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Duke, Samuel

Was among those citizens that came to this place in the winter of 1821-22, and the second cabinet maker that cast his lot with the hardy pioneers of Indianapolis.  He was an Irishman by birth, and the second one of his countrymen to make this place his home, and an honest, upright man, and in his every-day department seemed that he would rather suffer a wrong himself than do a neighbor an injury.

            Mr. Duke was fond of fun and enjoyed a joke.  It was he that induced the blessed Ingins to pay a visit to the tonsorial establishment of “Fancy Tom,” an account of which will be found in a subsequent sketch.

            He brought the first “hearse” to this place in 1824.  To describe this vehicle is entirely out of my power; like a gentleman of Lafayette, my friend E. J. Peck tells of, in a similar situation, for the want of language to describe something he had seen, he said that “there was not language in the whole English ‘vocbulary’ to give an idea of it;” I never saw anything like it before nor since; it was enough to give a well man a sinking chill to see Mr. Duke, with his old grey horse in the thills, on the way to the grave-yard.  Perhaps the worthy undertaker had an increase of business in view when he purchased it, as an experiment of the effect it would have upon the mortality of the people.

            Mr. Duke died several years since.  He has several children yet residing in the city; one is the wife of David Lang, a well known carpenter and builder, who has also been a citizen of the city near forty years.  He is an honest, upright Scotchman, content to attend to his own business and let others do the same. 

            Forty-five years have come and passed away since the first hearse was brought to this place, and now we have in its stead those elegant vehicles of that kind of Messrs. Weaver, Long and Williams, which look as though they intended that our last ride, though a silent, should be a stylish one.

            In the undertakers’ establishments of the gentlemen above named the most fastidious, who wish to “shuffle off this mortal coil,” can be suited and fitted, for in them

                        “Coffins stand round like open presses

                        That show the dead in their last dresses”


Nowland, John H. B., “Early Reminiscences of Indianapolis, with Short Biographical Sketches of Its Early Citizens, and of a Few of the Prominent Business Men of the Present Day,” 1870, pp. 126-127.

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