When President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in April, 1865, there wasn’t enough time to build an elaborate tomb like the one that stands today. Fortunately, there was an unused vault in Oak Ridge Cemetery that would suffice for the time being.
After Lincoln’s body toured the north by train, a funeral was held in Oak Ridge and his body was temporarily placed in what is now known as the receiving vault. The vault still stands today, though it’s now empty.
The body of the president rested in this vault from May 4th to December 21st, 1865. It was then moved to another temporary vault that no longer exists today, and kept there until another vault was completed in 1874, only to be moved yet again in 1876. Why so many moves? Grave robbers!
Body-snatching was a major problem in the 19th-century, mainly because it was so lucrative. Bodies were stolen from cemeteries and sold to hospitals for experimentation, or if the deceased was well known, the body could be held for ransom. Yes, many attempts were made to snatch the body of Abraham Lincoln in the hopes of holding his remains for ransom. One group of criminals managed so far as to saw off the bottom portion of Lincoln’s sarcophagus before being apprehended.
Eventually the body of the president was moved once again and buried under 10 feet of cement at Oak Ridge, where it is still located today. The original receiving vault can still be viewed with a little walk through the cemetery, down some steps, and around the bottom side of a hill. It is an interesting site to see, and reflect on the strange journey of the famous president’s remains.