Son of Samuel Temple Bicknell (1815-1868) and Mary B. Wallace (1818-1880), of Blount and Maury counties, TN. Murdered. He is said by some to have been a dentist in Columbia, the county seat of Maury Co. Whether or not this was actually true, he was working as an itinerant book salesman at the time of his death, travelling by horseback to his next destination. During the journey, he was reportedly accosted by another rider who robbed and killed him and stole his horse. A man known as Walker (alias Watts, alias Powell) was arrested for the crime and allegedly confessed to the deed. He was taken to the Columbia jail and placed under heavy guard, but managed to escape when an angry mob initially tried to lynch him. Later tracked down and rearrested, Walker was again removed from jail by a band of vigilantes and summarily hanged. Some sources have claimed Walker was white; others have identified him as African-American. There is no doubt that John Bicknell was a founding member of the Pale Faces, a local white supremacist group, and was said by some to have been a member of the Ku Klux Klan as well. Both groups were reported to have performed their respective rituals at his funeral and interment. Indeed, Maury Co., in central TN, was at this time a well-known hotbed of Confederate die-hardism and Klan atrocities committed against both blacks and whites. Some have even claimed that it was where the Klan originated. The case has become a notable one in the annals of 19th-century American lynchings.
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