Mr. McCarty and the Very Expensive Coffin

Thus far we’ve seen that Charles P. Vance served on the building committee for the 1891 First Christian Church in Taylor, as did his stepson, James A. Simons. And one of the large windows in the Sanctuary is dedicated to Vance’s wife, and Simons’ mother, Annie Vance.

But that’s not the only member of the Vance family who served on the committee. His son-in-law, James Lawrence McCarty, served as well!

Of all the members of the committee, McCarty is the one about whom I’ve been able to find the least. He married Vance’s only daughter, Sarah “Sallie” Rebecca Vance, though I haven’t been able to find the record of the marriage.

It seems around 1904 or so, McCarty and his friend James B. Earthman relocated to Houston. Earthman had been a full-time undertaker in Taylor beginning around 1889.

In Houston, the two men established the Earthman and McCarty Undertaking Company. (The Earthman family continues to offer funeral services in Houston to this day – see this article from the Houston Chronicle about them.)

Bonus #1: Apparently in Texas it was (and may still be) illegal to swear in front of dead folks. The article above contains this little nugget: “Like their fellow morticians, Earthman and McCarty respected state law regarding the use of profanity in the presence of the dead.”

When Charles P. Vance and his wife relocated to Houston, they lived with James and Sallie McCarty, at 605 Francis Street (I was able to find this address because McCarty is featured in an advertisement for the William A. Wilson Realty Company in the July 26, 1906 edition of the Houston Post. The McCarty home is unfortunately no longer there… I looked at Google Street View to see.)

McCarty died a little less than a year after his father-in-law, on August 22, 1921 of leukemia.

Bonus #2: While researching Earthman & McCarty, I ran across a legal case involving the firm in a 1914 edition of the Southwestern Reporter ( It seems that a Mr. Dunn died “suddenly, while automobile riding with his friend” and the fellow’s wife was out of town. Before Mrs. Dunn returned to Houston, a Mr. Wright, who operated a funeral home in the city, was given charge of Mr. Dunn’s body. Wright “ordered by telegraph a bronze casket from Dallas, to be sent to Houston by express, the price of which was $1,800.”

That amount, by the way, is approximately $51,867.01 today, adjusted for inflation, so that must have been some casket.

Mr. Dunn’s friends and family in Houston, though, had intended to have him buried in a $250 casket (only $7,203.75 today). Wright was not pleased with this choice, and told them to mind their own business, and “a man of Frank Dunn’s prominence in the city of Houston…was entitled to a sweller funeral than the one we intended to give him.”

When Mrs. Dunn arrived in Houston she wasn’t happy. “[L]earning of Mr. Wright’s action in placing the body of her deceased husband in an $1,800 casket, at once repudiated such action, and directed Earthman & McCarty, rival undertakers, to take charge of the body.”

Anyway, this fun all resulted in Mr. Wright suing Mrs. Dunn and several other parties in an attempt to get paid for the Very Expensive Casket™. And I don’t see a Wright funeral home in Houston today, while the Earthman family is still in business, so it seems that respecting the wishes of a family regarding the selection of a casket is the way to go.

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