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Writer Recalls Childhood Memories in Connersville City Cemetery

Sep 20th, 2014 by Jennifer | 0

In November 1978 when I was 13 years old, I was fortunate enough to be able to witness the excavation of a body in the City Cemetery. The body to be excavated was Caleb Blood Smith, a former member of Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet.

There was, and still is today a mystery about where Smith was buried. In 1864 his wife, Elizabeth Watton Smith, paid $500.00 for the plot of her choice in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis who had died suddenly on January 7th, 1864 while serving as a federal judge had originally been buried in Greenlawn Cemetery in Indianapolis. Mrs. Smith decided to have her husband’s body moved to Crown Hill Cemetery. There was no protection from vandals in Greenlawn Cemetery, and frequently boys from the town would run carelessly through the cemetery, knocking down markers.

Mrs. Smith also feared that her husband’s body would be desecrated by a group of Southern Dissenters called the Sons of Liberty; so she tried to have his body moved where no one would be able to find it.  Apparently, the Sons of Liberty had broken into one grave in an attempt to find Smith’s body. That organization was feared as they came from the South to the North, stealing from the Northerners.

It was my grandfather, John Walker, whose interested in the mystery prompted him to request permission to excavate the body. My grandfather was writing to the Lincoln Herald; a monthly Magazine in  Harrigate, TN.  While he was doing research on Lincoln and discovered the mystery of Caleb Blood Smith.

My grandfather received permission from the city of Connersville and Caleb Smith’s great nieces, Norvella Thomas Copes and Nancy S. Hurly to have the body exhumed.  The consent to exhume stated the exhumation must be carried out with “a proper, careful and dignified opening of said grave: Urban Funeral home did the removal with a back hoe. Present were my family members, Smith’s family members, and several cemetery workers.

We were huddled close together in a tent lit by candles. The day was gloomy and overcast and the candles cast eerie shadows on the faces of people in the tent. Urban Funeral home had set up the shelter for us, and it was a good thing because it was a very cold, windy and miserable day and the temperature was 25 degrees.

The body was finally exhumed but it turned out not to be the body of Smith. It was the body of William Watton Jr.  Who was Smith’s  brother in law. The casket was brick lined with a glass cover. The glass was broken when the workers from the Urban Funeral home were locating their casket with a probe. It broke the glass. The casket was raised by two very heavy chains put on opposite ends of it.

This part of the body I saw was the face with looked leathery, not decayed as I had expected. The clothes were dry and intact. There was a silver name place on his casket which was badly corroded. Norvella T. Copes kept the name place and my grandfather, John Walker was offered a collar button, the kind that was used to hold the collar on back in those days.

My grandfather, parents and I left before the workers from the Urban Funeral home put the body back into the ground. The excavation had been carried out with respect as if there had been a real funeral. I don’t remember much after that until I discovered pictures and documents years later on this historical event.

If you want to read more on this story and see pictures and legal documents here are some web pages for more detailed “behind the scenes” information: http://community.wikia.com/wiki/User:Indiana_unsolved_mystery . Wikipedia is  also place where I wrote more information on Caleb Blood Smith as well. (Look for SEARCH FOR BODY) when you scroll down. I’ve also donated this story to the Indiana University Library and it can be found here http://iucat.iu.edu/catalog/9248091

One other one is the book written about my grandfather John Walker, called (MEMORIES OF MY GRANDFATHER) who moved to Connersville after WWII. He walked the Appalachian and Jenny Wiley Trails and you may have heard of him. Here is the link for that book if you are interested http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/memories- of-my-grandfather-cynthia-long/1015834284?ean=9781438948737

If you’d like to contact me about the story feel free to at longevitykentucky@yahoo.com.

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