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Murder of
Wesley Foulke:
Suicide or Murder?


Lincoln Sentinel, 22 July 1897

Coroner’s Jury Verdict: We, the jury, find that Wesley Foulke came to his death on the public highway, one half-mile north of Lincoln, by a severe blow on the right side of the head, causing fracture of the skull; also a pistol shot in forehead, done by some person to us known. Signed: L.J. Dunton, W.D. Morgan, Geo. Hawkins, M.E. Pace, J.W. Shick, Thom. Ramsey
Post-Mortem, Drs. Hall and Newton concurring: Made an incision from the right ear direct across the head to the top of the left ear, gaining a view of the skull bone, the scalp being stripped off both forward and backward. The crown of the skull was then removed. The bullet had passed through the very center of the brain and was found at the base of the skull, close to the point where the spinal column united with the skull. In the forehead, between the eyes, where the bullet entered, there was a fracture of the skull extending three or four inches upon the inner plates of the skull. Between the fracture in forehead caused by the bullet and the fracture over the right ear there was solid bone for two or three inches, showing that the two fractures were not identical and that they were not produced form the same cause. Before the skull was opened a probe was passed, going directly to where the ball was located. The fracture on right side of the head was evidently produced by a sand bag or some other soft, heavy instrument, which left no visible mark on the outside of the skull, the fracture being inward and pressing into the brain. This wound in itself was sufficient to cause insensibility, concussion of the brain and finally death in a few hours and had evidently been made before the bullet was fired into the skull. The bullet ranged backward and downward in a straight line, direct to the base of the brain. Either wound would have produced death.
The above was the testimony of both surgeons to the coroner’s jury, both agreeing to the minutest detail: Both surgeons were recalled Tuesday evening and were questioned as to whether the wound over the right ear could have been caused by the concussion of the pistol shot fired in the forehead. Both agreed that such concussion was impossible, and that the two fractures had been caused at different times and by different agencies.
Wesley Foulke is dead, whether by his own hand or not, time and the law’s representatives alone must determine. Surface indications point to suicide, though mysterious circumstances and popular clamor demanded a complete and searching investigation.
News of Foulke’s death was brought to Sheriff Hoover between 5 and 6 o’clock Monday morning by Willard Lyons, who was the first person known to be cognizant of Wesley Foulke’s death. A few minutes after 10 o’clock Sunday night W.E. Lyons encountered the prostrate body of a man lying in the road about one-half mile north of C.B. Daughter’s residence, on the Beloit road. The body was lying in the wagon way, a few feet north of the cross-road connecting the Crawford place with Dr. Sherrick’s home, known as the Shriner place. Mr. Lyons discovered the man when 50 feet from him, and cautiously approached, although he does not recall having spoken to or of making an effort to rouse him. The man was lying face down, the body, arms and legs reposing in a perfectly natural position. Mr. Lyons says there was no sound of life, but as he recognized the body to be that of Wesley Foulke, he thought he was in a passionate mood, perhaps, and not wishing to disturb him, passed on. Lyon, however, cast furtive glances over his shoulder at the prostrate figure, and says that from the time that he first saw it until he could no longer see it, the figure never moved. After he had gone north a distance of 350 or 400 yards, Mr. Lyon says he heard a pistol shot, and the report sounded as though it was fired from a 22 caliber pistol. He hurried on a short distance farther, coming to Pete Zeiger’s house. He hallowed. Zeigler, his daughter, Maude, and “June” McCanles, who was a caller at Zeigler’s, were down at the stable. Lyon told them about what he saw and heart, and wanted Zeigler and McCanles to return with him to the spot where he had seen young Foulke lying. Zeigler demurred, and gave it as his impression that there was nothing unusual about either circumstance – a man lying in the road, or the firing of a pistol shot at that time of night. After some talk Lyon proceeded homeward, coming to L. Fitzgerald’s place on the way. He told them what he had seen and heard and got Fitzgerald’s promise that he would return with him in the morning, to the spot where Foulke was lying. Arriving at his home Lyon set the alarm of his clock at 4 and about 4:30 