A Brief History of Delta and the Harkins Funeral Home
For thousands of years the land which eventually became the town of Delta was inhabited by many Native American tribes. In 1744, the area was purchased by Alexander McCandless from the heirs of William Penn. The first settlers were Scots-Irish, who built their dwellings throughout the area. Main Street, which runs between the ridge of slate and Scott's Creek, was laid out in 1840. In 1856, a group of men met in a local ale shop and chose the name "Delta" because of a triangular shaped piece of land that reminded them of the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet.
During the mid-1800's, many Welsh settlers emigrated to the area. The Welsh were slate workers who established the quarries that would provide the area with its main industry. The Welsh were a close knit people whose lives revolved around church, family, and work. Many of the roofs, including that of the funeral home, were built using the local Peach Bottom slate.
(pictured is the Welsh Flag)
The growth of Delta was slow at first, but in 1876 the Ma and Pa Railroad reached the town, granting Delta access to more populated areas. It was during the last quarter of the 19th century that Delta had its boom era. Most of the slate-roofed homes on Main Street were built during this time.
In 1883 the land on which the Harkins Funeral Home stands was purchased from Robert Ramsey. Dr. James W. Hickman and his wife, Hannah, built a home and medical office on this land. The original house is the section that is currently in use as the family room, front hall, arrangement office, kitchen and upstairs offices. Dr. Hickman used the family room as a waiting room and examining room and lived in the remainder of the house with his family.
In 1888 the home was purchased by John Thomas Heaps. His family lived in the home until the time of his death in 1902, when his estate sold the property to Asahel Steward. The Stewards were related to the Pue family who owned a large property to the east of Delta Borough. The Stewards and the Pues owned the house for many years.
It was in 1930 that Hubert P. Harkins established the Harkins Funeral Home, which was located in the building across Main Street from the current funeral home. This building is in current use as the dining room of the Delta Italian Restaurant. There were two additional funeral homes in Delta at this time; the Stockton Holden Funeral Home, and the John L. Norris Funeral Home.
In 1940, Hubert and his wife Nora E. (Findley) purchased the current Harkins Funeral Home building. Renovations were begun immediately upon purchase in the spring, and they continued throughout the summer. The renovations were extensive, and they included removal of the kitchen and the addition of the main chapel, family room and reposing room, slumber room, storage area, and preparation room. Many of the fine furnishings of the funeral home, including the mahogany chapel chairs and clergy chairs were purchased from the Rennert Hotel in Baltimore, which closed in 1939. During the summer of 1940 Hubert Harkins purchased the business of John L. Norris.
Hubert's son, John H. Harkins, had been discharged from the service in May of 1952 and was graduated from Eckel's Mortuary College in Philadelphia prior to his time in the service. When his father died in December, John assumed the business and was assisted by his mother, Nora, who had received a "widow's certificate." He and his wife Shirley (Pearson) extended the first floor and added several rooms to the second floor rear of the building, which became their home. They raised their two sons, Jeffrey and Stephen, there. In 1954 the gracious front porch was added, giving the building its current facade.
In July of 1982, Jeff came to work for the John H. Harkins Funeral Home. Jeff worked for John until the time of John's retirement in January of 1992, when he purchased the business and property from the Harkins' family. Patti Hushon joined the staff in January 1994. Bob Johnson, also a licensed funeral director, re-joined the staff in the spring of 2005 after a career in law enforcement.
The staff of Harkins Funeral Home continues to care for families in a traditional manner, emphasizing customized funeral services and pre-planning.
The building continues to be improved to meet the growing needs of the community. In recent years the interior has been renovated. In 1997, a wing was added to the building, providing an additional entrance, complete facilities for the handicapped, and an enlarged space for visitation and services. In the future, improvements will continue to be made with consideration to the needs of the community.