The Legend of the Caseville Grave Robbers

The following is an excerpt from the Book “History of Caseville: biographies and legends” by Mary Cobb Langley and published in 1960. One story outlines a notorious crime that took place about 1870. At the time, Caseville was a boom town as it was starting the transition from lumbering to supporting a growing farming community.  In the late 1800’s grave robbing was a common crime as the demand by medical schools for cadavers made for a quick albeit dirty profit.  See Grave Robbers Worked for Science and Themselves for more detail.

The Caseville Grave Robbers

Dr. S.J. Henderson operated a drug store in connection with his medical practice. This small, one-story building had a cellar underneath sided with logs and a foot and a half of new sawdust on the floor. This building was located between the GAR Civil War Monument and Russell LeBlanc’s gift shop in Caseville. The building at that time was an apothecary he employed and a girl helper. This morning, in particular, the girl had occasion to go into the cellar.

Ora Labora Grave Old Bay Port Cemetery Angel
Angel in Old Bay Port Cemetery

She came up screaming about a man in the cellar. Her face was livid with fright. Several men ran up to her and inquired what she was screaming about. Shaken she said that there was a man hiding in the sawdust and she saw his feet sticking out. Well, the fellows went down with the intent tan the hide off the culprit. But they too came back up in a flurry of excitement calling for the town constable. Upon investigation, they discovered a man alright, but he was harmless and very dead. In fact, he had been buried the day before as some of them had attended his funeral.

Pitched from the Grave Site

Ora Labora Gravestone
Ora Labora Gravestone

The mystery deepened as some unknown person had dug up the man from the grave, removed his burial clothing and hid the body in the sawdust of the cellar of Henderson’s drug store. The sawdust had fallen away from the bare feet and this was what the girl saw. “Grave robbers have been at work here”, said the town constable, Horrors! Creepy thoughts and fear walked the streets of Caseville. The cemetery was searched and three empty coffins were found from recent burials. Stories started coming to light as folks thought harder about the events of the past few days. The man coming past the graveyard on his way home at night had heard voices and what sounded like the clink a shovel on a stone but didn’t tell anyone for fear of being laughed at and ridiculed.

Night Time Shenanigans at the Graveyard

Old Bay Port Cemetery
Old Bay Port Cemetery

The newlyweds a Mr. and Mrs. Meyers, living near the Ora Labora Colony just north of Bay Port. The young wife was up at 2 o’clock one morning, hearing a rig coming on the rough ground. She looked out into the bright moonlight and noted a madly racing horse team driven by a man playing a whip over the horses’ backs. From his seat on the buck and rolling around on the of the buckboard, head hanging over the open tailboard, was the body of a man. Awaking her husband and telling him about the weird sight, she got nothing but a laugh and an “Oh, come on back to bed honey, that’s just taking a drunk home.”

This story proved the grave robbing gang was at work around the Bay Port and Sebewaing. Through the combined efforts of the three, these miserable creatures were caught. Three men were in the work. They confessed to stealing the one man on recent burials. The bodies were taken the night after the funeral, stripped, wrapped in canvas, and taken as fast as horses could travel to Saginaw. There, the gruesome cargo was put on a train and shipped to a medical school. The school paid these men well. There was no train service in Caseville at this time. How they bemoaned the unkind fate that made one of the horses go lame and unfit to travel that night. They were severely punished, thus ending the grave robbing in Michigan’s Thumb.

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2 thoughts on “The Legend of the Caseville Grave Robbers”

  1. Yikes! The building site mentioned was where I used to work. Not same building, of course! Thankfully.

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