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James C. DUNHAM

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 6
Date of murders: May 26, 1896
Date of birth: ???
Victims profile: His wife, Hattie, 25, her mother, Ada McGlincy, 53, her stepfather, Richard P. McGlincy, 56, her brother, James K. Wells, 22, and two of the hired help, Robert Briscoe, 50, and Minnie Shesler, 28
Method of murder: Shooting (.38-caliber revolver and a .45-caliber pistol) / Beating with an axe
Location: Campbell, Santa Clara County, California, USA
Status: James C. Dunham was never apprehended and tried
 
 

 
 

Killed his wife, her mother, her stepfather, her brother, and two of the hired help with two pistols and an axe.

Was never apprehended and tried.

 


James C. Dunham, was a multiple murderer who, on the night of May 26, 1896, killed his wife, her family, and two of that family's servants in Campbell, California.

Using an axe and firearms, Dunham murdered:

  • Hattie Wells Dunham (Dunham's wife)

  • James Wells (Hattie's brother)

  • Ada Wells McGlincy (Hattie's mother)

  • Colonel Richard Parran McGlincy (Hattie's stepfather)

  • two household servants

Dunham's motives are still unknown. The sole survivors were Dunham's and Hattie's 3-week-old son and a farmhand who had hidden in the barn during the massacre. An extensive manhunt throughout Santa Clara County, California did not produce the murderer.


Grim Anniversary of Early Mass Murder

Everybody in the Valley knew who did it, but the suspect escaped and was never found.

San Jose Mercury News

28 May 1996

INCREDULOUS residents of the peaceful Santa Clara Valley woke to the horror of their first mass murder 100 years ago, May 26, 1896.

The ax and gun slaughter of six came more than 90 years before the next mass murder here: the 1988 killings of seven men and women at ESL in Sunnyvale. In that one, the accused, Richard Wade Farley, was convicted.

In the 1896 massacre, the suspect got away.

Although James C. Dunham was never apprehended and tried, local residents convicted him of first-degree murder in the court of public opinion. And the coroner's jury investigating the deaths declared just two days after the killings that they were committed by ''one James C. Dunham, with malice aforethought.''

Dunham killed his wife, Hattie, 25, her mother, Ada McGlincy, 53, her stepfather, Richard P. McGlincy, 56, her brother, James K. Wells, 22, and two of the hired help, Robert Briscoe, 50, and Minnie Shesler, 28. The slayings occurred at the McGlincy home in what is now Campbell. There were witnesses to at least part of the carnage.

Dunham spared his infant son, then just 3 weeks old. The baby was adopted by relatives in San Francisco and given the name Percy Osborne Brewer. Dunham never tried to contact his son. The child did inherit his grandmother's estate.

There was intense speculation over why Dunham wielded the ax and the guns, a .38-caliber revolver and a .45-caliber pistol. One man, George Whipple, who was a neighbor of the McGlincys, was interviewed in 1947 at the age of 87. He had a theory about why it happened based on his knowledge of the household and the accumulation of neighborhood gossip that never reached the authorities.

The killings, according to Whipple, were due to mother-in-law trouble. Ada McGlincy, aided by her son and her husband, was bent on breaking up the couple. ''The way they treated Dunham was something terrible,'' Whipple said in the interview.

Keeping notes

It was known that Ada McGlincy was keeping notes, apparently as evidence for a divorce suit. Whipple, who saw them, said the complaints against Dunham were ''trifling.''

Another note was found after the killings. It was signed Hattie and read, ''Please say goodbye for me to my dear mother, brother and stepfather.''

She might have been going off with Dunham. Possibly, Dunham killed her accidentally, perhaps seizing her during a quarrel. That is part of Whipple's theory.

After that, the young man, a student at Santa Clara University, apparently went berserk and killed the others. The idea that Dunham was crazed when he was killing was popular. Even his brother, who had once been engaged to marry Hattie, thought him insane.

Posse found horse

When he'd killed the six, Dunham took his brother-in-law's horse and rode off. He was next seen asking for food at Smiths Creek Hotel on Mount Hamilton. A huge posse was mounted and it found the horse Dunham used, but no Dunham.

Many believed he'd either committed suicide or starved to death on the mountain. Others thought he might have taken off on his bike. He was considered an excellent cyclist and had recently bought a used bike and outfitted it with wide tires and other equipment to make it suitable for traveling in the mountains.

Over the years, there were many reported sightings of Dunham or possibly his bones. He could have been the ''wild man'' roaming the hills near Dulzura, a tiny town near the Mexican border, southeast of San Diego. He might have been part of a Yankee guerrilla gang in Mexico; at least such a gang reportedly had a member named James Dunham who had murdered his family.

Bones checked

There were many investigations of bones, mostly on Mount Hamilton. Authorities had a detailed description of Dunham and his teeth, figuring they could identify the man if the right skeleton ever turned up.

The last reported possibility were some bones discovered on Mount Hamilton in 1953. Investigators thought they looked more like cattle bones than human ones.

While Dunham never was found, the McGlincy house survived well into this century at the end of a long driveway that is now McGlincey Lane.

Kids who went there reported it was haunted.



James C. Dunham wanted poster

 

Bodies in a row - sketch

 

James Wells (Hattie's brother)

 

Ada Wells McGlincy (Hattie's mother)

 

Colonel Richard Parran McGlincy (Hattie's stepfather)

 

 

 
 
 
 
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