Tarrant County TXGenWeb
J. E. FOUST
Contributed by Michael E. Patterson
Throughout the past century, four generations of the Foust family have served the needs of the families of Grapevine and its surrounding communities. Their leadership in both the civic and business life of the city stretches continuously from the day when Grapevine was a small prairie settlement to today in which the city has become a part of one of the largest urban centers in the country. The Fousts have always taken a leading part in nurturing their city and its endeavors.
In 1876, Amanda M. Foust (1827-1897), the widowed head of the Foust family, left Chattanooga, Tennessee with her two sons, George A. Foust (1851-1894) and John E. Foust (1861-1926). The family left the mountains of Tennessee and moved to a drier climate to help George's severe respiratory illness. They came by train as far as Dallas, Texas, where they bought a team, wagon, and supplies. They intended to travel to higher country some distance west, but when they had gotten as far as the Jeff Foster farm east of Grapevine near present-day Coppell, they were forced to stop because of George's worsening health. The Foster farm is today a part of the Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Airport; it was the home of the Fousts for four years.1
In July 1880 the Fousts moved to Grapevine. Nineteen-year-old John E. Foust started a general merchandise business in a frame building on the corner of Main and Texas Streets. In addition to his other wares, he began selling a confection known as "lemon-ice," a forerunner of the present-day snowcone. He also introduced an innovation in the community when he built a walk-up window on his store, so that his customers could make small purchases without having to come inside.2 Early in his career, Mr. Foust developed the habit of finding a particular item for his customers if he did not have it in stock. For instance, if a patron needed some sort of unusual tool, Mr. Foust would find a supplier and obtain the needed item, and then would buy a few extra for sale later. Gradually, he built up quite a reputation for the varied stock he kept in his store.3 During the first nine years, Mr. Foust operated the business in the original frame building on Main Street. In 1888 he purchased another tract of land on Main Street a little to the north of the first one. Sometime in 1889 the frame building burned, and he erected a handsome brick building on his newly-purchased lot.4
The building which John Foust built in 1889 (523 Main Street, Grapevine) still stands and remains in the hands of the Foust family to this day. When the business was moved into its new quarters, Mr. Foust greatly expanded his inventory to include hardware, seeds, garden supplies, harness, and farm equipment. Quite early in his business career he began to sell coffins to his neighbors, and expanded that part of his enterprise when he bought out the stock of "Grandpa Hamilton," the town coffin-builder/undertaker. Gradually, Mr. Foust began to elaborate on his services of merely supplying coffins and began also to take care of other arrangements such as hiring wagons and drivers for the funeral services.5
When Mr. Foust began his funeral services, it was the custom to leave the body in the home until burial. The funeral director was called, and he came to the deceased's home to prepare the body and to make the arrangements. Even the practice of embalming, now nearly universal, was something of a rarity in this part of the country when Mr. Foust went into business.6
In 1892, John Foust met and married Miss Daisy Adair Huitt (1876-1963) of Mansfield, Texas. She was only fifteen years old at the time of their marriage, and the couple lived in the home of Dr. and Mrs. Thomas B. Dorris for their first two years of married life, since Mr. Foust did not believe his wife was old enough to begin keeping house.7
John and Daisy Foust were the parents of three children: Edgar Ballard Foust (who died at one year of age); Inez Pearl Foust, born in 1895 and still living in Georgia; and John Edward Foust II (1898-1978). John Edward Foust II became one of the leading figures in both the family business and in the civic and business life of Grapevine.8
Daisy Adair (Huitt) Foust began the tradition of the working wife in the Foust family. She helped her husband in all her business endeavors, and traveled with him to homes in the community to assist in funeral preparations. In addition to her duties in the family business, she was a faithful member of the First United Methodist Church in Grapevine for over fifty years, and was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star #326 in Grapevine.9
