Posts filed under 'Theft'

1896: Ivan Kovalev, Russian meddler

Add comment February 21st, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1896, Russian refugee Ivan Kovalev was hanged for a Sacramento double murder.

Kovalev and nine other Russian convicts had in 1893 fled from the most remote and dreaded of Russia’s Far East penal colonies, Sakhalin Island.

They might have met Anton Chekhov when he visited in Sakhalin in 1890 to compose the investigative articles that would become his book Sakhalin Island, one of the great pieces of journalism of his time. “Utter hell,” the great playwright mused of that brutal and befogged colony. “I feel that if I were a convict, I would escape immediately, whatever the consequences.”

Kovalev and nine mates felt exactly the same and they did it in the form of a downright suicidal flight from Sakhalin’s abyss in an open launch ventured into the Pacific in hopes of reaching Japan. They were on the brink of succumbing to their privations when they were miraculously picked up by a San Francisco-based whaler, the Charles W. Morgan.**

The convicts claimed that they were escaped political prisoners, a demographic that enjoyed western sympathy; there’s every chance that they were actually violent criminals but their tale of woe in the bowels of tsardom was persuasive and times being what they were a background check with the nearest consulate was not an option. The Sakhalin escapees were allowed to stay in California.

On December 30, 1894, about sixteen months after they drew their last moldy Sakhalin rations, Kovalev with two accomplices† bashed the brains out of the aged grocer F.H.L. Weber and his wife with an axe so that they could rob his store. Chekhov? Make that Dostoyevsky.

It took several months to zero in on the perpetrator but once the conviction was secured, indignant Sacramentans applied in record numbers for passes to attend the hanging, such “a spirit of enmity and hatred toward this son of far-away Russia” having been aroused by the horrid circumstances of the butchery that “it is evident that a spirit of satisfaction is abroad in the community at the thought that … Ivan Kovalev will expiate that crime with his life.”

* The New York Public Library hosts a digital collection of photos of the Sakhalin penal colony, here. Others can be browsed at the Sakhalin Regional Museum site.

** The Charles W. Morgan had an 80-year service history; it’s been restored and can be visited in Mystic, Connecticut.


1971 U.S. postage stamp commemorating the Charles W. Morgan‘s preservation.

† The accomplices don’t figure in the execution story: one was mortally wounded in an unrelated subsequent robbery, prior to Kovalev’s arrest; the other wound up serving time for burglary.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,California,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Hanged,Murder,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Russia,Theft,USA

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1917: The only triple hanging in Montana

Add comment February 16th, 2018 Headsman

Anaconda Standard, Jan. 11, 1917:

The story of the crime was that seven negroes boarded an eastbound freight train on the Great Northern railway at Nihil on Oct. 5 with the intention of beating their way. They found the car they boarded, a gondola loaded with lumber, already occupied by three white men. The deceased [Michael Freeman] and two companions, Earl Fretwell and Claud C. Campbell. The negroes first went through the white men, obtaining a small sum of money and some trinkets, and then directed them to get off the train, which was going at the rate of 30 miles an hour. The men begged to be allowed to remain on the train until it stopped or slowed down. Fretwell started to comply, being urged by blows, and was struck on the head with a revolver and fell from the car. Campbell jumped from the train, followed by a fusillade of shots. Freeman was shot from behind, the bullet entering his back, and his body thrown from the train, being found alongside the track the next morning.

National Public Radio, July 2, 2014 (associated audio story):

“I was curiosity with a ‘C.’ I just started to pepper him with questions — ‘Oh, Grandpa, what was it like? Did they lose their heads? Did their eyes bug out? Did everybody cheer? Did everybody cry?'” Zachary says.

“And he raised a hand, which told me to shut up. And he said three words: ‘It was awful.'”

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Hanged,History,Montana,Murder,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Theft,USA

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1751: William Parsons, Grub Street fodder

Add comment February 11th, 2018 Headsman

We return for this post to a hanging we have previously attended, an uncommonly interesting February 11, 1751 dectuple execution at Tyburn.

Hulking pugilist turned Hogarth allegory James Field was one featured attraction in this batch; the other was the Eton-educated, dissolute son of a baronet, one William Parsons.


This is considerably higher society than a baronet, but we don’t need much excuse hereabouts for a Barry Lyndon tribute.

In the broadest strokes he was the sort of parasitic failson whom the more common stock have long loved to detest, his dissipation having seen him first disinherited, then sent abroad with the Royal Navy (he washed out), then rescuing his situation with a favorable marriage and an army appointment before “the extravagant manner in which he lived, and the loss of large sums of money in gambling, compelled him to throw up his commission, and to return … to his country, a beggar and a vagabond.”

