Graverobbing in Chattanooga
Chattanooga Times, november 1894


Chattanooga Times wednesday, 28 november 1894, p5

Horrible Discoveries in Connection With Grave Robberies.
The Work of Ghouls in Graveyards to Be Probed in Court Probably this Morning.

The Officers Believe They Have Evidence to Prove That He is Connected With a Gang of Grave Robbers, and That Physicians and Medical Students Are implicated.

The mystery surrounding the recent grave robberies at the potters' field is to be unraveled, and the probability is that some very sensational facts will be developed. The evidence at the trial of Jones and Hurst for robbing the grave of a pauper buried two weeks ago was such as to lead the justice to make the statement in connection with his decision that he believed that not only the prisoners were guilty, but that they were in league with one in authority. It now seems that his theory was not merely a speculative one.

One week ago last Saturday Charles Gowen, a brother of Mrs. I. D. Vaughn, was buried in the potters' field. Mrs. Vaughn lives at 213 Grove Street, and the body was taken from her house and buried in a new suit of clothes. A considerable quantity of jewelry, the property of the dead man, was placed in the grave with him.

When the facts of the recent robberies were made public Mrs. Vaughn became alarmed. On Monday she went to the cemetery and asked the county sexton to open the grave of her brother. He did not seem willing to open the grave, but finally, in the presence of Mitchell, the assistant county sexton, the grave was opened. When the coffin was reached it was found that although the lid had been screwed tightly originally, the screws were now loose and the lid half off. On raising the lid it was found that the body had been removed, and nothing was left but the pillows placed under the head of the dead man by his sister. This grave was the one in regard to which the county sexton, at the trial of Jones and Hurst, swore that not even the flowers had been disturbed.

As soon as the sister found that the grave had been robbed, she came to the city and swore out a warrant before 'Squire Hill against the county sexton, P. J. Hale, charging him with stealing the body, and another against Jones on the same charge.

Late Monday night Deputy Sheriffs Holland and Wassman went to the home of the sexton and arrested him. The trial was set for this morning at 9 o'clock, and the sexton was admitted to bail in the sum of $500, J. Hodge McLean, a lawyer, signing the bond. Jones failed to make bond and is still in jail.

The body-stealing in this cemetery has reached an interesting point, and the fact that other evidence than that collected for the first trial has been secured makes the case doubly interesting. The officers believe they have evidence sufficient to prove that the county sexton is at the head of a gang that has been systematically robbing the graves. Someone, the officers also say, is wearing the new suit in which Gowen was buried, and the jewelry which was buried with him.

In regard to the affair, the sexton says that he knows only that the bodies are gone, and that he does not think it is his duty to watch the graves night and day.

The officers in the case say they are hot on the trail of the men who now have the clothing and jewelry and that today some arrests may be made which will implicate certain physicians and medical students. The facts, the officers further claim, are sufficient to at least point to two physicians as having been implicated in the grave robberies.

The officers claim that the sexton and Jones, with possibly others, are supplying the physicians of Nashville and other cities with the bodies of paupers buried here, for dissection purposes. It is believed by the prosecutors, and will be proven if possible, that this grave robbery is carried on on a large scale.