We've all heard the phrase "skeletons in the closet" referring to some scandalous fact that a family doesn't necessarily want shared with the rest of the world. Well, a few generations back in my family, there was a real skeleton in the attic.
Alexander "Red" Meharry III was born on 5 August 1763 in Ballyjamesduff, County Cavan, Ireland. He married in Ireland, probably some time in his twenties, Jane Gillespie (b. circa 1768 in Ireland; d. in Ireland) with whom he fathered two children, Jane (b. 3 February 1790) and John (b. 19 February 1792; d. 9 May 1860). Alexander then married Jane Francis (b. 28 September 1771 in Ireland; d. 13 August 1844 in Indiana) on 7 May 1794 in County Tyrone, Ireland. Alexander, his new wife Jane and his two children from his first marriage emigrated to the United States, first to Pennsylvania, where the first two children of Alexander's second marriage, Hugh (b. 12 February 1797; d. 25 December 1880) and Thomas (b. 27 April 1799) were born, then to Adams County, Ohio, where their other six children were born: James (b. 18 September 1801), Mary (b. 25 November 1803; d. 1868), Jesse (b. 13 August 1806), David (b. 16 October 1808), Samuel (b. 7 December 1810) and Alexander (b. 17 October 1813). The elder Alexander died on 21 June 1813 in New Market, Adams County, Ohio, and then was buried on 23 June 1813. Alexander's family is known in Tennessee since Samuel Meharry and four of his brothers donated $15,000 to help found the Meharry Medical College in Nashville in 1876.
Okay, so far, there isn't much of anything out of the ordinary from what we usually see for family group sheet data, even though the elder Alexander's death occurred four months before the younger Alexander's birth (a fact that is well within the realm of plausibility). Here's why I saved this story for posting today...
Most of the spooky parts of this story come from a book published by the Meharry History Publishing Committee in 1925 titled History of the Meharry Family in America; Descendants of Alexander Meharry I. In the week leading up to his death, Alexander was attending the Brush Creek camp meeting near his home in New Market, Ohio. It seems that Alexander knew that his time on earth was nearly done and he told this to several other meeting attendees during the final supper of the week. He is reported as standing at the table and announcing "I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, till I drink it anew in my Father's kingdom." On 21 June 1813, a day that witnesses have called a clear and calm day, Alexander was riding toward home with Ebenezer David on another horse beside him and Alexander's nine-year-old daughter Mary riding a little ways behind them. About two miles from home a large limb from a white oak tree fell on Alexander, instantly killing him. Alexander was buried two days later in New Market. This left his pregnant wife Jane with two grown children, three teenagers and four children under ten years old to care for.
Jane struggled on and kept the family together for a while. But the family was having a hard time obtaining a clear title to his burial plot, so when the family learned that a new cemetery was going to be laid out near their home, John, Alexander's son from his first marriage, along with half-brothers David and Samuel, exhumed Alexander's remains in 1834 and put them into a new, larger casket. For reasons that are not described in the 1925 book, it took a little longer than the family expected for the new cemetery to open. The new casket holding his body was kept in the attic of the family's home for four years, during which time the Meharry home became known as "the haunted house." Alexander was finally reburied on 3 November 1838 in Brier Ridge Cemetery, within a mile of their home. A new monument was erected to memorialize Alexander on 31 October 1840.