Sentenced by a lenient court to the hard New World frontier of Maryland, Parsons leveraged his family’s good name to escape almost immediately from the drudgery of indentured servitude and risked a return to the mother country where he took to the roads to espouse the classic profession of the embarrassed gentleman, and made men stand and deliver.

It sufficed in the end to recognize him returned from transportation to secure his condemnation, at which Parsons excites the loathing of contemporaries and posterity alike by making bold to beg mercy of his judge “in regard to the family to which I belong, who never had a blot in their escutcheon.” Escutcheon this.

In the scheme of things, his career of self-destruction makes the man nothing but a minor malefactor. However, at least for a season his precipitation — because nine Britons in ten would have looked with envy on his situation even as a disinherited ensign or for that matter as a man with the pull to self-parole from penal transportation — made for the sort of morality play ideally suited to the mass print culture burgeoning in the gallows’ shade.

As we have previously noted in an Irish context, the scrabbling biographers of the latest doomed criminal themselves forever arrived at loggerheads, their rival pamphlets chasing preeminence in authority and rapidity before yesterday’s outrage could be displaced in the public memory by tomorrow’s.

The institutional voice of this racket was of course the Ordinary of Newgate, who by this point had for decades been gobbling up publishing residuals thanks to his didactic and ever more embroidered Ordinary’s Accounts. His entry for February 11, 1751 is a fine exemplar of the genre, running to 19 pages of which the last two are taken up with revenue-pumping advertisements.* With apologies to James Field, the Parsons narrative entirely overawes that of his nine fellow-sufferers, with six full pages devoted to lovingly reminiscing this one man’s tragedy.

Among those lines, we find our divine has relaxed his focus on the salvation of his patients long enough to throw an elbow in the direction of the independent hustlers who will be contesting the marketplace against the Ordinary’s own forthcoming Parsons biography.

N. B. If a certain independent Teacher, or any one else intends to print a Life of Parsons write by himself, take Care left he has imposed upon your Credulity, as he has done to all that had any Thing to do with him.

The “teacher” referenced here is probably Grub Street hack Christopher Smart, who had abandoned a praelectorship at Pembroke College for the charms of movable type … but it’s likely the Ordinary merely selected this allusion because his happened to be the flashiest brand at that moment among the scabrous-broadsheet set, like a present-day critic might metonymize media with the name of Rupert Murdoch.** Richard Ward has argued in his Print Culture, Crime and Justice in 18th-Century London that this moment occurs amid an “explosion in printed crime reporting in London in the years 1748-55 … created in large part by [publishers’] efforts to generate and sustain public interest in crime.”

The Rev. John Taylor would indeed like any self-respecting scribe collect a second purse on his prose by recycling his Ordinary’s Account version (prepended with the trial transcript) into a distinct standalone publication — “The Trial and Remarkable Life of William Parsons” &c., which Taylor authenticates on the title plate with the notation, “Publish’d by the Minister who attended him while under Sentence of Death, and at the Place of Execution”.

We have nothing like an exhaustive catalogue of the print ephemera swarming Old Blighty in those days, but at least one rival publisher attempted to “impose upon the Credulity” of Parsons gawkers. Francis Stamper’s† “Memoirs of the Life and Adventures of William Parsons, Esq.” claims to have been “Written by Himself [i.e., Parsons], and Corrected (with Additions) at his own Request by a Gentleman.” It runs upwards of 60 picaresque pages.

In a like vein is “A Genuine, Impartial, and Authentick Account of the Life of William Parsons, Esq.” &c. promulgated by Thomas Parker, a regular haunt of the Old Bailey crime blotter; however, close readers might notice that Parker is also one of the publishers of the Ordinary’s Accounts‡ and for that reason his edition is presumably more commercially congenial to that clergyman. Parker promises besides the expected biography a trove of correspondence to and from Parsons in the dungeons — we might well suspect whose hand has procured it — a good deal of which is taken up in Parsons imposing pleas for intercession upon a friendly earl, on his prosecutor, and upon his family to pull whatever strings they might.

* One of those ads hyped publication of “A COMPLEAT HISTORY OF JAMES MACLEAN, The GENTLEMAN HIGHWAYMAN”; that man had just hanged four months previous. This volume went abroad under the imprimatur of Charles Corbett, who shared with Thomas Parker the contract to publish the Ordinary’s Accounts.

** A satirical poem called “Old Woman’s Dunciad”, itself a travesty of Pope’s “Dunciad”, was in those weeks burning up the London bestseller lists. Smart is targeted for satire in the poem but was also suspected to be the author. In fact, it was the work of another knight of the low literature called William Kenrick — but both Kenrick and Smart intentionally muddied the authorship lurking behind the pen name “Mary Midnight”, which both men employed. (For context on the dizzying 1750-1751 publishing scene, see Christopher Smart: Clown of God.)

