Historians Kevin Grace and Tom White – researchers at the University of Cincinnati – are co-authors of Cincinnati Cemeteries: The Queen City Underground. The book, due to arrive in bookstores Oct. 25, is the latest addition in Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series that celebrates the history of neighborhoods and cities across the country.
The book is divided into four key sections as it explores “Death and Dying in Cincinnati,” the historic Spring Grove Cemetery, other “Notable Cemeteries and Monuments” and “Cincinnatians Worth Knowing.”
The culture of death and dying in Cincinnati was hardly peaceful in the 19th century. Often the dearly departed and freshly buried would be raised from the grave by “Resurrection Men,” a medley of macabre moneymakers who would disinter corpses for profit. “This area had at least a dozen medical colleges and they needed cadavers for research and teaching purposes,” White explains. “At the time, there was no legal way for people to donate their bodies to science, so medical schools would pay grave robbers to provide corpses for anatomy instruction.” Grace adds that when the freshly buried bodies weren’t available, an inebriated saloon patron who stumbled into the wrong dark alley could easily become the next victim of that involuntary body donation program.
White writes in Cincinnati Cemeteries that the area’s most famous grave-robbing victim was the youngest son of U.S. President William Henry Harrison and was the father of U.S. President Benjamin Harrison. The corpse of John Scott Harrison, who died in 1878, turned up at Ohio Medical College on Sixth Street downtown and the ensuing attention to the high-profile case led to legislation that legalized voluntary body donations.
The book notes the state’s oldest African American cemetery – the United American Cemetery on Duck Road. There’s also mention of St. Joseph Cemetery in Price Hill, New St. Joseph Cemetery (opened in 1911), United Baptist Cemetery, Wesleyan Cemetery, Calvary Cemetery, United Jewish Cemetery, Walnut Hills Cemetery, St. Mary Cemetery, Laurel Cemetery, Hillcrest Cemetery and others. But the authors add that with some more exploring, there might be a volume two to add to their Cincinnati cemetery history.
Spring Grove Cemetery, established in 1845, is one of the earliest garden cemeteries in the United States. Its scenery is highlighted in a chapter dedicated only to Spring Grove Cemetery, where many UC notables are buried.
“I think what sets this book apart from other cemetery books are the stories of the people involved,” Grace says. “These people are a part of our culture, yet we know little about them. They’re not the richest or the most famous or the most accomplished, but what they did has had an impact.”
The chapter about “Cincinnatians Worth Knowing” features 49 names, including Louis Hudepohl, Barney Kroger, William Henry Elder and baseball great William “Buck” Ewing. UC notables include Charles McMicken, Annie Laws and Jimmy Nippert, the UC football player who was spiked in the leg during a Thanksgiving Day football game in 1923, and died of blood poisoning from the injury that Christmas. UC’s Nippert Stadium is named in his memory.
“The architecture is beautiful, the stories are interesting, and we wanted to bring a little life to that,” concludes Grace.
Kevin Grace is head of UC archives and an adjunct assistant professor in the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services. Tom White is head of monograph ordering for University Libraries. The two authors also collaborated on Arcadia Publishing’s Cincinnati Revealed: A Photographic Heritage of the Queen City, and Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine.
Cincinnati Cemeteries: The Queen City Underground ($19.99) will be available online at Amazon.com, as well as Joseph Beth Booksellers, Borders, Barnes & Noble, the Cincinnati Museum Center, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Ohio Bookstore and the UC Bookstore.