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Colonial Cases


Ontario Repository, 16 January 1816

   On the 11th inst. Abel H. Platt, of New Fairfield, Con. murdered his wife and two children, and then put an end to his own life.  A jury of inquest found a verdict of insanity.


Otsego Herald, 18 January 1816

From the N. Y. Commercial Advertiser.

Awful Occurrence. - The following letter from a gentleman in Danbury, Com. To his friend in this city, details one of the most awful scenes our country has ever witnessed.  It gives a melancholy exhibition of man either when deprived of reason, or when left without the influence of restraining grace.

DANBURY, Jan. 2, 1816

Dear Sir - I have just returned from a journey; and in passing through New Fairfield, I was called to witness one of the most shocking and horrid sights that the mind can conceive.  Abel H. Platt murdered his wife and two children, and then put an end to his own life.  The circumstances of this horrid deed are as follows: Plat had exhibited symptoms of insanity for three months past; during which time, he was once absent 3 days, and was found secreted in his barn without food or drink.  Of late, he appeared to have recovered his health and reason. - Yesterday he made preparation for butchering his hogs.  This morning, he rose at an early hour; made a fire for heating the water, and at the dawn of day, commenced the awful deed by striking his wife on the head with his axe, as she lay on her bed.  Her outcries awoke his mother, an elderly lady who slept in the adjoining room, and who immediately sprang to her assistance.  The blow his wife had received, not proving fatal, she extricated herself from him, and made an effort to escape from the room, but another blow brought her to the floor.  He then seized his daughter, a child of three years old, and his only son, a lad of six years, and destroyed them both with the same instrument.  His mother, in her efforts to wrest from him the axe, and stop his murderous career, received a severe cut on her arm.  She asked her son, whether he meant to murder her also; he replied that he would not hurt her.  Finding all her efforts to stop him in vain, she ran to a nearby neighbor for aid; and on her return with her neighbour, she found that he had cut his own throat, and lay across his weltering  family, with his knife lying by his side.  The sight was indeed shocking to behold! Look at his situation but last night -  see him in the prime of life (for he was but 32 years old) in easy circumstances, with a spotless character, with a beloied wife (just ready to be the mother of another offspring) and his two children, enjoying all the comforts of life - see them all, before the light of this morning's  sun, weltering in their own blood, shed by him who was given to be their protector!  The scene is too horrible - I can add no more. The jury of inquest have returned a verdict of insanity.


Otsego Herald, 21 March 1816

  Several persons have been bitten by a mad dog in Groton, Conn.  A young man of 18 years has died of the hydrophobia.


Ontario Repository, 12 August 1817

  A travelling stranger, about 60 years of age, hung himself in his lodging chamber, at Columbia, Conn. on the 20th ult.


CATAWBA JOURNAL (Charlotte, N.C.), 23 May 1826

Extraordinary Suicide. - We have this week to record one of the most extraordinary instances of self-murder that has ever, in the course of our editorial career, come under our observation.  Indeed, we doubt whether a similar instance can be found on record. - The case we allude to is that of a lad, about twelve years of age, (son of a Mr. John Steel of this city,) who deliberately put a period to his existence, on Thursday last, by hanging himself ! - The particulars of this tragical affair, as they have come to our knowledge, are briefly these: - About 11 o'clock he was observed to pass through the house and enter the chamber; but no suspicion being entertained of his design at the time, he was suffered to remain till dinner time, when his little sister was sent to call him.  Not finding him in the chamber, she went into the garret where he was discovered hanging by the neck, dead.  He had secured a rope-yarn to a beam in the garret fixed a noose around his neck, and springing from a box upon which he had stood, launched himself into eternity.  When found, his knees nearly reached the floor; his neck was broken.  All the circumstances of the case conspire to with the settled purpose of destroying prove that he went deliberately to work, himself.  Hartford Mercury.


CATAWBA JOURNAL (Charlotte, N.C.), 9 October 1827

Warnings. - On the 1st inst. a man named Bazileel Brown, residing in Greenwich, came to a sudden death while attempting to split a log with a charge of powder.  Having prepared the charge and procured the fire, it is supposed he held it over the powder, and blowing it, a spark was communicated, which produced an explosion and in an instant. As it were, he was in another world.  He is represented as having been intoxicated.

   On the 5th inst. Mr. George Elwood, of Norwalk, Conn. Esq. found dead on the beach at the mouth of the harbor.  A jury of inquest was called, who gave a verdict of "accidental drowning."  He had frequently given his family hints that he did not expect to remain long with them, & as he went out the day before his death, bade them farewell.  A long indulgence of intemperate habits is supposed to have affected his mind, and produced a temporary insanity, which may have led to his death.

   Died, in the same town, on the 6th inst. James Fayerweather, aged 26.  To habits of intemperance early imbibed, and constantly continued, may be attributed his untimely end.

