Tag Archives: Milton Chronicle

FOOL KILLER: PART NINE – THE OXFORD TORCH-LIGHT LETTER (1878)

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE

Fool Killer on cowcatcherPART NINE: This installment draws to a close the opening era of Fool Killer lore but we have much, much more to go after this. (At left is the figure riding a train’s cowcatcher like he often did to get around.)

This part exhausts the era of the Fool Killer Letters, seven of which survived from the Milton Chronicle newspaper, with a fragment of an 8th being quoted in the Southern Literary Messenger, and now we have this ninth (imitation) Fool Killer Letter from the Oxford Torch-Light.

Torch-Light Editor A.W. Davis is the assumed author of this letter which seems to have been written as an homage to Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans’ original Fool Killer Letters. The letter is much shorter than the usual correspondence from the fictional Jesse Holmes, as the Fool Killer claimed was his real name.  Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER: PART SEVEN – FEBRUARY 13th, 1879

Fool Killer RedBalladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore.

FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE

Fool Killer picPART 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.

Skull walking stick 3Holmes 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.

Fool Killer garbThe 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. Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER: PART SIX – SEPTEMBER 11th, 1877

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE

Fool Killer riverboat gambler lookPART SIX: The sixth surviving Fool Killer Letter. (See Part One for an explanation.)

September 11th was the publication date but the “letter” was dated August, 1877. Location: “Sitting on somebody’s gate post, I don’t know where.”

This Fool Killer Letter, one of the precious few to have survived, surfaced in 1975 and had originally been syndicated in 1877 in the Oxford, NC publication called The Torchlight. Previously Balladeer’s Blog covered how the darkly satirical adventures of Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans’ fictional Fool Killer were syndicated not just in Evans’ Milton Chronicle but in other newspapers throughout North Carolina and Virginia at least.

For the first time in the surviving letters the homicidal vigilante has no idea what location he’s writing from in his “correspondence” with Editor Charles Evans. Jesse Holmes (as the wandering murderer claimed to be his real name) was uncharacteristically downbeat in the opening lines. He confessed to being close to despair and contemplated returning to his hidden cave to hibernate again for several years, like he had from roughly 1861/2 to 1870.

Skull walking stick 4The Fool Killer complained that for every fool he slew with his club/ walking stick/ cudgel or his set of Bowie knives (each blade inscribed with the words “Fool Killer”) three more fools sprang up to take their place. He said that fools were as plentiful as grains of sand on the beach.

Jesse especially reviled the idiots who thought themselves intellectually superior to the rest of the citizenry and the deceitful, hypocritical and villainous malefactors who abused their positions as politicians, clergy and teachers. The timelessness of the Fool Killer Letters always makes me wonder why they are so neglected. 

Fool Killer riverboat torsoHolmes’ body count in this letter started off with assorted nouveau riche snobs of the Gilded Age, whom he condemned as would-be aristocrats. The Fool Killer struck down these formerly poor people who became wealthy and then put on airs, snubbing friends and relations who were not as well off and forbidding their daughters to even be seen dancing with “mechanics” (the term used in the actual 1877 letter).  

Our “hero” disparaged the beaver-fur top hats worn by at least one of his nouveau riche victims. Hey, “Fur Kills” even in 1877 I guess!

Moving on to Jesse’s other killings confessed to in this letter: Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER: PART FIVE – FEBRUARY 16th, 1876

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE

Fool Killer HorsleyPART FIVE: The fifth surviving Fool Killer Letter. (See Part One for an explanation.)

February 16th, 1876 – From “Pace’s Rock, NC”

The Fool Killer began this letter to Milton Chronicle Editor Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans by saying he had been hibernating in his hidden cave again and had just woken up and emerged in December of 1875. The references made by Jesse Holmes (the name the Fool Killer claimed was his real identity even though the letters were written by Charles Evans himself) confuse the previous timeline.

Either Evans was doing what fiction writers now call ret-conning (imposing retroactive changes to continuity, if you’re new to the term) or he may have just felt “who cares” if the Fool Killer was contradicting previous letters. Evans may have reasonably felt nobody would ever bother paying such strict attention to fictional letters from a nonexistent vigilante.