† Stamper was a collaborator of William Kenrick’s (see preceding footnote).

‡ Look for it on the first page of the Ordinary’s Account: “Printed for, and sold by T. PARKER, in Jewin-street, and C. CORBETT, over-against St. Dunstan’s Church, in Fleet-street, the only authorised Printers of the Dying Speeches.” This notice is to be found repeatedly in Ordinary’s Accounts of the period; moreover, Corbett and Parker sometimes advertise their potboilers in those same accounts, in language that makes explicit their alliance with the Ordinary. For example, we have this from the March 23, 1752 Account:

In a Few Days will be Published, The Only Genuine and Authentic NARRATIVE OF THE PROCEEDINGS Of the Late Capt. LOWREY, Both before and after he became Commander of the Ship MOLLY: As the same was delivered by himself, in Manuscript, into the Hands of the Rev. Mr. TAYLOR, Ordinary of NEWGATE, some short Time before his Execution.

Printed only for T. PARKER, in JEWIN-STREET, AND C. CORBETT, in FLEET-STREET.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Mass Executions,Public Executions,Theft

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1715: Ann Wright, branded

Add comment February 2nd, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1715, a longtime petty thief named Ann Wright — or was it Martha Wright? or Ann Hutchins? or Elizabeth Jolly? — hanged at Tyburn.

In the absence of modern trappings like a standing police force, criminal dossiers, and systematic record-keeping — innovations that lay decades into the future — small-time criminals could float at the margins for the duration of many years and many offenses by relying on the forgetfulness of the legal apparatus: with nothing but a casual alias, one might hope to appear over and over again as a new offender.

Here we see Ordinary of Newgate Paul Lorrain deploy his own investigative acumen to trace for us one woman’s career, a very much more penetrating biography of an Early Modern commoner than we can usually access. We can see from his account of offenses — for how many crimes must Lorrain be omitting in this register? — that he was greatly aided by Wright’s own body which bore the mark of our Old Offender’s repeated brandings. That included scars earned during the brief period from 1699 to 1707 when brands could be applied to an offender’s cheeks, a fate which apparently befell Ann Wright on no fewer than five occasions.*

By the time he came to Wright’s terminal adventure, Rev. Lorrain had held the post of ministering to convicts for fifteen years and could probably boast as expert an acquaintance with London’s criminal underworld as any square; whether he knew Ann Wright on sight or knew her by reputation, he knew her.

Ann Wright, condemn’d for breaking the Lock of Eliz. Barrot’s Chamber-Door, with an intent to rob her, on the 30th of October last. She was about 38 Years of age, and liv’d in the Parish of St. Dunstan, Stepney. She would hardly confess her self guilty of the Crime for which she was justly Condemn’d; neither did she readily acknowledge, that she had done several other Facts of the like heinous nature, and was an old Offender: But when I laid before her, and charg’d her with diverse Burglaries and Robberies, which I knew she had committed, then she could not deny her being Guilty of them.

Here I shall give the Reader a Particular of some of those wicked Facts of hers, and the several Punishments she receiv’d for them, the Time when, and the various Names she went by.

1st, She was (under the Name of Martha Wright) Burnt in the Cheek at the Old-Baily, on the 10th of July, 1702, for entring the House of Mr. James Gee, and taking thence 4 Muslin-Neckcloths, 2 Holland-Aprons, a Hol-Smock, a Cloth-coat, Wastcoat and Breeches, with diverse other Goods, on the 2d of the said Month of July.

2dly, She was (under the Name of Ann Rebel alias Ann Hutchins, which latter, as she said, was her Maiden-Name) also Burnt in the Chek at the
See original Click to see original

Old-Baily, on the 11th of September, 1702, for Robbing the House of Mr. Joseph Lineum, on the 7th of August before, and taking thence 6 Hempen-Aprons, 6 Dowlas-Shirts, 6 Smocks, &c.

3dly, She was again (under the same Name of Ann Hutchins) Burnt in the Cheek, at the Old-Baily, on the 9th of July, 1703, for stealing 5 ounces of China-Silk from Mr. John Sheppard, and other Silks from Mr. Nathanael Wichel, on the 19th of May before.

4thly, She was in like manner (under the Name of Ann Hutchins) Burnt in the Cheek, at the Old-Baily, on the 2d of June, 1704, for stealing 4 Buck-Skins from Mr. Tho. Boddington, on the 4th of May preceding.

