"Edward Adcock, Polly Carter, Henry Adcock, Rebecca Adcock, Susan Adcock, Joannah Adcock and Anderson Adcock heirs of Henry Adcock dec'd"
"Edward Adcock, Polly Carter, Henry Adcock, Rebecka Adcock, now Wingo, Susan Adcock, Joannah Baseye, Isaac Baseye & Anderson Adcock, all heirs & representatives of Henry Adcock dec'd"
Signed: "Edward Adcock," "Mary & Wm Carter," "Susanna Adcock," "Anna Baseye," "Isaac Baseye," "Henry Adcock," "Beaverly Adcock," "Sarah Adcock"
"Recorded for registration 19 January 1843"
Beverly ADCOCK to Paralee PARADISE, June 27, 1837. Sol. June 30, 1837, D. Ralson, J.P.
J. M. ADCOCK to B. ADCOCK, fee simple
B. ADCOCK to J. M. ADCOCK, fee simple
Signed: "Isaac Basye," in 1846 for satisfaction in full.
MURDER.—A few days since, while Mr. Adcock was traveling through the county of Tippah, having in company seven persons, among whom were two ladies, two children, himself and two small negroes, they were attacked at their camp, by a sanguinary scoundrel, and most brutally murdered, save the negroes, which the murderer took in possession, with other property belonging to Mr. Adcock, and left all five of the murdered persons upon the ground.
P. S. The murderer was taken in this county on Wednesday, and is now in our jail.—West Tennessee Whig.
Horrid Murder.—The Nashville Whig, of June 7, contains an account of a murder in Tippah county, Mississippi, of Beverly Adcock and wife, and two children, as they were emigrating to Missouri, by a man named A. J. McCannon, who committed the murder for no other apparent object than plunder. He seized two negroes, a pair of fine horses, &c., but was arrested.
We learn from the Ripley Advertiser that Andrew J. McCannon, the murderer of Mr. Adcock, his wife, mother and two children, was taken in Madison County, Ten. and brought to Tippah on Saturday evening last, but owing to the popular excitement, was not lodged in jail until Monday evening. The citizens of Tippah deserve much praise for using no personal violence upon the inhuman monster, whose crimes are without a parallel in the history of the present day.
Summary: Andrew J. McCannon, murderer of Mr. Adcock, Mrs. Adcock, and their two children, has been captured in Madison County, Tennessee, and returned to Ripley.
A more brief and general account of the horrid deed described below has appeared in our columns; but it partially revealed the extent of that deed's atrocity:—
From the Florence (Alab.) Gazette.
We do not recollect of ever recording a more revolting murder than the one we are now about to relate, committed in Hardiman county, Tennessee, fifteen miles South-East of Bolivar. It seems that a man, calling himself Simpson, fell in company with a family traveling West and accompanied them about three days.—Simpson learned that the family with whom he was sojourning were going West for the purpose of settling, and that they were in possession of a considerable amount of money.
On the night of the third day, after their march, he carried out his horrid intentions by murdering the whole family, consisting of a man and his wife : two small children and the mother-in-law, saving the life only of two negro boys, whom he spared for the purpose of selling.
So soon as Simpson had committed the tragedy, he built a fire, burnt his own carryall, took possession of the one used by the murdered family and departed.—The alarm, however, soon spread throughout the neighborhood.—Pursuit was immediately made and the people soon got on the track of Simpson, and he was followed and taken within a few miles of Jackson, Tenn., having in possession the negro boys. It seems that he severed the man's head from the body, at one blow, with an axe. He then [unreadable]
Having finished the man and wife, he next took a knife and deliberately murdered the two sleeping children. By this time the old lady, the mother-in-law, was awakened, he therefore commenced the attack on her, a fight ensued, and the noise made by them aroused the little negroes who say that the old lady, though covered with blood, defended herself with frightful and desperate ferocity. The inhuman monster, however, succeeded. The body of one of the children has not yet been found and it is supposed to have been destroyed by hogs.
The whole region was in a state of the most intense excitement. Simpson was taken to the spot where he had committed the butchery and was to be burnt to death last Tuesday : we have not learned the result but hope such violence will not be resorted to, however just.
P.S.—The murderer, it is said, hails from Columbus, Miss. and his name is thought to be McCannon instead of Simpson. The name of the murdered family is Adock [sic].
