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J.T. Oldham came to El Dorado from Iowa in 1879 to establish a furniture factory, be a dealer in furniture and carpets, and as was the case most of the time during this era, to establish an “undertaking parlor.” In all likelihood, Oldham manufactured the caskets or “coffins” in the same area he made furniture. In 1893, Oldham sold half of his furniture business to J.R. Putnam, and in 1900, Putnam purchased the remaining half of the furniture business.
Oldham continued the undertaking business and in 1904 took on an associate by the name of Harry Washington. The 1902 El Dorado Business Journal also lists under “Undertakers” A.R. Castle, who practiced in the “undertaking rooms” at the J.T. Oldham building. In 1916, F.M. Byrd of Parnell, Missouri, a graduate and practicing veterinarian, came to El Dorado and purchased the undertaking business from Oldham. While practicing veterinary medicine, Byrd was also preparing himself for the funeral profession and was issued a diploma and license by the State of Kansas. He was accompanied by his brother, C.F. Byrd, as a partner in the business until 1929, when C.F. Byrd moved to Wichita to open a funeral home in that city. The Byrd Brothers Undertaking Company operated in the Oldham building at 203 S. Main St. for four years, until 1920, when they purchased the Dr. Fullinwider home at 200 S. Star. They converted the Fullinwider residence into a funeral home, where the business has been located for over 80 years. In 1928, Clarence Wilke and Harry M. Harris joined the firm. These men were sons-in-laws of F.M. Byrd. The name was then changed to Byrd Funeral Home. In March 1931, a completely new addition and remodeled building was dedicated and billed as on of the “most modern funeral home in Kansas.” In 1936, Glen Dietz came to the funeral home as an apprentice under Clarence Wilke. He worked until he was called into the Navy during World War II. Upon his release from duty in 1945, he returned to his position with the funeral home.
In 1952, the funeral home was sold to Gerald and Carrol Byrd of Wichita, the sons of Claude F. Byrd. At this time, Glen and his wife Loretta purchased a funeral home in Erie, Kansas where they remained until 1956, when they returned to El Dorado and purchased the funeral home. They, along with Jack Pittman, the manager of Byrd-Snodgrass, operated the funeral home until 1960, when the Dietz family became full owners. A new chapel was added to the home in 1968, and the firm was re-named Dietz Colonial Chapel. In 1974, Eugene and Betty Carlson moved to El Dorado from Solomon, Kansas and purchased the funeral home and operated it until the death of Eugene in January 1993.
Over the years, many changes have taken place both inside and outside the building. Most notable were the erection of the four large pillars and porches on the front of the building in 1931 and the chapel in 1956.
In 1931, the Alderson-Arnold Funeral Home began its operation at 224 W. Ash in El Dorado, KS. The funeral directors at the time were Ross Alderson and Manley Arnold. In 1949, a partnership was formed between Manley Arnold and Paul Kirby. In this partnership, they added the chapel area, family room and a new front to the funeral home. Paul Kirby purchased the interest in the funeral home from Mr. Arnold in 1949.
Paul Kirby operated the funeral home for over 30 years. In 1970, Paul Kirby sold the Kirby Funeral Home to Dick and Ted Morris. In 1977, Dick Morris bought out his brother Ted and continued operation the funeral home as we know it today as Kirby-Morris Funeral Home.
In the early 1990's, both Carlson and Kirby-Morris Funeral Homes joined forces to continue to serve the families of Butler County. By sharing staff and resources, the funeral homes were able to grow with Butler County and continue a tradition of excellence that continues to this day.
We here at Carlson & Kirby-Morris strive to provide a professional service to families that will make a lasting impression of care and comfort.