Rochester has a number of famous people buried within its cemeteries, but Francis Tumblety (spelled: “Tumuelty” on the grave stone because Francis’ parents changed it) is probably one of the few infamous people to rest in peace, right in the historic Holy Sepulchre Cemetery on Lake Ave. Known for a number of his high profile arrests, Tumblety’s name has been cleared numerous times of various committed atrocities, but the stigma associated with his sordid lifestyle and relationships has managed to remain his legacy…
Born sometime in 1833 in Ireland, just a few years later his family would migrate to Rochester and settle with many of the other Irish immigrants who chose the city to remake their lives after coming to the new land. By that time the Erie Canal was fully operational, and people were passing up and down the waterway daily, which made a perfect storefront for Tumblety’s business of selling pornographic magazines. Before he even turned 17 and earned a bad reputation he left home for over a decade.
He set up shop in Detroit as a doctor, and began to sell well known cures like “Tumblety’s Pimple Banisher”–most people claimed he was insane though, and his reputation continued to take a bad turn. His medical practice took its first hit when he was tried in the death of a patient in Boston, MA, but not convicted. He then moved to New York City, followed by Washington, D.C. where he supposedly met Abraham Lincoln . Then Tumblety fell in to much, much more trouble. It was on May 5 in 1865 that while in St. Louis Tumblety was arrested in connection with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln due simply to a personal connection to one of the other men arrested. He spent twenty days locked up in Washington, D.C. until he was set free, after an investigation cleared his name of the murder. That may have been odd in and of itself, but his legacy continued, and his name dragged in to a worldwide investigation that to this day remains open.
Tumblety was at one point married to a prostitute, and when the marriage failed, he went on to denounce women and their importance, and was vocal in particular about his hatred for working girls. Reportedly, he had a collection of preserved female reproductive organs that he didn’t mind showing off during his misogynistic rants. Unfortunately, his well known vocalization about his distaste for prostitutes and women in general caught the attention of those looking to solve the case of Jack The Ripper .
While traipsing around Europe in the 1880′s, it has been said that Tumblety lived in the Whitechapel neighborhood in London–the precise location of the Whitechapel Murders . He claims to have met Charles Dickens , treated Napolean Bonaparte, met King William and possibly had an affair with Hall Caine . For ‘gross indecency’ and homosexual behavior, Tumblety was arrested on November 7, 1888, but escaped and fled home via France. The New York Times reported his arrest, but associated the arrest as having been for the Jack The Ripper murders. London police have gone on record that his arrest was not associated with the murders and were just happy to have him gone. Countless authors and investigators however have continued to this day to wonder about Tumblety’s association with the murders, and though he remains today to be one of the top ten suspects, most believe that Tumblety and Jack The Ripper were two different people.
He later died while in St. Louis on May 28, 1903, but his body was returned to Rochester and buried in Section 13, one of the older sections within Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. Oddly enough, I have family buried just a few steps away from Tumblety, but I trust their spirits keep a safe distance from the nefarious fellow!
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Tags: Abraham Lincoln, Charles Dickens, Chris Clemens, Francis Tumblety, Hall Caine, Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Jack The Ripper, Lake Avenue, Napolean Bonaparte, Rochester, Rochester NY
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