By Karen Dye
NEWKIRK — The story of Newkirk’s “petrified” man is indeed a mystery. He was “discovered” in the back yard of E.E. Bode on North Magnolia in April 1942, when Mr. Bode was preparing to plant a “victory garden.” Once Mr. Bode discovered the body, the Kay County Sheriff, Polk Harsh, was called. The sheriff, with Deputy Mead and Clyde Wetzel, finished unearthing the body.
The body was taken to the jail and put on display, and many of the Newkirk school students viewed the body. When the story surfaced, Mrs. Nellie (Rose) Jones from Arkansas City came forward with the story about why the body was found in this backyard in Newkirk. Her father had purchased the body in Missouri to start a sideshow. However, after several years, his wife insisted that he get rid of the body, and so, they buried him in the backyard.
There are many aspects of this story that are unknown. The body first surfaced in Neosho, Mo. in 1894. According to the Huntington Weekly Herald, E.W. Knotts, who lived in Neosho, was cleaning out a sulphur spring on the banks of Hickory Creek Oct. 24, 1894 and found a “petrified” man. According to the article, “every part of the body was perfect except the stomach.” The body was 6 ft. four inches long and weighed 302 pounds and was believed to be buried during the Civil War. His toenails and corns, fingernails, wrinkles in his face and hands and the veins in arms, legs and neck were as natural as they were in life.
According to the Shelby County Herald, Nov. 7, 1894, “A gentleman by the name of Knotts, living near Hickory Creek, about six blocks from the square, while cleaning away rubbish near a spring, uncovered a petrified man, probably one of the finest specimens of the kind that has ever been discovered, so pronounced by parties that have seen others. The body is nearly perfect, and was undoubtedly laid away by friends as the hands were neatly folded over the breast and his limbs were perfectly straight. When alive he must have been a very large man, as the remains now measure 6 ft., 5 in. in length and are well proportioned.
There are several theories as to who he was and how he came there, but the most plausible one is by Mr. John Shannon, who was the postmaster during the war. He states that in the fall of 1861 there were two companies of federal troops camped here, and they were attacked by a large body of Confederates; that they retreated to the creek and made a short stand and that a number were killed and wounded near the place where the body was found.
To be continued