Mr. Adcock, while journeying in Tippah county, Mississippi, a few days since, having in his charge two ladies, two children, and two small negroes, was attacked by some ruffian, and the whole party was murdered, with the exception of the two negroes, who, with the property belonging to Mr. Adcock, were taken possession of by the murderer. A. J. McCannan [sic] is the murderer's name. He is now in jail. So says the West Tennessee Whig.
Five persons Butchered in cold blood—The Murderer Arrested.
Beverly Adcock, in company with his wife, mother, two small children and two negro boys, were moving from Pontotoc, Mississippi, either to Missouri or Illinois, where a brother of Adcock resides. A person of the name of A. J. McCannon, from Columbus, Miss. fell in company with them and travelled with them some days, until the 15th inst., when, as the elder of the negroes says, he murdered Adcock, his wife, and mother, with an axe, while asleep. He then drew his knife and deliberately cut the throats of the two children, a boy and girl. He then took the two most valuable horses, the two negroes, money, and other valuables of the murdered family, and left, threatening to murder the negroes if they divulged the secret. Their bodies lay undiscovered until Tuesday morning following, and when found, the bodies of two of the individuals were considerably eaten and torn by the hogs. A company of some six or eight gentlemen, of Jackson, Tenn. immediately started in pursuit. Before overtaking him, however, he had been apprehended by some gentlemen of Spring Creek, in company with stage passengers, about sixteen miles northeast of Jackson. After he was apprehended, blood was found upon his knife and pantaloons, which, the negro stated, he had frequently attempted to wash off, but could not. All the circumstances, in fact, are so strong, that there is no doubt left upon the mind of the community, but that he is the guilty wretch. His name is A. J. McCannon, and he hails from Columbus, Mississippi.
The scene of murder it is said presented the most appalling spectacle, the body of one of the children has not yet been found and it is supposed to have been destroyed by hogs; the heart of humanity sickened at the scene. The whole region was in a state of the most intense excitement. Simpson was taken to the spot where he had committed the horrid butchery and was to have been burnt to death on last Tuesday; we have not learned the result but hope such violence will not be resorted to, however just. The report of this murder is confirmed by several sources, but the particulars not vouched for.
P.S. Memphis papers have just been received and the above particulars fully confirmed. The murderer it is said hails from Columbus, Miss. and his name is thought to be McCannon instead of Simpson. The name of the murdered family is Adock [sic], and has a large number of relations in Tenn., and lived in Pototoc [sic] county, Miss.
"personal estate & debts of Beverly A. Adcock, deceased in the state of Mississippi"
Signed: "Isaac Basye," "Thos. J. Kidd," "John H. Adcock"
THE TIPPAH MURDER.
The Appeal of Tuesday furnishes the following additional particulars of the recent harrowing murders perpetrated in Tippah county, Mississippi.
Eztract [sic] of a letter to the editor of the Appeal, dated—
"Black's Store, June 10, 1845.
"On Sunday night, the 8th inst., the most atrocious murder was perpetrated upon the bodies of five individuals, in the north part of Tippah county, about one mile from the Tennessee line.— The murdered persons—consisting of a man, his wife, an old lady and two young children, one of them not more than seven months old—were travelling in a waggon, [sic] containg [sic] household furniture and two small negroes. Suspicion has fallen upon a man named A. J. McCannon, who was seen with them on the same evening, but who was missing when the bodies were found, and is supposed to have taken the negroes, what money was in possession of the deceased, the best horses, some of the property with him, leaving the wagon. A Bible was found with the murdered persons, which contains the name of Dr. ADCOCK, Pontotoc county Missssippi—the name of the murdered man.— The murders seem to have been perpetrated with an axe; the heads of several were entirely severed from their bodies.
Yours in haste, &c."
The Jackson Tenn. Republican, contains the following additional particulars:
"It may be proper to state, for the information of the relatives of the dec'd, that they were from Middle Tennessee—that the maiden name of Mrs. Adcock was Paradise, whose relatives live on Sycamore Creek, in Davidson county. The prisoner will be taken from this to-day, and delivered to the proper authorities in Tippah county."
The murderer hails from Columbus, Mississippi. The old lady was the mother of Mr. Adcock.
The wretch who murdered the Adcock family in Tippah County, Miss., was taken and tied by the neck to the top of a bent sapling, and thus sent to his long account.