Skull walking stickThis letter has Jesse Holmes claim he is waking up from a nap begun AFTER the Civil War ended. Previous letters had the Fool Killer begin his hibernation in 1861 or 1862, motivated by disgust at the fools who brought on the Civil War. Under that initial timeline Holmes emerged from his hibernation around 1870, dressed in up to date men’s fashion, to resume his killing spree by preying on Ku Klux Klansmen and northern Carpetbaggers alike. 

(A May, 1870 letter – the fourth Fool Killer Letter, previously reviewed – has the homicidal vigilante striking at a nominating convention during the imposition of martial law in Alamance County over excessive Klan violence. )

So did Jesse Holmes begin a second period of hibernation after his anti-Klan and anti-Carpetbagger activities in 1870? His reference to returning to his hidden cave AFTER the Civil War is vague. It doesn’t have to mean 1865 (during which period he was supposedly in his 1861/2-1870 sleep already).

Fool Killer Horsley 2We’ll probably never know and may be giving it more thought than Charles Evans himself did. So, on to the murders that the Fool Killer confesses to in this letter.

Holmes stated he emerged from his cave on December 22nd, 1875, and, in disgust at all the foolishness he sensed running rampant in the nation, smote the ground with his club. In fact he struck the ground SO hard with his primary fool-killing weapon – his skull-topped walking stick – that it was recorded in newspapers of the time as an earthquake. (This is a joking reference to a real-life earthquake of that date which was felt as far north as Baltimore, MD and as far south as Greensboro, NC.)

Deciding to get busy, the Fool Killer set forth with his club/ walking stick/ cudgel and his set of Bowie knives to seek fresh victims. As usual a murder of crows followed in his wake to feast upon the ample corpses Jesse left behind him in his travels. Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER: PART FOUR – MAY 29th, 1870

Fool Killer RedBalladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE

Fool Killer illustrationPART FOUR: The fourth surviving Fool Killer Letter. (See Part One for an explanation.)

This letter is the first surviving letter after the fictional Fool Killer had emerged from his self-imposed hibernation in a cave since 1861, driven there by his disgust at the fools who had brought on the Civil War. Jesse Holmes (the name the Fool Killer claimed was his real identity) had emerged like a butterfly from a cocoon and was dressed in up to date men’s fashions. Wielding his usual club/walking stick/ cudgel and the set of Bowie knives that he adopted shortly before hibernating, the Fool Killer resumed his deadly attacks on corrupt politicians and societal nuisances.

These letters were really written as dark-humored commentary by Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans, Editor of the Milton Chronicle newspaper.

May 29th, 1870 – From “Hillsboro Township, NC.” –

Fool Killer garbThis Fool Killer Letter saw its first revived publication in November of 1978, making it the last of the surviving letters to come to light but the fourth chronologically. 

The homicidal vigilante turned his attention to the corrupt Democrat political practices in Reconstruction-Era North Carolina. As always the Fool Killer preyed upon the favorite targets of the Milton Chronicle and its courageous Editor Charles Evans – the Ku Klux Klan AND the northern Carpetbaggers.

It’s very easy for us Independent voters of today to relate to the position taken by Evans and his fictional Fool Killer. We often feel caught between two irrational and destructive breeds of fanatics just as Evans and “Jesse Holmes” were caught between the Democrats of the Ku Klux Klan and the Republicans running the Carpetbagger forces.    Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER: PART THREE – JUNE 28th, 1861

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE

Matthew as the Fool Killer would be perfectPART THREE: The third surviving Fool Killer Letter. (See Part One for an explanation) 

As with ancient Greek comedies and so many old movies from the Silent Era, it is terrible that so few of the original Fool Killer Letters have survived. The author of those mock letters from the homicidal vigilante called the Fool Killer was Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans, editor of The Milton Chronicle.

In the two previous surviving letters, one from 1857 and one from 1859, we saw that the Fool Killer – like his creator Evans a member of the dying Whig Party – bitterly opposed secession. And like his fellow Southerner Sam Houston condemned the fools bringing on a destructive Civil War.

After this 1861 letter Evans retired the Fool Killer for a time by having the darkly satirical figure stating that he was washing his hands of this nation of fools who had unleashed such a catastrophe. In the early 1870s Evans brought back the vaguely supernatural figure, who claimed he had been hibernating in a cave since 1861 and had emerged to resume killing corrupt politicians and societal nuisances.

