Leeper Stories

Jacksonville Daily Journal, friday, May 11, 1877


A singular discovery of an Old Burying Ground in the Suburbs

A rather singular discovery was accidentally made on Tuesday last, in the southeast part of town, of what is supposed to be a part of an ancient family burying ground. Not so very ancient, however, but one at least dating back to the early settlement of this section. It seems that a Mr. Bickford was plowing in a field, near the water works engine house, on what was once the old Hitt farm, but now a part of the Chappel property, when his horse's leg dropped through the loose earth to his knees. His curiosity was at once excited to know the cause of the cavity in the ground, and he proceeded at once to investigate. He was not long in reaching a decayed coffin. Securing help he succeeded in unearthing a complete skeleton of a woman, which was but some two feet from the surfacte. The bones were badly decayed but the long flowing hair was found to be in a perfect state of preservation, as was also a large tortoise comb used in holding the hair to its place. The skeleton was conveyed to Jacksonville cemetery, and there interred, on Wednesday. A few feet from where this discovery was made, a similar breaking through of the earth, under the hoofs of the horses, occurred Wednesday, giving evidence that other bodies were underlying the surface and that the ground at that place had evidently been a graveyard in early times. Parties from this city went out yesterday to further investigate the matter, but as to the result of their labors we are not yet advised. It is stated and thought by some old settlers to be the burying ground of a few families who came in the first settlement of the county. Among them were the Bradshaws, Sparks and other, though it is not definitely known. It is to be hoped that the affair may be thoroughly investigated and that the decaying bodies may be properly cared for and laid away in a safer place than a cornfield, where sooner or later their bones will be brought to the surface, and the disagreeable thought of their being destroyed must be fully realized.

Jacksonville Journal, Wednesday, May 16, 1877


There does not seem to be much of a mystery about the finding of human bones upon the Chappell farm to which we referred last week. As we supposed, it was a neighborhood burying ground from which all the bodies were never removed when the city cemeteries were established. Now almost all of the relatives of those interred there have followed them to the grave, but there are those living here, Col. Geo. M. Changers, Mr. John Carson and others, who remember a graveyard there forty-five years ago. They say that the first to be buried there were two of the Leeper family (in whose barn the original First Presbyterian church was founded). The peoperty was then owned by them and is to this day sometimes called the Leeper farm. No one knows that those those bodies were ever removed. Jesse Allen and his wife, Sophia, also were laid to rest there, but their bodies were afterward, in 1857, removed, together with that of their granddaughter, Timiora McKay, to Jacksonville cemetery. James Kenney, Mrs. McCullough, a McGinnis child and Polly Dale were also buried there and their bones never disturbed. The skeleton unearthed last week is thought to e that of the last named person.

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