[McCannon was not executed until October or November.]
A. J. McCannon who murdered the Adcock family in June last, was tried at Ripley, Tippah Co., during the past week and sentenced to be hung on Saturday the 1st day of November next. The Advertiser says "he faced the Prosecuting Attorney and indictments, with wonderful nerve and composure." He is said to have received his sentence with the same composed hardihood that he evinced throughout the trial.
MURDERER CONVICTED.—J. McCannon, who was some months since apprehended near Jackson, Tennessee, upon a charge of murdering a whole family in Tippah county, Mississippi, has been tried and condemned to be hung on the 1st of November.—Nashville Whig.
ANOTHER EXECUTION—A. J. McCannon was hung at Ripley, Miss., on the 31st ult., for the murder of the Addock [sic] family, one of the most shocking murders in the annals of crime. McCannon spoke to the assemblage, expressed himself ready to meet his end, even in so shameful and ignominious a manner, protested his innocence of the crime for which he died, and exhorted those assembled to embrace religion and meet in heaven. Repeatedly, and to the last, he protested his innocence.
MCCANNON HUNG.—The Ripley (Miss) Advertiser contains the following account of the execution of McCannon, convicted of the murder of the Adcock family. Our readers will recollect the occurrence as one of the most shocking murders in the annals of crime:— We have delayed the issue of our paper for the purpose of giving an account of the execution of A. J. McCannon. He was brought out of his cell, habited in his shroud, at about a quarter to eleven o'clock, under the charge of the sheriff, and guarded; attended, also, at his own request, by the Rev. Mr. Roden. Upon mounting the cart, holy service was commenced by singing an appropriate hymn; after which, the Rev. gentleman offered up a fervent and affecting prayer in behalf of the doomed man. Another hymn was then sung, and Mr. Roden delivered an impressive dicourse upon the 22d and 23d verses of the Prophecy of Jeremiah—a text selected by the criminal himself. After the sermon, Mr. Roden again prayed, and it was announced that McCannon himself wished to speak to the assemblage. He did so at some length, but rather disconnectedly. We cannot give an abstract even of his remarks. He expressed himself ready to meet his end, even in so shameful and ignominious a manner; protested his innocence of the crime for which he died—exhorted those assembled to embrace religion and meet him in heaven, and concluding by wishing them farewell, and invoking upon them the blessing of God. A few moments were given him, at his request, for prayer. He prayed aloud, and prayed in an appropriate and very affecting style. He evinced much emotion during the service. Many of the crowd were much moved. After rising from his knees, he made a few remarks, and, on his conclusion, the sheriff proceeded to adjust the rope. Repeatedly, and to the last, he protested his innocence. At about half past one, as we suppose, the cart was driven from under him. After hanging four or five minutes, he made one pretty considerable struggle with his legs, then two or three convulsive motions of the breast. The crowd was pretty generally estimated at about 4000. Thus died Andrew J. McCannon, convicted of one of the grossest murders upon the records of any country," [sic]
Andrew J. McCannon, convicted of the murder of a whole family In Tippah County, Mississippi, was hanged a few days ago.
Art. 5. To Samuel N. Pryor, sheriff of Tippah county, for burying Andrew J. McCannon, executed for murder in said county, the sum of eleven dollars and eighty cents—$11.80.
Life and Confession of A. J. McCANNON, the Murderer of the Adcock Family, by W. C. Falkner, Ripley, Mississippi.
We have been shown a pamphlet bearing the above title, which we beg leave to pronounce a tissue of the most bare-faced falsehoods we ever met with, as regards McCannon's life and performances at this place. We do not know Mr. Falkner, the author, but will here take occasion to advise him before he again publishes the base slanders, of a vilainous [sic] vagabond, on the character of respectable citizens, he had better prepare to shield his own back from such inflictions of the cowhide as his hero, McCannon, boasts of having dealt upon citizens of this place. So far from any such transactions as this book relates to have taken place between McCannon and Mr. Henry Williams, being true, McCannon was entirely unknown to Mr. Williams. Mr. W. is a highly respectable farmer in this vicinity, and formerly a resident of this town. Among Mr. W.'s acquaintances, this tale, related as McCannon's, will be treated with merited contempt, but as exertions will be made to give the pamphlet a wide circlation, it is proper that this contradiction should be made. So far from Mr. June Bynum, of Courtland, being the friend of McCannon, there is no man who would hold such an individual in more contempt.
