Trials and Tribulations-Stephen Bennett (part 2 of 3)

Death does weird things to a family.  Grief is an all encompassing emotion, but it never looks the same on any two given moments or in any two given people.  I try to Walk In Their Shoes when dealing with my ancestors and this time unfortunately that is fairly easy. My precious Father-in-Law passed away a few months ago.  He was the Patriarch of our family and he has been greatly missed.  I can say I have felt every emotion of grief over the last few months, so I think I fully understand what Stephen Bennett and his brothers and sisters must have been feeling.  On top of losing their precious Daddy, they still had their elderly mother, Sarah Catherine Brown Bennett to care for.  Sarah was 62 years old when her husband passed away.  Their maternal Grandfather Wiley Brown was also still alive and in the care of their aunt.  It must have been a trying time for the family!

One thing I notice about Grief is that it can overtake you at the oddest of moments. One minute you are smiling and happy and the next minute a wave of anger can overcome you out of left field. Or you can be watching TV and find yourself crying over the stupidest of commercials.  And with Grief comes her twin sister, Stress.  Stress greatly affects the minds of those in the grieving process.  One day I was driving to work and got lost. Now mind you, I live in Alabama. All the roads are straight for the most part and run North to South or East to West and the next road is exactly one mile away. But here I was, on the way to work and suddenly, I had NO IDEA where I was or how I had gotten there.  Yes, Stress affects the way our minds function in those first few weeks of losing a loved on.  Add to that the stress of having that person’s body stolen, then the people being arrested, and now a Trial….

Clipping from Der Deutsche  Correspondent, 29 JAN 1898, page 3 colunn 3

Wire Summary Clipping (from Der Deutsche Correspondent, 29 JAN 1898, page 3 column 3

We often think of the world around the turn of the century (1900) to be very backwoods and out of touch. This article about Dr. Heimark printed in the Der Deutsche Correspondent shows us that really wasn’t the case and that this trial would have international attention! 

Naked in Box [clipping] (Charlotte  Observer, 30 JAN 1898, page 2, column 5) Both Stephen Bennett and Mrs. Jane (Eva) Corbett were respectable members of the Eagleville Community.  Neither family would have appreciated having this article posted in the newspaper about their family. 

The bodies were naked and doubled up in a box.  They were well preserved, so they had been embalmed. 

The rest of the article just repeats that Heimark has been arrested and that Watkins wants his money back to return the bodies.

Naked in Box (from Charlotte Observer, 30 JAN 1898, page 2, colHeimark Confesses [clipping] (The  Nashville American, 30 JAN 1898, page 8, column 3)umn 5)

Until now, Heimark had been claiming he knew
nothing of the case and that he was innocent of the crime of grave robbing. Even though he was being held in custody, he was maintaining his innocence.  I
imagine finding out the bodies had been found and returned to Tennessee must have come at a great shock. To find the bodies in Vermont, investigators most definitely had to have been talking to people and those people had to be talking back!  So nearly a month after Stephen Bennett’s death, Heimark confesses.

The people of Eagleville were “considerably excited”.  I can imagine the fear that must have been in the heart of every person in the community up till this point. Now finally they had some closure.

Jeda McGowan was arrested as accomplice.  The article goes on to state that several bodies have been returned from other states. It’s unclear if this means Bennett and Corbett, or if there were indeed more bodies.  Now two arrests have been made in the case!

Now we learn for the first time that this case was actually begun many weeks earlier when an Italian, Di Lugii was stolen from Mt. Calvary Cemetery. 

Once the bodies of Bennett and Corbett returned home, Dr. Heimark broke down and told investigators who his contacts were in the case. 

One concern of the police and of Dr. Heimark was that the people of Eagleville were threatening violence against him if he were returned to Eagleville. Could you really blame them?

At the cemetery for the reburial, over 1,000 people witnessed the reburial! If I were Heimark I would have been a little concerned as well.

While at Eagleville, Mr. Hannifin found a rubber shoe at the grave of Stephen Bennett.  It was identified by many people as the property of McGowan.  It had been torn at the toe and had been resown with a black thread. With this clue, a warrant had been set for Jeda McGowan. He set bond and his trial is for the next day.

