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Murder of
Wesley Foulke
in 1897

Lincoln Beacon, July 22, 1897

"Wesley Foulke Murdered"

"A Theory of Suicide Entertained by Some"

There has lived in Lincoln for two or more years Mrs. L.M. Foulke, who came here from Scott township. Several years ago her husband deserted her and left for parts unknown, leaving her a large family of children, and a farm which she disposed of about the time she came to Lincoln. Since moving to town Mrs. Foulke’s three oldest children, John, Wesley and Charles, have worked out for different parties, generally at farm work. They were large, strong, industrious and perfectly temperate, and unusually reliable and trustworthy young men.
These young men were practically the only support of their mother, and the younger children, and their mother controlled most of their wage earnings, with their consent.
Wesley Foulke was probably the older of the three older brothers, but this is not certain to us. His mother avers that he would have been 21 years of age August next. He believed himself to be about three years older, and had told employers that the school registers in Scott township would show that he was 23 or 24 years old. Old settlers in Scott township may be able to recollect his age. We think all the family except a married daughter in Iowa were born in this county.
Wesley’s education was very limited, and those for whom he worked call him peculiar to the verge of insanity though strong, active, intelligent about farm labor and very industrious. He was honest to the point of being exacting with himself in meeting the little obligations which he had occasion to incur. Generally he was good natured and quite affable, but his oddities often made him the butt of his companions. Up to a certain point his good nature while being teased was imperturbable. Beyond that point he ordered proceedings stopped and his warnings were usually heeded, as he was six feet 2 inches tall, would weigh about 190 pounds and was strong as an ox.
He worked for J.B. Hill of Prosser creek a year and a half, leaving him January last. Mr. Hill says he was a first-class hand and a model of behavior and deportment.
Since leaving Mr. Hill he has worked for C.B. Daughters on the latter’s farm and at whatever he was directed to do. Mr. Daughters speaks of him in the same terms as does Mr. Hill and others who have employed him.

Disappearance of Wesley Foulke

Wesley spent Sunday last at his mother’s home on Court street in Lincoln. At 8 o’clock in the evening or a little later he told the family he "was going up to Lonny Fitzgerald’s" two and a half miles north of town, near a farm belonging to Mr. Daughters, upon which he had been working. He gave his mother a 25 cent piece, all the money he had, took his revolver, an 88-calibre bulldog, cheap pattern, and went away. Before leaving he stated that he wanted the pistol for the benefit of cross dogs or to shoot rabbits if he had a chance. He frequently carried this pistol, always with this declared purpose.
It appears that he did not go to Fitzgerald’s as Mr. Fitzgerald testified at the inquest; perhaps because it was dark by the time he reached Mr. F.’s place, and as there was no lamp lighted there at any time during the evening Wesley probably thought they had either retired or were not at home.
The next seen of Wesley was by the Brazier family as they were on their way home from church about 10 o’clock. They recognized him. This was in the road nearly a mile north of the northeast corner of the townsite. The Braziers were going north in vehicles, Wesley was headed south afoot.

The Man in the Road

About 10:20 Willard Lyons was on his way home on foot from church in town. After church he met with the young people to discuss Y.P.S.C.E. matters, which threw him behind the Braziers about half an hour. At a point about half a mile north of town, in the road exactly opposite where "the Shriner house" (which was burned) used to stand, he came upon the body of a man stretched across the road. (This point was about half a mile south of where the Braziers met Wesley.) It was not very dark, and he saw the figure in the road when about 50 feet distant, and might have seen it sooner had he been looking up instead of down. The figure was that of a tall man in rough garb, a white felt broad brim hat on his head, lying flat on the face and stomach and with the arms stretched upward and the hands apparently close together under the front brim of the hat. Lyons thought he recognized the figure as that of Wesley Foulke, but knowing that Wesley was very peculiar and liable to misunderstand other people, he thought best to continue on his way, supposing that if it was Wesley the latter chose to be let alone. Lyons had no thought that the prone figure was that of a dead man and said nothing and did not touch it, being prompted simply to mind his own business. If it was a drunken man and not Wesley, he did not feel particularly concerned as the night was neither dark nor stormy and there was no risk for the strange in leaving him where he lay, drunk or sober.
Lyons kept up on the road. "About 400 yards beyond" he heard a pistol shot directly behind him. This satisfied him that the man in the road was a drunk. He went on up the road. Half a mile from where the man in the road lay Lyons came to P.M. Zeigler’s place and seeing people in the yard he turned in. Mr. Zeigler, his daughter Maude and Julian McCanles were there. Together the four talked over the incident of the man in the road and the pistol shot, which they had all heard. Zeiglers and Mr. McCanles had heard the shot and spoke of it before Mr. Lyons came up, though they knew nothing of the man lying in the road.
After stopping at Zeigler’s a few moments Lyons went on home. He set an alarm clock for 4:30 the next morning and made up his mind to go down the road in the morning and see what might be found, if anything.
Mr. McCanles left Zeigler’s a short time after Mr. Lyons did. He was on foot. He came "straight down the road south about 200 yards" and then left the road and took to the prairie to the right about a fourth the way from Zeigler’s to the place where Lyons saw the figure in the road. Mr. McCanles "diagonaled" back to town, leaving the road to his left and at no time could have been nearer than two or three hundred yards of the spot where Wesley Foulke was found dead in the morning. McCanles neither saw nor heard anything in the least degree suspicious.

