Gross Mortuary record books, 1874-1922

Gross Mortuary record books, 1874-1922

James B. McCaffrey was an early undertaker in Arkansas. His first location in Arkansas was in Little Rock, but there were already several other well-established undertakers, including James B. Cook who started there in 1869, already there. Mr. Mccaffrey stayed in operation in Little Rock a short time. Nearby Hot Springs had no undertaker, so he moved to this fast-developing town and Spa in 1874 and opened his shop on now Central Avenue.

These books were the official record books on funerals that Mr. McCaffrey kept. The first section of pages (perhaps records of funerals he kept in Little Rock) are gone. He opened his undertakers shop in Hot Springs on April 18, 1874, as this first funeral shows. As you can tell by flipping thru the pages, business at first was very slow. Not every family used an undertaker back then. And many of those who did, only purchased a coffin from him and did their own funerals. You will note that some entries show that when he did take care of the remains (shaving and dressing) he charged $10.00.

He remained in business alone for several years. He later took on his first partner, Gus Buchanan, and the firm became known as McCaffrey & Buchanan, Undertakers. However, in December 1883, Buchanan left to become a banker. McCaffrey hired a young German Jewish immigrant, Bernard (Billy) Gross, and on December 6, 1883, the firm became Mccaffrey & Gross. The second of these old books show this in Red Ink, page 23.

J.B. Mccaffrey died Feb. 2, 1886, and his funeral information is on page 65 of the second book. He was shipped to Lexington, Kentucky, his hometown, for funeral and burial. Note he was given a first-class funeral with a fine metallic casket, embalming, name plate, etc.

Billy Gross took over operation and ownership of the firm after this and changed the name to B. Gross, Embalmer & Undertaker.

Records Availability

The funeral books were microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah in 1977. The original funeral books are available at the Garland County Arkansas Court House. you must be logged into Family Search in order to view the online digital reproduction.

4 thoughts on “Gross Mortuary record books, 1874-1922”

  1. Geraldine Landy

    You are wonderful to publish this as most people don’t think to look up undertaker records even if they thought they might have been kept by some society or state or county. I will look at all your mortuary records when I can as I have a relative who died in 1903 and one in 1919 with no records found or death certificates and supposedly died in Boone County. Do any mortuary records exist for Boone County or any old Doctor records? Thanks for any advice.

    1. Arkansas Genealogy

      Unfortunately, Boone County does not currently have digitized or published funeral records that I can find information about. Look at AccessGenealogy for a good collection of what funeral records are available for Arkansas: Arkansas Funeral Home Records (

      The first thing you’ll need to determine is which funeral homes were doing business in and around Boone County between 1903-1919. I would suggest reaching out to both the Boone County Heritage Museum ( and the Boone County Genealogy Library ( and try to establish the identity of the morticians at that time. There is the possibility that the family hired a carpenter to build a pine coffin and buried the body themselves, without any embalming or mortician assistance.

      The microfilm collection at the Arkansas State Archives specific to Boone County may help you find other alternatives for missing death records.


  2. Gwendolyn Lindsey Brooks

    Looking for family history. My grandmother Rachel Wright Patton and her family lived in Arkansas back in the early years. They came there from Brooksville Mississippi.

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