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WYOMING â€“ Edmund Jordan kept a livery stable in the early 1880s. But being a liveryman certainly wasnâ€™t what he became known far and wide for. Later that decade, Jordanâ€™s new tavern in Wyoming became the watering hole for every inebriate within miles. Referred to as one of the vilest places in Washington County, it was known to be the scene for violent brawls, brazen theft and the harboring of prostitutes.
Jordan lived in a two-tenement house there in Wyoming, the other side being home to a well-known, though much-loved alcoholic named Orrin â€śFlaxieâ€ť Barber. Jordan died in January of 1910 and Flaxie stayed in the tenement for a while, relocating to another two-family house on Mill Street in Arcadia shortly before he died in March of 1911. With both men dead, so ended the tale of Jordan the inebriator and Flaxie the inebriate. Or so everyone thought.
When a new resident took up housekeeping in Jordan and Flaxieâ€™s former home, it wasnâ€™t long before a whirlwind of gossip began circulating around Wyoming and neighboring villages. The man began announcing that he had gone into the cellar of the house and was shocked to discover a skeleton buried there.
When Sherriff George Barber got wind of the story, he brought a friend, local department store salesman Benjamin Pendleton, with him to investigate the troubling matter. Down in the dark cellar, the two men located an old box about a foot wide, a foot deep and three feet long. The box had been buried in the ground so that the top of it was level with the surface. Ashes had been strewn over the top as if to conceal it.
The top of the box was shattered, as the new occupant of the house had stepped on it and broken through, thereby making his discovery. Barber and Pendleton got down and peered into the hole. There, they recognized what looked like a small human skull at one end.
Was it an innocent old burial that someone had strangely decided to perform beneath the structure? Was it the victim of a murder, a missing person secreted away? Questions swam through the minds of Pendleton and the sheriff as they quickly went to retrieve a shovel.
Back in the cellar, the two men carefully dug the box out of its deep recess and removed the remains of the cover so they could get a better look. There in front of them the mysterious skull revealed itself to be nothing more than a large potato, and its accompanying â€śskeletonâ€ť consisting of a whole bushel of potatoes that had rotted.
When word got around town about the results of the investigation in Edmund Jordanâ€™s cellar, someone said they remembered old Flaxie, in the fall of 1910, mentioning that he had fixed his potatoes for the winter so that they wouldnâ€™t freeze.
Kelly Sullivan is a freelance history and features writer for Southern Rhode Island Newspapers.