For starters, Jack Conner isn’t buried in Jack Conner’s Tomb.
Jack Conner’s Tomb is now a pile of rough cut stone surrounded by weeds and tall grass. It sits in a raised clearing in the middle of second-growth Indiana forest, only 200 yards from the Eel River, and ten miles northeast of Logansport.
Once upon a time his tomb had been part of a larger family cemetery near a farmhouse and a few outbuildings. A century-and-a-half has passed since then. The buildings have crumbled, and the graves have been lost with the bones buried elsewhere. Only the shards of Jack Conner’s story remain.
Jack Conner (sometimes called John Conner, or Jackson Conner) was the first non-native settler in Adams Township. At the very spot where his collapsed tomb now rests, Conner had built a small trading post and made a healthy living trading with the Native-Americans and other settlers. That was no small feat. Forests were dense in that part of Indiana, impeding regular travel. Supplies were typically limited to what settlers could bring with them. A trading post like Conner’s provided a thin but necessary bartering lifeline to these isolated pioneers.
Little is known about Jack Conner the man, but in the sparse records of his life, two adjectives pop up frequently: shrewd and eccentric. No detailed anecdotes demonstrate his shrewdness (although he’d have to be to run a trading post in those deep woods for almost twenty years). However, his requests for internment after death are plenty eccentric
Jack/John/Jackson Conner was not a religious man, but he did believe that upon his death, the Devil would come to snatch his body and soul. His solution? To have his corpse placed in a coffin, with pine tar poured in until the noxious liquid encased his entire body. Finally, he asked to have the coffin sealed and kept aboveground on blocks. His odd request was carried out and, over time, a few other family and community members were buried nearby, making it an unofficial family cemetery.
As pretty as the surrounding clearing and walnut grove might have been, the community just outside Hoover grew tired of the morbid sight after a few decades. Seeing an occupied coffin day after day is not a pleasant sight. They decided to create a makeshift tomb around it. Volunteers dragged large blocks of stone into the grove and stacked them over the coffin. Rather than using typical mortar as a binding agent between the stones, they used molten lead, which provided an instant waterproof seam (this now-abandoned practice would make the future demolition of such structures dangerous).
There it sat for decades. Until…
Conner’s name eventually became a vague memory in the community’s history, and his tomb became an overgrown and half-forgotten piece of local lore. It might have remained just that, had it not been so close to the Eel River, a roughly 100-mile tributary of the Wabash River that weaves through northern Indiana. People would flock to the bushy banks of the river, catching meals with no more than a string and a hook. The rushing waters of the river sometimes made sinkers (small, metal weights to anchor the line) very useful. And the best metal for making sinkers? Lead.
You can probably see where this is going.
As years of visitors peeled off strips of lead in the gaps between the stones, Jack Conner’s Tomb gradually crumbled to pieces. It collapsed. The heavy cut stone crushed the wooden coffin beneath. According to local Cass County genealogical researchers, the true horror came when adults witnessed children parading around the woods with the skull of Jack Conner himself perched high on a stick. Conner still had a distant relative living in Hoover, who hurriedly gathered up the dusty remains and buried them on his property in an unmarked grave.
Over time the handful of graves surrounding Jack Conner’s Tomb became overgrown and forgotten. When the tombstones toppled over, they were simply placed with the large pile of stone blocks—all that remains of Jack Conner’s Tomb.
The clearing Conner created remains, and the tomb’s stacked stones are visible in GPS images, as seen in the magnified image below.