5thly, She was (under the Name of Elizabeth Jolly alias Hodges, which latter she said was her Husband’s Name) again Burnt in the Cheek, at the Old-Baily, on the 17th of January, 1704/1705, for stealing 16 yards of Silk, a Stuff-Gown and Petticoat, 12 ells of Holland, 26 yards of Lace, and diverse other Goods of Mr. Edward Kenworthy’s, on the 14th of June, 1704.

6thly, She was (under the Name of Eliza. Wright) on the 6th of July, try’d at the Old-Baily, and order’d to be whipt, for stealing a Silver-Spoon and a Cambrick-Handkerchief, from Mr. Anthony Moreing, on the 17th of June before.

7thly, She was (under the Name of Ann Hicken) Burnt in the Hand, at the Old-Baily, on the 26th of February, 1707/1708, for stealing 10 ounces of Silver Orrice-Lace, and 12 ounces of Gold-Lace, from Mrs. Margaret Tiplady, on the 3d Day of the same Month.

8thly, She was again (under the Name of Ann Hutchins) Burnt in the Hand at the Old-Baily, on the 9th of July, 1708, for Robbing Mrs. Mary Collier’s House, and taking from thence 1 pound 15 ounces of Raw-Silk, on the 26th of the preceding June.

9thly, She did (under the Name of Ann Hodges alias Hodgkins) receive Sentence of Death, at the Old-Baily, on the 6th of May, 1709, for Breaking the House of Mr. John Marsh, and taking from thence a Psalm-book, two Cloth-Coats, a Diaper Table-cloth, 10 Napkins, and several other things, on the 11th of April before; for which having obtain’d a Reprieve, and afterwards a Pardon, which she pleaded in Court at the Old-Baily, on the 8th of December, 1710, (at which time she was order’d to the Bridewell of Clerkenwell for 2 Years) she no sooner had her Liberty (which she got by breaking out of that House of Correction) but she return’d to her former wicked Way of Robbing. So that,

10thly, She was again (under the Name of Ann Hutchens) Burnt in the Hand at the Old-Baily, on the 12th of April, 1711, for stealing 4 Holland-Smocks that hung up a drying in the Yard of Mr. William Baker, on the 28th of March preceding.

11thly, She was (under the Name of Ann Hodges) Burnt in the Hand at the Old-Baily, on the 28th of February, 1711/1712, for Stealing a Coat, Wastcoat, and Breeches, Linnen, Gold-Rings, and other Goods, of Mrs. Susannah Butterwick, on the 12th of the same Month.

12thly, and Lastly, (to mention no more of these sad Particulars) She was again (under the Name of Ann Hodges, alias Jenkins, alias Jeatzin) Burnt in the Hand, at the Old-Baily, on the 2d of May, 1712, for a Felony, in stealing Pewter and other Goods out of the House of Mr. John Simmonds, on the 5th of the ‘foregoing March.

All these her notorious Facts, of which I had taken a particular Account, I laid before her, together with some others she had been try’d for, but acquitted of, for want of positive Evidence to convict her, tho’ there was no great reason to doubt her being guilty of ‘em: And moreover, I put her in mind of her having frequently broke out of the Workhouse, to which she had several times been sent, for her Correction and Amendment; the former whereof she would not receive, nor bring her self to the practice of the latter, but plainly shew’d her ill Disposition and wicked Desire of returning (as she did so fast as she could) to her sinful Course of Life; of which I exhorted and press’d her to make a free Confession, and repent. Whereupon she acknowledg’d her Guilt in these Matters, saying, (in general) That she had done many ill things, but her discovering them in particular (were she able fully to do that) would be now of no use to the World. Having some just Suspicion that she had been concern’d in Facts committed in Surrey, and try’d for them in that County, I put the Question to her, which she answer’d in the Negative, thinking (I suppose) that those Facts could not so easily be known to me, being done not only at a distance, and in a County where I have nothing to do, but also under Names which she thought fit at times to take and shift, as suited best her Occasions of disguising her self, and concealing Who and What she was. I found her all along very stupid, and insensible both of her sad Condition, and the Cause of it. When I examin’d her in private, she was very sullen, spoke but few (and those angry) Words, and shed fewer Tears: What her inward Thoughts were, I can’t tell; but she gave little sign of true Repentance. As I observ’d her in that harden’d Temper, so I told her, That she behav’d her self just as I had seen others do, who were guilty of Murder, whom (above all other Sinners) the Devil does what he can to hinder from repenting; and therefore I must needs plainly say this to her, That I was afraid she had been concern’d in some Bl[oo]dy Fact or other; for she seem’d to me to be more than a common Sinner. To this she answer’d, That she never committed any Murder in her Life. No? said I to her; Did you never kill a Bastard-Child, to hide your Shame when you were in Service? (for I knew she had been a Servant in some Families in and about London.) At this Question she startled, and after a Pause (not without some discomposure) said, She was very clear of that Crime. However I gave her to understand I greatly suspected she was not, for she had been a very wicked, lewd, and debauch’d Woman; and so I offer’d her some ghostly Advice herein. Then I further ask’d her, Whether she knew any thing of the Murder of Esq. Hanson and Mr. Carlton, who (some Years ago) were found murder’d, viz. the first near the Vinegar-house beyond Moorfields, and the other between Rosemary-branch and Cambray-house, in Islington Parish. To which she reply’d, That she had indeed heard of those Murders, but was not in the least concern’d in ‘em, nor knew who had committed them. This is all I could get from her, who (as I observ’d with great Concern) instead of making a right use of the long Time and good Instruction she had under this Condemnation, seem’d (all the while) to have nothing so much at Heart as getting a Reprieve, and avoiding this Death; tho’ I endeavour’d to make her sensible, there was no manner of ground for her Hope of Life in this World; and, that if she were wise she would (as ’twas infinitely better she should) seriously consider her sad and miserable Condition by reason of her Sins, and so by all the Acts of Repentance she was capable of exerting, prepare herself for her great Change that was approaching and inevitable. And this important Consideration I urg’d to her, to the very last.

