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The U.S. Senator Whose Corpse Was Stolen
John Scott Harrison, son and father of US presidents, served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
This is John Scott Harrison. Father & Son of US Presidents. Grandson of Declaration of Independence signer Benjamin Harrison V.
John was born on October 4, 1804 in Vincennes, Indiana to William Henry Harrison and Anna Tuthill Symmes.
His father William Henry Harrison was the 9th President of the United States.
John married twice: first in 1824 and then 1831.
He had 13 children, including Benjamin Harrison (from his second marriage) who later became the 23rd President of the United States (1889-1893).
His father, William Henry Harrison holds a record: his presidency lasted only 31 days making it the shortest in US history. He died of pneumonia on April 4, 1841.
John went through some preparatory courses and started studying medicine only to abandon this route and deciding to become a farmer.
In 1852, and as a member of the Whig Party, John was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.1
John was re-elected two years later in 1854 but this time representing the Opposition Party.
John went for a third term in 1856 but he failed to get re-elected.
He retired from politics and retreated to his "Point Farm" estate in North Bend, Ohio.
He died on May 25, 1878. He was 73.
Grave robbing was a lucrative business in late 19th century's America.
Medical Colleges needed a constant flow of cadavers to fill the demand of anatomy training for their students. In some colleges these students were numbered to 1,000 or more, and each year there was more of them. So, there certainly was a high demand!
Let's pretend you were alive during the late 19th century in America, where grave robbing of fresh dead subjects was a lucrative business, and someone dear to you died. What would you do?
You better take precautions! And you better take precautions if your neighbours went through the experience.
August Devins, a friend of the Harrison family died shortly before John Scott Harrison. His grave was robbed.
So when John Scott Harrison died the family was prepared..
They took extraordinary precautions to protect his grave from grave robbers due to the rampant body-snatching practices.
They Encased his casket in metal.
They dug a much deeper grave than usual.
They used bricks to wall off the grave shaft.
They placed an immense stone in the grave that required 16 men to lift and lower.
They covered the grave with cement.
They inserted small wooden pegs in the soil below the cover-stone to monitor any intrusion.
They even hired a guard to watch the grave.
Benjamin buried his father and returned to Indianapolis. His brother John shortly left for Cincinnati to find the remains of family friend August Devins whose body was snatched shortly after his death.
When John arrived in Cincinnati, he met with private detective Thomas Snelbaker and they immediately began their search.
The search eventually led them to Ohio Medical College. Witnesses had seen an elegant carriage drop off a corpse behind the college around 3 a.m. at the alley.
Snelbaker, the private detective, followed this lead and found a windlass rope inside the college that was taut. When he engaged the crank, a body emerged from a square hole in the floor.
However, this body was not Devins. Snelbaker convinced John Harrison to examine the face of the body more closely.
It turned out to be John Scott Harrison's body, which had been stolen from the heavily fortified grave, brought to Cincinnati, and sold to the Ohio Medical College for dissection.
The body had been cut, drained, and embalmed, indicating medical knowledge. John Harrison's emotional discovery confirmed the theft of his father's body.
Imagine this sad and traumatic experience of a son discovering the body of his recently deceased dear father stolen, sold, cut, ready for dissection..
The Harrison family's protective measures for the grave were extensive, but the discovery at Ohio Medical College revealed that the thieves had still managed to access and steal John Scott Harrison's body, which became a national scandal known as "The Harrison Horror."2345
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