James P Snell.

History of Sussex and Warren counties, New Jersey : online

. (page 51 of 190)
Online LibraryJames P SnellHistory of Sussex and Warren counties, New Jersey : → online text (page 51 of 190)
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lise of the gallows in Sussex was most unfortunate,
ami i- -till treasured in the memory of aired citizens
not as an event in which justice was vindicated, but
ist deplorable judicial tragedy.
"The main business of our I 'ounty Courts from the
beginning has been the collection of debts and the
i nt of disputed land-titles. The adjudications
of all matters in dispute have been treated with re-
spect. Impartial justice has been administered f

the first by our courts, ami never were any people

-e distinguished than those of Suss.es tor an

abiding reverence tor the precepts and principles of
public law. No difficult} has ever been experienced
in exi cuting the decrees "tour courts, insubordina-
tion and contempt of the constituted authorities are

ii"i ; ng the characteristics of our citizens, and

mver have been. Our courts of justice, from the

ii-ei, have bo acted as to se ure the respect of

the people. < luarding the rights of others, they have

* Roborl S, Ki nnedy, Bki., of Greenwich, a great'grandfli t John

BIiucwcll, write* that the fumtlj novet hollered tint n lidonco af-

ufll lout i tahll U 1

(ho men executed Bee! lei the testimony ol the two

m tantlul evidence; ono pofnt in particular Mr.
K. rcgarde sj Tory dc lilvo, via.: In tho deaporate straggli old Mr. Max-
well placed in- hand, whl li »n the hack of oi r the

thnsraudo he woe appro!

Any. Thl hut wo are lufor -1 that ilio

iniiii invvvdontbc trial thai upon the evening in quoatlon hi

girl whom . and the family, when lie arrived nl her

I io, wore I'ftiil intlty ol shad, Ui

the party, and while 1 1 • - • i t handawei uidling Sail outraila

».nii" playful Kudllng look place, In thee f which he mutt have

received ii"- mark on hi garment
John Mnxwoll, wIiom life came vorj riflcod In thle affair,

i of thai name In Greenwich-; he wa« one of the Ant
oldora and fouu lei - ■ I the Preabytoi Ian Cliun li In that townahtp, and
waa the fatlioi "i Gen. Wm, Maxwell and Capt.John Uaxwcll.ot tho
ltovulutl innrj army, both of whom were abaeul In the ki i Ii

trj a omitted. Bo had

l nl thetlmo.who tui Inning of the atfra;

I ii di ad, lie did not reviv ail the plun I

never permitted their own immunities tube infringed

without stern ami dignified rebuke. At a very early

period a certain bot-headed person, who mi-took the
oimpli it>, with which our judges admwi tered the
law for a lack of self-respect, ventured to pronounce
them in open court a pack of rascals; but he found
the joke a costly one: he was made to pay instanter
the Bum of twenty pounds for his temerity, and was
glad to escape as cheaply a- that when he saw the
spirit which his insolence had evoked not only from
ch, but from the spectators in the court-room.
Another individual, summoned as a grand juror,
made bis appear: ice at the proper time, but refused
to be sworn or affirmed, and thought by his obstinacy

to weary the patience of the court. But he

nothing by his notion, unless, in journeying home, he
found it facilitated locomotion to travel with pockets
pretty effectually emptied.

" Prior to the Revolutionary war, as I have before
stated, there was no execution for murder or other
crime. Neither was there any trial had for on
involving the forfeiture of life upon conviction of the
int, except in the case of one Charity Moore,
a woman, who was indicted for murder in 1767, but
was not hung. The next nearest approach to a trial
for a capital crime was in reference to one Robert
Seymour, who \\a- apprehended upon a charge of
murdering an Indian, but by the assistance of three
friends he broke jail and tied to parts unknown. Hi-
three friends were indicted for aiding his escape, but
1 have been unable to find in the court minute- any
record of their conviction and punishment. The
offense next in magnitude to that perpetrated by
Seymour was committed by one William Atkinson,
in the year 177"'. He stole a horse, was pursued,

taken, found guilty, subjected to thirty-nine la-he-.

and imprisoned until the costs of his prosecution

should b paid. Here be remained lour hundred and

M days, running up a board bill with John

l'ettil. jailer, of fifteen pounds three shillings six

pence, being an average of about nine pence a day.

oily paid the bill, and al-o seven pound- to

Thomas Anderson for prosecuting him to conviction,
but was loath to incur expense anp longer, and so,

upon application to the court, an order was made to
put up Atkinson at public sale and dispose of hi- ser-
vices lor what they would bring. He was struck oil'
for the sum of eleven pounds tO one Hugh Quig, of

Morris < lountj , n ho gave his note, payable a few days

after dale, and departed With his purchase. .

became due Quig went over to the British
army, and forgot to have funds behind to pay the

County Of Sussex. This was an unexpected turn of

the wheel, ami puzzled our worthy board exceedingly.