McCannon's history in this region is briefly told. In 1839, we think, he came here, was hired to load cotton along the line of the Rail Road, and subsequently married Miss Gibson of Courtland. After which he moved to this place, and opened a cake and beer shop, to which his wife attended while he was engaged in day labor about the streets. He was universally looked upon as a worthless vagabond, and eventually driven from this place for trading with negroes. He never owned property of any discription [sic], except a little household furniture, while he was about here.
Mississippi and West Tennessee papers friendly to the preservation of honest men's reputations, will please copy the above—Franklin (Ala.) Democrat.
Life and Confession of A. J. McCANNON, the Murderer of the Adcock Family, by W. C. Falkner, Ripley, Mississippi.
An article, with the above caption, appeared in a late number of the Franklin (Tuscumbia, Ala,) Democrat, which we designed [sic] noticing at an earlier period, but for the fact that the paper was mislaid. Having gotton [sic] our hands upon it again, we now proceed to do so.
Faulkner was born into a family with a history of achievement and training in the law. His great-great-great-uncle, for instance, John Wesley Thompson of Ripley, Mississippi, was a district attorney and circuit judge. His nephew and ward, William Clark Falkner ("The Old Colonel"), passed the bar in 1847 and was admitted to his uncle's practice; from there he went on to a distinguished and multifaceted career as a lawyer, businessman, Confederate officer, best-selling author, and railroad tycoon.
Lest it appear, however, that the Old Colonel was merely a lawyer who made a fortune and subsequently dabbled in belles lettres, we should note that his forensic and literary achievements dovetailed a good deal more intimately than that. For it turns out that Falkner's first brush with fame occurred at the very point of convergence between law and literature. In 1845, soon after he began reading law, Falkner was recruited into a posse that eventually captured a murder suspect named Andrew McCannon. As Joseph Blotner tells the story, Falkner
almost saw a lynching when an angry crowd demanded the prisoner on their return. In a brilliant and desperate stroke, McCannon promised that if they would give him the time, he would reveal the story of his life, including the actual details of the...murders.
McCannon was illiterate, and for amanuensis he chose William Clark Falkner, who would do his best both for the subject and for himself. Suddenly time became crucial once more. When McCannon was tried and sentenced to hang, Falkner set off on the seventy-mile ride to Memphis, waited there while the printer worked at top speed, and then rode through the night to carry the pamphlets back to Ripley. He arrived just in time to hawk them at the actual moment of their subject's execution. Apparently, he pocketed a tidy profit... (FAB 14-15)
Thus, a full two years before he passes the bar, the Old Colonel's career as advocate begins in an act of writing, just as his writing career begins in an act of advocacy—offering his great-grandson an early and suggestive glimpse of the interrelations between the two vocations. Furthermore, the Old Colonel's experiences with that latter-day Scheherazade, Andrew McCannon, forcefully illustrate the power, the fascination, and the urgency of the act of storytelling, a profound awareness of which would become one of the hallmarks of William Faulkner's forensic fiction.
In Ripley, as the protégé of his uncle John, William C. Falkner proved to be an exceedingly ambitious lad. While he read law with John Wesley Thompson and other attorneys, he earned his living working in the county jail. In June, 1845, an ax murderer named McCannon escaped from the jail. He had befriended a family that was migrating westward with all their possessions. One night in camp, he had decapitated them all with an ax while they slept, then fled with their valuables. It was a usual frontier horror story in which the community was alerted when hogs uncovered the shallow grave of one of the children.
William joined a pursuit that led the posse well up into Tennessee before they brought the fugitive to bay. Almost twenty-one, William was in the front ranks of those who faced McCannon's "cocked guns." Having returned to Ripley with their prisoner, a crowd "wrestled him out of the hands of the guards who were bringing him to jail." McCannon was about to be lynched when he talked his captors into saving him for the proper process of law in exchange for his telling them the whole story of his life and how he came to commit this awful crime. It was young William who wrote down the account and had it printed: "The Life And Confession of A.J. McCannon, Murderer of the Adcock Family."
