Funeral service in Dryden, NY started sometime before 1880 as an "Undertaking Business" owned and operated by a cabinet maker named Galusha Cole Sweet. The business was in the "Bartholomew Block" at what is now 6 East Main Street. After January 25, 1894 he conducted business out of a furniture store located at what is now 23 West Main Street. Although Mr. Sweet became known as G.C. Sweet, he was also known by many as "Lute Sweet". He lived in the house directly north of the Southworth Library until having the house at 55 West Main Street built by a Mr. Bartholomew in 1883. At first he maintained the business at the "uptown location" since he was established there. People had the funerals at their residence or in one of the churches. Later, perhaps near the turn of the century, he began to invite people to hold funerals at his residence. With this beginning, funeral service has developed into the intensive service-oriented business that is operated today and since 1920, by the Perkins Family.
As a young man, G.C. Sweet worked in a buggy factory in Cortland, NY and there learned the trade and art of making buggies and wheels. He later constructed the wheel hearse that was used until the 1920's. It had wheels for the good weather and converted to bobs for the snow season. A photograph of this vehicle hangs in the office of the funeral home and the rear doors are used on a cabinet in the funeral home. Shortly before his death, Mr. Sweet purchased a special hearse for children's funerals. "It was never used and sold in the settling of his estate", writes his daughter, Grace Sweet Bryant. Miss Allene Sweet, another daughter of Galusha Cole Sweet was married to Clarkson T. Davis who had learned the undertaking business from Mr. Sweet even though his own father was an undertaker in Slaterville, NY. G.C. Sweet died in 1904 after straining to lift a heavy casket and body through a doorway in a house on South Street in the Village of Dryden. Clarkson T. Davis carried on the business while living on the north side of Main Street in the first house beyond the railroad tracks. Soon he purchased the 55 West Main Street property (from his mother-in-law, Mrs. G.C. Sweet) with its large house and barn and a team of "high spirited horses". For a time he continued to use the uptown location for embalming.
Clarkson T. Davis sold the property and business to Ernest M. Perkins in 1920. In the business archives is the original receipt for a down payment of two hundred dollars dated March 9, 1920. Mr. Perkins had learned the undertaking trade at Renouard Training School in New York City and had practiced a short while in Corning, NY. There he met his wife to be, Josephine DeWitt. Grandma Perkins told me on several occasions of the trip here by train from Corning. It seems that my grandfather, E.M. Perkins had made his purchase and came ahead to learn the business and the community for a month from Mr. Davis. During this month he lived in the Dryden Hotel. After Mr. and Mrs. Davis moved from the funeral home, approximately October 1, 1920, E.M. sent the train fare to his bride of fourteen months, a registered nurse, who soon arrived at the Lehigh Valley Station on Elm Street. Mr. Davis went on the road selling caskets for two years and later settled in Ithaca, NY where he became a partner in the Baldwin-Davis Funeral Home.
E.M. and Josephine D. Perkins were the parents of my late father, Paul Palmer Perkins and my late uncle DeWitt Ray Perkins. After high school, Paul entered Simmons School of Embalming in Syracuse and became a licensed undertaker in June of 1943. Dad achieved his embalming license in July of 1946 after a three year tour with the US Navy, which took him to the Pacific War Theater. Returning safely from the war also afforded Dad the opportunity to become married to the "girl across the street", Joyce Elizabeth McKinney who was the daughter of R.A. McKinney, DVM and Helen Steele McKinney. Dr. McKinney was a veterinarian in Dryden and vicinity. Paul P., as we fondly refer to him, was associated with his father and became the owner of the business in 1953. Although my father had become the owner, Grandpa continued to supervise and direct during retirement. He died in July of 1956 with my mother, myself and Grandma Perkins present. I ran and got Dad, but as we returned across the driveway, death had come to Grandpa Perk in his 70th year. Grandma Perk died April 1, 1978 in her 86th year.
