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Resting Like Royalty

Kaylee Rasmussen
On August 22, 2022

I don’t know about you, but I love finding places I like to call, hidden gems! Harold Warp Pioneer Village Museum has been right under my nose just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Omaha to Minden Nebraska. Here you can be transported back in time. Take in the nostalgia of thousands of unique items filling this 20-acre space, there is surely something here that will excite everyone and anyone.

There are few times in life you get the chance to view something so rare, so unique, and filled with history that you cannot help but just be wowed. At Harold Warp Pioneer Village Museum, you can have these experiences of a lifetime one after another, like stepping back into time and reliving something you thought you would only be able to see on TV or read about in books.

What is something Princess Diana, JFK, and George Floyd have in common? I will tell you! They were all taken to their resting places via a horse drawn hearse. These highly publicized events that were viewed by millions of people around the world featured beautiful horse drawn hearses as part of their final goodbyes. As a child, I watched as the world mourned Princess Diana, and I was immersed in the beauty of her service and the carriage in which she was carried is an image that easily stands out to most. In fact, most all of the US presidents who have passed have been carried on horse drawn carriages for their final goodbyes as the public views and mourns together.

A carriage and a hearse are interchangeable terms, even though a carriage may be more open than a traditional image of an enclosed hearse. At Pioneer Village you can view the most beautiful, enclosed type of horse drawn carriage. Complete with horse figurines dressed appropriately for a funeral of its time, this hearse was used for many years at Freeland’s Funeral Home in Axtell Nebraska.

On October 5th, 1950, Sister Clara found two horse drawn hearses in Mound City, MO. One was a beautiful grey one with big lanterns for $250, the other was a black one for $100. In 1915 Harold Warp’s mother was carried to her final resting place in a horse drawn hearse. In her precession there was not a single automobile, which were not common in this period. 

The history of the hearse is ever evolving. During the 17th century, hand drawn carts called biers began to evolve into horse drawn carriages. It was in the 19th century that wooden carriages became more intricate, and the use of carvings and velvet draperies began to adorn these carriages. The earliest known horse drawn hearse dates back to 1468 used for English Royalty. Today we are accustomed to seeing a hearse as a long, motorized vehicle in which caskets are carried in a more private way. However, most recently we have seen a horse drawn carriage used in highly public funerals like that of George Floyd. When the world is watching, there is no way more beautiful to honor and display caskets while the world pays their respects, than to have a horse drawn hearse. Throughout history we can pinpoint these memories and relive these, and so many more, at Pioneer Village Museum!

Kaylee Rasmussen
A Student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, as part of Heather Nelson’s Service Learning Academy class.

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