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Category Archives: Criminals

Early American Criminals: Francis Burdett Personel and the Liberty Pole

Constable Mr. Van Gelder was just about to abandon his search. He had recently been sent to New Haven, CT to find Francis Personel by New York City mayor Whitehead Hicks, who had learned that Personel was possibly hiding out in that city. But what Van Gelder did not know was that at the same […]

Early American Criminals: The Cuckolded Soldier

Around 1764 or 1765, Bryan Sheehen returned home to his wife in Casco Bay, ME after serving in the regular army for a long six and a half years. But the joy of his homecoming turned into rage when he learned that his wife had remarried during his absence to a Frenchman. Sheehen made preparations […]

Early American Criminals: “The Wicked Flee When None Pursue”

The final chapter in the fall of John Ormsby began when he stabbed a man in the chest with a fork in Boston in 1734. In his Last SPEECH and Dying WORDS, Ormsby says that he was hanging around a friend’s shop when some of the boys who worked there persuaded him that a customer […]

Early American Criminals: Joseph Quasson’s Repentance

When Native American, Joseph Quasson, learned that he would spend eight or nine months in prison before he could face trial for murder, he secretly believed that he could properly repent in a quarter of the time. After all, he had once regularly attended church when he was young. But as the time for his […]

Early American Criminals: The Conversion of Esther Rodgers

The night before the special event, Esther Rodgers exclaimed to the group of people who had gathered in her cell, “Oh! I have had the joyfullest day to day that ever I had in my whole life. I bless God that ever I came into this Prison.” Rodgers’s exclamation is remarkable. She had little exposure […]

Early American Criminals: Elizabeth Wilson’s Secret

Near the beginning of the year in 1785, a traveler paused while walking through the countryside near Chester, PA to watch as his dog began to sniff and scratch among some brush. The man’s curiosity soon turned to horror when his faithful companion emerged from its feverish digging with the separated head of an infant […]

Early American Criminals: Rachel Wall’s Fall From Grace

Rachel Wall knew exactly what to say and how to say it in her Life, Last Words and Dying CONFESSION, where she eloquently appealed to God and her “dear Savior and Redeemer JESUS CHRIST, who is able to save all those that, by faith, come unto him, not refusing even the chief of sinners.” After […]

Early American Criminals: The Mother of the Infant in the Well

On Saturday morning, August 11, 1739, a female infant was discovered in a well near the outskirts of Portsmouth, NH. Warrants were immediately issued, and a search was conducted to find the mother who presumably had murdered the baby. By the afternoon, officers focused their attention on Sarah Simpson, a 27 year-old widow. Neighbors believed […]

Early American Criminals: William Fly’s Revenge

To this vile Crue you may the PIRATE add Who puts to Sea the Merchant to invade, And reaps the Profit of another’s Trade. He sculks behind some Rock, or swiftly flies From Creek to Creek, rich Vessels to surprise. By this ungodly Course the Robber gains, And lays up so much Wealth, that he […]

Early American Criminals: Thomas Hellier’s “Hell upon Earth”

With the ill treatment by his mistress “burning and broyling in [his] Breast,” Thomas Hellier, an indentured servant on a Virginia plantation, knew he had to escape. In 1677, Hellier was tricked into signing an indentured servant contract back in England with the promise that he would not be forced to perform physical labor and […]