Image credit: St. Charles Public Library
Dr. George W. Richards, who came to St. Charles in the late
1830s from New York, built this Greek Revival home in 1840. Richards
established the Franklin Medical College in 1842. It was the first medical school in the state of Illinois. His association with the
medical college and the incident known as "Richards' Riot" has made
Dr. Richards one of the more memorable of St. Charles historical residents.
As the story goes, a Franklin Medical College student, John
Rood, in his desire to finish his last year of study, chose to take matters
into his own hands. After hearing of the untimely death of young Marilla Kenyon
in April 1849, Rood decided to exhume the body for his own educational
purposes. The grave robbing was soon discovered by the deceased woman's family and
traced back to the Franklin Medical College. An angry mob of
men decided to question Dr. Richards. Richards who, at this point in time, had
no knowledge of the theft, denied any wrongdoing. Soon Richards was informed of
the truth behind the grave robbing accusations. In hopes of resolving the situation in
a peaceful manner, he requested that Mrs. Kenyon's body be hidden off the
Image credit: Image credit: 1972 article in The Northern Star
The matter would not be settled peacefully. While searching for the remains of Mrs. Kenyon, the group of
men found a male cadaver in Dr. Richards' barn; they again became
enraged. In the following moments, gunshots killed Rood and wounded Dr.
Richards. The bullet holes remained visible in the front door of the Richards House until the late 1980s, when the door was repaced. Mrs. Kenyon's body was recovered after
the shooting and reburied in her Sycamore, Illinois grave.
Following the incident, Dr. Richards fled St. Charles, eventually moving
to Dubuque, Iowa. He died there in 1853, due in part to the wounds that he
received during the riot.
Franklin Medical College closed after Richard's Riot.
For additional photographs see:
Reflections of St. Charles p 24
- Architectural Survey, St. Charles central district, St. Charles. St. Charles, Ill: St. Charles
Historic Preservation Commission, 1995.
- Clauter, Hazel. Our Community--St. Charles, IL: Units I-VI: Historical
Information Compiled for Third Grade Teachers. 1990.
- Nelson, Redner B. Franklin Institute: Illinois' First Medical School. Geneva,
Ill: Grant House Press, 1991.
- Sloan, LeRoy H. "And the Valley Awakened."
- Zeuch M.D., Lucius H. History of Medical Practice in Illinois, Vol. 1, Preceding 1850. Chicago: The
Book Press, 1927.
St. Charles Heritage Museum: The Legend of the Franklin Medical School