At the Place of Execution (whither both she and George Hynes were this Day carried from Newgate in a Cart, and where I attended them for the last time) she seem’d to be much dejected and sorrowful; and no Wonder, for she had great Cause to be so. Hynes likewise cry’d bitterly, lamenting and bewailing his past sinful Life. Here I gave them proper Admonitions; and after I had pray’d, and sung some Penitential Psalms with them, and made ‘em rehearse the Apostles Creed, I advis’d, that they would (and accordingly they did) desire the Spectators to pray for them, and take Warning by their Fall; To keep the Sabbath-day, serve God, and live honestly. Then I withdrew from them, recommending their Souls to God, and leaving them to their private Devotions, for which they had some Time allotted. After this the Cart drew away, and they were turn’d off, crying all the while to God for Mercy, Pardon, and Salvation.

* We’ve previously seen that London authorities didn’t mind applying the brand several times to a habitual offender.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,Public Executions,Theft,Women

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1696: Thomas Randal, obstinate

Add comment January 29th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1696, Thomas Randal was executed and hanged in chains for the robbery-murder of a Quaker named Roger Levens or Leavens.

Despite what the broadsheet below would have you believe, Randal never acknowledged the crime and begged forgiveness, at least not outside the confines of his own soul. The Ordinary of Newgate devotes a considerable portion of his 29th January 1696 account to his thorough but unavailing work on Randal’s conscience.

“On Wednesday in the Afternoon I took him aside,” he recounts — seemingly referring to a conversation a week prior to the hanging, which took place on Wednesday the 29th.

and for a considerable time endeavour’d to perswade him, no longer Athiestically [sic] to deny the Crime; but he stood out in the denial of it, whereupon I read to him, what was sworn against him at his Tryal, and that the Jury was fully convinced in their Consciences that he was guilty. Which they declared, when they gave their Verdict. He reply’d, That he did not matter that, being clear in his own Conscience. Then I told him, that he obstructed any Rational Hopes of his Salvation, and that all Persons who read the Book of Tryals, whom I met with, believ’d him to be guilty.

I pray’d, that God would work him to a free and full acknowledgment of his Crime, and grant him Repentance for it. Yet he deny’d it, and said, That he was resolved to to so at the time of his Death. I told him of a Person who Murther’d his Wife, and deny’d it several times at the place of Execution, wishing Damnation on himself, if he knew any thing of it. After I had pray’d thrice, that God would perswade him to declare the Truth; I told him, If I went out of the Cart any more, he would be presently Executed, and then he could not be Saved, dying in his Atheistical Impenitency. At last he call’d me back and said, I Murthered my Wife with a Pistol, and shot her in the Head; but let not the People know it. I said, your self shall declare, that you Murthered her. Then he said, All you that behold me pray for me, that God would Pardon my great Provocation of him denying my Crime against my Conscience; for had I died with a Lye in my Mouth, I had been damned. This Account somewhat startled Randal, and altred his Countenance; then I pray’d again, that God would not leave him to dye in so barbarous a Crime, but to confess it, and to Repent of his former Obstinacy. After this he said not any word by way of reply: Then I told him, that he ought to consider of whatsoever I had said, and I hoped that he would confess the Crime before he dy’d. He said, that he had lived in much Sinning, but would not acknowledge any particular.

Breaking down the obstinance of the doomed was one of the Ordinary’s core competencies but he never managed to add Randal’s soul to his ranks of sheep stealers made saints: the man went to the gallows with the same story on his lips.

