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Colonial Cases


Otsego Herald, 13 July 1815

Distressing Accident. - On the 20th ult. a carriage, containing Mrs. [Clurg], Mrs. R. Gamble, and Mrs. Wickham and child was dashed to pieces in Richmond (Vir.) by the horse taking fright and running; the first named lady was instantly killed, and the other three persons dangerously wounded.


Geneva Gazette, 31 July 1816

   A shocking accident happened at Fredericksburgh, Va. on the 13th inst.  A Mr. Wm. Jones having occasion to leave his store in the afternoon of that day, as he was about closing the door he threw the stump of as segar, which he had been smoking, behind him, which fell into a keg of powder and immediately exploded.  In an instant the house was blown to atoms, and he mangled in such a manner that he died in a few hours.


Ontario Repository, 16 March 1819


Melancholy and Singular Event. - Narrating the military parades, &c. at Richmond, Va. In honor of the 22d February, the Compiler adds:

   A most melancholy catastrophe closed the day.  Col. William Tatham, so well known in England and this country, for his acquaintance with civil engineering, who has been residing in this city for two or three years, but whose utility was considerably arrested by an unfortunate habit to which he had become addicted, was destined on this day to breathe his last.  In a moment of intemperance, as he stood by the piece of artillery which was firing the evening salute, he exclaimed that he wished to die.  As the second gun was about to fire, and immediately after the commanding officer had given the word "fire," Col. Tatham presented himself in front of the muzzle of the piece, and by its discharge his abdomen was almost literally blown to pieces.  His body was raised a few feet in the air by the explosion, and he fell upon his face without uttering a word that was heard by the bye-standers.  When he was taken up, he was found perfectly lifeless.


Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, 1 January 1853

The Tragedy at Petersburg, Va.

   Our city was, on yesterday, shocked by the most daring and dreadful outrages with which any community was ever visited.  Some days since, a man by the name of Sadler, from Brunswick county, was committed to our jail to await his trial  for negro stealing, and was locked up in the same cell with one John Jones, who had been committed for horse theft, and an Irishman by the name of Boyle.  On yesterday, Sunday morning, about 10 o'clock, the two guards at the jail, Messrs. Williams and Taylor, entered the cell of these prisoners and furnished them with their breakfast, which they ate and seemed satisfied with.  The rest of the horrible transaction in the jail in Petersburg, is told by the following testimony, given before the Coroner's Inquest.

   Robert A. Traylor being duly sworn, testified that he was one of the guards of the jail, and assisted in feeding the prisoners.  That he, with Mr. Williams, had opened the cell in which Sadler, Jones, and Boyle were confined, letting them into the passage, which was unlocked; that while he was feeding the colored prisoners, in an opposite cell, and was in the act of locking the door, Sadler and Jones rushed out of the passage.  Sadler locked the door, and in a few minutes, heard the report of fire arms; called the colored man George, who exclaimed that he was shot and dying.

   Question - Did you search the prisoner, Sadler, when he was committed to jail.

   Answer - When Sadler was committed to the cells  from above, his pockets were searched and he then had no weapon.

      John Jones, confined in jail in the same room with Benj. Sadler, being  duly sworn, testified that while in jail, has frequently heard Sadler say he intended to escape from jail if he had to kill four persons and then kill himself; that this morning, when the officers came down to feed the prisoners, and while they were at one of the rooms opposite the one in which the witness had been confined,  that he (the witness) went out of the jail passage to ask George (the colored man) for a bucket, and, while out there, Saddler came out of the passage door and locked the officers in.  The wiriness and Sadler both ran up the steps and there saw the deceased, Joel Sturdevant, standing against the outside door leading  from the jail, which was locked; that Sadler demanded of Sturdivant that he should unlock the door, or he Sadler would shoot him - That Sturdivant stepped aside from the door, and, as he did so, Sadler shot Sturdivant, who then seized hold of Sadler.  Sadler opened the front door, when he (Jones) went out, leaving Sadler behind, who fired the pistol the second time, but witness did not see who Sadler shot the last time.

   Dr. Chas. F. Crouch being duly sworn, testified that he was one of the first at the jail after the alarm was given; found the colored man just inside of the porch steps, sitting up, with a severe wound on his chin, and saw Mr. Sturdivant lying in the passage, examined him and found him dead - was at the post mortem examination.

   Sadler, after committing these dreadful deeds, accompanied by Jones, [details of escape and subsequent events.]

