What People are Reading
- What a very sad and shocking
2 years 4 days ago
- Smart Meters
2 years 3 weeks ago
- 100 year old house burns
2 years 3 weeks ago
- Column 2-10 re Treason
2 years 12 weeks ago
- Radical Difference
2 years 13 weeks ago
- This activity is such a
2 years 21 weeks ago
- Okay Great we got a sign!
2 years 21 weeks ago
- Hate Crime a Sad Moment Indeed
2 years 23 weeks ago
More in Crime
Not-so-good old days
This week's offering is a bit of a mini mystery — the end of the story might have been run before the start. Readers are invited to try to figure out how that came to be. The first item in the old Oxford Democrat ran on March 18, 1845:
Robbery of a Graveyard — There is much excitement in Frankfort and Monroe, growing out of the robbery of a grave yard in the latter place, of the corpse of a Mrs. Brooks, which had been found in the back office occupied by Dr. Tewksbury of Frankfort, who has been arrested with his student, Tibet's. The husband of Mrs. Brooks was deeply affected at the sight of the corpse of his wife, upon which the work of dissection had been commenced. After a while he became frantic, and greatly enraged. Indeed all Frankfort and Monroe are in a state of the most intense excitement, at the development of this outrageous and sacrilegious desecration of the grave. The parties arrested were to have a justice trial this morning in Monroe. The legal investigation we alluded to in the above paragraph, resulted in the acquittal of Dr. Tewksbury, of Frankfort. His student Tibet's, was bound over in the sum of five hundred dollars. — Bangor Mercury
The second ran on May 13, of that year:
A Thrilling Scene. In Frankfort, on the banks of the Penobscot in Maine, a gentleman lost his wife by death. Three days after her interment he had some business with a young physician of that town. Calling at his house he was informed that the doctor had gone out but would soon return, he concluded to wait, and to pass the time more agreeably as he thought, went into the young physician's studio. There he found a student with a scalpel in his hand in the act of dissecting a dead body. He started back at first view as people generally do when suddenly coming into the presence of the dead. Recovering from his surprise, he stepped towards the corpse which the student was cutting, and horror of horrors, found the dead body to be that of his wife, buried three days before. His feelings may be imagined, but cannot be described. The husband immediately pressed for legal measures against both student and doctor. They were examined and bound over to answer for the crime of carrying away and dissecting dead bodies.
In the first account, the doctor was acquitted and the assistant was found guilty but the second, which ran about two months later, mentions that both were arrested, not mentioning the outcome of the trial. Also, the second story doesn't name the accused or the victim, but the first one did. Did the editor simply forget the first story when he ran the second? Even for those days it was unusual enough a tale to not be forgotten. Or, did the editor need to fill space and recast the original? That seems far-fetched, too, even though journalistic practices then were more free and easy than today. Perhaps there were other reasons for the gaffe, but it is a curiosity.
By the way, most readers are no doubt aware that in the mid-nineteenth century, legally authorized autopsies were not routine and medical students as well as physicians doing research were often forced to - ahem - "disinter" recently deceased individuals or, in cahoots with an undertaker, play a shell game with coffins to obtain "subjects" for study. Medical schools were not yet really operating nor considered necessary in those days. Would-be physicians basically apprenticed themselves to a practicing doctor and when both agreed the younger man (no one ever heard of a female physician) was ready to go it alone, he set himself up in practice — usually no degree, examination or license was necessary for the student, or the teacher, for that matter. That would have been "government interference in the private lives of citizens," after all. And, if that happened, next thing you know, the "gummint" would interfered even more with people's rights, like to put a ban on slavery or insist every citizen should be able to vote — who knows where that would end?
We'll close this week with this little item from the paper's March 18, 1845 issue:
Increase of Passengers — The train of cars that arrived Tuesday Evening, had one more passenger , when it reached the Portland Depot, than paid his way. A lady, whose husband has been dead about three months, (and who was hastening home to her father's in the country) has delivered of a fine child, while the cars were going at the rate of thirty miles an hour. Several ladies and the "Major" officiated at the birth, and the affair came off in the Ladies Saloon with propriety and secrecy. Many of the passengers were not in the secret at all. When the cars arrived the lady put the little fellow in her muff and walked away.
As is our custom, we try to exactly reproduce the grammar, spelling, punctuation and style of the original. Commas might appear where least expected and remain absent where we’d expect them if the item was written nowadays. On the other hand, consistency was not considered of utmost importance, so variations of a spelling might appear within one story. In addition, some words were abbreviated differently than today.
Where brief explanations of terms are considered necessary, they are presented in brackets  within the quote. Otherwise, explanations appear at the beginning or at the conclusion, without quotes. Parenthesis () used in a quoted passage appeared in the original.