It is mentioned that yet another grave of Dug. Jarrett is messing from the cemetery near Salem.  The case is still being investigated as more parties are expected to be implicated in the case!

Heimark Confesses (from The Nashville American, 30 JAN 1898, page 8, column 3)

Habeas Corpus for Heimark  [clipping] (The Nashville American, 31 JAN 1898, page 2, column 5)


A Writ of Habeas Corpus (which literally means to “produce the body”) is a court order to a person or agency holding someone in custody (such as a warden) to deliver the imprisoned individual to the court issuing the order and to show a valid reason for that person’s detention.

In Heimark’s case, if a Writ was made, he would be removed from Nashville where he was staying, and taken to the jail in Rutherford County, Tennessee. We already know the people of Eagleville had made threats against him. 

The last thing on earth Heimark wanted at this time was for a Writ of Habeas Corpus to be produced on his behalf.  If he was arrested and taken back to Rutherford County, Tennessee he would be held in a jail that was not “mob proof.”  Over 1,000 people had attended a funeral just 24 hours earlier.  Those same 1,000 people would have loved for him to have been transported to Rutherford County, Tennessee.  He was safe being held in Hannifin’s office and stated profusely that it was NOT him who had filed this writ.

When questioned  by the newspaper, Haniflin assured them that Heimark was not being held against his will and had been allowed to come and go at will.

When further questioned, Haniflin says he suspects one of the Medical Schools being investigated wanted to “close Heimark’s mouth” by coming to his rescue. In other words, if Heimark came up missing, the main witness to their guilt would be removed.

Detectives believe that selling the bodies to a school in Vermont was done by someone at one of the local medical colleges to rid themselves of the bodies!  A pretty big accusation to make against one of the local medical schools.

Seems for the paltry sum of $15 (about $420 in 2017), Dr. C. B. Heimark has made some serious enemies.  The Doctor was of Norwegian descent, yet the investigators in Nashville didn’t worry that he would try and leave the country, because he was in such fear of being returned to Rutherford County and if he were try to leave the country, warrants for his arrest would be made immediately.


Habeas Corpus for Heimark (from The Nashville American, 31 JAN 1898, page 2, column 5)

Sheriff Wants Heimark [clipping]  (The Nashville American, 01 FEB 1898, page 5, column 6)Things are about to get bad for Dr. Heimark.  Sherriff Lee, of Rutherford County has now traveled to Nashville. The first Writ of Habeas Corpus has been tried and been found to be invalid, since Haniflin, Bennett and Heimark all testify that he is not being held against his will.  But now the good Sherriff of Rutherford County wants his prisoner.  But first he has to prove that there will be no mob violence in Rutherford County.  As I said, Grief’s twin sister is Stress.  Stress makes us do and say stupid stuff. When my own father died, the funeral home director came to the house with papers for mom to sign after they had removed the body. The funeral home director was greeted by me at the door telling him firmly, “We do not want him back.”  Who knows what made me say something so stupid?  Stress will do that too you. I am sure the good people of Eagleville under normal situations were not lynch mobs. But stress has a way of making us do stupid stuff.

Three warrants were issued for Dr. Heimark, each carrying charges of robbing a grave, stealing and selling the body in it. 

Sherriff Lee has Constable Martin with him and they believe that while feelings in the county were once high, they have now subsided considerably.

In his interview with the reporter, Heimark is now claiming his innocence (after confessing to the crime) and is now saying it was him who filed the previous Writ of Habeas Corpus.  Why would he change his testimony at this time? Well, as we stated earlier,  stress makes us do and say strange things.  From this article, we also discover that Heimark had graduated from the University of Nashville, had served as an intern at the County Asylum and had resided in Eagleville for a couple of years.

article~Sheriff Wants Heimark (from The Nashville American, 01 FEB 1898, page 5, column 6)

McGowan Hearing [clipping] (The  Nashville American, 07 FEB 1898, page 5, column 7)

McGowan Hearing (from The Nashville American, 07 FEB 1898, page 5, column 7)

