The earliest recorded burial in Lancaster took place in March of 1885. At this point there was no established cemetery or burial grounds, so the rancher was laid to rest beneath a Joshua tree on the eastern outskirts of town. The first official cemetery was established during the 1890s, owned by the Lutheran church.
In 1902, Benjamin F. Carter donated five acres of land to the town of Lancaster for use as a cemetery, which was officially named the Lancaster Cemetery and first used in April of 1903.
During this time, local barber Sam McCracken used his barbershop's cellar as the town's morgue. He eventually left Lancaster, forcing the transportation of the deceased to Los Angeles for embalming.
Wesley S. Mumaw saw an opportunity arise with the departure of barber/undertaker Sam McCracken, and set up his obituary and funeral home establishment in 1913. At that time, the location was on the corner of Date Avenue and 12th Street. 12th Street has since become Newgrove, with the original building still standing at the same corner.
Wesley would be the first to introduce a horse-drawn hearse to the Antelope Valley in 1916, converting it into a motor vehicle in 1920 by taking the coach portion of the horse-drawn hearse and modifying it to fit the back of a Studebaker pickup truck.
During the Great Depression, most businesses suffered to an extent, and Mumaw was not exempt. Records of the funeral home’s transactions from this time show a trend of payment through barter – such as a trade of so-many dozen eggs per month, saddles, tack, or exchange of physical labor.
Founder Wesley S. Mumaw passed away in 1931, with his son Roy taking over the family business. Roy’s son Wesley J. Mumaw, an experienced military undertaker, purchased the business from his father in 1957. Wesley had a son, Jim, who also took over the family business after his mother’s death in 1991.
Still family-owned and operating today, over 100 years and five generations later, the Mumaw Funeral Home is one of the longest-running businesses in the Antelope Valley.
"Gurba, Norma H. Lancaster. Arcadia, 2005.
Photo courtesy of MOAH Collections"