As the twentieth century began, John E. Foust I began to devote much of his energy to civic projects. As the town of Grapevine grew, so did its needs. He was always a willing and helpful citizen. As early as 1902, Mr. Foust and some of his friends began acquiring equipment to begin a telephone company. In 1905, he became Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Grapevine Telephone Company, and held a controlling interest in it until 1912.10 In 1903, he purchased an interest in and helped to support the Grapevine Farmer's and Merchant's Milling Company.11 In 1907, he was elected an alderman in the first city elections, and at the same time was appointed to a seat on the city's equalization board.12 In 1909, he was one of the aldermen chosen to draft a constitution for the Grapevine Fire Company.13 One of his most lasting contributions to the city came in 1919 when he helped to organize and served as vice-president of the Tarrant County State Bank; the bank is today known as the First National Bank of Grapevine. The Foust men have been continuously involved in the management of the bank from its founding to the present day.14
As Grapevine grew and more mercantile businesses appeared, John Foust gradually began to concentrate more on the funeral service aspect of his enterprises. In 1917, John E. Foust I became a licensed embalmer.15 Funeral services at the time were quite different from those of the Present. Of thirty funerals J. E. Foust conducted in 1918; fourteen were held in churches, eleven were held at the cemeteries, and five were held in homes. Seven years later, of thirty-one funerals conducted; six were held at home, three were held at the cemetery, and eighteen were held in church. The custom of holding services at home is nearly nonexistent now, and graveside services are not among the majority. Funeral services held in the funeral director's own establishment, now common, were nearly unheard of during J. E. Foust I's lifetime. At the time the elder Mr. Foust received his license, an average funeral cost $86.00, and one considered elaborate was about $175.00. By 1927, the average cost of a complete service had risen to $196.00.16
In 1923, John Edward Foust II also became a licensed funeral director and embalmer; he then began an active role in the family business which continued until his death more than fifty years later. J. E. Foust II was born in Grapevine in 1898, and graduated from Grapevine High School in 1915. He served his country during World War I, and returned to attend both North Texas State University and Southern Methodist University.17 The name, "J. E. Foust & Son," was adopted in 1898 after his birth. The family firm still operates under the same name. In 1926, after the death of his father, he assumed complete operation of the business.
John E. Foust I Maintained an active role in his business until the last hours of his life. On December 30, 1926, Mr. and Mrs. Foust conducted the funeral of a Reynolds infant at Smithfield Cemetery, a few miles west of Grapevine. While returning from the funeral in the early afternoon, he became violently ill. He reached his home in Grapevine, but died within an hour. His death was universally mourned by the town. His funeral was held in the First United Methodist Church of Grapevine, of which he and all the Foust family have been faithful and supportive members. His body was buried near that of his mother in Grapevine Cemetery.18
John Edward Foust II expanded and improved the family business after his father's death, but was careful to maintain and improve the service oriented atmosphere. There are families living today in the area which have continuously done business with the Foust family for more than six generations. J. E. Foust II managed the Foust Grocery and Hardware Store, as well as the Frigidaire Dealership and Appliance Store. He was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Grapevine, the Masonic Lodge #288, The I.O.O.F. Lodge #402, the Grapevine Chamber of Commerce, the Texas Funeral Directors Association, and the Grapevine Lions Club. He was honored in 1973 for fifty years of faithful service to the funeral industry by the Texas Funeral Directors Association. He, like his father and now his son, J. E. Foust III, was a longtime member of the Board of Directors of the First National Bank of Grapevine.19
During the 1920' s the Fousts began operating an ambulance service, using their funeral coaches as ambulances. They have retained the non-emergency portion of their services to this day. There are many citizens in Grapevine today who openly thank the Fousts for saving their lives during severe accidents or sicknesses. At about the time of J. E. Foust II's entry into the business, the family acquired another building on Main Street which they used both as a casket showroom and an embalming area. This new facility relieved some of the stress on the family caused by having the embalming done at home, as was done earlier.20
