Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The McGlincy Family Massacre


The death of a prominent family in the small town of Campbell merited much attention, and the McGlincy family and farmhand Robert Briscoe were buried in a large plot in the serene Oak Hills Cemetery in San Jose after funerals and several elaborate Victorian memorials by civic groups of the area (the maid Minnie was buried elsewhere).  Across all six gravestones, the ominous biblical quotation "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord" stretches over the murder victims, etched in stone.

James Dunham's casual conversation with the law student turned out to be a profitable one, as his and Hattie's infant son did go on to inherit the entire wealth of the McGlincy estate.

In early June 1896, less than a month after the massacre, the Mercury reported that "Mrs. Michael T. Brewer, the sister of Mrs. Ada McGlincy, filed a petition in court in San Francisco to be allowed to adopt the baby boy of James C. Dunham.

"A body-guard constantly attends the baby and will be maintained until the father is captured and all possibility of his making an effort to secure possession of the child is lost.  The child will be named Percy Osborn Brewer, unless some legal technicality regarding its inheritance arises."

Historian Jeanette Watson recorded that Percy's adoption was successful, and he was raised by his great-aunt and great-uncle Brewer.  He inherited the Campbell house and all of its belongings, although young Percy would never actually live there.

In January 1906, when Percy was 9 years old, his guardians put the house, horses, land, and the farm equipment up for sale, but there were no takers.  The property was again offered for sale in August of that year (minus the horses, which had presumably sold in the interim), and successfully sold.  The McGlincy house would stand for another 49 years, before finally being destroyed in 1955 to make way for new buildings.

The Bank of Campbell, on McGlincy Avenue

Local landmarks still exist, however. McGlincy Lane still runs through a section of Campbell near the former homestead, and the local lodge of the International Order of Odd Fellows was named for Ada in 1897.

One can only wonder what young Percy was told about the gruesome night when he was only 3 weeks old.  Never knowing any family other than the Brewers, some have speculated that he was completely spared the details of the horrible crime at the hands of his father and was told Michael and Lucy Brewer were his natural parents.

Trace evidence proves he was told something, however.  In 1956, when 60-year-old Florida resident Percy O. Brewer applied for a social security number, he did list his great-uncle Michael T. Brewer as his father, but listed his mother as "Hattie Wells."

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