Making Macon: Hart's Mortuary
Author: Nicole Butler
Published: 5:24 PM EST November 13, 2017
Updated: 5:37 PM EST November 13, 2017
LOCAL 0 Articles

Every day this week, we are taking you inside businesses that helped found Macon's service economy. Businesses that have not only survived, but thrived.

Hart's Mortuary is a family owned business that was founded in 1899 and is still thriving today.

For nearly 120 years, Hart's has helped families lay their loved ones to rest.

Founders: Left - Freeman Hart and Right - Jesse Hart (brothers)

Walking up the same steps for decades at Hart's Mortuary, Milton Heard remembers his first days at the family business.

"When I started here -- when I was 14 -- I was washing cars, setting up funerals and getting in the way," said Heard.

He looks at the history lining the walls and can point out items that have been there for as long as he can remember, such as a clock.

Along with the clock, you'll find the company's first hearse.

It's from the early 1900's and was originally pulled by a horse and buggy.

"The average adult has gotten so much taller in the past century that it is too short for the adult casket to fit in it any longer," Heard said.

Heard says they've always pushed the envelope when it comes to their services.

According to him, at the turn of the century, people held funerals and did the embalming at home.

In that, the family saw an opportunity.

"So this building was unique in that it actually had a chapel to have services in here and it also had a preparation room where the embalming occurred here at the funeral home," Heard said.

In 1931, another innovation came when they installed the first crematory in the Southeast.

The crematory in Hart's

"The closest competitor at that time was in Cincinnati, Ohio, so the entire Southeastern United States came to Hart's for a cremation," he said.

In 2001, Hart's saw another need -- pet cremations.

"If someone is calling our funeral home crying so hard they can hardly talk anymore, then [it’s] likely it'll be a call for the petuary," Heard said.

Heard says four generations later, he's proud of the Hart's legacy.

"We get lots of calls where people come in here and they want to be in the same room that their grandmother was, their grandfather was, and it's just a long history of Hart's relationship with this community," he said.

Heard says on average they've helped serve 600 families a year since 1899.

One of their most famous funerals was for Berry Oakley, the bassist for the Allman Brothers Band.