Historical marker in Fishers commemorates grave occurance

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The story behind a new historical marker in Fishers reads like a true crime podcast.

Located southeast of the Fishers Fire Department at 11494 Brooks School Rd., the marker was unveiled June 18 and tells the tale behind the creation of the Indiana State Anatomical Board.

In the early 1900s, Indianapolis was home to many medical schools that required corpses for dissection-based research and education. However, the extant laws failed to provide enough bodies, which in turn generated a “lucrative black market.” So, Indianapolis resident Rufus Cantrell, with the help of farmer Hampton West and Dr. Joseph Alexander, started robbing graves to sell to medical schools. West was convicted in Hamilton County for robbing a grave in a Fishers cemetery.

West’s arrest, and Cantrell’s ultimate downfall, is what led the creation of the Indiana State Anatomical Board in 1903 that still exists today. The State Anatomical Board was created by the General Assembly to allow bodies to be donated to medical schools for research upon death.

Although the story might be macabre, the marker is dedicated to the victims and the families of those affected by grave robbing in the early 20th century, according Robert Bowling, of the Fishers Historical Society.

“We’re not commemorating grave robbing, we’re honoring the victims of grave robbing,” Bowling said. “Though something bad happened in our city, something good came out of it which was the anatomical board that is still in existence today.”

The push for a historical marker was spearheaded by Bowling, who, when it was approved by the Indiana Historical Bureau, raised nearly $3,000 to fund the marker. The marker is the ninth historical marker in Hamilton County and the first in Fishers.

The Indiana Historical Bureau is accepting applications for historical markers through July 14. Submissions can be made at IN.gov/history.


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