On Wednesday the 29 January, Thomas Randal who killed Roger Levens the Quaker, was put into a Cart and conveyed by the Deceased’s Door at White-Chappel, and from thence to the Place of his Execution at Stone-bridge by Kingsland, where he is to hang in Irons, on a Gibbet, till his Body be consumed. He did confess that he was at the Marshalsea with Lock and Green but denied that he never spoke any such Words, that he did kill the Quaker: he acknowledged that he did say to the Serjeant when he was Taken, that he was a Dead Man, and that he had been a very wicked Sinner, and had been Guilty of all manner of Sins in general; (except that of Murder) He owned a Burglary that he committed at Linton, near Saffron Walden in Essex; but would not confess any of his Accomplices. He said that Hunt and he had been in many Robberies. The Worthy Sheriffs did exhort him with Spiritual Council, that he should make an Ingenious Confession, and not to perfist in his Obstinacy, and Dye with a Lye in his Mouth, but to have regard to his precious soul; it wrought nothing upon him, his Heart being so hardened, he would not discover any thing of the Murder; nor any of the Persons that was with him at the time; but hoped that he had done his Work with God-Almighty. Then Mr. Ordinary pressed him, and told him that Confession was the first step to Repentance; and without that he could hardly make his Peace with God; but it did avail nothing with him, he still persisting in the same, till the Cart Drew away; He was turned off.

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Entry Filed under: 17th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Gibbeted,Hanged,Murder,Public Executions,Theft

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1725: James Casady, aged beggar

Add comment January 27th, 2018 Headsman

Original Dublin broadsheet via James Kelly’s Gallows Speeches: From Eighteenth-Century Ireland:


THE LAST SPEECH AND DYING WORDS OF
JAMES CASADY

Beggar Man who was Executed this Day, being the 27th of this Instant January, 1724-5* at Kilmainham, for Robbing on the High-Road.

Good People,

I was Born in Artlow in the County of Wicklow, and had very honest Parents, who gave me good Edication.

When I came to my Tryal before the Judge at Kilmianham, one Margaret Nowland and Owna Callahan, Swore I was a Robber these thirty Years past, and they also said that I was concern’d in Robbing the Bishop of Dublin, for which I was Try’d and Clar’d; the above Witness also Swore that I was concerned in a Robbery of a Gentlemans House in Great Britain Street, about three Years ago; The said Owna also Swore that I, one O’Neil, and a Piper was concern’d the last Robbery, and that she was one of their Comrades then, and watch’d in the Street while the said Robbery was doing.

They also swore that I had plates and Dishes in my Custody; which I brought out of the sd. House, Also that the above Margaret swore that when she heard the great dogg bark, that she came down stairs, and seeing me and agove 3 Men coming out of Capt. Gratons House, she heard the sd. Casady speak to the rest of his Comrades to Murder her, to which the said Ona Cry’d out and spoke to ‘em, and begg’d that there should be no murder, Committed where she was, this is what the above Per-[sons?] swore against me at the Sessions-House in Kilmainham.

Now I do hereby Declare before God, the sheriff, and all the rest of my Spectators, that as I am here to suffer this untimely Death; tho’ I cou’d not live much longer, for I am about 80 years of Age.

As for what Money I had by me, it was very honestly got, and I design’d it for my Son, but having an extravagant Wife, was the reason that I always carried the sd. money always with me, wherever I went a begging, or to work any where, which I am sure that the sd. money is the cause of this my untimely end.

I James Cassedy do further declare at this my Dying Minute, that I do not know any of these my Prosecutors, and on the Dying Words of one who expects Salvation I know nothing of the matter that I am Charg’d with.

I do not blame the Judge nor Jury, and I forgive all the World, I would die a Roman Catholick, and the Lord have Mercy on my poor Soul.

He was buried under the Gallows in his Cloaths.

* 1725 by our present-day reckoning; because England’s new year at this time did not officially occur until March 25, it was still legally 1724. Many documents of this period write dates in this manner (“1724-5″) for clarity, since it was a potential confusion to contemporaries as well. Calendars are aggravating sometimes.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Ireland,Public Executions,Theft

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1830: Benito de Soto, a pirate hanged at Gibraltar

1 comment January 25th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1830, the Galician or Portuguese pirate Benito de Soto was hanged at Gibraltar.

