The following account appeared in the October 1, 1902 Adair County News. The author, Patrick Henry (P.H.) Bridgewater was a frequent contributor to the News. (In a 1908 edition of the paper, he commented that "In 1855 the writer had a post‑office established and gave the name Cane Valley and had himself appointed post‑master.")


In 1841, when the Burk tragedy occurred, P. H. was  a lad of but seven summers. Perry Hancock was in  his mid‑twenties, and his brother Oliver Hancock was a year or two past the age of majority. ("Uncle" Perry passed from this vale of tears in the summer of 1906 "in his ninety‑second year.") And, in 1841, Zach Wheat, later Judge Wheat, was about 35 years old.


Be advised that part of this article is quite graphic.


An Old Tragedy Re‑Called

Cane Valley, Ky., Sept. 26 [1902]

Editor of the News:

Having read in the News, some time ago, of a tragedy that occurred in Neatsville, Adair county, in the fifties...I recall another tragedy that occurred in Adair county, in a mile and half of Columbia, many years ago. The old house in which the event occurred still stands on one of the banks of Russell's creek to remind the old passer[by] of the crime perpetrated in that house.

In 1841, Jacob Burk and his two little sons, aged 10 and 12, lived in the house mentioned; the three comprising his family; his wife having died some years previous to the crime I am relating. Not being posted with all the details connected with the deed, I had to rely upon older men than myself for information, "Uncle" Perry Hancock, an old and one of the best citizens of the county, and a man of sound judgment and solid information, informs me that Burk was a son‑in‑law of William Henry Harrison*, not the President, but the same name, and he claimed to be related to President Harrison...

"Uncle" Perry Hancock informs me that perhaps on more than one occasion Burk told him that no one should ever control his two little boys, but no one thought at the time he meant murder; but time passed on and the father and two sons seemed to be living together tranquilly. Little did the two innocent boys think when they went to bed that fatal night that it was their last upon earth.

The next day, Oliver Hancock, a brother of "Uncle" Perry's, was passing by the house, and not seeing any of the family, he went to the stable and there he found the Senior [Burk] hanging by the neck, dead. Whilst he was gazing upon the body, Judge Zach Wheat rode up. They remained a while, then went to the house to hunt for the little boys, but found the doors locked. By this time it was nearly dark and the search for the boys was abandoned until next morning.

Several parties gathered next morning and forced their way into the house, and on the bed the boys were lying, spooned, with their heads cut off. However, there was a small piece of skin hanging between the neck and head of one of the boys. A bloody axe and a sharp shoe knife was lying on the table in the room, and a part of the bed cord cut off, showing where Burk got the rope with which to hang himself.

Thus ended a triple murder that was perpetrated sixty‑one years ago, which but few people now living in Adair county remember.        /s/ P.H. Bridgewater


* Among the records of Adair County is a marriage bond dated August, 1828 for Jacob Burk and Winnifred Harrison. The bond also mentions William Harrison.