   The following proceedings before an inquest held by Charles Friend, Esq., acting as coroner for the county of Prince George, will show the manner in which Sadler hurried to the presence of his Maker, there to atone for his dreadful crimes.

   Charles Ledbetter, duly sworn, testified that he had known Sadler since 1836, and it was certainly the body of Ben Sadler.  He, Sadler, was here about three hours since alive, and he, Ledbetter, told him he must return to Petersburg with him. Sadler said, "Ledbetter, I can't go."  Ledbetter said, "I'll shoot you if you don't go."  Sadler replied, "Charley, I love you and will not hurt you," then drew out his pistol from his pocket, and placing it to his head, snapped it twice, and making a third trial fired the pistol, and fell dead, the ball entering the head just above the right ear. .  .  .  .   The inquest  found a verdict in conformity with the above facts. .  .  .  . 

  • The poor old negro man is in a most precarious condition, although his life is not despaired of. Petersburg Intelligencer, Dec. 20.


Cooper's Clarksburg Intelligencer, 19 January 1853

FATAL AFFRAY. - An affray took place on Thursday night at the fandango, between the city Marshal and a Mexican, which resulted in the death of the latter.  As much as we regret the result of the difficulty, we are compelled to say, from the evidence before us, (and we were on the coroner's inquest,) M<r. C. B. Aiken,  acted altogether on the defensive.  Although several times dared to fight, as an officer of the city, he declined the combat, till in an unguarded moment, the Mexican assassin aimed a blow at his heart, which, fortunately missed its mark, only cutting the sleeve of his overcoat. - Aiken immediately seized his antagonist, threw him on the ground, stabbing him seven times with his sheath knife, which breaking in his body, he rose and shot him with a six shooter.

   It is due to Mr. Aiken to say that he sought not the affray.  It is due to justice to say there Mexican was a desperado.  The name of the Mexican was Naponicico Villereal. - Corpus Christi (Texas) Valley.


Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, 10 May 1853

CORONER'S INQUEST. - The body of a newly born infant was found dead in the John street grave-yard on Sunday.  It was enslaved in a small shoe box and clothed in a neat linen shirt and covered with a piece of new muslin.  Dr. M. CAMPBELL, who made a post mortem examination of the body, discovered that it had once breathed, but could perceive no traces of poison or violence.  It was apparently but a few hours or days old.  The only thing approximating to a clue as to how it came there, was the statement of a lady living in the neighborhood, who testified that in the forenoon while people were generally at church, she saw a woman with a bundle  going in the direction of the grave yard, and returning without the bundle.  She did not know the woman, but thought she could identify her if she were to see  her again. The verdict was that the child came to its death from causes unknown to the jury.


Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, 23 May 1853

LAMENTABLE OCCURRENCE. - The neighborhood of M street north, between Seventh and Eighth streets, were horrified on Saturday night last, about ten o'clock, by the commission in their midst of a bloody homicide and attempt at self-destruction, by a staid, quiet and worthy citizen, of hitherto irreproachable character, Mr. Robert A. Hawke, who for many years has held the post of messenger in the General Post Office department.

   We believe the facts are about these: For several; months past Hawke's friends, including his wife, suspected that his mind was subject to occasional aberrations, not to such an extent as to cause serious alarm.  On Saturday night last, about ten o'clock, after Hawke and his wife had retired and were in bed, he made the assault upon her life with a razor by cutting her throat, but no so as to prevent her from awaking their only child, a little girl sleeping in the adjoining room.  Though dreadfully cut, the jugular vein and carotid artery being both severed, Mrs. Hawke went down stairs, and, opening the front door, beckoned to a young man named Johnston, then passing in the street, but, unable to articulate, he did not at first understand her.  She then returned within doors; again she came out beckoning; a second time returned within, and then fell dead. This was observed by young Johnston and his mother, who had by this time arrived.  During this Hawke was up stairs, speaking through an opened chamber window that he had killed his wife.  He had attempted his own life, two bad cuts having been found on his throat.

   When the officers of the law came to arrest him, Hawke placed in their hands a letter which purports to be his last will and testament, his own suicide being contemplated in it.  The murder of the child is also involved, as he made no provision for her among his bequests.  This letter, too horrible for publication, is evidently the work of a maniac.

   Hawke was taken to the   watch house, and having made full acknowledgment of the crime, because "he could not bear to be parted from his dear wife and child," was duly committed.  His wounds were dressed at the jail.

