North Carolina, and the District of Columbia. Calvin sold his interest to former Chatham Ford dealer Jim Parsons, giving the town of Chatham yet one more connection to the hearse story.

In the meantime, Hess and Eisenhardt, whose company offficer made the link from Scott to the antique hearse in Pennsylvania, no longer owns Sayers and Scovill, but now concentrates on armored vehicles. "This continues to be the company that manufactures armored U. S. Presidential limousines," says Kenneth Scott, Jr. "Once on a trip with Dad to Hess and Eisenhardt, I saw the car in which Kennedy was shot."