John E. Foust II was married in 1930 to Miss Lillie Lee Bateman, of Fort Worth. She is a native of the Flower Mound Community of Denton County , Texas. Their son, John Edward Foust III, was born in 1931. He grew up in the family business, and began at an early age to help in the services the family was called upon to perform. "Miss Lillie," as she is known to everyone in Grapevine, has always been a tireless worker in the family enterprises. She is also a faithful member of the First United Methodist Church, the Order of the Eastern Star #326 of Grapevine, and the Grapevine Garden Club. She owned and operated the first nursing home in Grapevine.21
In 1951, John E. Foust III married Marilyn Joyce Paine, a native of Everman, Texas. He and Marilyn are the parents of three children: Amanda Lee Foust (born 1952); John E. Foust IV (born 1954); and Lynn Adair Foust (born 1955). John E. Foust IV has begun to work in the family business also. In 1952, John E. Foust III completed his training and became a licensed embalmer and funeral director. Soon after his formal entry into the business the Fousts made a major addition to their facilities. In 1963, they made other, extensive repairs and changes to their funeral home/home by bricking the outside and creating a colonial decor which is today a familiar sight along Main Street. The Fousts wisely retained the last of their horse-drawn hearses, and it now sits on the lawn of their funeral home in a small glass-enclosed museum of early-day relics of the undertaking profession.22
In addition to the duties of the Funeral Home, both J. E. and Marilyn Foust have been active community leaders for many years. J. E. Foust III is a member and trustee of the First United Methodist Church, is Past Master of the Grapevine Masonic Lodge, and has served as a City Councilman, Board of Directors Member of the Grapevine Chamber of Commerce, President of the Grapevine Lions Club, President of the North Texas Funeral Directors Association, and Board Member of the Texas Funeral Directors Association. He is a Charter Member of the Grapevine Rotary Club. Marilyn Foust is a member of the First United Methodist Church, and has operated the Christian Coffee House Ministry and the Mission for Underprivileged and Minority Families. She is past president of the Tuesday Study Club, is Charter President and current Vice-President of the American Cancer Society Local Unit, is a charter member of the Grapevine Civic Arts Society, is a member of the Citizens Advisory Council to the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District School Board, is an author and lecturer, and a teacher in Grapevine's Community Education Program Stop-Smoking Clinics.23
Because of the changing lifestyles of Grapevine's residents, the small-town merchandise store was slowly being replaced by "supermarket" shopping. During the 1960's the Fousts closed their grocery store but retained the building. Due to the failing health of J. E. Foust II, the remainder of the family enterprises, except the Funeral Home, were discontinued in 1977. Though confined to a wheelchair, J. E. Foust II sat everyday for many years at his desk in the store. He died on November 12, 1978, and was buried in the family plot in Grapevine Cemetery.24
J. E. Foust & Son, and all the members of the Foust family, have been an integral part of the growth and civic development of Grapevine for a century. As Grapevine is becoming a part of one of the largest urban centers in the country, the Fousts continue to provide a personal and dependable service not only to their customers of generations but to Grapevine's newcomers as well.
Narrative compiled and edited from interviews with and material supplied by the Foust family.
Armstrong, Shirley. "Grapevine," in Grapevine Area History.
Box, Joe N. "First National Bank of Grapevine," in Grapevine Area History.
Foust, Lillie, Marilyn, and J. E. III. "Amanda M. Foust," "John Edward Foust II," and "J. E. Foust & Son," in Grapevine Area History.
Foust, John E. III. Interview with Michael E. Patterson at Grapevine, Texas November 20, 1979.
Foust, Lillie. Interview with Michael E. Patterson at Grapevine, Texas April 12, 1980.
Farmer's and Merchant's Milling Company. Original stock certificate in possession of J. E. Foust III, dated December 14, 1903.
Grapevine Cemetery. Tombstones.
Grapevine Historical Society. Grapevine Area History. Dallas: Taylor Publishing Co., 1979.
J. E. Foust & Son. Funeral Records.
"J. E. Foust Dies -- One of Grapevine's Pioneer Citizens Dies Suddenly." Grapevine Sun. Vol. XXX, No. 47, January 6, 1927.
"Memorial to John Edward Foust II." Grapevine Area History.
"Rites Held for Local Civic Leader, J. E. Foust." The Banner.
Starr, Barton H. "Certification of Election Results," Grapevine City Elections, April 8,1909. Original in possession of J. E. Foust III.
APPENDIX A: Obituaries of J. E. Foust I
This page was last modified 26 Jun 2005.
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