By Bea Peterson
Two old Hoosick buildings are fortunate to have escaped destruction. Though no longer in Hoosick, they have been moved and lovingly restored. One is the 72 foot long Briggs Tavern and the second, a much smaller structure, was once the office of Dr. P.M. Armstrong. These buildings are two of more than 20 restored structures that grace the property in East Nassau known today as Eastfield.
Dr. Armstrong’s building and buildings similar to it once dotted town and village landscapes of the early 1800s. They were strictly business offices, often used by lawyers and doctors. The building in Eastfield has two rooms. The front room has two 12 over 12 windows and a vaulted ceiling. The windows and ceiling create an illusion the room is larger than it is.
This poor building was moved around Hoosick six times before it finally found its resting place on a foundation in Eastfield. The building would be just another old building were it not for one fact. A “terrible crime” was committed in the back room and the deed forever etched in stone on the epitaph of young Miss Ruth Sprague. The epitaph reads:
Dau of Gibson and Elizabeth Sprague
died January 11, 1846, aged 9 years 1 mo and 3 days.
She was stolen from the grave
by Roderick R. Crow and dissected
at Dr. P.M. Armstrong’s office
in Hoosick, N.Y. from which place
her mutilated remains were
obtained and deposited here.
Her body dissected by fiendish Men,
Her bones anatomized,
Her soul we trust has risen to God
where few Physicians rise.
In the 17 and 1800s grave robbing was big business as medical schools had little access to cadavers for students to study anatomy. The story goes that poor young Ruth was buried on her family’s property, not in consecrated ground, perhaps justifying Crow’s use of her body. In any event, he was arrested and sent to jail for his crime, but only for a short time. As was common practice of the day, the Judge was lenient since his use of her body was for medical purposes, not simply for desecration. However, her gravestone in the the old Maple Grove Cemetery in Hoosick Falls marks his crime forever for all to see.