Hartenstein Family Heritage
Cabinetmaker George Lewis Hartenstein (1854 – 1934), born in Philadelphia to German emigrants Johann Georg and Christiana Barbara (Stahle) Hartenstein, began his career with the former Wanamaker’s Department Store in Center City Philadelphia.
In the 1870’s, George moved to Railroad, York County, Pennsylvania where he met and married Lydia Helb and worked for his father-in-law, Frederick Helb, establishing the Helb Furniture Factory in the small town. Missing his calling to build fine furniture by hand, George returned to Philadelphia with his wife, and young daughter Rebecca, to continue his career at Wanamaker’s. When Rebecca died unexpectedly at age three, George and Lydia chose to return to southern York County, and made their home in New Freedom.
In 1885, George purchased David Hershey’s furniture and undertaking business from his widow, which was located at what is now the southwest corner of Constitution Avenue and Main Street in New Freedom. Shortly thereafter, George purchased a building at the northwest corner of Front and Franklin Streets and called it the “Old Reliable Furniture and Carpet House.” It was there where he built quality furniture and coffins by hand, and established his funeral trade by adding a funeral parlor to the storefront.
In 1907, George sold the company to his son, Paul N. Hartenstein (1885 – 1937), who welcomed into the business another partner, his brother-in-law, Curvin H. Nonemaker. After Curvin’s death in 1932, and subsequent to Paul’s death in 1937, a new partnership named “Hartenstein & Company” was formed between Paul’s widow, Bessie V. (Young) Hartenstein (1887 – 1965), and their son, J. Jacob “Jake” Hartenstein (1915 – 1974).
Wanting to concentrate solely on funeral service, Bessie sold her interest in the furniture store in the early 1950’s to her son-in-law, Edward V. McCullough, who continued to partner in retail furniture sales with Jake. In addition to co-managing the furniture store, Jake built and opened in February 1952, a new funeral home at the corner of Second and Franklin Streets in New Freedom and called it “Hartenstein Mortuary.”
The fourth generation joined the family business in 1964 when James J. “Jim” Hartenstein (b. 1941), eldest son of Jake and Julia Ellen (Grimm) Hartenstein, became a licensed funeral director, and later, a co-owner. Bessie continued to assume the roles of family matriarch and businesswoman until her death, and when Jake died suddenly nine years later, the furniture division and real estate known as “Hartenstein & Company” was sold.
Under Jim’s leadership, the funeral home soon evolved into “J.J. Hartenstein Mortuary” and was later incorporated in 1981. An opportunity to expand the business came in 1986 when the Kenneth W. Orsburn Funeral Home in nearby Stewartstown was acquired.
In the early 1990's, Jim's son, James J. Hartenstein III (1966 – 2010), earned his funeral director's license and became the fifth generation of the family to make a career in funeral service. Shortly thereafter, Jim's daughter Jennifer also returned to the family business and worked to develop the funeral home's signature Continuing Care Program, aimed at helping grieving children and families experience healing. In 2006, Jim III and Jennifer began directing the day-to-day operations at their family-owned funeral homes and worked alongside one another to manage the business until Jim III's unexpected death on June 27, 2010.
With nearly 50 years of experience in funeral service, Jim and his wife, Sharon (Bamforth) Hartenstein, are the foundation of the family business. They continue to embrace the Hartenstein tradition of providing exceptional care to grieving families along with their daughter and son-in-law, Jennifer L. Hartenstein McGraw (b. 1969) and Chris McGraw (b. 1970), who remain the fifth generation of the Hartenstein family to companion families living in southern Pennsylvania and northern Maryland.