One of the very last of the dying breed of high-seas pirates, de Soto mutinied aboard an Argentine slave smuggler in 1827, re-christened her Burla Negra (“Black Joke”), and ran up the black flag.*

The pirates now entered freely into their villianous [sic] pursuit, and plundered many vessels; amongst others was an American brig, the treatment of which forms the chef d’oeuvre of their atrocity. Having taken out of this brig all the valuables they could find, they hatched down all hands to the hold, except a black man, who was allowed to remain on deck, for the special purpose of affording in his torture an amusing exhibition to Soto and his gang. They set fire to the brig, then lay to, to observe the progress of the flames; and as the miserable African bounded from rope to rope, now climbing to the mast head — now clinging to the shrouds — now leaping to one part of the vessel, and now to another, — their enjoyment seemed raised to its highest pitch. At length the hatches opened to the devouring element, the tortured victim of their fiendish cruelty fell exhausted into the flames, and the horrid and revolting scene closed amidst the shouts of the miscreants who had caused it.

Of their other exploits, that which ranks next in turpitude, and which led to their overthrow, was the piracy of the Morning Star. They fell in with that vessel near the Island Ascension, in the year 1828, as she was on her voyage from Ceylon to England. This vessel, besides a valuable cargo, had on board sevreal [sic] passengers, consisting of a major and his wife, an assistant surgeon, two civilians, about five and twenty invalid soldiers, and three or four of their wives. As soon as Benito de Soto perceived the ship, which was at day-light on the 21st of February, he called up all hands, and prepared for attacking her; he was at the time steering on an opposite course to that of the Morning Star. On reconnoitring [sic] her, he at first supposed she was a French vessel; but Rabazan, one of his crew, who was himself a Frenchman, assured him the ship was British. “So much the better,” exclaimed Soto, in English, (for he could speak that language,) “we shall find the more booty.”

The Burla Negra was much the faster and better-armed ship — in fact the Morning Star was completely unarmed, with not even a store of small arms for her frightened passengers — and soon corralled her prey, murdered the captain and mate, plundered the ship, and gang-raped the women aboard. The only mercy was that the marauders, out of tenderness or drunkenness (having also helped themselves to the Morning Star‘s wine), only imprisoned the human cargo below when they scuttled the ship and sailed away — and the passengers and crew were able to free themselves before they drowned and return safe home to tell the tale of their outrage.

Benito de Soto sailed next for his home port of Corunna, with the aid of a hostage navigator commandeered from his next prize. (The captain ruthlessly shot said unwilling helmsman dead upon arrival.) This adventure, however, marked the last of his career for on the way back to sea the corsairs were shipwrecked and had to take refuge at British Gibraltar where, after residing some time under false identities, a survivor of the Morning Star recognized them.

Easy come, easy go. “Adeus todos!” were his understated last words, not counting those syllables whistled by the salt winds through his posthumous pike-mounted skull.

However, British authorities — who were very conscious that they had detected the villain by pure chance — were not at all amused by the ease with which he had set up in Gibraltar. His legacy would be an impetus to Gibraltar officials to tighten up entrance regulations and, later that same year of 1830, to institute the Royal Gibraltar Police — the oldest police force in the Commonwealth outside the British isles.

* The slaver was full of African slaves, so the first profitable thing the buccaneers did was complete the vessel’s “legitimate” purpose by smuggling them to the West Indies. A black cabin boy that de Soto chose to retain would be captured with the rest and give evidence against the pirates. “The black slave of the pirate stood upon the battery trembling before his dying master to behold the awful termination of a series of events, the recital of which to his African countrymen, when he shall return to his home, will give them no doubt, a dreadful picture of European civilization,” muses our reporter.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Gibbeted,Gibraltar,Hanged,History,Murder,Piracy,Pirates,Public Executions,Rape,Theft

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1886: Henry Jackson, religiously inclined

Add comment January 22nd, 2018 Headsman

From the New York Times, Jan. 23, 1886:

NEW-ORLEANS, La., Jan. 22. — Last July Henry Britton, of Minden Junction, was found murdered in his store. He had been shot through an open window with a shotgun and his brains blown out. The murderer, it was subsequently shown, deliberately crawled into the store window over the dead body, took down some sardines from the shelf, opened them, and made a meal. After eating he rifled the cash drawers and the dead man’s pockets, securing about $130 in money and two watches. He then went out the front door, taking the key which had been left sticking into the lock on the inside. He closed the door and carried away the key. The next morning, which was Sunday, a negro named Henry Jackson appeared at the negro church at Arcadia, 10 miles away, took a prominent part in the services, and contributed liberally to the church. On Monday morning, as soon as the business houses were opened, Jackson commenced purchasing goods freely, which led to a suspicion of his being the man who committed the murder.

