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Elephant crushes keeper, sends Charlotte crowd fleeing

On this day in 1880: Shortly after being unloaded in Charlotte, The Chief, a circus elephant, turns on his keeper and crushes him to death against a rail car.

“The man sank down without a groan,” reports The Charlotte Observer, “and the elephant turned and started up the railroad track, the excited crowd fleeing in every direction. The loose elephant got into the main streets of the city, and a crowd was being formed to hunt him down and shoot him when it was learned that the circus people were after the truant beast.

“They took the other two elephants, Mary and The Boy, and, driving them rapidly through the streets, overtook The Chief, chained him to the others and finally got him back to the circus grounds.”

John King will be buried in Charlotte’s Elmwood Cemetery beneath a five-foot monument donated by his fellow circus workers. On it is carved the image of an elephant and a palm tree.