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Bluffton's first ambulance - 1916

Owned by George W. Combs, undertaker

One of Bluffton’s early undertakers was George W. Combs.


In this photo he stands in front of his ambulance, said to be the first motor ambulance in Bluffton. The photo was taken in 1916.


Rudi Steiner of Homewood, Illinois, offers these comments on this vehicle:

Hearses were made by a variety of sources buggy makers and truck makers.


Since funeral homes and furniture companies were many times the same business, they were often multipurpose vehicles used for delivering bodies and furniture.


As was the case for the Basinger’s in Bluffton. Furniture manufactures made furniture and caskets, so it was natural for a Basinger’s to get funeral business.


Ford made a chaise for a hearse in 1915, which was the most popular hearse, but this doesn’t look like a Model T to me.


My suspicion is that it is a Riddle made in Riddle Coach and Hearse Company in Ravenna, Ohio.


Riddle coaches were two-tone white and light grey as is this one. So I think the answer to this Riddle is that it is a Riddle.


Businessman Combs

Combs was a partner with E. Jones, who operated a furniture store. The business was located in what is today’s The Food Store on South Main Street.


The following is from a 1904 Bluffton News special issue focusing on Bluffton businesses:


Mr. Jones, together with Mr. Combs, in another adjoining storeroom in the same block, conduct a larger and well equipped undertaking establishment, which department is under the immediate supervisor of his partner, Mr. G.W. Combs, who had has several years’ experience in the undertaking business and is a practical and up-to-date embalmer.


Having passed an examination before the state board of embalmers he holds a license issued by that body, which enables him to prepared and ship bodies to all parts of the United States and Canada.


The firm enjoys a large patronage and are always on the alert for anything that will add to the comfort and convenience of its patrons, and all work entrusted to its care received prompt and careful attention.


The large and constantly increasing patronage of this concern indicates that the people of Allen and adjoining counties appreciate the courtesy and honorable dealings which they receive.


The firm keeps a large supply of funeral supplies constantly on hand and their team, rolling stock and equipment is first class in every respect.


The members of the firm are both gentlemen of marked business ability and are rapidly ascending the ladder to a position of prominence and important in the business circles of this community.


Combs also owned one of the first vehicles in Bluffton. In another 1904 Bluffton News was a story about the first vehicle to arrive here:


Frank Scott is said to have owned the first vehicle here. The article stated that it arrived

two weeks ahead of one ordered at the same time by G. W. Combs. Scott’s car was an Elmore. Combs’ owned a Currier.


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