26 January, 2009
The day they hung an elephant
I just discovered a hilarious story about Kingsport that I had never heard about. I really need to blog about all the things I want to blog on, but I have to let you read this story. I got it off Wikipedia.
"On September 12, 1916, Kingsport residents demanded the death of circus elephant Mary (a five ton Asian elephant who performed in the Sparks World Famous Shows Circus) for her killing of a city hotel worker named Walter "Red" Eldridge, who was hired the day before as an assistant elephant trainer by the circus.
On the evening of September 12, Eldridge was killed by Mary in Kingsport, Tennessee while taking her to a nearby pond to splash and frolic and drink. There are several accounts of his death but the most widely accepted version is that he prodded her behind the ear with a hook after she reached down to nibble on a watermelon rind. She went into a rage, snatched Eldridge with her trunk, threw him against a drink stand and deliberately stepped on his head, crushing it. One of his ears was never found.
The details of the aftermath are confused in a haze of sensationalist newspaper stories and folklore. Most accounts indicate that she calmed down afterward and didn't charge the onlookers, who were chanting, "Kill the elephant!" Apparently, within minutes, a local blacksmith tried to oblige, firing more than two dozen rounds at the elephant with little effect. Newspapers published claims that Murderous Mary had killed several workers in the past and noted that she was larger than the world famous Jumbo the elephant. Mary was impounded by the local sheriff, and the leaders of several nearby towns threatened not to allow the circus to visit if Mary was included. The circus owner, Charlie Sparks, reluctantly decided that the only way to quickly resolve the potentially ruinous situation was to hold a public execution. On the following day, a foggy and rainy September 13, 1916, she was transported by rail to Erwin, Tennessee where a crowd of over 2,500 people (including most of the town's children) assembled in the Clinchfield railroad yard to watch the hanging. "
Here's another version: http://www.gotricities.com/content/article.dna?idnumber=020603132233