I was just reading the first edition of the The Emancipator on Gale's Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Database. One way to get access is through a Houston Public Library E-Card, which are available to out-of-state holders. They say it's a $40 annual fee, but I was never charged anything. They have tons of awesome online databases you may be interested in, check it out. Initially published weekly as the Manumission Intelligencer from March of 1819 to April of 1820, the paper was renamed The Emancipator and changed to being published monthly. Published by Elihu Embree, the paper was the first abolitionist newspaper in America.
On page 5, at the top of the second column, an unnamed correspondent makes the following claim:
"I shall here take the liberty of presenting to you an anecdote, which I have lately heard, and which seems well adapted to the subject:—A certain preacher, of recent date in one of the states, was addressing his congregation on the analogy that exists between the Temple of God that was built at Jerusalem, in the time of king Solomon, and the spiritual Temple or Church, under the Gospel dispensation; it necessarily led him to speak of the workmen employed in preparing the materials for the buildings; observed to his auditory, that certain modern workmen had been busily employed in hewing and squaring a stone, which they were aiming for one of the corners of the spiritual house, and having completed it, as they thought, brought it to the place and threw it down, when it suddenly bursted open at a flaw that was init, which they had not discovered, and out tumbled a negro! Curious as the comparison may be, I am afraid that there is a great many such stones, with all their flaws, put into the building, who, if they were emboweled, their contents would be as equally antichristian, as the one above described; and it would be well if even some of the builders themselves were clear of the flaws of slavery, but alas! it is not the case."
Before I ask my question, I want to make sure I understand what is being said. The correspondent is claiming that some stonemasons finished the final touches of a stone block before being placed. Then, they placed the stone, but upon setting it down it burst open, and out popped a dead slave. Do I have this correct?
Onto the claim... In one of my classes for the Army, I learned that gases that escape from a corpse as it decomposes can cause cavities in concrete, and weaknesses. So, I guess it's possible if the "skin" of the stone was thin enough, it could crumble upon being lifted and put into place. Plus, it seems plausible, given the treatment of slaves that a cold-hearted overseer could push one into a curing pit while the blocks formed, maybe as a warning to others or maybe out of sadism. But I am skeptical of this claim because they are claiming this all went down during a church service. Hewing and squaring a block would be loud, wouldn't it? I suppose it's possible the hewing and squaring occurred distantly from the church, then the rock was brought to the church to be set, but this was no later than 30 April 1820, which is about 18 years before modern cranes were invented. So, I do not know.
The question is, are there any records of slaves being found in old masonry? Were any checks for this sort of thing ever performed? Is there any truth to this claim.
I try Googling this, but all I get are times when slave remains are found, none (at least on the first few pages) mention a slave being found in masonry. I also tried a bunch of searches of Newspapers.com, NewspaperArchive.com, and Genealogy Bank. While they turned up some interesting stories, there was nothing along the lines of this claim. can someone help me out? Thanks.
Here's the full citation to that quote according to the page: FULL CITATION Title THE EMANCIPATOR Date Sunday, Apr. 30, 1820 Volume 1 Issue Number 1 Page Number  Place of Publication Nashville, TN, United States Language English Document Type Front matter Publication Section Preliminary and Supplementary Material Source Library Oberlin College Library Gale Document Number GALE|GB2500020659