Half a century later, a longtime friend of Falkner's reported that William had deposited a stack of pamphlets containing the story on the gallows on the day of the execution and commenced to sell them to the gathering citizens at $1 each. By the end of the day, after McCannon had died "spinning like a top," he had renewed his stock several times and was never again without money in his pockets.
During his spare time, Falkner worked in the local jail. Within a few years, a sensational murder gave him the opportunity to display those qualities of courage, daring, enterprise, and intelligence that would make him one of the most important men in the region. An entire family was murdered by a man named McCannon. A posse captured him and a mob gathered to lynch the murderer. The nineteen-year-old Falkner helped save McCannon from the mob, and to show his gratitude, the murderer told Falkner the story of his life. Falkner quickly wrote and published the story as a booklet, and on the day of McCannon's execution sold several thousand copies, netting more than a thousand dollars.
In this early period of development of Tippah County— or any other county at the time— there was little excitement or diversion in the everyday lives of people who were working to support themselves and their families and to build their newly born communities. It is natural, then, that the intrusion of a bloody and violent crime upon their ordinary way of life would have a sensational effect. Such an incident and effect occurred in Tippah, when in early June, 1845, the decapitated bodies of a family were found in... [the northern part of the county].
A special dispatch to "The Memphis Appeal," dated June 10, recounts the discovery of the murders and some of the particulars:
On Sunday night, the 8th of this inst., the most atrocious murder was perpetrated upon the bodies of five individuals, in the north part of Tippah County, about one mile from the Tennessee line. The murdered persons—consisting of a man, his wife, an old lady and two young children, one of them not more than seven months old—were traveling in a wagon, containing household furniture and two small Negroes. Suspicion has fallen upon a man named A. J. McCannon, who was seen with them on the same evening, but who was missing when the bodies were found, and is supposed the deceased, the best horses, and some of the property with him leaving the wagon. A Bible was found with the murdered persons, which contains the name of Dr. Adcock, Pontotoc County, Miss.—the name of murdered man. The murders seem to have been perpetrated with an axe; the heads of several were entirely severed from their bodies.
Other details of McCannon's flight soon followed from Tennessee—that the murderer had passed through Jackson, Tennessee, on Tuesday, June 10, with the horses and Negroes of the murdered man; that he was pursued and captured in that county on Wednesday and was jailed there; and that McCannon was to be taken from Jackson and be delivered to the proper authorities in Tippah County. No mention of mob violence occurs so far in these reports of McCannon's capture.
That a posse from Tippah pursued the murderer and that Falkner was a member of the group is attested to in an article in "The Ripley Advertiser," in which the editor, J. F. Ford, recapitulates the chase and Falkner's participation in the posse:
"[Falkner] is the same individual, who, at the hour of midnight mounted his horse and rode twenty miles, as one of the Sheriff's posse, to aid in bringing McCannon under the control of the civil authorities—who stood in the front ranks when cocked guns were presented to resist the execution of that officer's process."
It is clear that this passage is the source of Cantwell's narrative of the incident and that Cantwell has misinterpreted the details.
There is no mob present in this passage who are attempting to lynch McCannon; and Falkner stands in the front ranks of the posse against the cocked guns of McCannon, who is resisting arrest. In another passage, Ford indicates that a crowd in Ripley detained McCannon once he had been taken into custody, "having wrested him out of the hands of the guards who were bringing him to jail." and that McCannon would "if they would allow him time... prepare and leave a narrative of his life, including all the circumstances of the murder. This aroused public curiosity... There was a general wish to have McCannon's story, true or false; and that too just as he himself told it." These details correspond to Cantwell's discussion, but negate Coughlan's explanation that McCannon gave his confession to Falkner "out of gratitude" for rescuing him from the mob.
Falkner was nineteen years old at the time and seemingly possessed some courage; however, he did not perform any single-handed feat of bravery.
From what little information there is about McCannon's trial and execution later in the year, we can see that these events were sensational, attracting people from all over the county to this first murder trial. The execution of which we have a vivid description, was an occasion as spectacular in its ceremony as a dignified and serious holiday ritual. The following account appeared in "The Ripley Advertiser" on the day of the hanging.
"We have delayed the issue of our paper, for the purpose of giving an account of the execution of A. J. McCannon.
