1811: John Andrews, whisky man

This date is the bicentennial of the first public execution in Seneca County, New York. (There would only be one other.)

Future New York Gov. Joseph C. Yates — for whom the adjacent Yates County is named — was already a state Supreme Court justice when he repaired to the newly-built county courthouse in tiny Ovid to judge the case of the cottonmouthed contract clodhopper.

Yates duly condemned John Andrews to hang on account of murdering (pdf) a local distillery worker for the rather disproportionate offense of not ladling Andrews a drink of whisky after Andrews had completed some odd job or other for the place.

Sometimes a man takes a drink. Sometimes a drink takes a man.

Surrounded by the usual contingent of Militia and the surging crowd that had assembled from the town and surrounding contryside through the earlier circulation of handbills that had declared the unusual event as a sort of holiday, the noose was adjusted and Andrews quickly jerked into eternity. Some of the spectators had taken to the roof-tops, others were perched in nearby trees, and parents held their children high on their shoulders for a better view. No other event, save the General Trainings of Militia, called together so many people as did a hanging in those early times. Years afterwards, the stumps of the gallows were pointed out, as a spectator recalled the details of that momentous day. Some three years later, Reuben Tingley, who lived in close proximity to the Court-House in this village, killed his wife by a blow on the head with an axe, and then cut his own throat. The murder and suicide on October 28, 1814, saved the county the expense of an execution, but deprived the curious of an opportunity to witness a second public hanging, a fact that might have well been foremost in the mind of the murderer after having dispatched his wife. (Source)

Part of the Themed Set: Americana.

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