They hated to be outwitted in this way. and 90, upon

taking legal advice, they authorized Tl las Andcr-

iring suit for the amount of the note against
'The Morris County Commissioners for Beizing ab-
sconding !>■: -.' fho only result of this step was an



increased expenditure, and at last they gave up the
chase, satisfied that, as the matter thus far had been
without profit, its further pursuit would be equally
unproductive of honor."

The executions which have taken place in the
county since the Revolution are briefly sketched as
follows :

In December, 1795, a man named Matthias Gott-
lieb, familiarly called " Cutlip," was executed in
Newton. He resided on Main Street, near the en-
trance of the old cemetery. The house in which he
lived is still standing. Gottlieb had been butchering
beef for a neighbor. He returned home somewhat
intoxicated, and said to his little daughter, " I have
been butchering cattle to-day, and now I am going to
butcher your mother." The cries of the child and
entreaties of the mother were without avail ; the in-
human wretch seized her and gave her three stabs in
the abdomen with a large butcher-knife, inflictiug
such a terrible wound that she died in a very short
time. The little daughter was the only witness to
the deed, and it was on her evidence that the father
was convicted. Gottlieb was hanged by Sheriff' James
Hindshaw in the lower part of Newton, known as
Kerby Hollow.*

Mary Cole was hanged on the 26th of June, 1812,
by Sheriff Ephraim Green, Jr. Her crime was that
of murdering her mother in what is now Lafayette
township. The body of the murdered woman was
concealed under the hearth of the house in which
she lived. Mary Cole's husband, Cornelius Cole, was
believed to have been the master-spirit in the con-
coction and committal of the crime, the motive being
to come into possession of his mother-in-law's prop-
erty. Mrs. Cole was convicted of murder in the first
degree, but her husband was acquitted. The sentence
of death was pronounced by the court on the day of
the conviction. Her execution took place in Newton,
in an open field near where the Sussex Railway depot
now stands, and was witnessed by thousands of people,
some of whom are still living. The scene of the ex-
ecution has ever since been known as the "Mary Cole
Field." It is said that, on seeing her husband smile
at the gallows, tiie poor woman said, " Ah ! I could
tell something that would change that smile into

Peter Brakeman was executed by Sheriff 1 William
Darrah, June 30, 1820. He murdered a peddler
named Francis E. Nichols, with whom he had trav-
eled from Montrose, Pa., in the character of a friend,
but evidently with the intention from the start of tak-
ing his life in order to possess himself of the money
which he knew Nichols to have. They stayed for two
days at a tavern in Lafayette, where they spent most
of the time gambling. They stopped together at
Sparta, and were seen in company four or five miles

* The account of tlilfl case appeared in the New York Weelllu Museum
of Jan. 2, I7UC.

farther on. After that Brakeman stopped at the
tavern at Woodport, two miles from where he and
Nichols were last seen, and called for supper, but
took some lunch and hurried on. The next day a
boy with a dog came upon the body of the murdered
man, shockingly mangled and covered with blood.
A large knife and an ugly club which Brakeman had
carried were found by the body. The murderer went
to Philadelphia, and from there to Montrose, where
he was soon after arrested. He was convicted after a
four days' trial, and on May 30th was sentenced to be
hanged. The execution was public, and took place
near Drake's Pond, one mile from Newton. Spring
Street, which leads in that direction, was for many
years known as "Gallows road." Brakeman made a
confession to Benjamin Stewart, a resident of Newton,
the evening before the execution, in which he said he
had passed most of his life as a counterfeiter and
thief; he related the incidents of four robberies and
of one murder that he had committed, previous to
tli is one, and said he had assisted in others. The
judges at his trial were Gabriel H. Ford, John John-
son, John Gustin, Morris Robeson, Thomas Stewart,
John Ogden, Walter L. Shee, Simon Cortright, etc. ;
Theodore Frelinghuysen, Esq., attorney-general for
the State ; William Halsey, Thomas C. Ryerson, and
William Chetwood, Esqs., counsel for the prisoner.
The jury who decided his fate was composed of Noah
Hammon, Richard Whittaker, Jr., Thomas M. Arm-
strong, Andrew Sutton, John Beedle, William Matti-
son, Jacob Day, David Brands, Nathaniel Martin,
William Gibbs, Charles Beatty, Peter P. Struble. It
is said that from eight thousand to ten thousand per-
sons witnessed his execution.

