The Hillmon Case: Who Is This Man?

The Hillmon case is:

  • One of the most famous decisions of the United States Supreme Court in the 19th century.
  • The source of one of the most important rules of evidence used in American and British courtrooms.
  • A ripping good story about how a 23 year old waitress took on three Wall Street insurance companies for more than a quarter century, featuring a cowhand, a cigarmaker, a disappointed fiance, the Supreme Court, and way too many lawyers.
  • A mystery that two 21st century academics tried to solve once and for all.
  • The subject of a new book by Marianne Wesson

The corpse of John Hillmon, or Frederick Adolph Walters, or possibly someone else, was at the center of a lawsuit you might think of as an American Jarndyce v. Jarndyce: it lasted forever, and by the end there was nothing left because the lawyers had gotten all the money. But even after the lawsuit was over, the mystery remained: who was buried in John Hillmon’s grave?

Explore the links above to learn more about the lawsuit, the law it produced, and the enduring mystery it left behind.