It was before the Civil War that Edward Miller, a 21 year old from Charleston, South Carolina, came to Magnolia, New Jersey. Much to his happiness, a former friend, Miss Leah Frances McCants of Charleston, came to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He located her and they were married. They became the proud parents of 16 children – 8 daughters and 8 sons. Edward Miller was a cabinet maker, a local preacher, and a teacher.
In 1861, Edward’s wife started the funeral business in Magnolia. She was the first African-American person to operate in the funeral business in this area. She preserved and cared for the dead in a very noble manner using ice, following the customs of her times, while Edward made the coffins and performed the funeral ceremonies. Their friendly manner and careful work endeared them to the hearts of the people and made a lasting impression.
Leah McCants Miller
Rutledge & Son, Carl Miller, Sr.
When their son Rutledge was 10 years old, he started helping his mother. He assisted in the lifting of bodies and drove the horse and wagon. He used to tell how it would take a half day using their mode of transportation to get from one town to the next. After his parents died, Rutledge got his license and continued the business. Also being a carpenter, he built his first hearse in 1916.
When Rutledge was 24 years old, he married Tamson R. Pierce of Gouldtown, NJ who became a teacher in Lawnside. To this union were born 4 children – 3 daughters and a son, Carl. At the age of ten, Carl started helping his father with the lifting of bodies and driving. Rutledge died at the age of 80.
Carl received his license in 1927 and continued the business which was broadening to the suburban towns. He married Miss Sarah Linese Fishburn of Charleston, SC. She was a teacher and they became the proud parents of 3 children 2 daughters and a son, Carl, Jr.
Seeing the need for a funeral parlor, Carl, Sr. moved his family to Lawnside in 1934 from Magnolia. He continued the business until his death in 1956 at the age of 60.
Carl, Jr. graduated from Glassboro State Teachers College in 1943, and served 5 years in the US Army returning as a First Lieutenant. He received the rank of Captain in the NJ National Guard, totaling 13 years of service. He received his state license in mortuary science in 1949. He was the fourth generation practicing mortician and operated two funeral homes – Lawnside and Camden, where he lived since 1950. He married Miss Gloria Hunt of Chester, PA in 1950. They became the proud parents of 3 children – 2 daughters, Carol and Pamela, and one son, Craig.
Robert “Chico” Marvin, Jr., grandson of Carl, Sr., received his license in funeral service in 1986 from Mercer County School of Mortuary Science; becoming the first of the fifth generation. Prior to going into the business, he received his Bachelor’s degree in history from Rutgers University in 1974, going on to teach history in the New Brunswick Public School System. Robert takes pride in the family legacy of funeral service. He is the husband of Robbin Marvin and father of Jasmine Marvin.
Pamela Miller Dabney,Carl Miller, Jr's daughter received her license in funeral service in October, 1994 and on December 24, 1994, Carl Miller, Jr died at the age of 73 years, and she and Craig took over the business joining the fifth generation. Pamela did not choose funeral service as a career...it chose her.
Alexis Dabney Combs
Alexis Dabney Combs, Pamela's daughter, received her state license in January 2005, becoming the sixth generation of the family funeral business.Prior to entering the family business, Alexis graduated from Morgan State University with a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration. Currently, Alexis serves in various capacities within her community locally and nationally. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Mary H. Thomas Child Development Center, Inc. She also serves on the membership committee of the National Funeral Directors & Morticians Association, second vice president of Garden State Funeral Directors Association,and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.,(NJGCAC), Epsilon Nu Delta, (Alpha Theta Chapter) funeral directors and embalmers fraternity. She is the wife of Rev. Levi Combs III and they are the parents of Gabrielle, Levi IV, Thaddaeus, Leah Marie & Chandler Augustus Combs.