Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore.
FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE
PART SEVEN: The seventh surviving Fool Killer Letter. (See Part One for an explanation.)
February 13th of 1879 was the publication date but January 30th was the date of the letter itself. For the location the Fool Killer simply wrote “Mountain Cave” as in his secret cavern lair which was never glimpsed by human eyes.
Many of Jesse Holmes’ activities that he recounts to Editor Charles Evans (the real author of the letters) in this missive happened around Christmas 1878 through New Year’s. That being the case A Very Fool Killer Christmas might be a good title.
Between Woodsdale and Clarksville the roaming murderer came across a weeping young man driving a wagon full of chickens. It turned out that the figure was crying because he took his girlfriend to a Yuletide party and agreed to let an old bachelor walk her home. The old bachelor convinced her to marry him and they immediately went to a magistrate’s house and were wed.
The Fool Killer administered a non-fatal beating to the young man for his foolishness in letting the bachelor walk his girl home AND for wasting time crying over such an inconstant belle when there were plenty more fish in the sea.
Holmes then set out to snuff the devious old bachelor and also came across another young man who had been played false by the same woman who victimized the wagon driver. This suitor had swum the Hyco River in North Carolina, risking pneumonia at that time of year, just to see the girl. The Fool Killer advised him about the belle’s true nature and gave him a token swat for being suckered in by that designing woman and risking his life for her.
His recent late January antics dispensed with, Jesse moved on to recap his murderous activities from shortly before Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve. The Fool Killer saved a pious and religious man named Charles Butts from three not-right men pushing a kind of Millerite end of the world belief enroute to a Christmas Party.
The trio tried to persuade Butts into joining them in a suicide pact to show their faith before the imminent end. When Charles refused, the three drunken apocalypticists grew hostile and implied they might take him with them against his will. The Fool Killer intervened with his club/ walking stick/cudgel and his set of Bowie knives and slew the three loons.
Next our homicidal vigilante set out to deliver punishment and recover the stolen coffin and cadaver of the wealthy Alexander Turney Stewart. Alexander had died in 1876 but in 1878 grave-robbers made off with his casket and corpse from St Mark’s.
This bizarre crime created a nationwide sensation and, though neither Charles Evans nor his fictional Fool Killer could know it at the time the body would not be recovered until 1880. Needless to say, Holmes found neither the body nor the grave robbers but on his search he came across plenty of other malefactors.
New Year’s Eve found Jesse at the crossroads by Cunningham’s Store in Person, NC. It was there that he got involved in thwarting a criminal scheme by three musicians and a fourth, non-musical accomplice. The accomplice had set up a Pound Party for a newlywed couple. (NOTE: A Pound Party was a party held for young couples at their new house with each guest bringing a “pound” of food or a pound of some other gift.)
The non-musical accomplice apparently planned to work with the musicians to make off with the gifts so the Fool Killer bumped off the accomplice and chased off the three musicians.
Holmes’ pursuit of the trio led him to the home of a Negro family. The three musicians had robbed the children’s candy animals which they had gotten for Christmas. Determined to help the crying woman and her kids the Fool Killer overtook the thieves, killed them and returned the candy cat to the black children. Unfortunately the trio had already eaten the candy dog.
Coming across a wild holiday party between Long’s Crossroads and Payne’s Tavern in Person County, Jesse unleashed his kind of justice on a drunken mob trying to force an entire jug of whiskey down the throat of an elderly teetotaller whom they were holding down.
On another occassion during the Christmas season, this one near North Hyco, Holmes stated he bumped off a randy young cad who had taken a few ladies on a sleigh-ride despite there being more mud than snow on the ground. The sleigh overturned and the man clearly had some kind of lecherous activities in mind for the three drunken women. Jesse dealt with him and harshly warned the ladies about letting their drunken state put them in harm’s way.
In Yanceyville sometime between Christmas and New Year’s Day the Fool Killer slaughtered a gang of former Confederates from Company “Aytch” itself. The gang had been marauding through Yanceyville until our death-dealing vigilante put an end to it.
Next, after the 1st, Holmes talked a very young man out of shooting a rival for the affections of a young lady and made him promise to shoot only birds with his weapon and not even shoot them on Sundays.
Sometime between New Year’s Day and January 30th the Fool Killer saved an innocent horse from being put down over its destructive rampage. Holmes proved the horse’s behavior was really the fault of its foolish owner, who had taken to feeding the animal nothing but sugar. The owner was put down by the Fool Killer.
For the first time in quite awhile in the surviving Fool Killer Letters, Jesse unleashed his wrath on a peddler of superstition, whacking an old farmer for telling someone warts could be cured by cutting marks on the north end of a persimmon tree.
“And everyone agreed it was the best Christmas ever” I guess.
FOR PART EIGHT CLICK HERE
I WILL EXAMINE MORE FOOL KILLER LORE SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK FOR UPDATES.
FOR MY LOOK AT JOE MAGARAC, THE STEEL MILL VERSION OF JOHN HENRY AND PAUL BUNYAN, CLICK HERE
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