Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The McGlincy Family Massacre

A Silent Man

James C. Dunham

Already in his early 30s, James Dunham had never been an easy person to know.  The vice-president of Santa Clara College, where Dunham attended undergraduate classes (mostly with men nearly half his age) said, "He was in a degree inapproachable.  He was always very polite and would bow to those with whom he was acquainted, but he very seldom showed a disposition to talk to any one, and he seemed to be a very hard person to become very well acquainted with.  He was, I might say, a silent man.  He rarely if ever smiled, and had what might be called a far-away expression."

Expanding on Dunham's introversion, the vice-president said, "I did not know when Dunham entered the college that he was a married man.  We learned this fact when we saw the notice in a newspaper of the birth of his child.  Then some of the boys asked him about it, and he acknowledged that he was the James Dunham referred to in the birth notice."

The Mercury reported on even darker aspects of Dunham's personality, "Persons intimately acquainted with Dunham all give testimony to the fact that he had a violent temper.  He often had terrible fits of rage, during which those who knew him best kept away from fear that he might do them bodily harm.

"Once, his mother refused to [give him money] and he went into the yard and took revenge by killing his mother's chickens.  He seized three of them, one after another, and after wringing their necks literally tore them to pieces."

Colonel Richard Parran McGlincy

His relationship with the McGlincy family was probably never more than cordial, at best.  And in the year since marrying Hattie, Dunham's interactions with his in-laws worsened: he threatened Ada with a lawsuit for injuries he incurred falling off a ladder while doing an errand for her; he told a tale of being robbed of $1,000 which Colonel McGlincy later declared to Dunham's face to be a lie; and at a card game in early 1896, a dispute led to an extended period during which Dunham and McGlincy didn't speak to each other.

The depth of the animosity toward his wife's family may best be revealed in a conversation Dunham had with a young law student in the early months of Hattie's pregnancy.  The student remembered: "On the day of the big parade, Dunham and I sat at the window conversing as we were waiting for the procession to come along.

"In that conversation he asked me this question: 'Providing a man marries into a wealthy family and has issue and afterwards the entire family should die, would that child inherit the entire estate?'  I promptly replied yes.  He then said: 'Are you sure?' and I remember that he accented the word 'sure' and looked me straight in the eyes. I told him that was the rule of consanguinity.  He then said, 'I'm glad of that,' and then covered what he said by the further remark, 'I am glad of that, as I intend to study law myself and am anxious to learn legal points.'"

The young law student apparently believed that Dunham's interest was academic, and Dunham's life went back to its normal routine of an unhappy marriage and escalating friction with his in-laws.  After his son's birth, a slight but significant deviation of this routine was noticed by the vice-president of his college, "[on May 26, 1896] for the first time, so far as can be learned, he left his books on his desk instead of taking them home.  [When he arrived that morning], he unwrapped them from the package in which he usually carried them [on his bicycle].  When he left he did not wrap the books up again, but pushed them aside."

It appeared that James Dunham had no intention of coming back.

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