Santa Clara County Genealogy
posted by permission of Bart Gripenstraw
25 July 2005
Louis Arthur Franklin Gripenstraw 


Picture taken in Modesto, CA circa 1900. L.A.F. was 20 years old in 1900.


Louis Arthur Franklin Gripenstraw was born on February 18, 1880 in San Jose, Santa Clara County, California to parents Louis Christian Gripenstraw (1835-1926) and Rosina Margaret Froehlich Gripenstraw (1851-1942). He was most likely born in the family home at 638 San Pedro Street in San Jose located directly across the street from the San Jose Woolen Mills. Louis was the fourth of six children born to Rosina and the eighth of ten children overall for Louis Christian Gripenstraw. His father, Louis Christian, was almost 45 years old and his mother, Rosina, was three days shy of her 29th birthday when she gave birth to Louis A.F. Early in life, Louis Arthur Franklin Gripenstraw became known as L.A.F. Gripenstraw.

It appears that L.A.F. followed and possibly lived with his older brother, Fred, in Modesto, California in the mid to late 1890s. Later, L.A.F. was deputy coroner for a short period of time in Santa Clara County before starting his mortuary business in 1906. L.A.F. learned the trade at the W.B. Ward mortuary in San Jose. His best friend was the owner’s son, Burton Ward.

L.A.F. married Lotta Irene Slaughter (1883-1967) on November 5, 1904 in San Jose, California in the rectory of the Trinity Church The witnesses listed on the marriage certificate were Irene’s mother, Laura Lovell Slaughter (1835-1913), and Burton Ward.L.A.F. stated in his deposition for his divorce from Irene that he first met her in Santa Cruz, California and later corresponded with her while she was living in Illinois. They were married on a dare by L.A.F.’s best friend Burton Ward. Burton Ward was the son of W.B. Ward, a prominent undertaker in San Jose that employed L.A.F. at the time. L.A.F.’s first son was Burton Wilmer Gripenstraw. It is probably safe to say that Burton Ward was his namesake. The minister at Trinity Church that married L.A.F and Irene and later baptized young Burton on September 1, 1907 was J. Wilmer Gresham. The minister was obviously the namesake for Burton’s middle name Wilmer.

L.A.F. and Irene had two sons, both born in San Jose: 

Burton Wilmer Gripenstraw (4 June 1906 – 20 November 1981)

Louis Arthur Franklin Gripenstraw, Jr. (1 Feb 1913 – 6 June 1990) 

The family initially resided at 105 Viola Street in San Jose. Both sons were most likely born in this home. L.A.F., Irene, and Burt lived in this home with Irene’s mother Laura Slaughter (1835-1913). Laura died on June 8 1913. The undertaker listed on Laura’s death certificate is Curry and Gripenstraw. Her body was shipped back to Decatur, Illinois where she was buried with her late husband, John Hampton Slaughter (1835-1880). (The home was torn down when the new San Jose Convention Center was built. One side of Viola Street survived and is just behind the convention center today.) L.A.F. and Irene Gripenstraw had a stormy fifteen year marriage that finally ended in divorce in 1919. 

In the end, their sons Burt and Louis suffered the most as a result of this divorce. Both boys only saw their father a few times after they moved to Santa Cruz at the ages of 13 and 6 years old. Burt may have seen his father briefly while he was attending college in San Jose.



L.A.F. Gripenstraw was a prominent mortician in San Jose, California. He ran the Curry and Gripenstraw Mortuary from 1906 to 1945. Ralph O. Salmon took over the mortuary in 1945. Many of the funerals in San Jose during that period were conducted by Curry & Gripenstraw and Oak Hill Cemetery was usually the final resting place for those individuals.



The article states that L.A.F. Gripenstraw was formerly the Deputy Coroner of Santa Clara County. The building is at 48 North Second Avenue. It was the mortuary for Curry & Gripenstraw from 1906 to 1916.

San Jose Mercury

Sunday, July 28, 1907


Gripenstraw & Curry Open Elaborate Parlors on South Second Street

San Jose now has the handsomest, most convenient and finest equipped undertaking parlors on the Pacific Coast. After months of painstaking labor and the expenditure of thousands of dollars, Messrs. Curry and Gripenstraw, funeral directors and embalmers, have opened their new establishment at 48-50 North Second street. In completeness of detail, in up-to-dateness of paraphernalia, in beauty of interior decoration, in correctness of taste, and in amplitude of space, there are no funeral parlors in Santa Clara comparable to it.