Our limits are too short to permit a lengthy description. He was brought out of his cell, habited in his shroud, at almost quarter to eleven o'clock, under charge of the Sheriff and guard; attended, also, at his own request, by Rev. Mr. Roden.—Upon mounting the cart, holy services were commenced by singing an appropriate hymn; after which the Reverend gentleman offered up a fervent and affecting prayer in behalf of the doomed man. Another hymn was then sung; and Mr. Roden delivered an impressive discourse upon the 22nd and 23rd verses of the prophecy of Jeremiah—a text selected by the criminal himself.
After the sermon, Mr. Roden again prayed; and it was announced that McCannon himself wished to speak to the assemblage.
He did so at some length, but rather disconnectedly. We cannot give even an abstract of his remarks. He expressed himself ready to meet his end, even in so shameful and ignominious a manner: protested his innocence of the crime for which he was to die; exhorted the assemblage to embrace religion and meet him in heaven; and concluded by wishing them farewell and invoking upon them the blessing of God. A few moments were given him, at his request, for prayer. He prayed aloud, and prayed in an appropriate and very affecting style. He evinced much [print blurred for two lines]... the Sheriff proceeded to innocence. At about half past one, as we suppose, the cart was driven from under him. After hanging 4 or 5 minutes, he bought one considerable struggle with his legs: then two or three convulsive motions of the breast. The crowd was very large, estimated at about 1000. Thus died Andrew J. McCannon, convicted of one of the grossest murders upon the records of any county."
As though this solemn and impressive two or three-quarter hour ceremony were not macabre enough, several Falkner scholars would have us believe that young William Falkner was at the time weaving his way through the interested throng, hawking at one dollar per copy a pamphlet entitled "The Life And Confession Of A. J. McCannon, Murderer of the Adcock Family." Many years later, one of Colonel Falkner's long-time friends, Coloned Matthew G. Galloway, editor of "The Memphis Appeal," recalled the incident and described it as follows:
"On the morning of the fateful day, [Falkner] deposited the pamphlets on the stand erected for the gallows and commenced selling them. The atrocity of the murder had drawn to the hanging an immense crowd. The demand was so great for the books at $1 apiece that every hour or two, Falkner had to go to his hotel to deposit his money. By night he was exhausted and worn out. He returned to Memphis the next day, paid Gurion (who had allowed him to publish the pamphlet on credit), and since then has never wanted a dollar."
How accurate was Galloway's account is but one of several questions related to the publication of "The McCannon Pamphlet" and Falkner's connection with it. It is true that such a pamphlet existed, that Falkner did have a hand in its publication and sale, and that he became the center of a heated feud between J. F. Ford of "The Ripley Advertiser" and the editor of "The Franklin Democrat" of Tuscumbia, Alabama (the locale from which McCannon had come), because of its composition, publication and distribution. Exactly how Falkner received permission to publish the pamphlet, whether or not he actually wrote it himself, even how he went about having it published are questionable issues.
PROP. WM. WINDSOR, LL. B., THE EMINENT PHRENOLOGIST
And Anthropologist, Begins His Grand Course of Free Lectures at the McClelland Opera House.
William [sic] McCannon, executed for the murder of the Adcock family, two [sic] adults and three [sic] children, to conceal the crime of theft. Professor Windsor has his skull and will exhibit it, with others, and make comparisons at McClelland opera house tonight. Admission free.
A BUSINESS IN SKULLS
Firms That Will Furnish Any Kind of a Cranium.
Quiteau's Head Costs You $5–For $2 You Can Get Napoleon's or Clay's or Webster's–Specimens That Delight the Physicians.
Peculiar developments of the head have a commercial value by which two or three firms in America profit. Competition comes mostly from foreign countries and headmaking of the artificial kind, chiefly from papier-mache and plaster of paris, has become a lucrative industry.
It is rather a comical idea to think of one man having a copyright upon your head, but that is exactly the case, and when it comes to the heads of dead men that have been laid away in the long and narrow home, if that article be especially desired by scholars or scientists, the dealer raises the price and heads come high.
The right to make a plaster of paris cast of the head of Quiteau, President Garfield's assassin, is copyrighted by a New York firm and it takes $5 to buy even a cheap cast that probably costs the manufacturer a few cents when they are turned out in large lots.
There is a private collection of heads in Washington which is of considerable interest, because it includes the casts of numerous noted individuals, and because there has been added to it the genuine skulls of several personages whose life has been in violent transgression of the law ending in what is sometimes facetiously styled a necktie party.