North Carolina and Virginia before the Civil WarJUNE 28th, 1861 – From “Down about Norfolk, VA.” (The Fool Killer wandered North Carolina and Virginia – which back then still included what is now West Virginia – and the dark-humored Fool Killer Letters were syndicated in several newspapers in addition to his North Carolina “birth place” the Milton Chronicle.) 

This letter started out with Jesse Holmes – the name the fictional murderer claimed was his real identity – railing to Editor Evans: 

“When the historian comes to record the cause of the downfall of this once proud and mighty Republic, tell him, for me, to put in these words, to wit: It fell by the hands of Fools!

“I tried my best to avert the dire calamity – I wielded my club (* With which he slew his victims) by day and by night – I bathed it in the blood of demagogues, designing politicians, fanatics, rapscallions and scoundrels” … “I called loudly for help to demolish the fools that seemed to be everywhere springing up like the green grass of this Mother Earth on which you and I tread but alas! alas! too few heard my warning and came to the rescue.”

Bowie Knife PatternsIn this letter the Fool Killer adds a collection of Bowie knives to his arsenal alongside his ever-present club/ walking stick/ cudgel. Future incarnations of the Fool Killer in folk tales, short stories, novels and plays will assign him various axes, guns and even a scythe. Comic book depictions will add weapons like a sword and a high-tech “Purification Gun” which shoots white energy blasts of undetermined nature.  

(Steve Ditko’s short-lived superhero Killjoy might have been able to capture the Fool Killer spirit if the character had been handled correctly.) 

We rejoin the homicidal vigilante’s account of his recent activities and the victims who fell to his club and his knives, each blade inscribed with the words “Fool Killer.” Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER: PART TWO – MARCH 10th, 1859

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE

Fool Killer illustrationPART TWO: The second surviving Fool Killer Letter. (See Part One for an explanation)

MARCH 10th, 1859: From “… the right side of the Richmond & Danville Railroad” – This letter from Jesse Holmes, the fictional Fool Killer to Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans, Editor of the Milton Chronicle, was, like the others, written by Evans himself as dark-humored political and social commentary.

The Fool Killer began this letter by stating he was abandoning his murderous campaign to help the citizens of Leasburg, NC in their Quixotic battle with the Postmaster General in Washington, DC. The people of Leasburg objected to the mail delivery schedule established by the Postmaster General. January of 1859 was when the relevant postal route contracts were awarded.

Skull Walking Stick 2(My fellow geeks for 19th Century American history will recall that these routes – sometimes referred to as Star Routes because they were indicated by three stars on the route indexes – were often at the center of bidding scandals.)

The fictional Jesse Holmes stated he had decided to let the people of Leasburg fight their own postal battles. That was because the only way he could have rendered a decisive blow on their behalf would be to visit Washington, DC, and he feared having his own morals corrupted if he set foot in the District. (Hey, tell it to Billy Jack, Jesse!) 

The Fool Killer instead decided to head to Raleigh, NC to force the adjournment of the notoriously corrupt Democrat-dominated legislature (The Fool Killer, like Editor Charles Evans, belonged to the dying Whig Party). Enroute he was distracted, as so often happens in the Fool Killer Letters.

1850s north carolinaIn this case the distraction came in the form of “a venerable and mighty clever man” who asked Holmes to find out who had stolen his prize turkey. Armed as always with his club/ walking stick/ cudgel the Fool Killer began his investigation.

Presently he came across a parade of the Don Quixote Invincibles, a sort of southern, Raleigh-centered version of Mummers. The Invincibles would march in colorful, anachronistic costumes on special occasions.

Jesse spotted a DQI member wearing a colorful costume made of freshly-plucked turkey feathers and knew he had found his man. The Fool Killer struck down the turkey thief and was then attacked by the dead man’s fellow DQI marchers. Holmes wielded his weapon to deadly effect as usual, fighting off all of them (“Tarheel Fu” I guess). When a marcher costumed as a Chinaman was smacked down dead the other DQI’ers finally gave up their attack and fled the scene. 

The Fool Killer then resumed his journey toward the state house to fulfill his plan to confront the crooked politicians of the General Assembly.  Continue reading

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