As one enters from Second street one steps into a cherry-reception room containing a huge mantle of white glazed brick, and illuminated by an artistic electrolier of five cut glass bulbs. The next room is the chapel, beautifully finished in white woodwork, trimmed in gold. The chapel is about twenty feet wide and forty-four feet long, with fifteen feet ceilings. Along the subduely tinted walls and ceiling are rings of electric lights, and several handsome chandeliers swing in the center of the room. Two secluded apartments were bodies will lie in state, adjoin the chapel, and an extension of the latter is a family living room, where those who wish to remain with their dead may find the same privacy as in their own homes. On the western end of the chapel is the organ loft, and at the eastern end on a raised dais is the pulpit. Expensive body brussels carpet of neat design covers the spacious floors. Back of the chapel are the show, paraphernalia and trimming rooms, containing the latest designs in caskets and funeral trappings. The last apartment is the embalming room, well ventilated and easily disinfected, with cement walls and flooring.

G.W. Curry of the new firm has been a licensed embalmer for sixteen years. He is a man of excellent judgment, delicate sympathy, possessing dignity and courtesy in marked degree. L.A.F. Gripenstraw, the junior member of the firm, was born in San Jose, has spent five years in the employ of the leading undertakers here, and is prominently known in local fraternal circles. He is a gentlemanly funeral director and is tactful and sympathetic in his supervision of the sad duties.


Curry & Gripenstraw

48 North Third Street, San Jose California



Picture used in the Curry & Gripenstraw brochure dated 1935.


Picture of L.A.F. at his ranch in San Martin. Picture taken in late 1940s.

L.A.F. Gripenstraw died March 14, 1955 in San Martin, California. San Martin is located about ten miles south of San Jose. L.A.F. never met his five grandchildren. At the time of his death, Denny was 20, Kent was 15, Ann was 8, Kurt was 4, and John Gripenstraw was 2 ½ months old. Denny, Kent, and Ann Gripenstraw were living in Oakdale, California - 115 miles from San Martin. Kurt and John Gripenstraw were living in San Francisco- 72 miles north of San Martin.

Seated (L-R): Ruth Gripenstraw, wife of L.A.F., Joseph Christensen, Dolores Christensen, L.A.F. 

Joseph Christensen is the son from Ruth’s first marriage. This picture was taken in L.A.F. Gripenstraw’s home in San Martin, California.


San Jose Mercury News

March 15, 1955

Gripenstraw, Retired Mortician, Dies at 77

Louis A.F. Gripenstraw, 77, retired San Jose mortician, died at his San Martin home yesterday morning, the victim of an apparent heart attack.

A mortician here 40 years prior to his retirement 10 years ago, he was a partner in the Curry & Gripenstraw undertaking firm. Its last location was at 48 N. Third St., and formerly was located on South Second street. 

Gripenstraw moved to his 152 acre cattle and grain ranch at Turlock and Highland avenues, San Martin, upon retiring. He later acquired an additional 285 acres in the hills west of his home. He also owned 280 acres in the Almaden area.

He was a member of Friendship Lodge No. 210, F&AM; San Jose Scottish Rite Bodies, Garden City Lodge No. 142, IOOF; Native Sons of the Golden West, and Herman's Sons, of San Jose.

His brother, Frederick W. Gripenstraw, retired San Jose dairyman, died Feb. 2 at the age of 76. Louis Gripenstraw celebrated his 77th birthday Feb. 18.

Survivors are his widow, Alice Ruth; stepson, Jose S. Christensen, of SanJose; brother, Wesley O. Gripenstraw, of San Jose, and sister, Mrs. Esther Gott, of Santa Rose. 

Services are pending at Williams Funeral Chapel.

$113,301 Left By Gripenstraw

An estate valued at $113,301.61 net was left by Louis A.F. Gripenstraw, 77, retired San Jose mortician, when he died last March 14, State Inheritance Tax Appraiser James P. Tarp reported in Superior Court yesterday.

Entire amount goes to his widow, Mrs. Alice Gripenstraw, Rte. 1, Box 316, San Martin. Gripenstraw left no will. A mortician here for 40 years, he retired 10 years before his death to reside on his San Martin cattle ranch.

Bart Gripenstraw
5411 South Dayton Court, Greenwood Village, CO 80111
(303) 773-2183
September 23, 2003