Jackson was arrested, and when searched the money and watches — one of them with the murdered man’s initials on it — and the store key were found on him. He stoutly asserted his innocence until he was returned to Minden and jailed. He then confessed. He said that he knew Britton had money, and he murdered him for it. Jackson was tried by a jury composed of his own color, who found him guilty of murder in the first degree, without leaving their seats. He was sentenced to be hanged on such day as the Governor might name. He experienced religion a week after he was jailed, and he said that the Lord had forgiven him, and he was going straight to heaven.

The murderer was hanged to-day, and the event is notable in consequence of his being the first person ever legally hanged in Webster Parish. He came down the stairs to the gallows singing a negro revival hymn at 12:50 in the presence of the Sheriff, his deputy, and the witnesses allowed by law. The rope holding the trap on which the prisoner stood was cut, and in 15 minutes the doctor declared the man dead. His neck was instantly broken, and there was every indication of an instantaneous death. Jackson was singing a hymn when the trap fell.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Hanged,Louisiana,Murder,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Theft,USA

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1875: A day in the death penalty on opposite sides of Pennsylvania

Add comment January 20th, 2018 Headsman

Pennsylvania, that state once described as Philadelphia in the east and Pittsburgh in the west with Alabama in between, had dueling hangings in its two metropolises on this date in 1875.

Philadelphia: Frederick Heidenblut

German immigrant Fritz Heidenblut, who weighed in at a reported 52 kg, strangled to death on a too-short drop. Boarding with the Kuhnle family, Heidenblut had unexpectedly attacked them on Dec. 31, 1873, with the base objective of stealing cash and valuables.

The mother (barely) survived the ordeal, and would later describe how she

was suddenly awakened by a heavy weight pressing upon my breast; and, looking up, I found Fritz kneeling on me, and his hands grasping my throat. He did not speak, and I was unable to do so. In the struggle I scratched his face, and he bit off a piece of my ear and the end of one of my fingers. He then left me for dead, as I suppose, and went to the bureau-drawer, from which he took $55.

When Mrs. Kuhnle came to, she was able to crawl downstairs where she found her husband murdered in the family bakehouse. Heidenblut was arrested that evening, blowing through the $55 at a nearby tavern.

After execution, Heidenblut’s body was turned over to physicians for galvanic experimentation.

Pittsburgh: Samuel Beightley, Jr.

While Heidenblut’s spirit faltered visibly as his hanging-day approached, Pittsburgh’s Samuel Beightley maintained his obnoxious joviality — even pranking his counsel with a fool’s errand to find his “hidden treasure” on the eve of execution.

Beightley, a few days after being discharged from his seasonal farmhand gig by Murrayville farmer Joseph Kerr in autumn 1873, had returned and slaughtered Mr. Kerr, again with the motive of robbery. Like his Philadelphian brother in homicide, Beightley earned low marks for concealment, leaving his own bloodied coat at the murder scene as he retired home where he popped into bed and pretended to be asleep when the posse came.

“To see Beightley was to hate him,” observed the Chicago Daily Tribune, whose Jan. 21, 1875 issue is our source for both crimes in this post.

He was of that peculiarly brutal cast of countenance which shows murder in the very cut of the jaws, and the bull-neck was but the mere accompaniment to an evidently-merciless disposition. He was about 22 years old, and rather short, but stoutly built. His conduct since his condemnation showed the nature of the man. He evidenced no sorrow or remorse for the killing of the old man, who to him had proved a good and true friend. Beightly was fond of rowing, and led a lazy, vagabond life, scarcely ever working. He lived mostly by petty thefts.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Murder,Pennsylvania,Theft,USA

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1792: John Philips, a wretch robbed of life for so trivial a robbery

Add comment January 14th, 2018 Meaghan

(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)

On this date in 1792, sailor John Philips was hanged in Dublin, Ireland after being convicted of robbing a man of his hat and coat.

Philips, a 50-year-old sailor with a wife and five children back home, was based in London and knew no one in Dublin. He was unable to retain counsel for lack of funds, and the government was not required to provide him with one.

The jury who convicted him recommended mercy “in consideration of the apparent severity of robbing a wretch of life for so trivial a robbery,” but the Recorder of the Dublin, Denis George, sentenced him to death.

While awaiting his execution, Philips had a petition drawn up and sent to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmorland, asking for a commutation on the grounds that he was drunk at the time of the robbery.

As Brian Henry says, in his book Dublin Hanged: Crime, Law Enforcement and Punishment in Late Eighteenth-Century Dublin,

The Lord Lieutenant would in all probability have respited his hanging if he had received it in time. On the back of the petition was written, “has anything been done in this?” A stark answer followed: “was executed the 14th — Received 31st Jan 1792.” Philips was hanged at the front of Newgate on Saturday 14 January 1792.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Guest Writers,Hanged,Ireland,Other Voices,Public Executions,Theft

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