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Colonial Cases


1817: Murder of Dr. SANDERSON, executed JOHN HAMILTON, see 28 November 1870.


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

LEXINGTON, KY. APRIL 24. -  On yesterday morning Judge Call was found dead in his room in the Lunatic Asylum, suspended by the neck to one of the iron sashes, by means of his handkerchief and suspenders.  No suspicion had been entertained by the keepers of his having any intention of putting an end to his existence.


CATAWBA JOURNAL (Charlotte, N.C.), 29 August 1826

SCENES OF THE WEST. - Almost every mail from the west, brings some tale of horror.  The following atrocious acts have been perpetrated within the last month:

   More horrors. - We have to add to the list of the many murders that have been committed in Kentucky, that of Michael Coffman and George W. Courtney, who were shot with rifle guns on Friday evening the 14th inst.  These men, it is stated, were returning home, from the house of Thos. James, Esq. near the Beach fork, in that county.  It is supposed they were way laid by one two or more persons, and shot,.  They were found on Sunday morning the 16th instant: A coroner's inquest was held over the bodies of the deceased persons, who found a verdict of murder, by some persons unknown.  Coffman was shot in the breast and fell dead, it is supposed, in the road; his body had been removed about twenty-five yards, and thrown being a large log.  Courtney was shot in the back, supposed to have run from the road into the woods, where he was found.  We forbear to make any comments upon this murder, or the circumstances that have lead to the apprehension of five persons, viz. James Watson, William Watson, Isaac Watson, Doctor Watson, and John Watson, who were charged with the murder, and committed to jail for examination and trial. St. Louis Gaz.


CATAWBA JOURNAL (Charlotte, N.C.), 7 August 1827

From the Kentucky Advertiser

Melancholy Accident. - On Friday, the 29th ult. While Major C. P. Luckett, and his family, were spending the day with a friend in Portland, a little negro boy, 7 or 8 years of age, who was playing with the children of the two families, got into his hands a loaded gun from a closet, the door of which chanced to be left open, and presented it to a little daughter of Maj. Luckett, about six years old, when, dreadful to relate, it went off, discharging its contents in the breast of the innocent and beautiful little creature.  She survived but a few moments, exclaiming as she expired, 'oh father - oh mother - oh - Jesus - Jesus help me - Jesus take me."  Good God what a scene - to witness the distracted mother pressing her bleeding and dying child to her bosom - it was awful beyond description.


JACKSONVILLE REPUBLICAN (Ala.), 25 February 1837

SHOCKING EVENT. - We copy the following horrid details from the Louisville (Ky.) Journal of Jan 7th.

   We learn that a most disastrous encounter occurred two or three days ago on Plumb Creek, in Shelby county.  The circumstances, as we are informed, are nearly as follows.  There had been for some time a dispute between Mr. John Turnham and Mr. Greenville Allen - two young gentlemen of wealth and respectability, both just married, in regard to the boundary line between a couple of plantations.  On Tuesday or Wednesday last, they met on or near the disputed line, each attended by friends or relatives, and after some  wrangling, Turnham shot Allen through the breast with a rifle, whereupon a cousin of Allen, [with] another rifle shot Turnham through the head. [He] died on the spot.


THE CORRECTOR (Sag Harbor, Pa.), Wednesday 18 September 1839

Teaching the young Idea how to shoot.

The Lexington, Ky. Intelligencer states that a bloody affray took place at Richmond, Ky. on the 29th. between Mr. Mazzey, principal of an academy at Richmond, and Mr. Thomas M. Stone, a merchant of that place, which resulted in the death of the latter.  The parties met in the street, both armed with pistols, and fired three rounds apiece, two of which, from Muzzey, took effect upon his antagonist, causing immediate death.


