Funeral of Allen Ingalls, 1884

Murderer and body-snatcher

Allen Ingalls was one of Cincinnati’s body-snatchers. At night, he would steal freshly-buried corpses from cemeteries and sell them to medical colleges as specimens for dissection. By 1884, however, Ingalls had begun to resent the cumbersome process of waiting for people to die and be buried before taking their corpses.

On February 15, 1884, Allen Ingalls, along with his occasional partner, Ben Johnson, went to a lonely area of Avondale, to a tiny log cabin where there lived an elderly man named Beverly Taylor. Taylor lived there with his wife Elizabeth and their eleven-year-old adopted daughter, Emma Jean Lambert. (The Taylors were African American, as were Ingalls and Johnson.)

Ingalls and Johnson came into the cabin carrying wooden clubs under their coats. They bludgeoned Mr. and Ms. Taylor and Ms. Lambert to death. They wrapped the bodies in cloth, loaded them into a wagon, and drove to downtown Cincinnati, where they sold the bodies to the Medical College of Ohio for $25, with a promise of $25 more to come later.

Allen Ingalls and Ben Johnson were soon caught, tried, and convicted of murder. Ben Johnson was publicly hanged in the courtyard of the Hamilton County Court House. Allen Ingalls escaped public execution by hanging himself in his jail cell.

Allen Ingalls and Ben Johnson both received decent burials – a form of dignity they had denied to others. Both were buried in the United American Cemetery, an African American cemetery in Madisonville.

Records of the cemetery in Madisonville show that Allen Ingalls’ spouse, Elizabeth Ingalls, owned the south half of family lot 168. (A full lot provided enough room for twelve adult burials, so half a lot provided enough room for six, or possibly more if some were children.)

The funeral of Allen Ingalls took place on May 4, 1884.  A few people were present, including Ingalls’ spouse Elizabeth and their fourteen-year-old son. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported:

“[N]o religious services of any kind were held. The grave, which is only marked by the fresh earth, had been dug right in the center of the broad curve of the hill as it sweeps round to the west from the ravine. Here the deceased owned a half lot. It overlooks a fine stretch of valley, and but a short distance away stands a weeping willow and a spreading Beech tree.”

The reporter spoke to the widow, saying, “You have been very unfortunate, Mrs. Ingalls?” We can give her the dignity of hearing her answer.

“Yes, sir, I’ve had my share of trouble, but the good Lord has always given me strength to bear it. …

“Oh, no sir, I had twelve children, and all died, the most of them in infancy, except three, two boys and a girl. One of my babies is buried in Lebanon, Ohio, and another in Crittenden, Ky. The others are here. I have been married nearly twenty years. I was married to Allen when I was only eighteen years old. That was in slave times. I belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Champ, and Allen and me growed up together. …

“No, I never suspected Allen of being in that business. He was a man who kept his business affairs to himself, and I never asked him any questions. He was never out much of nights, except when he was drinking, and when he was sober, he always treated me right.”

While Elizabeth Ingalls was the owner of this lot, there’s no apparent death record for her, so it isn’t clear whether she is buried here with her husband, or not. Rest in peace, Elizabeth Ingalls.

Images

Allen Ingalls smoking his pipe in his jail cell
Allen Ingalls smoking his pipe in his jail cell Source: Cincinnati Commercial Gazette, February 24, 1884. Creator: Illustration by “Collins”

Location

Metadata

Chris Hanlin, “Funeral of Allen Ingalls, 1884,” Cincinnati Sites and Stories, accessed April 20, 2024, https://stories.cincinnatipreservation.org/items/show/104.