Ghastly Find of Excavators
An Explanation Reviving the Scenes of Other Days
Submitted by Martha J. Kounse
Ironton Register, July 21, 1887
Last Saturday afternoon, some of the workmen engaged on the excavation for the foundations of Hayward’s Block, came upon the bones of a human skeleton, of a portion of them, at least, and the position they were in indicated that the rest lay buried just beyond, in ground that was not disturbed. The point of discovery was at the north corner of the foundation, close to Rachel creek and twelve feet below the surface.
The workmen were startled when the bones were unearthed. Bystanders viewed with peculiar emotions the fleshless fragments of a human form, and physicians in the neighborhood were called to confirm the opinion of all who saw them, that part of a human skeleton has been found. The find was made more ghastly by the presence of an old boot that turned up along with the skeleton. It was a sensation for the hour and the fine fragments were removed to Hayward’s store and became the subject of many conjectures until somebody remembered a skeleton Dr. Cory once had in a stable that stood over the spot where the bones were found, which helped to clear away the mystery.
They indeed belonged to the Doctor’s skeleton, for the confirmed the theory when he came down town Monday, and the bones had been ruthlessly consigned to a rubbish pile on the street. The discovery brought up many incidents of former days, when Ironton was very young. The Doctor had a small drug store then, in a frame building on the corner where Hayward’s grocery now stands. The post office was there also, and Dr. Cory was postmaster. In the early sixties he sold the property to Wm. Gonder, and for many years it was occupied by Gonder’s bakery. Ed Bixby viewed the grim remains and laughed as he recalled how in those days he used to climb with Will Gonder to the loft of the old stable in which this skeleton was kept in a box behind the ladder. As they passed the box, Will would remark with dreadful caution, “Look out now, he’ll catch you.” And Ed would leap to the top of the ladder with increasing terror at each step.
The reporter sought out Dr. Cory soon after, and asked him to give a history of the skeleton. He was in a pleasant muse over the events of a quarter of a century ago, that had been revived by the incident and replied with a merry countenance. “Yes, I can tell you all about it, but I have seen the day when I would not. The Skeleton’s that of a man found drowned in the river, whom E. J. Folwell, who then a township trustee, helped me carry up the bank from near the East Ironton landing, over 25 years ago. The corpse was past recognition, and we buried him on the lot on upper 2nd street where Mr. Horschel lives now. John McMahon owned the property then. We had a great time keeping the matter quiet, but succeed admirably. When decomposition had progressed far enough, I dug up the bones and put them in a box in my stable, but never put them together. Lots of people saw me digging, but thought I was doing garden work. Azro used to get the boys in the stable and have lectures on the skeleton. He was reported to me once for frightening some of them with the skull and a lighted candle. I’ve got the same skull yet, I believe, out in my stable on the hill, but the rest of the skeleton I neglected to take with me when I moved from 3rd and Centre, and when I inquired for the bones sometimes afterward, I was informed by Gonder’s folks that the boys had buried them.”
“That’s the history of the bones. I hadn’t thought of them until this morning for many, many years, and indeed you are the first person, besides “Lish” Folwell, who ever knew where I got them.”
They were reinterred very near the spot where the workmen disturbed their long sleep.