SETTLER AND PENNON (Smethport, Pa.), 30 September 1841


Three men were recently sentenced to be hanged in Kentucky, for an atrocious murder committed in that State a few months since.  We learn from the Louisville Advertiser, that on 24th of August, one of these men named Jason Bell, was found dead in his cell; an inquest was held, and a verdict returned that he died by the visitation of God!  On the 1st instant, another of them, (Pleasant Saddler) was found dead, having committed suicide by hanging himself from the grates of his cell, by a rope made of his blanket.  Carrington Sampson still remains in custody, and is to be hanged on the 21st inst.


WINONA DAILY REPUBLICAN, MN., Wednesday 23 November 1870 (2)

A REMARKABLE case of circumstantial evidence, leading to the hanging for murder of an innocent man, has just come to light, and is published in the Courier-Journal. 

   In the year 1817, Dr.  John P. SANDERSON was murdered in Metcalfe County, Kentucky, and JOHN C. HAMILTON was executed as his assassin.  All the circumstances connected with the case pointed so surely towards Mr. HAMILTON as the murderer, that no jury on earthy could have failed to convict him; the victim's money was found in his possession' overalls belonging to him were found spotted with blood; he had borrowed the pistol with which SANDERSON was killed, and he was the last man seen in his company on a lonely road near which the mangled body was found.  Little could be done by the defendant's counsel save showing his client's good character and giving his extremely improbable explanation of the whole case.  His statements were not corroborated, and he was hanged.

   In 1869, RICHARD H. ROSSEAU, then Minister to South America, learned through unquestionable sources that about thirty or thirty-five years ago a man was executed for murder in the eastern part of Mississippi who, under the gallows, confessed that it was he and a comrade of his who had murdered SANDERSON, wrenching from his hand the pistol which HAMILTON had lent him, and blowing his brains out with it.


Bainbridge Weekly Democrat, 15 October 1874


[From the Franklin (Ky.) Patriot, Sept. 5.]

  We referred a few weeks ago to an invention called "perpetual motion," constructed by an old negro who lives in three miles of this place.  It is a wagon, so arranged that after being set in motion, it runs itself by virtue of the fact that the weight of gravitation is thrown forward of the centre of motion, and consequently the machine is compelled to run.

  It has been the intention of the inventor to have his wagon at the faire on the 9th of September, so that its value may be tested publicly in the presence of the thousands of people who will be present; and we learn from one of the best mechanics that last Wednesday - the same day of the circus - the old negro mounted his machine, adjusted the hands, tipped the balance weight over the centre of motion, and started to Franklin to report to John B. Morgan, secretary of the Association, and have his machine regularly entered on the books.  About one mile this side of the old negro's home there is a noted point called "Red Point," immediately at the forks of the Cross Plains and Springfield roads; and there, unfortunately, an accident occurred which we fear will cause a disappointment to many inventors who were coming to the fair for the purpose of examining this wonderful invention.  The machine was humming along the smooth,  sandy road at about fifteen miles an hour and the happy inventor was on deck, feeling as proud as Fulton on board of his first steamboat, when in making the turn just near the margin of the Red pond, the starboard front  wheel collided with a heavy-set post-oak sapling, and the rebound was so powerful that the old negro was thrown forward over the dash-board, and was at the same time struck by the flange of the driving-wheel, which precipitated his speed so much that when he struck the fence-panel, on the opposite side of the road, he was so badly smashed that death must have taken place immediately.

  Coroner Hatfield's inquest was uncertain as to whether he had been killed by a sudden stroke of the driving-wheel or by a too hasty collision with the panel of the fence. The machine, after the accident, struck out with freedom, and passing the residence of Capt. Lea, soon made its way across in the direction of Boisseau's meadow, was arrested in its progress by a large log which tilted the balance-weight back of the centre of motion, and the wild wagon was standing gently at rest when overtaken by the coroner and his party, who were following to take care of the killed and wounded.

  Since the tragic death of the inventor, no man has dared to mount the fiery untamed steed, but our informant asserts that it will be on exhibition at the Fair Grounds and we invite the attention of inventors and machinists to its peculiar mechanism.

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