Our History

Our History

Six Generations of Tradition & Trust, 190 Years of Community Service

In the spring of 1825 in Lexington -- then the largest town west of the Allegheny Mountains -- 21-year-old Joseph Milward was completing plans to open a cabinet and furniture business.

Known as "The Athens of the West" at the time, Lexington had a population of 5,517. The city was a mixture of cosmopolitan progress and frontier spirit, a natural result of being located on the edge of the continuing westward push. The result was a growing need for a wide variety of products that craftsmen could offer.

Not long after Joseph Milward opened his cabinet and furniture business, he focused on the production of caskets for the bereaved families of the community.

From those early beginnings, Milward Funeral Directors has become Lexington's oldest and the 37th oldest continuously operating business in the United States.

More important, we believe, is that with each succeeding generation we have strived to better serve the community while providing solace and support for countless Central Kentucky families.

Milward has not only become a landmark institution in Lexington, we have strived to make community service and civic duty an integral part of our life. It's been true for six generations now.

Private support for people in their time of need. Public service for our community. That's the Milward tradition -- since 1825.


The Milward Legacy

The Beginnings: Joseph Milward
Joseph Milward


Born in Baltimore in 1803, Joseph was brought to Lexington as a young child by his widowed mother. At 16 he became an apprentice cabinet maker and for a time was a journeyman craftsman in Cincinnati and later in Richmond, Ky.

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A Key Decision: Col. William Rice Milward
Col. William Rice Milward


When Joseph retired, he turned the business over to his remaining sons in 1865. One of these sons, Colonel William Rice Milward, would eventually assume the leadership role.

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Attention to Detail: William Rice Milward, Jr.
William Rice Milward, Jr.


Born in 1869, “Will,” as he was affectionately known to his friends, joined his father in the family business in 1892 at the age of 23.

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An Admired Civic Leader: William Emmet Milward
William Emmet Milward


Emmet Milward entered the family business in 1926 and by 1942 had played an instrumental role in completing a comprehensive expansion and rehabilitation of the mortuary at 159 North Broadway.

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Continuing the Tradition: Robert Emmet Milward
Robert Emmet Milward


A graduate of the University of Virginia, Bob has carried forth the Milward tradition while serving on several professional associations — including Selected Independent Funeral Homes, Kentucky Funeral Directors Association and the National Foundation of Funeral Service.

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The Youngest Generation: Robert Emmet Milward, Jr.
Robert Emmet Milward, Jr.


The sixth generation of the family to carry on the Milward family tradition, Robert E. Milward Jr. Joined his father in the business in 1994, and currently serves as Vice President.

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