Dec. 7, 1907: Morris Buck Hanged for Killing Mrs. Canfield, Former Employer

Note: This is an encore post from 2006.

Dec. 7, 1907
Los Angeles

“I asked if she received the letter. She said she had. I asked her if she would loan me a sum of money to be paid back monthly and I was going to open a bakeshop.

“She said that she had so many—several calls for money, that she didn’t see how she could loan me any and she says: ‘Why can’t you work?’


“I said I had been working but I never got anything ahead to start up in business. She says: ‘Have you any relations? Can’t you borrow any money from Will?’

“He is my brother. I told her that he was poorer than I was.

“I told her I was different from the others.

“She says: ‘You wait here’ and she went in the hall and she came out again. I was standing up.

“She came over toward me and I says: ‘Who did you ring up?

“She says: ‘I rang James, the coachman.’

“At the same time, she placed her hand in her vest and I moved to the left….

“As soon as I saw her hand in her vest I turned to the right and I pulled my gun and I says: ‘Throw up your hands.’

“And she says: ‘Put down that gun’ and she turns and says ‘Go back, he has got a gun’ and she would not put her hands up.

“And I says: ‘Would you strike an old man?’

“And she says: ‘Yes.’

“I says: ‘Would you put me into an asylum?’

“And she says: ‘Yes.’

“And I pulled the trigger and she hollered: ‘Help!’

“I pulled the trigger the third time. It only went off twice. I pulled it twice and then I pulled it the third time and it wouldn’t fire. I was about two feet from her. I was afraid of my own life. I didn’t see any weapon that she had. But I didn’t want to take any chances.”

…. “She fell and I said something over the body. I don’t remember what.

“Then I went toward the railing and I saw a lot of men in the road and I put the gun up to my head and I said: ‘Gentlemen, must I blow it out?’

“Nobody said anything that I could hear. I said: ‘Gentlemen, it relies on you.’

“Somebody says: ‘Who has got a gun? Shoot him.’ And then somebody says: ‘Give me the gun.’

“I was sitting down on the rocking chair. Then I got up and I says… I was sitting down and says: ‘Don’t any of you shoot. Let an officer take charge of this.’

“Then they says: ‘Kill him. Hang him.’

“And I got up and I pulled my gun. I had two guns. And they says: ‘Look out, he has got another gun.’

“I stepped back and I run. I jumped over the rope on the side porch and run to the next corner. I must have lost my other gun. It dropped out of my pocket. I ran down on 4th Street and then down as far as Westlake.”

… “I run into the ice cream parlor and I says; ‘There is a fellow after me.’ And I says: ‘Close the door and don’t let him in till an officer comes.’

“And he says: ‘We know it. Lean over’ and she [he?] shut the door. And an officer came and brought me here.”

Morris Buck was convicted in the Jan. 27, 1906, slaying of his former employer, the wife of Charles A. Canfield, an oil executive and partner of E.L. Doheny, at the Canfield home at 8th and Alvarado. According to The Times, Buck shot her once after she refused to loan him $2,600, and her young daughter screamed and ran into the house. The wounded woman wrestled with Buck as he shot her again.

Buck claimed that he was insane, having once been kicked in the head by a horse. He had been held in the mental ward at the County Hospital for two months in 1903, but the insanity plea was rejected as a ruse.

An expert on Bertillon criminology said: “Buck is one of the most interesting criminals I ever saw. I do not believe he is insane; he is, in my opinion, a low degenerate from the effect of vicious personal habits.

“His eyes are dull and perfectly lifeless; his lower jaw lops open and his scrawny, limp body seems to be giving away at the knees. It seems as though there is not a drop of real life in him.”

The criminologist warned: “If that man is ever hanged you can be prepared for something horrible. I have seen men of just his stamp hanged—weak degenerates. Awful! They break down and are dragged to the gallows weeping and sobbing like children and are held up to have the noose put on.”

In fact, Buck went quietly:

“This morning, he awoke early, and after dressing himself in the clothes in which he was to be executed, he ate a hearty breakfast,” The Times says. “Father Callopy remained with him until he was declared dead.”

“A few moments before the time set for the execution, the warden entered the condemned cell and read the death warrant. Buck’s hands were then strapped to his sides and the march to the gallows was begun at 10:50. Warden Hoyle took the lead, then came the priests, chanting prayers for the dying and following came the condemned man, a guard on each side.

“He then stood upon the trap. Guard Albrogast placed the rope around his neck, drew the black cap, the signal was given and his body dropped.

“Below the trap stood the prison physician, Dr. Stone, and Dr. Galehuse of San Rafael. In 14 minutes, the condemned man was declared dead. The body was cut down and placed in a prison coffin.”

In an interesting footnote, five of Canfield’s children received $500 a piece from her estate. Another woman named Hattie Elizabeth Bryant or Dorothy Canfield was given $5. “It is not my desire that she be recognized as one of my children,” Canfield’s will said. Years later, it was revealed that Dorothy was a foundling taken in by the Canfields.

In 1911, Canfield’s son, Charles, fled to Mexico after passing worthless checks. His father said: “I don’t know where he is and I don’t care.”

In 1917, the five Canfield daughters, as trustees of $100,000, sought to sell their late father’s real estate to establish a school for girls.

In 1933, daughter Daisy Canfield Moreno died when the car in which she was riding plunged off Mulholland Highway on her way home from a late-night party at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

In 1972, the Canfield Foundation dissolved, giving $700,000 to Mills College and $1 million each to Pepperdine and Stanford.

And nowhere, in any of these news stories, do we learn Mrs. C.A. Canfield’s first name. It is almost beyond belief.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1907, 1908, 1911, Crime and Courts, LAPD, Streetcars and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dec. 7, 1907: Morris Buck Hanged for Killing Mrs. Canfield, Former Employer

  1. Eve says:

    Daisy Canfield Moreno was the wife of extremely hot actor Antonio Moreno, and was in the car with a young man named Rene Dussac when they crashed (her survived). Daisy must have had more “It” than three Clara Bows!


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