In the second week of February, John Harry Kistler of Charlotte, North Carolina, came into town and quickly set up shop in the back of an old two-story wooden store building on the southeast corner of Darlington's Public Square.
On the 12th of February, 1922, Kistler Funeral Home was born.
Who was John Harry Kistler?
J. H. Kistler served in France as a Sergeant in the US Army Medical Corps during World War I where his primary job was transporting the wounded and the dead.
After the war, he decided to continue in this field and attended Brown's Embalming School (Raliegh, NC) in 1919 and 1920. He then transferred to Worsham's School of Anatomy, Sanitary Science and Embalming (Chicago, IL), where he graduated in June, 1921.
Following graduation and before coming to Darlington in 1922, he was employed for a short time at Whitner Funeral Home in Bennettsville, SC.
A Darlington Business on the Move
After several years at the original location on the Public Square, Kistler Funeral Home moved into a rented building on the corner of Pearl and Dargan Streets.
In 1931 Kistler constructed a new building at 122 Dargan Street and became the first funeral home in the Pee Dee area of the state.
Three years later, in April of 1934, Kistler Funeral Home became incorporated and continued to operate the Dargan Street location until the building burned in May, 1942.
June of 1942 then saw Kistler move his business into its present location. Situated at the the corner of Pearl Street and Edwards Avenue, and known locally as the McCown House, it is believed to be the oldest house in Darlington.
The Son Joins the Family Business
T. C. Kistler began working in his father's funeral home in the 1930's.
After serving in World War II and later graduating from the University of South Carolina, he rejoined the family firm.
A few years later, "T. C." returned to college and earned his funeral service degree from Gupton Jones College (Nashville, TN) in 1950 and returned to work at the funeral home with his father and his mother, Ethel.
The Jeffords — Kistler Connection
Ethel Jeffords Kistler (wife of founder J. H. Kistler) was the daughter of a local merchant named Thomas Calhoun Jeffords. "T. C.", as he was called, was also a funeral director, although, in those days the funeral director merely furnished the casket and rented the family a horse-drawn hearse. (Incidentally, you may wish to note that Ethel's son was also called "T. C.", after her father, whose picture can be found hanging in our main office.)
T. C. Jeffords' funeral service eventually grew to include the use of a Model-T hearse and plans were being made to merge the Jefferson and Kistler funeral firms. However, just a few short months before the merger would have taken place, Jeffords died on February 28, 1923. Legend has it that he got pneumonia after getting wet while serving as a pallbearer at a friend's funeral.
Our Strength is in Our People
Over the years, many fine people have been employed by the Kistler firm. At the risk of leaving someone out, most notable of the longtime employees include B. E. Parnell, Carlisle Rogers, Cole Davis, Marion Belk, Merle Baxley, Jimmy Moody, Billy McClary, Ron Schuler, John Holmes, Rick Matthews, Eddie Fields, Todd Hardee, and Dan Buchanan.
On January 1, 1999, J. Todd Hardee and his wife, Jenny, assumed ownership of the firm and the original name was appended to become "Kistler-Hardee" Funeral Home. Kistler-Hardee Funeral Home continues to rely on the strength of its people and the trust the community has placed in the institution for nearly one hundred years.