Monday, November 9, 2015

Buried Alive

My 5th great grandparents Adam Welker (1771-1840) and Sarah Fletcher (1769-1840) are supposed to be buried in Henry County, Indiana. Guess who lives a little less than 2 hours from there? You guessed it. (I mean, if you guess it was me, Samuel James Dunn, then you did. If you guessed someone else, well, then, I'm sorry. I don't know what to tell you.) When I found out that I have ancestors buried here in Indiana, I decided that while I'm out this way finding their graves would be a valid use of my time. Since I'm already out and about checking out the final resting places of other deceased locals, it would be only right, after all.

While on the topic of checking out the local deceased, take a look at this awesome gravestone:

Why is it so crooked? How did it get so crooked? How has it gotten to be so crooked without falling over? I have no answers, and frankly don't want any. My imagined stories are probably way better than some lame explanation about ground water and whatever else probably caused it. 

Anyway, I've spent a little time looking for Adam and Nancy's graves, mostly only to come up empty-handed and little frustrated. But again, I haven't really spent all that much time looking. This evening, I decided to change that. For my own personal FHE I decided to renew the search, scouring the internets for the cemetery where they're buried in the hopes of someday (soonish) visiting it. So far I still haven't found what I'm looking for, but I have found that there are a whole slew of Welkers buried in the Chicago Corner Church Cemetery, and at least some of them seem to be at least mildly related to me. Maybe there will be clues on their grave stones that will lead me to the ones I'm looking for. And then they will lead me to some sort of treasure. (Where's Nicholas Cage when you need him?)

In addition to this moderate family success, I've also come across a lovely local news story from 1928 that seemed like it needed wider publication. So, I've decided to reproduce it here on yo mama llama for the enjoyment of all.

"Man Buried Alive In City Cemetery Workmen Disclose"

Evidence of Struggle by Captive in Earthly Prison Found When Casket is Unearthed

New Castle Times 1928

That a man was buried alive in a local cemetery is the weird and gruesome story told by a city employee here. This man who made the startling disclosure of a man believed dead, but still alive, has witnesses who saw evidence of the fact, while working in the old North 14th street cemetery, some time ago. The horrible affair occurred about the year of 1865, according to available records.

When the city employees were engaged in he work of removing some of the bodies, so that the drain from the wading pool could be built, they came to a casket badly decomposed, that attracted their attention because of its unusual length.

As they started to prepare it for removal to another resting place, they opened its shattered lid, and found to their horror that the skeleton was laying almost face down. People are never so buried--- not even back in 1865 and this set the men to thinking.

Further investigation showed that the man had apparently turned over to brace himself on his shoulders, apparently in an effort to lift the lid of the coffin. His skeleton was in such a position as to indicate that he had been in great strain and strengthened the belief that he had been buried alive and had apparently tried to release himself from this horrible prison.

The officials on looking up the records, found that the man whose name is withheld, for obvious reasons, had died during the yellow fever epidemic about the year 1865. Further investigation shows that none of his relatives or descendents [sic] is now living.

The story told by one who requested that his name not be used, was substantiated by several others, including the workmen engaged in digging the ditch.

The remains of the body were carefully removed to another burial place and nothing was ever said of the event for fear of unwanted publicity over the spread of yellow fever.

Moral of the story, at least from my perspective: Don't get yellow fever in 1865, people can't really tell if you're dead. Also, doing family history can be fun and interesting even if it is mostly unproductive.

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