Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The McGlincy Family Massacre

A Troubled Marriage

There was no doubt about it.   Hattie Wells had married beneath her.  Her friends said it and heaven knows her family had told her.  She was the product of the local "aristocracy" of wealthy landowners in the fertile Santa Clara Valley 50 miles southeast of San Francisco, but in 1895 she married James Dunham, a common laborer, and now, in May 1896, she was expecting their first child.

After her father had died, while Hattie was still a child, her mother Ada Wells had married Colonel Richard P. McGlincy, a Civil War veteran and pillar of the community in Campbell, a town near San Jose, California.  Ada and McGlincy had a good marriage and raised Hattie and her younger brother James Wells in relative luxury, sending them to the best schools and involving them in the clubs and cultural societies where the children of the upper classes gathered.

But then years later, Hattie had gone and married James Dunham, and the newlyweds moved into the McGlincy family home.

Ada Wells McGlincy

The birth of Hattie's first child, a son, on May 4 was undoubtedly a high point in Hattie and Dunham's marriage. Dunham's younger brother Charles (to whom Hattie had previously been engaged) said after the birth of his nephew, "My brother and his wife were married a little over a year ago.  He loves his wife dearly and she reciprocates his love deeply.  [Hattie's] whole family loves him and even idolizes him, and when I was out to the house a week ago to visit them I found them enjoying perfect happiness.  Hattie then told me that they all were so happy and that James adored the little one just born to them.  At morning and night she said that James played with the child as if his entire life was wrapped up in it."

This image of harmony and domestic bliss was either rare or a sham, as the local nurse who had helped Hattie through the birth and the baby's first weeks said of the same time period, "Ada McGlincy had often said that Dunham was not treating his wife properly -- was positively ill-treating her.  He never gave her anything she asked for while she was sick, and replied to her requests by saying that Colonel McGlincy or Jimmie, her brother, could get them for her.  His manner to her seemed cross Hattie seemed afraid of him.

"He displayed more attachment for his baby after it was born than for anything else, but caressed it very little.  Sometimes he would lie on the bed and look at it for a long time, but did not take it up or play with it.

"He often stayed away all night, though he well knew that his wife slept very little while he was away.  He seemed indifferent to this.  Dunham hardly ever ate with the rest of the family.  He got up late and usually took breakfast by himself."

Later events would strongly suggest the nurse's perceptions to be more accurate than Charles'.

The sleepy town of Campbell, 1890

A small notice buried in the depths of the local newspaper, the San Jose Mercury, announced the birth of Dunham and Hattie's son three days after the birth.  The infant's family made the front page less than three weeks later, however, when the Mercury's headlines screamed: Six Killed!  Foul Midnight Crime at Campbell! Whole Family Wiped Out!

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