Sanilac County



In the year 1881, on Thanksgiving Day, a man by the name of W. J. Philips, who resided at Allerton, Iowa, came into this county for the purpose of buying cattle. The last that was seen of him alive was on the train between Port Huron and Amadore, which was on Thanksgiving day. About two weeks afterward a body was found on the east side of what is known as the Wild-Cat road, and about two miles north from Amadore. The body was identified as the body of Mr. Philips by parties who had previously known him, he having bought cattle in this county to a considerable extent. Suspicion at once rested on one Dixon, who was known to have been buying cattle with Mr. Philips. An inquest was held over the remains, and there was every evidence on the body of a most foul and brutal murder. The skull was broken in apparently with a club or other blunt instrument, the throat cut from ear to ear, and other marks of violence. Mr. Dixon was sent for as a witness at the inquest, and his action was so strange as to confirm the already existing suspicions against him; and on the evening following the inquest, Mr. Dixon was, at the instance of Justice McNair, who held the inquest, arrested. Inquiry was made, and it was ascertained that Mr. Dixon had then recently been seen to have large sums of money. Subsequent inquiry developed the fact that Philips brought with him about $1,500 in money After Dixon was arrested and taken to the jail, he was searched and a small bottle of medicine, as he claimed, was, at his instance and earnest solicitation, left with him in the cell. About 10 o‚€™clock of the evening after he was arrested, he was discovered to be very sick, A doctor was sent for, who at once pronounced the patient to be laboring under difficulties brought on by poison. Suspicion at once rested on the bottle of medicine. It was taken in charge by the doctor, and actually found to be poison. Mr. Dixon lingered along for two days, and finally died from the effects of poison, and with him died the facts in relation to one of the most brutal murders ever committed in any country.

After Dixons death detectives were put on to ferret out the facts, but all the evidence discovered pointed to Dixon as the only party to the murder. An inquest was held over the body of Dixon. A post-mortem examination was had, and there was every evidence that he came to his death from poisoning. Dixons body was taken charge of by relatives in Macomb County. Philips body was for- warded to his wife at Allerton, Iowa.

Portrait and Biorgraphical Album of Sanilac County 1884 Pg 384


In the winter of 1883-4, David Pickard, a notorious crook in this county, was convicted of the larceny of a horse. His conviction was brought about to a considerable extent by the effort of J. A. Nealy, another crook, who gave information that led to Pickard‚€™s conviction. Pickard was sentenced to a term of five years in the State Prison at Jackson, and after arriving at his destination, sent word to the Prosecuting Attorney that himself, Mr. Nealy and Mr. Dixon had perpetrated the murder of Philips. An investigation 1 followed, but Pickards story was so inconsistent with known facts, that after the examination, which lasted several days, Nealy, who had been arrested, was by request of the Prosecuting Attorney discharged.

Pickards story is not generally believed, although there are some who think it true.

Portrait and Biorgraphical Album of Sanilac County 1884 Pg 389