Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Revolting Discovery. Paupers Buried in Nude Condition 1888

Memphis Appeal, March 25 1888
Paupers Buried From the City Hospital in a Nude Condition

Supt. T. McCarney, of Calvary cemetery, made a revolting discovery yesterday and one that confirmed vague reports he had previously heard. About two weeks ago information reached him that the remains of persons who died at the city hospital were being interred without a stitch of clothing to cover their nudeness.  Mr. McCarney, though dumfounded (sic), was loth (sic) to credit the reports and took steps to have it verified or disproved at the earliest opportunity.

Before proceeding further it will be proper to explain how and what persons are given burial in Calvary cemetery. It is the last resting place of the Catholic dead, and wisely governed by rigid rules and regulations in every respect. As a general thing, paupers are intrusted (sic) to County Undertaker Walsh, and interred in potter's field. Where the person in his last illness calls in a priest, however, the attending divine gives the undertaker an order to bury him or her in Calvary cemetery in a Christian manner.

The opportunity of Supt. McCarney came yesterday.  On Thursday J. Sullivan died at the hospital. He was placed in a rude box coffin, conveyed to the dead-house attached to the institution, and Undertaker Walsh notified. Yesterday morning the wagon bearing the remains was driven up to the gate of Calvary, and the driver notified the keeper of his mission, producing his order signed by Father Moran, of St. Peter's parish.  The box containing the remains was removed and carried into the house, according to instructions from the superintendent, and this official notified of its presence. Then came the investigation resolved upon.  Mr. McCarney removed the lid of the box, and found--the reports confirmed.  Within, and perfectly nude, reposed the corpse of Sullivan.  the horrified superintendent came into the city and inquired of Mr. Walsh's foreman where he got the body.  "At the hospital," replied the foreman.  Mr. McCarney left the establishment, and a few moments later made the disclosure to an Appeal reporter.

Dr. Small, of the city hospital, was called upon for an explanation.  He stated that he was ignorant of Sullivan's condition as regards clothing when buried, but that it was the custom to wrap the sheet upon which the person died around the body for burial. When informed that not even this had not been done in the case of Sullivan, Dr. Small professed astonishment.

"What disposition is made of the clothing worn by patients when they enter the hospital in case of death?" the doctor was asked.

"They are stored away for use by other patients when needed, " he replied.
Originally posted in the Memphis Appeal, March 25 1888.

As for J. Sullivan, the mortuary report said he was male, 30 years old and that he died from peritonitis.  The Shelby County Register of Deaths could only add that he had been in Memphis but a week, was single, and a native of Massachusetts.

1 comment:

  1. I'm SURE, of course, that no such goings on took place at Elmwood. :-( I hope that some policies changed at City Hospital after this came out!