Our History

M. J. Smith & Son Funeral Home. was once the home of James Dryden and his family. Mr. Dryden was one of the members of Deseronto's Town Council in 1898. He was a merchant and employed 300 people. In this photograph he would have been around 41 years old.

Mr. Dryden was born in Napanee, Ontario and married an Englishwoman, Melissa Ann Irvine, in Murray, Northumberland County, on November 9, 1881. At that time he gave his profession as 'harness maker'. They had one daughter, Jennie, born November 1, 1888. The family lived on Centre Street in Deseronto, in the house which is now used as a the funeral home.

Mr. Dryden died on September 7, 1921, of diabetes, at the age of 66. Melissa died in January 1945 and their daughter, Jennie May Dryden, died in October 1949. All three are buried in the Deseronto Cemetery, in plot 119.

The Gardner Family

Evan Joseph Gardner, came to Deseronto in 1932 as an undertaker. He had taken his training in Toronto and bought the business from Mr Cornstalk. The funeral home business us to be on St. George Street in Deseronto.

In 1947 he converted the Dryden House, which was on Centre Steet, to a funeral home. The St. George Street building (on the site of the liquor store) was a block, with Gardner's furniture store at one end, the caskets in the middle and Cora Mason's store in the third and a Chinese laundry at the end. Mr. Gardner ran an ambulance service and opened a 'Five to a Dollar' store.

The Gardner family lived on Green Street until they moved to the house on Centre Street. They lived in the whole house, but when there was a funeral, the downstairs rooms were used for the bodies. One year, the family had to have Christmas in the kitchen, as the three downstairs rooms (front room, library and dining room) were being used for three different funerals. Mr. Gardner had to move the tree three times.

When the Gardner`s lived in the funeral home it had three fireplaces, a butler's pantry, maid's pantry and coal chutes, a back and front staircase and curved railings.

Mrs Gardner worked at the funeral home as well. She took phone calls and helped to set the women's hair and apply make-up.

Dr Harold Boyce and Cecil Duffield were friends of the Gardners. George Jackson would help Mr Gardner and Mr Don Walker helped with lifting people. Mr Gardner had a 7-passenger Plymouth which could be used as an ambulance. In 1940 he got a Cadillac hearse. It had carvings on the side in the form of velvet drapes and a cross that could go on top for Catholic funerals. Mr Gardner belonged to the Lions Club, the Independent Order of Foresters, the Oddfellows and Masons. The youngest Master in Deseronto in his time.

The funeral business was sold in 1949, to Jack White. Mr Gardner was diagnosed with a disease that prevented him doing the undertaking. The family stayed in Deseronto after the sale of the business and moved from the funeral home to the apartment above the current Dollar Store on Main Street.

Information taken from a interview with the Gardner sisters (daughter of Mr. Gardner),who lived in the house in the 1930s/40s.  Click Here for the interview.