The visual image is striking, a line of cars following a team of horses carrying a casket to Sheridan's municipal cemetery. Mark Ferries, owner of Champion Ferries Funeral Home, says he doesn't get many requests for such a conveyance these days, but when he does, he has a horse-drawn hearse for the occasion.
Ferries bought the hearse in 1990, after learning of a funeral home in Miles City, Montana, that used horse-drawn vehicles. Ferries said he and his wife, Colleen, talked about the idea and liked the possibilities. Ferries talked about the appeal of the hearse.
Ferries said the first 10 years after he purchased the hearse, the vehicle saw use three or four times a year. In the years since, it has been used only three or four times total, but he keeps it available for families who want to use it.
He said, “I'm sure we'll keep using it, but not quite as often as I'd hoped.”
The hearse is set up to be drawn by a team of two horses – or mules, Ferries said, adding that a team of black mules was used in the funeral of an individual who liked the long-eared animals. Champion-Ferries Funeral Home doesn't have a team of its own. A driver and team are hired, and the cost of that is added to the total cost of the funeral.
Ferries' father and uncle came to Sheridan in 1965 and bought a funeral home on Main Street, which they renamed Ferries. “They kind of retired in the mid 1970s,” Mark Ferries said. He and his family were not in Sheridan at that time. They returned in 1981 and bought the funeral home in 1988.
In 2000, Ferries acquired Champion Funeral Home, which added the “Champion” to his business. He also that year moved from Main Street to his current site on Whitney Street.