Tri-County Observer (Monroe Co. TN) October 5, 1977:
“Thrill Seekers Flock To Mausoleum To View Body---When the late Dr. John B. Leonard had a mausoleum constructed for the bodies of himself and his wife about 1900, he had chiseled on the marble door, “Leave Me Alone.”
And humanity pretty much complied with his wishes up until about June 1976, when someone broke open one of the three-inch-thick marble doors and entered the 8 by 10 building.
The intruders also broke a glass pane which covered the upper half of the casket which contains the remains of Mrs. Leonard. A leak in the roof is letting water run into the casket.
Cities and counties pick up dead animals from the streets; however, there seems to be no government agency with authority to remove the body from the mausoleum and give it a decent burial or to properly seal the marble structure.
Mrs. Ellen Peals, 77, whose home is located adjacent to the burial site, said Sunday three or four groups of people a day come to look at the mausoleum. And each group, driven by morbid curiosity, pushes the door open to peer inside Mrs. Leonard’s casket which is against the right hand door. Varmits, bugs and other wild creatures also inhabit the place.
Dr. Leonard, a big man in medicine but small in stature, was well known for the fact that he would come whenever he was called and he often spent as many as three days on a visit to a patient’s home in the mountains. He was 73 when he died.
My guess is this is why he had the words “Leave Me Alone” chiseled on the door of his final resting place. His is the only burying place I have ever seen on which is chiseled both the hour and the date the person died. In Dr. Leonard’s case the inscription states, “Dr. John B. Leonard, born September 11, 1834, died at 1:30 a.m., Tuesday, December 10, 1907.” His wife’s birth date, December 25, 1846, is chiseled on the right hand door, but the date of her death is missing. Mrs. Peals said she died in 1921 at 75. Others say it was 1919.
The wife’s name was Eliza B. and inscribed on the right hand door of the crypt is the phrase, “In God We Trust.”
Still another mystery plagues this writer concerning the burying place.
Dr. Leonard had two shelves or vaults built on the right side of the mausoleum, each fitted with a marble door. His casket was placed inside the bottom vault and sealed. His wife’s casket was placed on pieces of lumber on the floor beside her husband’s sealed vault and her vault was never opened to receive the casket. Did the survivors intend to come back at a later date and place the woman’s casket in the top vault, or was it her wish that she be placed next to her husband? We’ll probably never know.
The person who broke into the woman’s casket may have been looking for jewelry or even money. Many who remember Mrs. Leonard describe her as “eccentric.” On the other hand, some organization may be requiring, as a part of its initiation, that the prospective members go inside the mausoleum at midnight, or some such.
The marble structure, which could probably be sold for 50 times what it cost when it was built about 1900, is about eight feet high at the apex and a concrete wall about three feet high and six inches thick surrounds the structure.
Mrs. Peals said she and her husband purchased the Leonard farm but not the mausoleum. She has lived in the house which is located about 40 feet from the burying place for 50 years. The crypt is located at the road from Brown Hill Road intersection.
She said the Leonards had no children of their own and adopted a son. He adopted two daughters, she added.
Mrs. Peals said the place was broken into while she was a patient in a hospital. Breaking the three-inch-thick marble door was no easy task.
When asked if it bothered her to live so close to an open casket, Mrs. Peals replied, “why the dead won’t bother you, it’s the living you have got to watch out for.”
Dr. Leonard, who served in the Union Army during the Civil War, was one of the first country doctors to perform autopsies, old timers recall. Mrs. Peals said he was her husband’s physician. She and her husband, the late J.C. “Lum” Peals, raised 13 children. The children attended the old Brown Hill Academy which was located just up the road. Mr. Peals died eight years ago.
Recently, Mrs. Peals had a cancer removed from her left hand, but she cheerfully replies when you ask her about it, “it’s OK, it doesn’t hurt.”
Some persons would be aggravated by strangers tracking over their front yards at all hours of the day. But not Mrs. Peals. “What better way could a 77-year-old woman living alone get to talk to so many people?”
“Come back anytime,” she said as we left to return to Madisonville.”---Dan Hicks, Jr.