Now it is rather a difficult task to obtain a murderer's skull. The body is usually given over to some physician for purposes of dissection, and the skeleton, especially the skull, is not infrequently handed down as an heirloom and a curiosity. If the head is one of abnormal development in any manner, or if the crime is one particularly shocking or peculiar, there are purchasers who will pay the physician a good round sum to secure it.
There is one head in this collection, which is owned by Professor Windsor, of this city, which he values at $300. Offers have been made for it as high as $800. It is the head of Andrew J. McCannon, who was executed in 1844 [sic] in Mississippi for taking the lives of the Adcock family, consisting of three adults and three [sic] children, that he might conceal the theft of two slaves and $600.
There is a considerable demand for the casts, and especially for genuine skulls with a history for purposes of education. Successful phrenologists require them in their business, and as a matter of fact keep their eyes out for good skulls at the time. On this account these grewsome articles, with which devotees of secret societies sometimes try the nerves of initiates, are often presented as gifts from admiring friends, and in this way valuable acquisitions are made to collections where money would be of no avail.
A Scientific Estimate of the Murderer's Brain–What Prof. William Windsor, LL. B., the Eminent Phrenologist, Says of his Mental Caliber–He Calls Him an Idiot–No More Moral Sense Than a Dog–The Fault His Ancestors'.
[From the Los Angeles (Cal.) Tribune].
Prof. William Windsor, LL. B., the phrenologist whose lectures, in Los Angeles, last January, excited such general interest, returned to the city yesterday, en route for San Diego. He visited the jail yesterday and made an examination of Fritz Anschlag, the noted murderer of the Mr. and Mrs. Hitchcock. A representative of the Tribune called on Professor Windsor at the St. Elmo and requested him to give the readers of this journal the results of his examination of the man whose atrocious crime has absorbed the attention of the public ever since its committal.
"Anschlag is a moral idiot," said Professor Windsor, in answer to the first interrogatory of the scribe. "He belongs to a class of beings who, from the circumstances of birth and education, are destitute of the requisite amount of sense necessary to form a correct judgment on moral questions as well as many others.
"It is a popular error to suppose that phrenology depends upon 'bumps,' so called, or protuberances or hollows in the conformation of the skull. The conclusions of the phrenologist are based upon estimates of brain fiber, their quality and length from a point in the base of the brain directly between the ears, to the surface. This measurement in different heads will show a comparative difference of three or four inches in many cases, though the heads may be smooth in contour and destitute of 'bumps.' Just look at these two skulls, for instance," placing two ghastly objects on the table, which, by actual measurement, differed more than three inches.
"Does Anschlag's head resemble either of these?"
"Not in all particulars. This," holding up the broader of the two, "is the skull of Andrew J. McCannon, executed in Mississippi, more than forty years ago, for the murder of the Adock [sic] family, two [sic] adults and three [sic] children. It is a case of moral idiocy more pronounced than Anschlag's."
"What distinction do you make, Professor, in the case of Anschlag or this murderer, and a case of total idiocy such as we all recognize?"
"The difference is partly in degree, and partly in the fact that a man may be idiotic in one faculty and have all or a majority of the other faculties in the mind in good working order. Cases of color-blindness furnish a familiar example. Color-blindness is not a defect of the eye, but a defect of the brain. In other words, the party is destitute of the sense of color, and it may be readily detected by a deficiency of brain just above the eye.
"This head of McCannon shows a good development of the base of the brain, giving fine energies and observation, but the entire upper story is taken away. Anschlag, on the other hand, shows a good development in front of the ears, sufficient memory, sympathy and observation to display more than average intelligence on some points. The organs in the back part of the crown and the occipital region generally, are almost destitute of power, and render him incapable of comprehending social relations, his duties towards others, or the consequences of his acts. He can not form a correct judgment in regard to the rights of property, and if he wanted anything he would steal it, without giving a thought to the question of right or wrong. If he were questioned whether it were right or wrong to steal or murder, he would answer 'wrong,' because he has heard others say it was wrong, and he answers from memory alone. If the question could be left entirely to his own judgment, he would be as absolutely incapable of solving it as a man who is color-blind would be incapable of distinguishing shades of color."
Summary: Noah Frazier suggests a monument be erected to the graves of the Adcock family murdered by McCannon in 1845.