During the 19th century, body snatching or grave robbery occurred fairly often. The motive was usually money, as corpses were used for medical dissection purposes and a black market existed for bodies. Medical experimenters in Boston in the 1870s were nicknamed "sawbones" as they were known to completely dissect bodies until nothing was left but flesh and muscle. The following is a newspaper account of a body snatched in 1884:
"This town is tremendously excited over a grave robbery which has just come to light. On September 2, 1884, Mrs. Albert -, 75 years old, who had been an invalid for years, died, and three days later her remains were interred in the town cemetery, about one-fourth of a mile from the village.
Her husband immediately went to Lowell [MA], where he spent the winter, returning to Ashland about three weeks ago. One of the first places he visited was his wife's grave. He was greatly surprised to find that the surface of the grave was entirely flat.
When he next visited the grave, he found, to his horror, that it was lower than the surrounding ground [the frost had melted away]. Pushing down a stick, he could find no casket. Today the grave was opened, and the body, coffin and box containing the coffin were missing. In the bottom of the grave was found a lot of brush, supposed to be put in to prevent the discovery of the vandalism. It is thought the body must have been stolen the night of the internment."
Green Grove Cemetery
Route 93, Exit 24 at West & Main Streets
Ashland, MA 03217