From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Saffell Funeral Business in Shelbyville, KY:  Daisy M., George W., and Mildred S. Saffell

In 1912, Daisy Saffell (1875-1918), an "expert" embalmer in Shelbyville, KY, spoke on behalf of the National Negro Funeral Directors' Association during the 13th Annual Convention of the National Negro Business League in Chicago. Saffell estimated that there were 1,100 Colored undertakers and embalmers in the United States. [*Daisy Saffell is listed as a mulatto from Shelbyville, TN, in The Mulatto in the United States, by E. B. Reuter, p. 303, available full text at Google Books].

Saffell's death certificate lists Kentucky as both her birth and death location. She was born in Louisville, where she attended school. She attended Roger Williams University and was later a graduate of Fisk University (both African American schools in Nashville, TN).

Daisy Saffell taught for 15 years in Frankfort, KY, then left to become principal of the Lawrenceburg Colored School. She left teaching and enrolled in Clark's College of Embalming in Cincinnati, OH. With the completion of the program, Saffell became the second African American female  licensed embalmer in Kentucky [Minnie Watson was the first].

Daisy Saffell was editor of the Kentucky Club Woman, secretary of the District Household of Ruth of Kentucky, secretary of the Colored Funeral Director's Association of Kentucky, and treasurer of the National Association of Colored Funeral Directors. Named in her honor, the Daisy M. Saffell Colored Hospital was located in Martinsville, a community in Shelbyville, KY. She was also an accomplished pianist.

The daughter of Lizzie Travis, Daisy Saffell became the wife of undertaker George William Saffell (1876-1953) in 1897. Her funeral arrangements were handled by Thomas K. Robb, and Robb's funeral arrangements were handled by George W. Saffell.

George was born in Kentucky, the son of Addie Weisger Saffell and George Saffell, according to his death certificate. In 1900, he had been a barbering teacher when Daisy was a school teacher; they lived in Frankfort, KY, according to the U.S. Federal Census. By 1910, the couple had moved to Shelbyville, KY, where George was an undertaker and Daisy was a school teacher until she too became an undertaker.

George owned the Calvary Cemetery and also had an ambulance service; the hearse was used as an ambulance. After Daisy's death, George married Mildred Stone in 1939. She would become a partner in the business after completing her training at the Melton Mortuary School in Louisville. George died in 1953, and Mildred continued managing the Saffell Funeral Home businesses. 

Mildred Stone Saffell was born in Kentucky in 1912 and died in Louisville in 2003. She was the daughter of Ben and Ever Stone from Shelbyville, KY. When she died in 2003, Mildred's funeral arrangements were handled by A. D. Porter & Sons. She is buried with the Saffell family in the Calvary Cemetery in Shelbyville.

The building that housed the Saffell Funeral Home was constructed in 1830 on 4th and Clay Streets in Shelbyville. It was on the National Register of Historic Places but is no longer standing.

For more see "National Negro Funeral Directors' Association," Records of the National Negro Business League, Part 1 Annual Conference Proceedings and Organizational Records, 1900-1919, 13th Annual Convention, Chicago, Illinois, August 21-23, 1912, reel 2, frames 575-576; "Mrs. Daisy Saffell" on p. 291 in Golden Jubilee of the General Association of Colored Baptists in Kentucky; "Race progress in Kentucky: broad achievements of Mrs. Daisy M. Saffell," Baltimore Afro-American, 5/22/1913, p. 2; and "Saffell Funeral Home," by G. Graham on pp. 170-171 in The New History of Shelby County Kentucky.

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Saffell Funeral Business in Shelbyville, KY: Daisy M., George W., and Mildred S. Saffell,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 25, 2024,

Last modified: 2022-07-02 06:41:08