Finding the Body

Mr. Lyons arose at 4:30 and went first to Mr. Fitzgerald’s, then to Mr. Zeigler’s. Neither had arisen yet and it was about 5 o’clock when they reached the place where Lyons saw the man in the road.
They found Wesley Foulke lying dead, in exactly the position of legs, body, head and arms that Mr. Lyons noted in the semi-darkness the night before. The head was in the dirt just outside the wheel track and the shoulders, body and legs lay at right angles with the roadway. The feet were within a foot of the opposite wheel track. The head was to the west, slightly up hill. The face was downward, the features embedded in the loose dirt. The hands were almost touching under the hat brim, and in the right hand was the pistol he left home with. The shoulders, back and legs were covered with road dust, as thought he had laid first on the back and then been turned over. A wide pool of clotted blood trailed out from under the body and out into the road. Lyons came immediately to town to notify the sheriff. Zeiger and Fitzgerald stayed to "watch" and went off in the field about a hundred yards to look at some fodder belonging to Zeigler. While they were in the field W.R. Sexton came along in a buggy, accompanied by a young son of Rev. McDade. Sexton was headed toward town with several cans of milk for the creamery. He believed himself and the boy to be the first persons to see the body. He alighted and took the pistol from the dead man’s hand, brought it to town immediately and turned it over to the sheriff.
Mr. Sexton testified that instead of the pistol being held in a death grip a very slight pull released it. This is a very important feature of the testimony, as it confirmed the theory that Wesley was murdered and the pistol placed in his hand to mislead observers. Either Zeigler or Fitzgerald saw Mr. Sexton take the pistol, but neither interfered.
In a short time the sheriff, Coroner Strange and a large number of other people were at the scene. No attempt was made to control the crowd and in a few moments all tracks or possible signs of a scuffle in the road dust (that might have thrown light on the affair) were obliterated.
A bullet hole exactly on the median line and just above the eyebrows was plainly seen by all who looked and was supposed to be the only injury the body had received.

Post Mortem

The body was brought to town and laid out in Gragg’s undertaking establishment. The coroner ordered an inquest, which was conducted by Drs. Hall and Newton. The coroner, jury, undertakers and a few others were witnesses as to results, but a very serious error was made in not securing the attendance of all the physicians of the community, for the value of their trained observation and opinions.
The pistol ball had followed an absolutely straight line from between the eyes to a pit half an inch to the left of the media line and lay loosely in the extreme base of the skull at the nape of the neck. All the percussionary force of the explosion had been expended outside of the skull and just at the pit of entrance, showing that while the pistol was close to, it was not actually against the flesh when discharged. The brain was not in the least lacerated off the direct line of puncture made by the bullet, which had passed through the pons varoli and the corpus calosum, and causing as absolutely an instantaneous death as is possible. But,
Upon the right side of the head, directly above and close down upon the ear, the skull had been driven in until the suture between the parietal and temporal bones was completely spread apart, giving the appearance, to an untechnical eye, of an original fracture. This fracture was entirely disassociated with the irregular hole made by the ball in entering the skull. (The base of the skull was not fractured at all, the ball spending its force against it.) The flesh and ineguments of the skull over an area exactly corresponding with that of the injured bone, were bruised to a pulp, but the skin was not broken, and the thick curly hair had, until the autopsy, hidden all evidence of foul play. A quantity of blood had collected between the skull and the brain, but the brain itself showed no injury until the course of the bullet was reached, on the median line.
The positive side of the scalp, skull, and membranes was in a perfectly normal, healthy condition.
The conclusion immediately reached by Drs. Hall and Newton was that prior to being shot Foulke had received a terrific blow from a sandbag or some other weapon which produced contusion but does not lacerate. In this opinion we concur.
Divers theories are entertained: of a quarrel and fight was some unknown person; of some night traveling tramp who saw a chance to pick a man by the roadside and take his chances of securing booty and of discover and detection; of mistaken identity.
The first theory is possible, but the obliteration of tracks and evidences of a scuffle by spectators and by the heavy rain which fell the next night make it almost foolish to attempt to follow it.
The second theory is worthless, as the young man’s silver watch was upon his person unmolested, and anyone who had the nerve to return to finish the murder would be certainly self-possessed enough to take the watch. He had no money upon him and there is no evidence that his pockets were rifled.
The third theory is as good as any other, but we cannot see that it is worthy any more, in the absence of all confirmatory testimony aside from the post mortem itself.
The theory of suicide we consider as disposed of by the evidence of the post mortem. We agree with the surgeons in the claim that the wound on the side of the head was absolutely disabling and would have caused instantaneous unconsciousness and perhaps immediate death from concussion; that it was entirely disassociated from the pistol shot wound; that it (the blow on the side of the head) must have been inflicted first, and that the victim therefore as a matter of course could not have shot himself.
The rational probability is that he was sandbagged just before Lyons came along and shot after he had passed, to make a thorough job of intentional murder.

The Inquest

The above is compiled (as to statements of facts) from the testimony given at the inquest by the parties variously mentioned above. The coroner’s jury was composed of Geo. Hawkins, L.J. Dunton, Marion Pace, W.D. Morgan, Thos. Ramsay and J.W. Shick. It was in session from Monday a.m. until Tuesday p.m. The verdict was as follows:
"We find that Wesley Foulke came to his death on the night of July 18, 1897, by a severe blow to the right side of the head, causing a factor of the skull and by a pistol shot fired by some person unknown to us."

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