OLD GRAVE'S CASKET STOLEN;
LINKED TO 'BURIED FORTUNE'
By Henry Trewhitt
The secluded grave of Jerome C. Simmerman lay open yesterday on an isolated hilltop, fresh earth beside it, as County Detective H. J. Laub struggled to sift fact from legend and discover why the 60 year old grave was violated and by whom.
Beside the open grave, those of Simmerman's young wife and their month-old baby still lay undisturbed beneath a heavy carpet of pine needles.
Laub and Sam Norman of 104 Norman Lane, Signal Hills community, accompanied by a reporter and photographer, climbed through heavy undergrowth yesterday to reach the spot.
Gently lifting the few scattered bones and the still gleaming casket handles that were found in the loose earth beside the open grave Laub studied the inscriptions on the three shattered tombstones.
He read their story, then said: "I'd like to talk to the birds that did this."
So far, he has found no relative of Simmerman, nor anyone who can pin down in fact a maze of legend concerning a buried fortune and increasing oddness in
Simmerman following the death of his wife.
"Some of the dirt has caved in the sides" said Norman, who discovered the opened grave. "When my mother and I first found it a few days ago you could
see the outline of one of those old-time caskets in the bottom--you know the kind that was big at one end and narrow at the other."
Shattered glass lay scattered in the dirt, and sealing wax on one silver brought to the detective the recollection that caskets used to have an inner cover
of glass for protection.
Did grief over the deaths of his wife and baby drive Simmerman insane during the 36 years he had remaining? That might account for the legends about his
eccentricity, and stories that he puttered about the
graves with a mattock.
Death Reported by Times
The Chattanooga Times of Feb. 11, 1893 reported:
"Jerome Simmmerson (note the variance in spelling),age 72, died at his home on the North side of the river near Moccasin Bend, yesterday of Catarrhal fever. His remains will be buried near his former home this afternoon. The deceased has been partially insane for the past 30 years. Before his
mind became affected, however, he amassed a small fortune, and at the time of his death owned one of the best farms on Moccasin Bend."
Did the grave-robbers hope to find buried money, or were they motivated only by ghoulish curiosity? Laub wonders, just as much, he wonders whether Simmerman has any relatives. Norman furnished a clue on that point.
"Last fall or summer, this car came in with Mexico or New Mexico licenses, with two men and a woman." he said. I asked them if they were looking for something and the older man said something about he wanted to come back and see his old home. They went off uptoward the place where the old house stood. But I understood that one of the men lived around here somewhere. They seemed very nice. I think they went up to the graves, too."
Why did the grave-robbers carry away the casket and most of what it contained? It must have been badly deteriorated, yet not completely so since the handles had obviously been ripped off when it was removed from
Laub was not optimistic yesterday over his chances of bridging more than a half-century in solving the mystery, but he said, "I'm going to work on it,
THE CHATTANOOGA TIMES JANUARY 28, 1953
Submitter: Ivelyn Kay Skelton Blanton. Jerome is a
great uncle through the marriage to Jemima Ann Bolton.
I descend down from her sister Sarah Ann Abigail
Bolton McCullough Skelton. firstname.lastname@example.org
Submitted by Ivelyn Kay Skelton Blanton