Premature Burial or Tabloid NYT Reporting?

Reposted from Over the River and Into the Tiber:

I’ve never heard this one before, but it’s an old Dayton doozy!

A February 8, 1884 story from the New York Times noted the premature burial of a Miss Anna HOCKWALT of Dayton.

It was the morning of her brother’s wedding at Emmanuel downtown, to a Miss Emma Schwind. Right before 6 AM, “the young lady was dressing for the nuptials and had gone into the kitchen. A few moments afterward she was found sitting on a chair with her head leaning against a wall and apparently lifeless. Medical aid was summoned in, Dr. Jewett who, after examination, pronounced her dead… The examination showed that Anna was of excitable temperament, nervous, and affected with sympathetic palpitation of the heart. Dr. Jewett thought this was the cause of her supposed death.”

The Nuptial Mass went on as scheduled, but it was a sad occasion. (And in case you’re wondering why the early hour, remember that back then, the nuptial pair had to fast from midnight on, in order to receive Communion in the morning at their wedding.)

“On the following day, the lady was interred in the Woodland. The friends of Miss Hockwalt were unable to forget the terrible impression and several ladies observe that her eyes bore a remarkably natural color and could not dispel an idea that she was not dead. They conveyed their opinion to Annie’s parents and the thought preyed upon them so that the body was taken from the grave. It was stated that when the coffin was opened it was discovered that the supposed inanimate body had turned upon its right side. The hair had been torn out in handfuls and the flesh had been bitten from the fingers. The body was reinterred and efforts made to suppress the facts, but there are those who state they saw the body and know the facts to be as narrated.”

Of course, the “suppress the facts” pretty much means this is the 19th century version of a tabloid newspaper story, so take it with a grain of salt. In fact, there’s an earlier wave of stories from January 11, 1884, in the Indianapolis News and the Cleveland Herald, saying that Miss EMMA Hockwalt was the one who passed away the day of her brother’s wedding (without any hint of premature burial). So you can see there’s not exactly genius reporting going on.

Anyhoo, whatever really happened, the lady officially died on January 9, 1884; and she is buried at CALVARY Cemetery as Anna Mary HOCHWALT.

(I suppose it’s possible that she was initially buried at Woodland, but Calvary has been the Catholic cemetery for Dayton since 1872; before that, it was St. Henry’s from 1833 on. Being buried at Woodland was for Protestants. So as for where the girl was buried, it sounds like the New York Times needs to issue a correction.) (And her dad originally spelled his name Hochwaldt.)

The brother who got married that day was Edward Andrew Hochwalt, and his bride was Emma Teresa Schwind Hochwalt.

Emma Schwind was a daughter of Edmund J. Schwind, the vice-president of Dayton’s Schwind Brewing Co., aka the Schwind Brewery Co., founded by his father, Celestine Schwind, in 1854 and incorporated in 1893. Edward Hochwalt also worked at the company, as its secretary and treasurer. In 1895, the company made 60,000 barrels a beer a year, all of which was consumed in Dayton and the surrounding area. In 1904, the company merged with several other breweries (still putting out their own distinctive brands and running their own businesses) as the Dayton Breweries Company.

(They did very well, but then Prohibition came in; so they shut down on January 16, 1920 and liquidated all their property by December 1920. Adam Schantz, the mastermind behind the Dayton Breweries Company, passed away on Jan. 10, 1921, apparently out of sadness and exhaustion.)

There are Hochwalts and Hockwalts still living in Dayton, btw. There’s even a Hochwalt Avenue.

Dr. Gustave A. Hochwalt, another one of Anna’s brothers, was Dayton’s first city bacteriologist. There’s a nice picture of him on the next page of the book. He looks very normal and Dayton-ish.



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2 responses to “Premature Burial or Tabloid NYT Reporting?

  1. Sheri

    her brother was my great great grandfather. My Great Aunts ( daughters of Edward and Emma’s daughter Helen Hochwalt DeVine, Dorthy passed in 2012 at age 101 ) had always told us that Anna died that morning “pumping water from the well” Of course if THIS story is true, I would think it would have been something that wouldn’t have been spoken about . This story appears to have been carried by multiple papers, yet with the great Dayton flood I can imagine any reporting where the actual incident happened may have been destroyed.

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