Monday morning he appeared at Fitzgerald’s, roused Fitzgerald from his sleep, waited till he dressed, and together they came on to Pete Zeigler’s. There they got Zeigler, and the three men came on down the road till they reached the spot where young Foulke lay. This must have been about 5 o’clock Monday morning. The first impression that came to Lyon was that the body was lying in exactly the same position in which he saw it the night before except that now he saw clutched in the right hand a revolver. Leaving Zeigler and Fitzgerald to watch the corpse, Lyon hasted to town to inform Sheriff Hoover. Zeigler and Fitzgerald deserted their posts and went east a few hundred yards to inspect a pile of corn. During their absence young Sexton, who is employed by Rev. R. H. MacDade, appeared on the scene. This is where one of the ‘missing links’ first creeps into the case. Sexton jumped from his buggy and took the revolver from the hand of the corpse. Had Zeigler and Fitzgerald possessed horse sense and remained they could have restrained anyone from interfering with the corpse as was their duty, the mystery that enshrouds the killing of Wesley Foulke might now be cleared up to the satisfaction of everybody and suspicion diverted from guiltless parties. Sexton hastened into town and turned the weapon over to Sheriff Hoover. The Sheriff had in the meantime gone for the coroner, and by 8 o’clock Coroner Strange, and the jury composed of A.D. Gilpin, Thos. Ramsey, J.W. Shick, L.J. Dunton, M.E. Pace and George Hawkins, on their way to view the corpse as it lay in the highway. After viewing the corpse and the surroundings, the coroner ordered the remains of Wesley Foulke taken to Gragg’s undertaking establishment in this city, H. Peper making the transfer. It was in Gragg’s undertaking room where the post-mortem examination was made by County Physician Hall and Dr. E.S. Newton, the result of which is given at the beginning of this article. Up till the post-mortem everybody had but one idea – that Wesley Foulke had killed himself. The testimony of the expert of professional witnesses and examiners, left the jury only one verdict to return, viz: that which appears above. The coroner’s jury was convened in the courthouse, A.D. Gilpin was made clerk of the court and W.D. Morgan was substituted on the jury for him. The hearing was tedious and long drawn out. A number of rumors were given credence and everybody connected with them examined. Outside the postmortem the only fact brought out were that Wesley Foulke left his mother’s home in this city Sunday evening, shortly before dusk. He took his revolver with him over the protest of the mother, saying: “There are always a lot of ugly dogs in the vicinity. Daughters!” That was the last Mrs. Foulke saw her son in life. M.L. Hammond saw Wesley Foulke going north past his house after Mrs. Hammond and Mrs. Grubb had gone to church. Other witnesses testified that they had seen Foulke on the Beloit road going north, and one witness testified to having seen him north of Fitzgerald’s place. Foulke was them coming south. Mrs. Weaver, on her way home from church in Lincoln, also met Foulke. She knew him. He was coming south. Other persons going home from church testified to having met Foulke. He was coming south. There was at least half an hour between the time these witnesses saw Foulke walking south and when Lyon encountered him lying prostrate in the public highway. The coroner’s hearing came to an end at 6 o’clock Tuesday evening. The jury’s main reason for finding a murder verdict was owing to the post-mortem, which barred it from making any other return.
Theories: The one that has murder for its theme has no motive power back of it at all, but rests its theorizing upon the flimsy pretext of “mistaken identity.”
Self-destruction: Those who incline to this last belief urge his lack of mental development, his environment, from childhood a passionate disposition, a craving for the impossible without the mental stamina to resist, previous threats against his own life and the lives of others, frequent queries as [to] the better way of taking one’s own life, an uncontrollable desire that comes over minds, such as he possessed, to have death come by his own hand. This theory has only one combatant – the physicians’ post-mortem. All other circumstances real and imaginary, indicate that Wesley Foulke came to his death by his own hand.
Burial: The remains were taken to Union Valley cemetery, northeast part of the county, for burial Monday evening. A prayer service was held at the house, conducted by Elder Woody.
Dell Foulke, the husband of Mrs. Margaret Foulke of this city, lives in Norman, Okla., where he is said to be doing a flourishing grocery business.


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