   A coroner's inquest was held yesterday morning over the body, the verdict being in accordance with the foregoing. - Nat. Int.


Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, 23 July 1853

Coroner Cullen, Camden. Phil. Evening Bulletin.


Monongalia Mirror, 20 August 1853


We understand a Coroner's Inquest was held on Wednesday last upon the body of John Tibbs long a resident of this county, on or near the lands of Mr. John S. Dorsey.  The particulars attending this unfortunate affair, we learn are about these:- It appears that the deceased had repaired on Monday last to the still house belonging to Samuel Johnson for the purpose of getting his jug filled.  He did so and on his return, it is supposed that he was overcome by the effects of the liquor and death was the consequence.  The verdict of the jury, we understand, was in accordance with the facts above stated.


Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, 31 August 1853

To Council City Wheeling, Gunpowder explosion, Ohio County. Death of Wallaston Kimberly.


Cooper's Clarksburg Register, 28 September 1853

A SAD AFFAIR.  - On Thursday evening last, SILAS BAILEY, who resides a short distance below Jane Lew, in this county, was committed to Jail, charged with having murdered his wife a day or two previous.  Circumstances attending her decease, led to the supposition that she had been mistreated, and a Coroner's Inquest was held, which returned a verdict "that Ellen Bailey came to her death from violent treatment from her husband, Silks Bailey, at different periods a short time before her death." Justice Simpson immediately issued a warrant for the arrest of Bailey, and, accordingly, he was brought to Jail, by Sheriff Hall, on Thursday last.  As the matter is to undergo a Judicial investigation, it would be unjust to give the particulars of this horrid deed.  Bailey is a man of most intemperate habits - was drunk at the time of his arrest and committal to prison, and this sad affair may be traced to "Rum's doings." - Weston herald.


Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, 29 December 1853

MURDER. - An affray occurred on Saturday night last, at a lager beer house on Bond street, between Fleet and Alice Anna streets, which resulted in the death of a young German named Peter Miller.  It appears that there was a ball going on in the house at the time, and about 10 o'clock a number of disorderly young men entered, and soon got into an affray.  Upon the arrival of the watchmen, who were promptly on the spot, the fracas was suppressed.  Miller did not take any part whatever in the disturbance, but left the ballroom and retired below to the bar-room.  While standing at the bar, a young man named Luke Burns, who was one of the party that had been fighting upstairs, entered from the street, and approached Miller in a threatening attitude, with a knife in his hand. The latter begged him to desist, stating that he had never harmed him, but Burns rushed forward and stabbed him in the abdomen, inflicting a fearful wound, from the effects of which Miller died on Sunday afternoon. Coroner Hall held an inquest over the body, and the jury returned a verdict in accordance with the facts.  Burns was arrested by Lieutenants Shaffer and Stewart of the night watch, and committed to jail for further hearing. - Balt. Patriot.


Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.), 29 January 1855

Strange Deaths.  - Male and female negros at Princess Anne Co. - very faint in right margin.


Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.), 29 November 1855

Fatal Accident. - On Sunday morning, a German named Koch, residing in this city, proceeded in company with a friend several miles up the river to a place called Williams' Island, for the purpose of shooting game.  On arriving there the two sat down to rest, and when they rose the hammer of Koch's gun was caught by a twig, which caused the piece to explode, and the contents were lodged in his body.  He survived the accident but a short time.  An inquest was held over the body, resulting in a verdict of accidental death.  Koch was employed at the Tredegar iron Works, and was much respected by his acquaintances.  He had been married but a short time. - Richmond Whig.


Rome Weekly Courier (Ga.), 29 June 1860    --


Lynchburg, Va., June 23. - The brothers Hardwick, of the   Lynchburg Republican, and the two Button brothers, of the Virginian, had a street fight, to-day, in which Joseph Button was killed, and Robert Button wounded. The Hardwicks have been committed to jail, and both printing offices are closed. The affair has created a deep feeling in this community.


Rome Weekly Courier, (Ga.), 7 September 1860 

SHOCKING ACCIDENT. - Mr. Jesse Flyck, living near Molroso Rockinham county, Va., accidentally shot himself on Tuesday morning last.  He was passing out of a door in his dwelling with a loaded gun, when by some means or other it was discharged, the load passing through his nose, into his eye, and up through his brain and out the top of his head.  His wife, who was in bed, jumped up and ran to him, but he was not able to speak.  He reached his hand to her, and died in a few moments.  He leaves a large family of children.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School