mountain stream

Our History

Walter Greene Wilkinson (9/22/1876 - 11/9/1949) was born in Sumner County, Tennessee, to Thomas James and Elizabeth (Jackson) Wilkinson. On October 30 in 1903, Walter married Bessie Lane (10/24/1882 - 5/5/1925). Three years later, in 1906, she looked on as her husband Walter and his brother Luther Wilkinson (6/1/1882 - 11/18/1956) invested in their first business venture, the Tobe Anderson Funeral Home in Portland, Tennessee, and changed the name to Wilkinson Brothers Funeral Home.

Luther married Lillie Harrison (5/12/1887 - 2/11/1973) on December 22, 1906.

Portland was only 18 years old in 1906 when Walter and Luther Wilkinson bought the undertaking business from Tobe Anderson. They officially opened their new business near the corner of Broadway and Market Streets, where the gazebo now stands.

In those days, Wilkinson Brothers Funeral Home, owned and operated by Walter and Luther Wilkinson, offered the finest and most up-to-date funeral service available. They went to homes for embalming, and they made the wooden boxes to place the casket in, carefully lining each with the family's choice of fabric.                      

 


 Walter G. and Myrtle Wilkinson

Luther eventually parted company with his brother in 1910 to open a hardware store that was adjacent to the funeral home.

When Luther left the business, a third brother, Hatton Wilkinson, joined Walter in the funeral business. After about two years in the business, Hatton, too, ventured out on his own to establish a funeral home in White House. Later still, he moved to Greenbrier to operate yet another funeral home there.

After receiving his undertaker’s license in 1909, Walter bought Luther’s share of the business, and he built a new funeral home in 1910. It stood where the Rotary Hall is today. Families could choose between black horses and a black hearse, or white horses and a white hearse. Funeral services were held in homes and churches.

In 1919, Walter created a partnership with his brother-in-law, James William "Willie" Wiseman, Sr. Willie (11/21/1883 - 11/26/1970) married Tempie Lane 8/19/1885 - 7/26/1968) on December 22, 1906. Another Wilkinson brother, John E. Wilkinson, (1/12/1887 - 7/15/1952) eventually joined the firm, and the name was changed to Wilkinson Brothers and Wiseman Funeral Home. They remained partners until their deaths.

After Bessie’s death, Walter married Myrtle Cage (2/4/1890 - 12/31/1929) on March 14, 1926. Their marriage, however, was to be short-lived as she died from complications of childbirth.

John was the younger of the brothers who now co-owned a very successful and well-established business in Portland. John's wife, the former Floy Latimer whom he married on May 15, 1920, was a well-known and most beloved school teacher in Portland for more than 40 years. When Miss Floy died, she was over 100 years.

As the years passed, the business lost its founders and their supportive wives. Walter was 73 when he died; Luther died at age 74; Tempie was 82 when she died; Willie died at age 87; and Lillie died at age 85.  All the family was buried in the Maple Hill Cemetery in Portland, Tennessee, or in the Portland Memorial Gardens in Portland, Tennessee.

As the years went by, other family members joined the business. James L. Wilkinson,  (son of Walter), Harold H. Wilkinson (3/22/1913 - 5-27-1995) (nephew of the original Wilkinson brothers), and J.W. Wiseman, Jr.,  took their places in one of Portland's oldest establishments.

 


     J.W. Wiseman, Jr.

This was the funeral home that was located where the Rotary Hall is now located. The original building was torn down. This was the building we were in until moving to our current location in 1956. The date on this picture was July 1951.
Charles Wilkinson,  son of Harold, now manages the day-to-day operations. As a licensed Funeral Director since 1976, he works closely with each family to provide a professional and caring service. Charles resides in Portland, with his wife, Betty.

The present location, 715 South Broadway, was built in 1955. This business is still owned and operated by Wilkinson and Wiseman descendents, which represents over 100 years of faithful service to the Portland-area community. Wilkinson and Wiseman Funeral Home continues to offer the most up-to-date and professional funeral services available. They have shared with members of the community a special closeness as they have cared for their loved ones through the years.

The community has shown their special closeness by honoring J.W. Wiseman, Jr., after his death in 1994, with the naming of J.W. Wiseman Elementary School.


 


Charles and Betty Wilkinson

To the left is a photo that the newspapers used for the article concerning our 100th anniversary. Mike McDonald was presenting a copy of the House Joint Resolution recognizing 100 years of business.

L-R. Dale Wiseman, Walter Veale, Charles Wilkinson, Mike McDonald, Betty Wilkinson, Donna Harris, Jeremy Hardin.