Brought Back from the Dead
Dr. GEORGE W. RICHARDS, the former President of the LaPorte (Indiana) Medical School established the Medical Institution of St. Charles which operated a summer school for doctors in St.Charles. The students were poor and needed to work to pay their way. In those days folks didn't donate their bodies to science, but students still needed bodies to dissect for their studies. Some students resorted to robbing graves of their bodies and selling them to the school; they were called Resurrections. It is reported that graves of several noted citizens were reopened and found to be absent.
Three men were having supper about four miles east of Sycamore, at the Lovell tavern in the spring of 1849, when the landlords daughter overheard a suspicious conversation. She alerted her father who checked the 2 horses and spring wagon the men had driven to the tavern. There he found, hidden away, digging tools.
The young and popular, Mrs. GEORGE M. KENYON and a lone, friendless, German man had recently been buried. The landlord concluded the men planned to resurrect the single German mans remains. His suspicions were relayed to HARRY JOSLYN, LORENZO WHITEMOOR, KIMBALL DOW and a few others, who secreted themselves near the south burial ground at Sycamore, to watch for grave robbers. It was shortly after dark when the three men arrived with their wagon and digging tools, armed with weapons. Just has they were unloading the shovels and such one of the local men in hiding, began a bout of coughing. The coughing alerted the grave robbers who immediately took leave. The locals followed them and caused their arrest. One of those arrested was the son of Dr. RICHARDS, President of the Medical Institute in St. Charles. Another was JOHN RUDE, but the name of the third man is unknown. The trio was frightened during their arrest, when Mr. WATERMAN promised to shoot them in the morning. Apparently the locals believed this would scare the robbers into a quick return to St.Charles.
The three grave robbers headed east toward St.Charles but apparently reconsidered their destination and altered their course, going to the Ohio Grove cemetery were seventeen year old, Mrs. GEORGE M. KENYON was buried.
The community, her husband, Mr. KENYON, and family were grief stricken with her early passing. Having heard grave robbers were in the area, her family and friends posted a vigil at the cemetery. Soon they laid a rope over the grave and covered it with dirt so they could tell if someone had tampered with the grave in their absence. All appeared in tact when they returned to examin the site, yet something was suspicious. The party checking the site more carefully, found Mrs. KENYON's comb just 12 inches below the grave surface. Digging further their horrors were realized when they found the lid of the coffin broken and only the burial clothes remaining.
DAVID CHURCHILL, Mrs. KENYON'S father, was a well respected citizen and news of this atrocity spread rapidly throughout the community. A party of men decided it best they go to Dr. RICHARDS Medical School in St.Charles and demand the return of Mrs. KENYON's remains. A search warrant was obtained. Arriving at the school, the group found a well lathered horse belonging to a Sycamore doctor. It was obvious he had ridden fast ahead to alert Dr. RICHARDS.
The dissecting rooms were searched, remains of other bodies found, but Mrs. KENYON's remains were not. However, as her husband was about to leave the building he spotted a lock of hair the color of hers and immediately recognized it. Hardly enough evidence to convince a jury, but he was convinced it was hers. Grief stricken, he went to Dr. RICHARDS and begged for the return of her body. Dr. RICHARDS said, "I have no subjects now, but if you will come again in a few days I will have a lot of them, and from your way, too." This stunned the Sycamore party. They returned to Sycamore and the community became outraged. The younger men were ready of trouble but the old residents suggested a more conservative approach. Fire was brewing in the hearts of Mrs. Kenyon's Sycamore friends.
A group was selected to return to St.Charles, ESQUIRE CURRIER, JOHN C. WATERMAN, WILLIAM FORDHAM, LORENZO WHITTEMORE and KIMBALL DOW. Unfortunately, Dr. RICHARDS' attitude hadn't changed and now they were armed and ready for a violent encounter!
Folks witness to the events then and still living in the early 1900s recalled how routinely RICHARDS and his students carelessly threw the remains of dissected bodies into the Fox River.
Seeing JUDE the grave robber with Dr. RICHARDS, Mr. KENYON threatened to shoot him - then and there! The crowd grew to around 300 men, in front of Dr. Richard's' home, those men inside could see no escape. One of Richard's students offered he had seen a corpse matching the description of Mrs. KENYON. With that the DAVID CHURCHILL and Mr. KENYON rushed toward the house, pushing open the front door partially. From inside the home a gun barrel was thrust out but Mr. Churchill was able to point it downward so no one was injured as it was fired. Mr. KENYON, armed with a rifle, fired a round through the door. That shot struck RUDE, the Resurrectionist, in the hips, mortally wounding him.
The band of Sycamore men broke out all the windows, several students were injured. Dr. RICHARDS was shot twice. As he stood in the door to surrender a rock struck his temple knocking him senseless.
Fearing a second attack, the RICHARDS students enlisted A. BARRY, an attorney, who assured Mr. PRESCOTT, a relative of Mrs. KENYON, that the body would be returned the next morning. He sent them two miles south of St. Charles, to a farm, once owned by Mrs. HARVEY JONES of Sycamore to wait.
Attorney BARRY, Mr. BANNISTER and Mr. PRESCOTT along with a student named HARVEY located the buried remains of Mrs. KENYON, wrapped in a blanket, under about two foot of dirt, on the banks of the Fox River in a grove. Dirt was washed from her remains in the river, she was wrapped in clothing, placed in a coffin and returned to Sycamore.
Family and friends gathered for a second funeral at the Methodist Church of Sycamore.
Some feel Dr. RICHARDS was a evil criminal while others disagree. Mrs. HARVEY A. JONES, was ten or twelve years old when she witnessed the riot and attack. RICHARDS had been her family physician for many years at the time. She described the RICHARDS family as refined, well educated and well traveled. Chicago doctors sought his advise as he was well respected in the medical community.
JUDE died the day after the riot.
RICHARDS left the area and later died as a result of his wounds.
The students recovered.
Readers may want to check DeKalb county history for other accounts.
Source: History of Kane County by Joslyn & Joslyn 1908
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