ssie Dunbar’s life is one of incredible resilience and strength, as she was mistakenly buried in 1955 but managed to live another 40 years after her exhumation. Born in 1858 in South Carolina, Essie faced many hardships throughout her life and is now remembered for the legacy she left behind. In this article, we will delve into the events leading up to her mistaken burial, how the community reacted after they realized their mistake, what Essie’s life was like after her reburial and what kind of lasting legacy she left behind.
Essie Dunbar’s Life Before Her Mistaken Burial
Born in 1858 in a small South Carolina town, she was an active member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and married a local farmer. Together they had seven children, one of whom became a doctor. Throughout her life, Essie was an entrepreneur, operating several businesses over the years. She managed to overcome many obstacles and built a successful career despite the racism and sexism that were rampant during this period of history.
What made Essie stand out even more is how she continued to thrive despite the hardships she faced. Despite prejudice against women and African-Americans, she managed to build a successful career as a businesswoman while raising seven children at home. Her hard work and determination paid off as she achieved financial success through her various businesses. In addition to being a businessperson, she was also an active member of her church community where she served as Sunday school superintendent for many years.
Essie’s legacy lives on today not only as an example of strength and courage but also as an example of resourcefulness and resilience in the face of adversity. In spite of all the challenges that faced her during this time period, Essie continued to strive for success despite all odds and left behind a lasting legacy that still inspires people today.
The Events Leading Up to Her Mistaken Burial
In 1915, Essie Dunbar who at the time was 30 years old, suffered from an epilepsy attack which everyone thought is what had killed her. Dr. Briggs of Blackville, South Carolina who attended Dunbar had given his professional verdict and declared the woman dead as he found no signs of life (not breathing, nor pulse).
professional verdict and declared the woman dead as he found no signs of life (not breathing, nor pulse).
Her corpse was placed into a wooden coffin and the coffin was arranged for eleven the following morning. Back in those times, funerals were done quite quickly as there was no need for much preparation. Dunbar’s sister lived in the neighboring town and she was informed late about the funeral as well as her sister’s sudden death.
The ceremony was quite longer than usual as not one but three preachers performed one by one. Sometime later the coffin was lowered into the six-foot-deep hole and filled with dirt, covering the coffin. Minutes later, Dunbar’s sister had arrived and she begged the preachers to dig out the coffin so she can see her sister one last time.
After some consideration, the ministers agreed to dig out the coffin. When the coffin lid was opened everyone was in shock as Essie Dunbar was looking at her sister with a lively smile. Dunbar was actually alive and if it weren’t for her late sister, she would have been buried alive. The three ministers fell backward into the grave, the shortest suffering three broken ribs as the other two trampled him in their desperate efforts to get out.
When the mistake of burying Essie Dunbar alive was discovered, it quickly became a major news story in the small South Carolina town where she lived. Residents were shocked and appalled by the incident and expressed their outrage to local officials. The mayor of the town issued a statement expressing regret for the incident and calling for an investigation into how such a grave error could have occurred. In response to public outcry, cemetery workers responsible for Essie’s mistaken burial were replaced with new staff who would be more diligent in their duties.
When Dunbar climbed out of the grave everyone ran, thinking she was a ghost of the dead. Since that day, everyone in Blackville looked at Essie Dunbar with suspicion, thinking that she is some sort of zombie. There isn’t a specific account from that period or any other contemporaneously published accounts about this event from this time, but there is a newspaper article from 1955 published in the Augusta Chronicle (25 August 1955), that mentions Dr. Briggs and how he incorrectly declared one of his patients (Dunbar) dead in 1915.
There is another account from a local physician that treated a minister who was affected by what they witnessed at the funeral:
BLACKVILLE, S.C. — Essie Dunbar, 70, has outlived the doctor who pronounced her dead 40 years ago. The Blackville Negro was picking cotton today, very much alive, even though her funeral was preached and her coffin sealed nearly half a century ago, The strange saga of her “death”, known to most of this south-central Carolina town’s older residents, was unfolded today to a Chronicle reporter by Dr. O.D. Hammond, a local physician who treated a minister who was injured as a result of the bizarre incident.Quote from Augusta Chronicle/25 August 1955
Essie’s resilience didn’t end after being mistakenly buried; instead it only began there. After being disinterred, she went on to live another 40 years and established herself as an important figure in African-American history – leaving behind a lasting legacy that is remembered even today.
Essie’s story is one of courage and resourcefulness – showing us all that anything is possible if you put your mind to it and never give up hope no matter what challenges come your way.
Essie’s Life After The incident
Essie Dunbar continued to live a remarkable life. She received frequent visits from the local church community, who brought her food and other supplies. Dignitaries such as President Franklin D. Roosevelt also sent representatives to visit her. Meanwhile, the incident led to changes in funeral protocols and laws in the state of South Carolina, with new regulations that ensured funerals were held only after proper documentation had been obtained.
Essie was also an active member of the NAACP until her passing at age 97. She spoke out against racism and sexism in her community and beyond and served as a role model for African-American women everywhere. In addition to this activism, she was known for her charitable works and philanthropy, often donating to local charities or helping those in need through volunteer work.
Throughout her life, Essie Dunbar remained resilient and determined despite all of the obstacles she faced. Her story serves as an example of strength, courage and resourcefulness for generations to come – proving that anything is possible with the right attitude.
The Lasting Legacy of Essie Dunbar
The lasting legacy of Essie Dunbar is one that has had a lasting impact on the African-American community. In her short life, she achieved more than most people do in an entire lifetime. Her story of resilience and determination has been immortalized in a book and she is now considered an important figure in African-American history. Every year, the city of Summerville, SC holds an annual celebration on the anniversary of her reburial and this day has become a local holiday.
Since then, the story had been written forward by various magazines and news agencies around the world. One of the more interesting accounts is given by author Jan Bondeson who wrote a book entitled “Buried Alive: The terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear”. Within the book, he mentions the story of Essie Dunbar. A more detailed depiction of the events from 1955 is given.
Within the book, there is also mention of primary sources such as elders from that period of time from South Carolina who have heard or even been at the funeral. The author also makes mentions that Dunbar became quite a well-known figure within the local community and that everyone knew the story about her being buried alive. Essie Dunbar died in 1955 at the age of 70 from natural causes. It is interesting how the story about “her first death” was only written in 1955 after her second and final death.
Essie Dunbar’s story is truly remarkable and she will always remain an inspirational figure throughout history. Her legacy lives on through her family members, friends, communities she served, those who study or benefit from her philanthropy work – but most importantly through those whose lives were changed by hearing about the incredible story of the woman who lived another 40 years after being buried alive!