Big Mary, Murderous Mary



Mary was a 5 ton female Asian elephant which was hung after killing her groom (Walter "Red" Eldrige) in Kingsport on September 12th 1916. Late in the summer, Louis Reed, the regular elephant trainer, had to leave the show. Paul Jacoby, who had previously been the elephant trainer, took over the job. Eldridge had dropped into St. Paul from a Norfolk and Western boxcar, and worked some time as janitor at the Riverside Hotel. Eldridge was hired as elephant groom on the 11th of September in St. Paul, Virginia, and was killed the next day.


There are several different accounts of what actually happened that day. Between shows the elephants were driven to a watering hole. On the way back to the tent, Mary went for a piece of watermelon beside the road, and Eldridge started to punish her, but she grabbed him with her trunk.

The crowd of onlookers became furious and Blacksmith Hench Cox fired his 32-20 five times at Mary, and later Sheriff Gallahan "knocked chips out of her hide a little" with his .45, according to witness Bud Jones, but with little effect. People demanded the elephant to be killed, and the circus was under pressure. Leaders of several nearby towns threatened not to allow the circus to visit if Mary was included. Charlie and Addie Sparks decided that the elephant must be killed.


"A human's life is something I don't want charged against me," Charlie Sparks later claimed in a 1924 interview. "If people in the business get hurt, that's our lookout. But with an outsider - that's different."

The circus travelled to Erwin, and Mary and the four other elephants to Clinchfield Rail Yard in the town or Erwin, headquarters of the Charleston, Cincinnati and Chicago Railroad, where there was a 100 ton heavy locomotive crane Derrick Car 1400, strong enough to lift her with a chain. More than 2,500 people gathered to watch Mary die. The chain from which Mary hung snapped shortly after she was raised off the ground, and she fell down on the ground, immobilized from the pain of a broken hip. A heavier chain was attached and this time she was raised into the sky. It took about ten minutes before Murderous Mary was finally dead. They left her hanging for a half-hour, witnesses say, and then, pronounced dead by a local physician, Dr. R.E. Stack, they dumped her in the grave they had dug with a steam shovel 400 feet up the tracks.

Excerpts from
(click here to read the rest of the story) Elephant Facts and Information Database


The Death of Sport - courtesy of James Taylor Shocked & Amazed



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