Six generations of Pumphreys have been serving Montgomery County families for over a century and a half, offering quality attention for funeral needs. The family has been at the forefront of new concepts in funeral services and has developed strong ties to the county and its residents.

William Pumphrey First

In the 1830's, William Ellican Pumphrey, a Rockville cabinetmaker, decided to begin building coffins. Then, in 1854, he entered the undertaking business; his firm originated on Main Street in Rockville. His son, William Reuben Pumphrey, concentrated on embalming and stopped making coffins. Because most embalming and funerals were held in private homes in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the mortician basically needed a means to travel to homes to perform his duties and to transport the bodies of the deceased to cemeteries.

William Pumphrey Sr.

To reach his customers more efficiently, Pumphrey expanded his operations to include 14 branch offices, where horses, hearses, coffins and carriages were stored and ready to respond to any emergency or need.

This need to respond to emergencies led Pumphrey to start an ambulance service that operated much like the pony express, where horses were changed at strategic points along a given route - a route usually leading to the train station. Because the only hospitals were in Frederick and Washington, D.C., ambulances had to respond immediately so that patients could receive much needed attention. Pumphrey would wire ahead to his Georgetown branch, having someone meet the patient at the train and take him directly to the hospital, via Pumphrey's Georgetown ambulance.

William Reuben, Jr., the third generation Pumphrey, entered the family business in 1910. When the flu epidemic hit Maryland just after World War I, he traveled from house to house with an embalming buggy equipped with instruments, embalming fluid and an operating table. Large farm wagons followed, leaving caskets at the home of the flu victims. Many of the caskets were only shells, and the family could "trim the casket" or finish the interior as they wished. Because of the large number of deaths, funerals were performed only when there was a break in embalming.

During the 1920's, funeral services were held in informal chapels and viewing rooms. However, William R., Jr., believed that funerals should be held in a comfortable, homelike atmosphere; from this evolved the concept of the "funeral home." The new idea needed a new environment, and in 1928 Pumphrey purchased a large, turn-of-the-century home at the corner of Williams Street and West Montgomery Avenue in Rockville, where the business still operates.

In 1934, the business acquired and enlarged its Bethesda location on Wisconsin Avenue, its headquarters. Robert A Pumphrey, Sr., the fourth generation, continued the family tradition of serving Montgomery County's funeral needs. He witnessed the shift of funerals to days other than the traditional Sunday, because cemeteries began to close for burials on that day. Attendance at funeral services declined and visitations the day or evening before, became more popular. Most dramatically, cremation began to increase to the extent that Robert A. Pumphrey, Sr. constructed a crematorium on the Bethesda premises in 1987. Cremations now account for approximately 40 percent of Pumphrey's services.

Robert A. Pumphrey, Sr. died in 1987, at which time his son, William R. Pumphrey, III, began the family's fifth generation of service to the community. The future of the business seems secure, with the addition of the sixth generation, William's son William A. Pumphrey in 1998.

Although there have been many changes in the funeral service profession, Robert A. Pumphrey Funeral Homes attributes its longevity to one aspect of its business that remains the same: quality service from a locally owned business that cares about its community.

Our beautiful facilities are the perfect place to hold meaningful celebrations.

Our Locations

Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Inc.
7557 Wisconsin Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20814
Phone: (301) 652-2200
Fax: (301) 656-2210
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Rockville, Inc.
300 W. Montgomery Avenue
Rockville, MD 20850
Phone: (301) 762-3939
Fax: (301) 217-0377
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Serving the Communities of:

Bethesda, Rockville, Gaithersburg,
Washington D.C., Potomac,
Kensington, Chevy Chase,
Germantown, and all of
Montgomery County, Maryland.

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