TW: Discussion of Suicide
I recently visited the grave of James A. Moon, a “fighting quaker’ in the Civil War, a farmer, a blacksmith, and an inventor. Yet, his legacy is attached to his final deadly invention.
On June 10, 1876, Moon drove a wagon away from his two-story house he shared with his wife and two children and headed towards downtown Lafayette, Indiana. Loaded in a trunk were the following, which he eventually carried (with help) into his room at the Lahr House: “Five 30-inch lengths of 1-by-6 lumber, a wooden soapbox, assorted screws, leather straps, a dowel, a brace and three bits, a wrench, a screwdriver, a candle, a few yards of lightweight cord, matches and a pencil” (Bob Kriebel, Journal & Courier). Such contents would be used to create a deadly device.
The next day, June 11th, a beheaded James Moon was found in his room by hosterly staff. It seems he had ended his own life by constructing and using a guillotine, which was activated by a cord and candle:
One end of the jointed wooden arm — fashioned out of the 1-by-6 lumber — swung on a hinge screwed into the floor. The two-inch thick iron bars bolted to the broadax weighted the far end. Moon had measured things precisely then strapped himself so that the ax would fall upon his throat. (Bob Kriebel, Journal & Courier)
The coroner’s jury ruled he died by his own hand. To learn more about the event, I recommend reading Bob Kriebel’s article. To read a collection of newspaper articles that describe the aftermath (patent issues and prior behavior), I suggest you check out Chris Woodyard’s Haunted Ohio.
James Aaron Moon is buried in Farmers Institute Cemetery in Shadeland, IN. I suggest visiting the cemetery and the historic Farmers Institute up the road.