T he history of the funeral business in Clay County, Kansas, begins with Reinhardt Philip,
who came to Clay Center when there were 150 inhabitants. He opened a furniture store and undertaking establishment. Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Finch came about the same time and began another operation. In 1881, Charles Rose took over the Philip business, and in 1905, J.E. Peterson purchased Fletcher and Finch.
Mert Schwensen Sr. was an embalmer for a funeral home in Junction City until he bought the Johnson Funeral Home and Furniture at Wakefield in 1924-25. He then sold the Wakefield place in 1929 and purchased the Rose F.H in Clay Center.
Ralph Neill, Jr. became the partner of Mr. Peterson in 1938, and the firm was known as Peterson-Neill until Mr. Peterson’s death in 1942. Then in 1955 Ralph Neill Jr. purchased the Mercer Funeral Home in Wakefield.
Mert Schwensen, Sr. and Ralph Neill, Jr. merged their firms in 1960 and purchased the Mercer Funeral Home in Wakefield. In 1963, at Mr. Schwensen’s death, Mert Schwensen, Jr. became Mr. Neill’s partner. Mr. Neill retired in 1981 and Mr. Schwensen purchased the remaining interest.
Beuford Rook worked part time at the Mert Schwensen Funeral home from 1956 until he graduated on September 1, 1960.
Ralph Neill Jr., Mert Schwensen Jr., and Beuford Rook purchased the Turner Funeral Home and Furniture in 1969.
John “Chris” Schwensen joined the firm in 1980 to become a third generation funeral director and embalmer.
In 1982, Beuford Rook and Chris Schwensen became part owners of the Neill-Schwensen Funeral Home.
Mert Schwensen, Jr. Passed away in 1990 and in 1991, Beuford Rook and Chris Schwensen purchased all the Neill-Schwensen, Turner Funeral and Furniture and the Wakefield Funeral Home’s. In 1991 it became Neill-Schwensen-Rook Funeral Home, INC.
Preston Rook joined the firm in 1995 and became vice president in 2007 upon the retirement of Beuford.
The funeral home operated the ambulance service until 1967 when they gave their two ambulances and equipment to the Clay County Hospital.