Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Burial of Poor

The complaints against government are nothing new. This letter to the editor, taken from the 10 November 1927 Fremont Times Indicator, by a local funeral director, shows that while the amounts may have changed, the pinch to the pocketbook is still there. Warning--this is a long post.



Editor Times Indicator:
Having heard much controversy lately in regards to Newaygo county's part in the expense incident to the burial of indigent Civil war veterans and the county poor, I take it that at its recent session the board of supervisors did not take into consideration the actual cost of either. Perhaps it was not explained to them and I therefore write this in a spirit of friendly helpfulness, as the system certainly should be changed, there being but few veterans left in the county.

In the matter of soldier's burial, Newaygo county allows $55.00, Muskegon $75.00 and Kent county $100.00, this allowance being fixed by the supervisors. Why so low in Newaygo county? I will illustrate with the case of a veteran who died in Grant township, this county. I went to the place where he died and cared for the body. Owing to conditions, it was necessary to embalm, using $2.oo worth of fluid. I paid $2.00 for an auto to take me there and I found the house in such condition that I had to go back and bring the body to Grant, at a cost of $2.50. There was no clothing of his that could be used for burial purposes. I took my coat, shirt, collar and tie and put them on him, but did not have any pants to spare at the time. When I meet this partly naked soldier in the next world he will probably ask me why I sent him on the long journey with no pants and I will have to tel him that he died in Newaygo county, where the allowance made by the board of supervisors was not sufficient to buy a pair. If I had used a burial robe, the cost would have been $6.50 more. A casket would cost $38.00 and outer box $7.50, at wholesale prices. Certainly nothing less should be used for a veteran. Cost of hearse and driver, $6.00, ($5.00 of which goes to the driver), and one dollar for taking the box to cemetery. The township generally pays for opening graves. This leaves no compensation for minister or funeral director.

Probably some will say that a veteran who draws a pension should save enough to provide for a decent burial. The one I have mentioned cared for or supported three grandchildren as well as himself entirely out of his pension.

Thus it will be seen that even the cheapest burial figures $66.00 at cost and there are conditions which necessitate a greater amount. The statute allows $75.00. Why not pay it?

Now I will take the case of an inmate of the county home, who at one time lived in Ashland. When he died, his mother, in poor circumstances, wished the body brought from the county home for burial in the family lot beside others of his family who had gone before. The Newaygo county allowance for a burial is $30.00 dollars, the figure being set by the board of supervisors. I got a body from the county home and it cost me $13.00 beside the cost of the casket and outer box, $26.75, bring the body from home to Ashland, $5.00 for embalming fluid, $200, taking box to cemetery, $1.00, hearse and driver $6.00, making a total of $40.75--leaving nothing for minster or funeral director.

I believe if all taxpayers would talk this matter over with their supervisors, the latter would look at the matter in a different light. Some would blame the county home inmates for being there, but I can not look at it that way. They are there and why not give them a fair burial, or at least pay the actual cost. Why should any funeral director of Newaygo county have to stand a part of the expense of burying indigent veterans and county poor charges, instead of having a reasonable compensation for his services?

I would like to see the citizens of the county take an interest in this matter.
A___ J M________
Funeral Director,
Grant Michigan.

Apparently either the county gave in and paid more, or they had less poor to bury. The same funeral home is still functioning today, proudly run by the same family.

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