It was in St. Stephen, New Brunswick in 1884 that Samuel Orr Mehan joined an undertaking business, working with J.R. Sederquest.
On June 18, 1893 it was announced to the people in Charlotte County by way of the local newspaper that Samuel Mehan & Co. were opening an undertaker's shop on Water Street across from Ganongs (chocolate factory and candy store where the chocolate bar was invented), and would be carrying a full stock of caskets, coffins and funeral supplies.
The advertisement relates "Having had an experience of a number of years we are prepared to attend to business in all its branches in modern style and ask for a show of public patronage and would give in return low prices and careful attention. Screen doors and windows made to order on short notice and rooms are open day and night.
Business continued, with Samuel building caskets of pine and wife Mary working beside him, padding and lining each unit. A second generation, sons John David and Samuel, joined their mother and father in the business. Samuel Jr. enlisted in the army and J.D. furthered his education, graduating from the Boston School of Anatomy and Embalming in 1913. As the 1893 ad says, "Modern style continued with his returning to St. Stephen to practice modern embalming methods, holding licenses in both New Brunswick and Maine."
The business was moved from its original location on Water Street to a new site at 17-19 Water Street where embalming and building and lining of caskets continued. Flower arranging was done by wife Mary.
It was at his residence on Mark Street, that Samuel kept his fine black horses and horse-drawn hearses. With motor cars being built and looking to the future, Mehan's had a horse drawn hearse frame mounted on the chassis of a Hudson car. It became the first motorized funeral coach in Charlotte County and was housed in a specially built "Hearse House." This coach was used until 1927 when Mehan's purchased a new four-cylinder Dodge funeral coach in Lewiston, Maine.
After the death of Samuel on April 19, 1928, John D. Mehan continued to operate the business. In 1946, he purchased the A. C. Gregory property at 23 Main Street for a funeral home, keeping the business and flower shop at 17-19 Water Street.
By this time, a third generation including sons Ross, Jack and Elmer and later son-in-law J. Edward Williston were working in the business. Mother Mary, faithfully attended the office every day, until her death in 1959 at the age of ninety-two.
Grandson Alward L. Mehan, the son of Jack C. Mehan, was encouraged by his grandfather to start working in the family business around this time, making him the fourth generation in the funeral service.
In 1963, the business suffered another loss, with the death of J.D. Mehan, leaving the business jointly owned by Ross Mehan, Elmer Mehan, Lillian (Mehan) and her husband J. Edward Williston.
With the business being operated by the next generation, a three-car garage with storage space was built in 1966 and in 1969, a chapel to seat one hundred and ten people was added.
In 1974, eighty years after S. O. Mehan started the business, it was sold to Alward L. Mehan. Finding it too difficult to operate a business office on Water Street and a funeral home on Main Street, Alward sold the Water Street building in 1975. The business office and the flower shop were then moved to Main Street in the renovated basement of the funeral home.
After their marriage in 1965, Alward and wife Karlene lived in the upstairs apartment with their three children. Fourteen years later, the family moved into the Libby house located behind the funeral home. Alward was always close to the business.
The business continued to expand with the purchase of an apartment building in 1980. This building was located between the funeral home and Alward's home and was later torn down to increase parking for funerals. Another property was purchased in 1991 and the Phil Ganong property was purchased after that home was destroyed by fire on Easter Sunday, 1991.
A few minutes after midnight, on Monday, August 5, 1991, Alward was awakened by the screams of his son, Allan, who had returned home to find the funeral home garage ablaze. He and his father tried to enter but the smoke was too strong.
Alward's aunt and uncle, Barb and Elmer Mehan, who were spending the summer in the apartment, were alerted by Allan to get out of the building, and they exited safely. With the casketed human remains resting in the funeral home at the time, Allan's next thought was to save them from the fire. The task was accomplished.
It was a devastating day for the Mehan family, to watch the countless memories of forty-five years destroyed in a matter of hours. A sad ending for a building that existed since 1872. The building, its contents and four vehicles were charred shells by daylight and the fire loss estimated at $1.7 million.
While firefighters from St. Stephen, Oak Bay, Moores Mills, Western Charlotte and Calais (Maine, USA), were fighting the blaze, Alward and his staff were making arrangements to get vehicles and equipment to conduct a funeral in McAdam at 9 am that day. Business continued with the help of area funeral homes and churches. The business office and flower shop also continued to operate at Alward and Karlene's home at 5 George Street.
In the fall of 1991, a fifth generation of Mehan's, Alward S., passed his embalmer's exam. Mehan's now has a total of five family members licensed in the business: Alward L., Karlene, son-in-law David Bone, cousin J. Terris (son of Elmer) and son Alward.
The clearing of the debris of the fire-ravaged building and preparing for a new one was a major job, but, as with Samuel O., a modernization was all important. On October 24, 1991, the ground was broken for construction and on December 12, 1991, Alward L. Mehan pounded the first spike for a new and modern funeral home
On July 5, 1992, Alward laid the cornerstone at the official opening. Just eleven months after total destruction, Mehan's were operating again from their own premises.
From the ashes came a dream. The S. O. Mehan & Son Funeral Home Ltd. is a credit to the Mehan name and to the communities it serves. It is a modern, easily accessible building with four parlours, large chapel, clergy room, arrangement office, show room, four-car garage and wash bay.
Mehan's has served the public for more than one hundred years and the courtesy and attention to detail first offered in 1893 has been the bedrock upon which the Mehan firm has been built.