1745: Eve, her smoke visible throughout the country

On this date in 1745, Orange County, Virginia was darkened by the smoke from a stake where a slave named Eve died for poisoning her master, Peter Montague.

As accused, Eve, “not having God before her eyes nor considering the obedience to the said Peter Montague, her master, but led and seduced by the instigation of the Devil … with force of arms and her malice forethought, feloniously and traitorously did mingle and poison milk … did give it to the said Peter Montague, which he did taste, eat, drink and swallow down … and did languish until the 27th day of December. Eve falsely, traitorously and feloniously of her malice forethought with the poison … did kill, poison and murder.” (Quoted here.)

Eve asserted her innocence to no avail at her trial on January 23. The court condemned her to “be drawn upon a hurdle to the place of execution and there to be burnt.”

Upon the execution of that sentence — “the smoke of the burning of Eve was visible over a large extent of the country” — the Montague estate was compensated £50 by the Commonwealth of Virginia for the destruction of its human property.

On this day..

4 thoughts on “1745: Eve, her smoke visible throughout the country

  1. Despite it being illegal for her to read, yes, she probably did know. Not necessarily that she’d be burnt, but surely die. The death penalty rarely deters the act of murder, whether it be citizen, master or slave. Desperate people do desperate things. Simply being a slave at that time, and in the part of the world where she languished was more than enough to drive her to it. Everyone has a breaking point. That is, of course, if she actually committed this murder.

  2. Jason, I too am a descendant of this Peter Montague and share your feelings regarding both parties and how they met the end. I wonder though, if there isn’t someplace to research the relationship between slave and owner….a reason Eve may have proceeded to this act—surely she knew what the consequences would be.

  3. The Peter Montague referenced here was actually my 6th Great-Grandfather. This story was not passed down through my family however I did discover it while researching my family history. Needless to say I was shocked and saddened to read this. I was saddened for the terrible way my own ancestor died but even more for the gruesome fate that Eve suffered. Personally I can’t help but wonder if perhaps she was innocent and the general lack of medical understanding regarding many illnesses may have misdiagnosed the true cause of Peter’s illness and subsequent death. The institution of slavery was a horrible thing and I’m not proud to have had ancestors which participated in the practice. One does not wish to think ill of their own ancestors but I will not also put on rose colored glasses when considering the past. I would hope that my ancestor was not the type of person who would cause someone to intentionally end his life but I also can’t ignore the fact that Eve lived in a time and world where she was held in bondage and also likely suffered greatly. It’s a tragic situation all around but as a descendant of the allegedly murdered party I wanted to express that I’m sorry for Eve and am saddened by the horrific ending of her life.

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