One of the many things we have to learn as Genealogists, is that names are constantly changing in spelling. That doesn’t mean we have the wrong person. Jeda McGowan has now become Jodie McGowan. Probably because of the Southern way of pronouncing ending A’s as long E’s.  At any rate, this Jodie McGowan is the same Jeda McGowan mentioned in other articles.  The McGowan trial we mentioned in article one, has begun here. The first article mentioned a newspaper article from Jan 1899!  Yes, nearly a year later.  Can you even imagine what all these parties must have been going through as it took a year to find the criminals and bring them to justice?  It’s only been five weeks after the death of Stephen Bennett for his grave robbers to be found and brought to trial.  It must have seemed like a lifetime to his wife, children and grandchildren.

Heimark Indicted [clipping] (The  Nashville American, 24 FEB 1898, page 5, column 5) Finally the tribulations would turn into a trial.  On 23 February, 1898, just 7 and a half weeks after his death, Stephen Bennett’s grave robber would be brought in front of a grand jury. 

As we saw in our first article, Harry Satterfield refuses to testify about his involvement in the crime. Harry Satterfield was a janitor at a medical college in Nashville. He is being questioned because investigators believe he sold bags to Dr. Heimark to put the bodies in.

He was told by the Judge if he answered the question, he could avoid prosecution.  Now I am thinking Satterfield and his attorney weighed his options. If he sold the bags to Heimark, he wasn’t any safer leaving the court house in Davidson County, than Heimark would have been. After consulting his attorney, he declined to answer the question. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

By the end of the day, Heimark had been indicted for removing bodies from the grave and as soon as the grand jury made their decision, a Writ of Habeas Corpus was issued for Heimark. 

Because of the large number of people from Eagleville and the previous threats, the Judge ordered the Writ be served the next day. 

Joda McGowan was also indicted on the same charge. He is out on bond and awaiting action on the grand jury.

Its important to note at this time that Jodie McGowan was not as concerned about the lynch mob as was Heimark.  While there has been considerable talk of the danger to Heimark to be brought to trial in Rutherford County, no such concern is being shown for young McGowan. The 1900 census shows us at the time of the crime, McGowan was a few months shy of his 18th birthday.


Heimark Indicted (from The Nashville American, 24 FEB 1898, page 5, column 5)
Heimark to Mboro [clipping] (The  Nashville American, 25 FEB 1898, page 8, column 3)

In this we learn that attorneys for Heimark, McLemore and Richardson are not worried about Heimark’s trial and that they feel he would be as safe in Rutherford County as he was in Nashville.  It also states that public sympathy for McGowan is high and that he is ready to get his trial started to have the charges against him be investigated.

It is probably his young age, and the fact that he was a member of a well known family added to the fact that he was a hired hand that made people more sympathetic to Jodie McGowan.

The question of whether it was legal to hold Satterfield in contempt of court was discussed. The judge is going to have to think upon it and render his verdict later.

Heimark was brought to the Rutherford County, Tennessee jail by Sherriff Lee and Constable Talley with little fan fare. The Sherriff lets the paper know that he intends to not add extra security to the prison at this time because he does not feel his prisoner to be in any danger. 
I am sure the Sherriff realized that it was a bit of a drive from Eagleville to Murfreesboro and that sentiment had died down a bit in the weeks between the initial body being found and the trial.

For the Bennett family, not only had they lost their father, but his son was in the process of probating his estate.  He had written a deed to each of his children giving them each a portion of his land in the days before his death. They were dated as of the day of his death. His son, Devraux Jarrett, “D. J.” would ask the court for Letters of Administration in the February term 1898. So while the family waited on Heimark to go to trial, they were busy with the Probate of Stephen’s estate. And dealing with the grieving process.


Heimark to Mboro (from The Nashville American, 25 FEB 1898, page 8, column 3)

Heimark Sentenced [clipping]  (Weekly Columbia Herald, 04 MAR 1898, page 1, column 1)

Heimark Sentenced (from Weekly Columbia Herald, 04 MAR 1898, page 1, column 1)

This should have been the end of the story.  However, it was just the beginning!

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