James Murphy ‘Stoneman Willie’ given proper burial 128 years after his death

128 years after his death, “Stoneman Willie” finally received a proper burial Saturday morning at Forest Hills Memorial Park by Auman Funeral Home.

The mummified man known for many years as Stoneman Willie died November 19, 1895 in Berks County Jail, at the time located in what is now Reading’s City Park, from what was reported then as kidney failure.

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Using a fake name when he was arrested, he had no identity and no family members to later claim his body. Subsequently, he was released to Theodore C. Auman, who hoped to preserve his body for when family would eventually be located. To do this, Auman used an experimental embalming process which quickly mummified him.

Stoneman Wille remained at Auman Funeral Home in downtown Reading for the next 128 years, viewed over the years by thousands. Auman Funeral Home did plan to bury him in 2020, however the pandemic delayed this. Later, it was decided to wait for Reading’s 275th Anniversary in 2023.

Last Saturday, Willie’s casket was included in Reading’s 275th Anniversary Parade using a customized motorcycle hearse. Following the parade, Auman Funeral Home held special viewing hours for the public to pay their last respects.

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As a final send off, a special funeral procession took him to his final resting place at Forest Hills Memorial Park. Escorted by police to the cemetery, Saturday’s public burial service concluded with the announcement of Willie’s real name on his headstone. After years of community speculation, his name was revealed to be James Murphy.

Take a deeper dive into the history of Stoneman Willie with this video and article by Berks Nostalgia: “Stoneman Willie”: A Search for the Truth

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Berks Weekly
Berks Weekly
Berks Weekly is an independent and locally owned digital newspaper covering the City of Reading and Berks County. Subscribe today: berksweekly.com/subscribe
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