Paul P. and wife Joyce M. Perkins are the parents of two "baby boomer" sons -- myself, Bradley Paul Perkins born March 11, 1951 and a licensed funeral director since 1977, and my brother, Mahlon Robert Perkins, J.D., born March 29, 1948 who is an attorney who practiced law in the Village of Dryden for 40 years. Mahlon now works for the New York State Unified Court System in Ithaca, NY. In 1983, I married the former Kathleen Ann Fitzgibbons, We have two sons, Daniel Paul and Devin Patrick, and a daughter, Kathleen Elizabeth. Mahlon R. Perkins is married to the former Danielle Bishop, and they reside with their family in the Town of Dryden. He has two daughters, Logan Elizabeth and Anne Webster, and two sons, Jack Paul and Alexander Steele.
From 1929 to 1976 Perkins Funeral Home provided emergency ambulance service to the community and vicinity. The ambulance operations were transferred to Neptune Hose Co. No. 1 of Dryden in 1976 after state regulations mandated extensive training and elaborate equipment that was not practical for a small company to provide.
In 1930 another funeral business was established by a kind and well-thought-of gentleman named Harold A. Strong. His business was on Library Street in a converted Episcopal Church. Mr. Strong also served Dryden families until retiring and selling his business to Paul P. Perkins effective January 1, 1968. At that time, Mr. Strong and his wife, Helen, moved to Norwich, NY where the enjoyed retirement until their deaths in the 1980's.
In 1978 I formed a crematory corporation and adopted the business name of Cayuga Crematorium Incorporated. The crematory operation serves our funeral home and several other funeral homes in a wide area. 1982 was the beginning of Dryden Monument Company which is owned by the funeral home corporation and is now located at the property west of the funeral home where for nearly a century stood a feed mill and farm supply store.
The funeral home, at 55 West Main Street, has undergone many changes, enlargements and redecoration's. First was the introduction of central heat and then electricity and telephone as those services became available. The original building plans are part of the archives. Even 133 years later, all funeral home operations are on one floor level. In 1992 I supervised a complete redecoration and a major expansion of the facility. The inclusion of handicap facilities and a larger chapel area have been major accomplishments that are designed to offer the finest funeral facility available to those families who, in the most tender times of their lives, entrust our staff to care for their dead and assist them in a meaningful memorialization of the life that was lived.
Perkins Funeral Home, Inc. has five full time employees which operate the funeral business, crematorium, and the monument operation. It serves Dryden and all surrounding communities. We are often called to serve families from miles away because of a prior relationship when the family lived in Dryden or a surrounding community.
Brad Perkins has sold the business to Joe & Karen Bowers in February of 2019. His father, Paul P. Perkins, passed away on June 20, 2008 after more than 62 years in funeral service. Paul's wife, Joyce, passed away June 1, 2018 she had unselfishly devoted her ability and compassion and was valuable part of the entire presentation of our profession to the public that we serve.
Today, Joe and Karen reside in Dryden with their three children and are active members in the community.
Currently in addition Joe and Karen, Gary J. Tyrrell, a licensed funeral director and Tompkins County native, assists in all aspects of the business. Dennis Totman serves the funeral home, crematorium and monument business in a variety of ways.
While we all recognize changes in our lives, one thing remains constant. Our human race seeks and desires to find ways that we will be remembered. Funeral service is the stage that contains a set from which we can reflect and appreciate our past, honor our forbearers and with modest ceremony, celebrate their passing to a life eternal. More than anything, I recognize that we are frail and live but a short time in the spans of this life. In eternity, we live forever. While we are in this life, we must remain dedicated to the betterment of humanity, to the service to those in need, whatever their heritage or lot in life. It is certain that we would ask no less of others when it becomes our turn to exit this life and enter into life eternal. Therefore, I offer you our continued commitment to service with love, peace and healing for all, forever.
-Joe & Karen Bowers