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Tag Archives: Running Away

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: 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 […]

The American Malefactor’s Dictionary: break, give someone a

break, give someone a – to liberate someone from prison. Sources Partridge, Eric. A Dictionary of the Underworld. New York: Bonanza Books, 1961. Note: See “Cant: The Language of the Underworld” to learn more about the background of the American Malefactor’s Dictionary.

Early American Criminals: The Curse on Joseph Lightly

Joseph Lightly relates in his Last Words and Dying Speech that when his mother learned he had enlisted in the British army, “she told me she hoped she should hear of my being hanged, for my Cruelty of going to leave her against her Will.” Lightly’s mother may simply have been reacting to the moment, […]

Early American Criminals: Stephen Smith on the Common

Stephen Smith was born a slave in 1769 in Virginia. His last name was originally Allen, but he changed it to Smith in order to escape from the master who owned him, William Allen. Smith’s father was a religious man, but his mother encouraged him to steal. With her prompting, Smith committed several small […]