Monadnock Moments No. 30: Acworth Grave Robbing

Back in 1824, when Acworth was still a part of Cheshire County, the Old Cemetery in town was the scene of a late night grave robbing.  Despite its terrible nature, the crime of grave robbing was apparently not unusual at that time as a means of obtaining cadavers for the purpose of laboratory study and dissection.
On October 31, 1824, forty-three year old Bezaleel Beckwith passed away and was buried in the Acworth Cemetery.  Thirteen days later it was discovered that his body had been stolen from the grave.  Suspicion was immediately placed upon medical students from Dartmouth who had gained a reputation as body snatchers.  Shortly thereafter, however, James Wilson Jr. of Acworth was arrested at Castleton, Vermont and charged with stealing the body for the purpose of dissection.  Wilson was returned to Acworth where he was held for trial.  Bail was set at $700, but the case never went to trial and the bail was forfeited.  Wilson’s arrest at Castleton would seem to indicate that Beckwith’s body might have been stolen for dissection at the Castleton Medical Academy, but local residents still felt that Dartmouth boys were involved in the crime.
Beckwith’s friends erected a stone over his grave with the following verse: “This stone tells of the death of Bezaleel Beckwith, not where his body lies.  He died Oct. 31, 1824 age 43.  The thirteenth day after his body was stolen from the grave.
Now twice bereaved the mourner cries
My friend is dead, his body gone,
God’s act is just my heart replies,
Forgive, oh God, what man has done.”