Graverobbing in Chattanooga
Chattanooga Times, november 1894


Chattanooga Times tuesday, 20 november 1894, p6

Bodies of Paupers Stolen From the Cemetery.
Prominent Physicians Are Implicated in the Matter as Much as the Absolute Thief.
Midnight in Potter's Field.
A Good "Subject" Is Worth About $25, and a Purchaser Can Sell Half the Head to a Student for $5 or $10 and a Good Pickled Leg, Hand or Foot Can Soon Be Disposed Of.
"Rattle his bones over the stones,
He's only a pauper whom nobody owns
- Tom Heod. [?] [Tom Noel]

Grave robbing is simply a misdemeanor, according to the code of Tennessee. This is news to a great many, and very unwelcome news, for the American people respect the dead. That the graves of the departed citizens of Chattanooga or any other city can be robbed and the crime treated so lightly is a blot upon the statute books. But the law is plain. Article 3, of the code, section 5659, says any person is guilty of a misdemeanor, "who removes the dead body of any human being without lawful authority, from its place of interment, or assists in so doing." Section 5660 provides that any person who purchases the same, knowing it to have been disinterred contrary to law, is also guilty of misdemeanor, and there the law ends. That is all the protection a citizen of Tennessee has against grave robbers. Three specimens of the genus ghoul are now under the eye of the law for robbing graves at the Potter's field, where the poor of the county are interred.

For some time complaints have been made to the sheriff that graves were being robbed in the cemetery in question, but no absolute proof has been found against any person until Saturday night, when John Hurst, the former assistant county sexton, who was discharged recently, was seen loitering about the cemetery. Sunday morning the sexton and Deputy Sheriff Wassman went to the grave near which Hurst had been seen and found that it had been opened. Suspecting that they at last had a clue to the robbers who had been reported, the grave was opened, and it was found that the body, which was interred there Saturday, had been removed, and

The Coffin Was Empty.

The next move was to arrest Hurst, and he was found by the deputy yesterday morning at the home of the county sexton and brought before 'Squire Hill, who will hear the case this morning at 9 o'clock.

What becomes of the bodies after they are disinterred? No one seems to know. In fact, the doctors of the city and the students at the medical college all profess a profound ignorance on the matter. Several of them, however, will be heard in court, as arrests are to be made. The chain of evidence held by the officers is very strong, and will implicate two well known physicians and some students.

The second section spoken of provides that whoever purchases the bodies stolen is also guilty of a misdemeanor and is punishable by a small fine or short imprisonment in the county jail, one interested in securing bodies could easily afford to answer to the law, especially as the bodies are worth an average of $25 each to the students.

[tape and tears break up the text of the next two paragraphs]

Two other parties are suspected of having been implicated in the robberies and will be arrested today. After the cases for robbery have been disposed of a few ... arrested on the charge of ...

...The Bodies.

.... were detained con-.... . will be pushed ...Attorney-General. . .

.... that the robberies ...some time, and ...suspected of having ...will be inspected carefully, and the persons who have had something to do with the ghoulish work will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, or what there is of it.

If the law remains as it is, and the price of dead bodies remain at the present mark, it may become necessary for citizens to guard the graves of their departed with shot guns.

Very frequently medical students club together and buy a body between them or one student will buy a body for himself, using it piece by piece, and keeping the rest of the body in pickle.

As half a head is all a student needs to study upon, the other half is easily sold, traded off for medical works or swapped for other portions of the human body. Medical students need these subjects in their business and they are going to have them even if graves are to be robbed.