There was a major problem in the U.S. Capitol that had gone on for some time before Rutherford Hayes became president. Washington, DC was the center of shipping operations for cadaver procurement. The nation's capitol had an extensive railroad system that made it possible to ship bodies long distances. Doctors were trying to improve their skill and knowledge of the human body by dissection of corpses. This interest, coupled with the growth in medical schools, exceeded the number of bodies available. To supply the market, body snatchers (or resurrectionists) jumped in to meet the demand. Such demand often led to less scrutiny of the supplier as illustrated in this letter published in the Washington Evening Star in 1873 (Dr. French is pseudonym):
December 2, 1873
Dr. S.E. French
The last mail brought your letter. Please send me at once two subjects of merchantable quality and securely barreled. I have had trouble in consequence of a bloody liquid escaping from one of the barrels last winter. Send them by freight to Dr. J. S. Davis, University of Virginia, and notify me by mail that you have sent them.
Yours truly, J. S. Davis
P.S. If the arrangement works well, I will get from you chiefly.
Since embalming was not practiced, the resurrectionists had to act quickly, often on the same day as the burial. Family burial plots were a prime target as they were usually located away from the city, where excavation could be done without discovery. People tried various means to thwart the grave robbers. Those who could afford it hired grave watchers who (imagine this) sat at the grave until it was determined that the body was in sufficient decomposition as to not be of much use. Churchyards sometimes had watch yards where the watchers could stay warm. Some cemeteries used burial vaults, walls and locked gates.
Police were kept busy trying to break up these bands of body snatchers and a major crackdown in the 1890's finally brought an end to the problem in DC.