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Michael Bell
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Posted By Michael Bell

A letter to the Carolina Watchman provided details that did not appear in the first account, including the following:

“About twelve months ago a man by the name of A. L. Nugent, hailing from the neighborhood of Salem, came to this place in the capacity of a clock repairer. He seemed to be quite industrious, and seemed to understand his business. He followed this occupation very closely, until about four or five months since, when all at once he turned his attention to ‘doctoring,’ especially for Rheumatism. Emboldened by the success of his imposition, he at length entered a wider field, professing to cure all sorts of diseases, and pretending to be a skillful astronomer, &c. He also professed to be a Baptist Preacher. In fact he was an imposter and humbug.

“About a month ago, or little more, Gen. Means lost two very interesting little daughters, within a week of each other, with malignant measles, and they were interred in the Lutheran Church Yard. Some two weeks since the report began to be circulated, first among the negroes, that the graves had been robbed by this man Nugent, which was treated as an idle rumor. But the rumor continuing to spread, and gathering as it went more evidence of its being a fact, it was at last thought necessary to have the graves re-opened. This was done on last Tuesday week, and they were found empty. Both of the bodies of these lovely children, together with the coffins, were gone. The people of the village en mass, were now excited to the highest pitch; and several of our best citizens went immediately to charge this human hyena, with the outrageous desecration, and endeavor, if possible, to recover the bodies. He confessed the deed with great composure, but said he had burnt the bodies. The ashes and a portion of the bones, were found, such as pieces of the skulls, teeth &c., and small pieces of the coffin.

“Nugent, at the time, was sick in bed, having had measles, complicated with delirium tremens and Bronchitis. But for this circumstance, nothing would have restrained the excited citizens from visiting the guilty wretch with swift and even-handed justice. As it was, he was arrested by warrant from a magistrate, tried while in bed, and committed to the custody of the sheriff. On his trial, he said on oath, that a young man by the name of Jno. Baugus, a shoemaker, who had since gone to South Carolina, had taken up the first body and brought it to his room; that he, alone, had taken up the other. Several other persons, he said, had been in his room while he was cutting up (dissecting, he called it) the bodies; but none had any thing to do with it but Baugus and himself. He confessed further, that Baugus and himself had attempted to raise the body of Mr. Cannon’s negro, but daylight surprised them.

“The next day, after the trial, he died, rather unexpectedly. The Physicians made a post-mortem examination of his body, and were of the opinion that he died from exhaustion, not fright as has been represented. He was then buried, rather unceremoniously it is true, but as decently as he deserved, in an old field near town, by the deputy sheriff.

“Baugus was decoyed from South Carolina to Charlotte, and is now in jail there.”

As we will see in the next entry, Chris Stonestreet’s research corroborates much of what has been written in the newspapers. But some of the details he uncovered raise a number of provocative questions.

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