Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Killed by Wm.C. Falkner....

The first man murdered by Col. W. C. Falkner was Robert Holt Hindman, in early 1849. According to William Faulkner's biographer, Joseph Blotner, Hindman was angry over what he perceived as a "blackballing" incident in which Col. Falkner supposedly spoke against Hindman's admission into the Knights of Temperance. When Falkner went out to the Hindman place to deny the blackballing, Hindman angrily called Falkner a liar and drew a pistol on him. The two men struggled, and the pistol misfired twice before Falkner's knife found its mark, killing Hindman.

Falkner was acquitted due to the claim of self-defense, but the verdict made no difference to the Hindman family who had Robert's tombstone inscribed with the words "Killed at Ripley, Miss. by Wm. C. Falkner." Legend indicates that the tombstone originally said "Murdered," but the Hindman family was persuaded to change the wording to "Killed."

Bad blood continued between W. C. Falkner and the Hindman family in the following years. In 1851, Falkner got into an argument with Erasmus W. Morris over the rental of a house. The argument turned violent, and Falkner drew a pistol and fired. Morris fell dead, and Falkner was once again charged with murder. At his trial, the prosecutor was none other than Thomas C. Hindman, Jr., the brother of Robert Holt Hindman, the man Falkner had killed a few years earlier. The jury acquitted Falkner, however, and following the verdict Falkner headed to the Ripley Hotel for his dinner. Waiting for him in the dining room was Thomas C. Hindman, Sr., Robert's father, who drew his pistol and fired at Falkner. Lucky for Falkner, the pistol was somehow dropped in the meantime and the shot went wild.

Col. Falkner's grandson, William C. Faulkner, may have used the Hindman tombstone and its precipitating events as a model in his decription of Col. John Sartoris' tombstone:
"For man's enlightenment he lived
By man's ingratitude he died"

In his book, Sartoris (reprinted as Flags in the Dust), Faulkner elaborates about the Sartoris tombstone, "This inscription had caused some furore on the part of the slayer's family, and a formal protest had followed. But in complying with popular opinion, old Bayard had had his revenge: he caused the line "By man's ingratitude he died" to be chiseled crudely out, and added beneath it: "Fell at the hand of _____ Redlaw, Sept. 4, 1876."

The Hindman graveyard is located just a couple of miles outside of Ripley on Highway 4 East but has no sign or marker and is not clearly visible from the road. It was an adventure trying to find it but well worth the time. The once-beautiful brick wall around the cemetery is crumbling, and there are only five grave markers remaining. The Hindman family apparently sold the land following the elder Hindman's death in 1856, moving out of the county. The original plantation house burned in 1938.


  1. What an interesting history lesson! Thanks so much for this look at the real "Yoknapatawpha" from which Faulkner drew so many of the details in his writing.
    Terry Thornton

  2. Thank you, Terry. It was a history lesson for me too! I've learned a lot, which is the point, I guess!

  3. WOW!! What a story. That was fun to read. Thanks for sharing

  4. well i think i am related to thomas hindman thanks I've doing a project on my history this is new thanks again