Mad Anthony Wayne and the Longest Grave Ever

Mad River, the former Wayne Township (now Huber Heights), Wayne High School, and Wayne Avenue are all named for Major General “Mad” Anthony Wayne. General Wayne served in the Revolutionary War and the Northwest Indian War. His most famous victory from the Revolutionary War was leading a bayonets-only attack against the British at Stony Point, New York. During the Northwest Indian War, he helped defeat the Indian Confederacy at the Battle of Fallen Timbers and negotiated the Treaty of Greenville in 1795.

There are many theories how Anthony Wayne earned the moniker “Mad” Anthony Wayne. One theory is that it came from his impulsive decisions during battles. Another theory involves another prominent name in Dayton History, James Wilkinson. In 1792, Wilkinson and Wayne were in competition for commander of the Legion of the United States. When Washington appointed Wayne, Wilkinson attempted to discredit and criticize Wayne at every opportunity, even calling him “Mad” Anthony Wayne, hoping it would catch on with the general public.

In December 1796, Wayne fell ill and decided to travel home to Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, he did not make it home. Wayne died at Fort Presque Isle while on active duty at the age of fifty-one. He was buried in present-day Erie Pennsylvania, on the other side of the state from his hometown, Radnor. Wayne was buried in his uniform in a plain coffin at the foot of the flagstaff of the post’s blockhouse. The coffin had his initials, age, and the year of his death written in brass tacks.

In an ironic twist, his family felt this burial was not fitting for a great war hero, so thirteen years later in 1809, they decided to send Isaac Wayne, his son, to retrieve his father’s remains for reburial in the family plot.
However, Isaac didn’t come prepared. He brought with him a wagon but was not prepared for the very well-preserved condition of his father’s body. The cold weather conditions near Lake Erie had provided excellent preservation for Anthony’s corpse. Why Isaac didn’t prepare to take his father’s entire coffin back with him, it’s not clear. The wagon he brought was not large enough to transport an entire body.

A local doctor, Dr. James Wallace, suggested boiling his corpse to remove the “meat” and transport only the skeleton. Once this was done, the bones were removed and packed, and the stock of Mad Anthony Wayne was poured back into the original grave. The bones were transported to a church in Radnor, Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, not all of Anthony Wayne made it to Radnor. The bones were not properly packed, and many pieces of the skeleton fell out of the wagon along the 400-mile journey. Once the wagon arrived at the church, the remaining bones were buried.

Of course, this does not make for a peaceful afterlife for Mad Anthony Wayne. According to legend, every New Year, which is his birthday, he goes searching for his lost bones along US Route 322, the road that follows the path where his bones were lost. The General is angry his body had been scattered over a 400-mile span.

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