A Scary Cemetery Story

It was a blustery Halloween, and I was reading a scary news article from the 9 July 1874 (McArthur, Ohio) Vinton Register. (Isn’t that how every genealogist spends Halloween?) It was a tale of murder and intrigue…

Elias Irvin had been drinking for several days. His nephew George came up to his fence and accused him of stoning his house and cursing his wife. Their words became more heated until finally, the two came to blows. Elias swung a rake at George. George threw whatever he could. Elias turned for the house; George threw something that hit Elias on the back.

A witness said there was blood only on Elias’s cheek. But by 10:00 the next morning, he was dead.

Elias was buried in the Zion cemetery in Clinton Township, Vinton County. Nobody thought to examine the body until after the burial. The body was dug up. There were cuts on his arms and blood had run from his left temple.

Dr. D.V. Rannells examined the body and found no brain injury, though his lungs were congested. “I do not think the wounds alone could have caused the death of the party,” he told the jury.

The only other witness who testified was Joseph Johnson, who saw the fight between George and Elias.

After a short deliberation, the jury returned with its verdict:

“The deceased came to his death by causes unknown to us.”

George Irvin was a free man.

(McArthur, Ohio) Vinton Record, 9 July 1874, p. 3. Downloaded from Newspapers.com.

(McArthur, Ohio) Vinton Record, 9 July 1874, p. 3. Downloaded from Newspapers.com.

But for a genealogist, the scary part of this story wasn’t the death of Elias Irvin. It was the description of Zion cemetery, where Elias was buried (and presumably re-buried after his autopsy):

Zion graveyard is situated on a high hill hear Wm. Crow’s, in Clinton township, with beautiful surroundings and commanding a magnificent view of the adjacent country. The graveyard itself was in a shameful condition of dilapidation and neglect. It is unenclosed, grown up with underbrush, and heaped up with rails which had formerly been pens enclosing graves. It would be hard to imagine a more dilapidated place for christian burial.

If that doesn’t send shivers down your spine, I don’t know what will…

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