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The information below provides additional history about one of the sixteen points of interest along the tour.  Visit Essex, Massachusetts and enjoy our self-guided tour to learn more about each historic Essex location on the interpretive signs.


Dr. Thomas Sewall

(1818) Found guilty of grave robbing in the Old Burying Ground


Rev. Robert Crowell, D.D., in “The History of the Town of Essex” wrote this about Dr. Thomas Seawall, “Though endowed by nature with a bold and penetrating genius, and though rich in all the learning of his science and vigilant in marking its progress, he never allowed his judgement to yield to the fascination of theories, or to the authority of systems; but founded his practice on the solid basis of experience.”


In 1821 or 1825 (sources vary), Dr. Thomas Sewall became a founding faculty member of the medical department–appointed Professor of Anatomy in the National Medical College connected with Columbian College in Washington, D.C. (now known as George Washington University). He believed alcohol was responsible for most illnesses and was known for his graphic drawings of alcohol diseased stomachs, which were distributed as colored lithographs to promote abstinence. Dr. Sewall died at age 59 from tuberculosis.

As local historian, Rob Fitzgibbon writes, “...(Dr. Sewall’s grave robbing) is more than a creepy story of desecration during our nation’s youth. The tale of the Body Snatcher of Chebacco Parish also touches on class, ambition, slavery, politics, and second chances in life.” Read Rob’s detailed account of the notorious Dr. Seawall in Welcome to Essex: The Body-Snatching Borough .

Graveyard History Tour, Old Burying Ground of Essex, Massachusetts

Fall Event hosted by the Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum


Take a trip through the ancient cemetary and meet some very interesting and important figures in Essex and American history! From grave robberies to Revolutionary War heros, the Graveyard History Tour of the Old Burying Ground in Essex is presented by  with authentically costumed interpreters. Ghoulish goodies will be served. It is an experience not to be missed.

Photo: Len Burgess

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