   Mr. Benjamin H. Merriman, of Wallingford, in a fit of derangement on the 3s instant, cut the throat of his infant son, a few months old, of which wound the child died almost instantly.  We understand Mr. M. has sustained a respectable character, and is a person of considerable property.  He had expressed a fear, several months ago, that he would destroy some of his family.  There are various opinions respecting the cause of his occasional delirium.  Some persons think it was produced by his too free use of spirituous liquors of late.  He was sorry for having committed the deed - readily gave himself up - and plead guilty to the charge set forth in the warrant for his arrest.  He is con fined in gaol in this city. - New Haven Reg.


SETTLER AND PENNON (Smethport, Pa.), 14 May 1842


A letter in the New York papers states that a murder of peculiar atrocity has been [perpetrated at East Haddam, Conn., - a wife by her husband, (Halsey Coon,) on Sunday evening of last week.  The neighbors, having been summoned by the wretch himself, under pretence that a dreadful accident had happened to her, found her shockingly burnt.  She stoutly refused to give any satisfactory account of her condition, until assured by a physician that it was the work of her husband, that he had beaten her till she was nearly insensible, then tied her to a chair, and threw a shovelful of burning cinders upon her body.  She died in about two hours, and as a Jury of inquest pronounced, by the hands of her husband, who was immediately arrested. - The Norwich Courier of Saturday says:---

   'This inhuman monster, in the shape of a man is about 60 years of age, and it is only about 18 months ago, that a former wife of his was found burned to death in the fireplace of the same house.  Suspicion was strongly excited against him then, but there was, however, no proof of his guilt.  But at last retribution is like to overtake him, the measure of his iniquities being full.  Reader, what fell demon do you suppose tempted and betrayed this most depraved and miserable man to the commission of these acts of dreadful crime?  It was RUM!



Horrible Tragedy.

One of the most horrible tragedies it has ever fallen to our lot to record, was enacted in this city, between 7 and 8 o'clock on Saturday evening.  We have taken some pains to ascertain the particulars connected with this shocking affair, which are as follows:

   About 7 o'clock on Saturday evening, Willard Clark, grocer, doing business on the corner of York and George streets, entered the house of Mr. John Bogart, No. 18 West Chappel street, which he had been accustomed to do at intervals for a number of years past.  He went into the kitchen and found there Mr. and Mrs. Richard Wight, the son-in-law and daughter of Mr. Bogart, who, seeming to be somewhat annoyed by the presence of Clark, left the kitchen and passed into the parlor.  Clark followed them into the parlor, and advancing to the side of Mr. Wight, presented a pistol to his head, and discharged it within a few inches of his ear.  The ball entered the head of Mr. W. directly back of the right ear, and passing through the brain, lodged in the cranium at the back side of the head.  He fell upon the floor, giving a few terrible groans, which were distinctly heard by persons passing the house, who immediately entered to the assistance of the family.

   Clark looked upon the scene of blood for a moment, and then quietly walked out of the house.

   The alarm of murder spread with astonishing rapidity through the neighborhood, and people residing in that part of the city rushed to the spot, and in a very few moments at least two hundred persons had assembled around the house.  In the meantime officer Lee Dunning was immediately dispatched in search of the murderer.  He proceeded to the store of Clark, where he found him very quietly engaged in his usual occupation.  He asked Clark what he had been doing, to which he replied, "I don't know."  He then told him that he must go along with him, to jail, to which Clark replied, "Well, I suppose I must."

   Clark took out a sum of money from his pocket and very coolly handed it to his partner, and gave him directions concerning the disposition he must make of it, and gave orders in regard to the payment of some debts, and then told the officer he was ready to go.

   He was safely lodged in jail, and offered no resistance while on his way thither, and seemed as cool and deliberate as he ever did in any business transaction.

   Medical aid was called, and everything that could be done for the aid of the sufferer was applied by the best physicians in the city.  Drs. Knight, Punderson, Blakeslee and Hubbard were called in, but could render no medical or surgical aid, as it was believed he could survive but a short time.  He was placed upon a cot, where he lay without any apparent motion, occasionally groaning audibly.  A part of the brain protruded through the aperture made in the head, and the appearance of the wound indicated that the ball, in passing through the brain, took a direct course from right to left.

   The whole cause of this terrible tragedy seems to be the jealousy Clark entertained for Mr. Wight, who had married Miss Bogart against the wishes of Clark.  For several years past Clark had sought the hand of Miss Bogart in marriage, and had been repulsed by her, and finally she dismissed him, about a year since.

   Miss Bogart formed the acquaintance of Mr. Wight, to whom she became attached, and on the 12th day of last March they were united in marriage.  At the time she married Mr. Wight the lady was but seventeen years of age.  The family are highly respectable, and the sad news of such a deliberate attempt to murder has created the greatest excitement in the city. - New Haven Journal and Courier, April 30.

   The wounded man died on the 1st of May, and a Coroner's inquest returned a verdict in accordance with the above facts.


Rome Courier, 17 June 1862


   The New London Chronicle records the death of the venerable Dr. Samuel Nott, on the 28th ult., at his residence in Franklin, Conn.  He was in his 99th year.  About a week before his decease, his gown caught fire while sitting alone in his room and before it was extinguished, his hand was badly burned.  The injury and excitement consequent upon accident probably hastened his death.

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