Graveyard Rabbit Carnival-September 2009

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The September 2009 edition of the GYR Carnival is a carousel edition.  Submissions can be on the topic of your choosing, but must still be related to cemeteries in some way.

Well, since I just joined the Graveyard Rabbits, I thought I would try out their carnival.  The first topic, however, has me a little stumped.  It would have been easier to have had an actual topic to begin with. 😉

So I think I will just share my very first cemetery experience as a new genealogist.  I was young and bored and had spent the day at the Middle Tennessee State University Library researching my family tree and had discovered that my grandmother’s grandfather was a bit famous in a rather unusual sort of way. (Seems he traveled further from home after his death than he had during his lifetime)

I had looked my grandmother up on the 1910 census, when she would have been about 8 and found her living with her parents. I worked my way back in time and found out the names of my great grandparents, which I knew already, but then I made the discovery of my great great grandparents names and found them on several more censuses and like any new genealogist, I was so excited.

I went to the shelves and found one of three cemetery books done by the Historical Society in 1975 and looked my great great grandfather Stephin Bennett up in the cemetery book and found an interesting note about his body being stolen from the grave.  I was immediately intrigued.  I wrote down the directions to the cemetery, and immediately drove the cemetery where he was buried.

As I walked around the cemetery

I felt like I was home. I walked to the graves and knew I was among family.  After I left, I went home and told my father what I’d found.  Of course, he already knew.  Seems it was my grandmother’s favorite story to tell the grandkids at Halloween. Growing up, I’d always been too busy to sit and listen to my grandmother fuss, so I’d missed out on one of the best stories a grandparent could have ever passed down-The story about how one night, grave robbers came and took her Pa’s body from his grave, put him in a box marked books, and took him on a train to Vermont.  The family was able to get his body back and the Dr. who took his body did serve time for his crimes. 

After my great great grandfather’s body was returned to his grave, whenever a family member would be buried, they would sit wagons with lanterns lit around the grave and put match sticks around the grave. If the lanterns moved, or if the match sticks were gone, then they knew the grave had been disturbed. Dad told many fascinating stories as a young boy of sitting up with the dead until the body was safely buried.

Now I have become interested in my famous ancestor once again, because I am reading The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen, a book that is also about grave robbing in the 1830s.  Medical schools apparently were still paying handsomely for bodies by 1898, when my ancestor died, since that is supposedly why his grave was robbed as well. 

If you’d like to read more on the Doctor who was charged with grave robbing my ancestor


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