Wilhelmus Vanauken was executed Jan. 25, 1822,
by Sheriff Vaucleal Moore. He was tried and con-
victed for murdering his wife, Leah, in Montague
township, in the spring of 1821. His trial took place
at the November term of the court, before Justice
William Russell. The trial was begun November
30th, and sentence was pronounced December 3d fol-
lowing. He was executed in a meadow on the lower
side of Newton.

John Cruner was executed Jan. 23, 18G2, by Sheriff
Charles Arvis. His crime was the shooting of Allen
Skellcngcr, in Sandyston township, on Sept. 15, 1S61.
He was tried before Justice Whelpley at the Decem-
ber term, 1861. The execution took place in the
court-room, and was witnessed by about two hundred
spectators. The poor fellow was so weak and un-
strung that he had to be supported to the scaffold.
It appeared more like hanging a dead than a live
man. Cruner was a poor, weak-minded, and illit-
erate person, wdio could scarcely be regarded as re-
sponsible for what he did. Skcllenger had acted the
part of a bully over him for years, frightening him
and threatening to whip him at every favorable op-
portunity. On the fatal day Skcllenger met him in
the woods, and at once commenced his old process of



persecution. Cruner had his gun with him, and, re-
treating, forbade Skellenger to follow, or he would

-1 i. Skellenger thought him too much of a cow-

Brd to do so, and, advancing, was fired at and killed.
The almosl universal verdict now is that it was a
(bame to hang him, and ii i- said that Justice

Win-]). lev deeply regretted ever alter that lie wa« ill
any way instrumental in sending the pour ignorant
wreieli tn the gallows.

The next execution was thai of John Hughes for
tin- brutal murder of liis wife in the village of < >lt-
densburg on the 7th of January, 1875. Jack was a
natural bully, and frequently abused his wife. On
the evening of the above day he quarreled with her,
tided by knocking her brains out with a sharp

axe. lie then set lire In the clothing in the room
and left the house. The fire was discovered by the
neighbors and extinguished, ami Mrs. Hughes was
i innl reclining in a rocl.ing-cheir with six awful
gashes in her head, through which her brains had
OOZed. She was ill and almost helpless ut the time
of the murder. The crime was a deliberate and most

Ijrntal one. After leaving the house Hughes became

intoxicated, and while in thai condition made inqui-
ries concerning his wife which led to his detection.

His trial was commenced hetiirc .lu-tice Alliert l!eed
on the luth of May following. After a three day-'

trial the prisoner was convicted of murder in the lirst

. and sentence of death was passed a short time
after, lie was hanged by Sherilf William 11 l!n-s,

July 2d, in the presence of about sixty people, in an

inclosure within the jail-yard.

Frederick Crill was hanged at Newton, N. J., on
the 24th of April, 1880, for the murder of his daugh-
ter, Eliza Ilabcock, mar Hamburg, N. J., on the ~>th
of June, 1X7'J. About two years before, he bad gone
i" live With his daughter and her husband, William

Bal sk, who treated him with the utmost kindness,

notwithstanding bis ill temper, which was partly
aggravated by his feeble -late of health. On the day

of the murder Crill had been mil -I ting in the

morning. When he cam. in he hung the gun over
the door, between the kitchen and sitting-room, and

then went in to dinner. The din mr passed pleasantly,
and afterwards Babcock went to the corn-field and
Eliza commenced washing clothes. The little buy,

I h:-,i s son, and a great I r> rile I ( rill G commenced
p laying with a half-bushel measure. Crill had jusl
taken the gun down preparatory to going out again.
He told Eliza thai the measure did not belong to
them, and thai the child would injure it. Then he
replaced the gun, timk the measure away from the

child, and carried it up-Stairs. To stop the little buy

crying his mother -"I the measure and gave it to him
again, and then went on with her washing. Crill

again took down the gun. and ju-t a- he did BO Eliza
said something about the half-bushel which made
him angry, and he raised the gnu and tired. lb.
charge entered the back of her bead, dashing her


brains and blood all over the side of the room. Crill
looked up ami -aw hi- wife standing by -p. .
with horror. She soon recovered her voice and asked
him what he had done that for, to which he answered,
"She has aggravated and tantalized me till I can't
stand it any longer, and I have put an end to it."
That he intended at first not to make a confession is
evident. He knew his wife's evidence could not be
admitted against him, and sin- was the only witness.
He told her not to speak of what she had Been, and
then started for Hamburg to consult his counsel, tir-t

telling Babcock that Eliza had died in a fit. On the

road he met three men. to w bum he told the same
story. He stopped at his lawyer'- house, but he wa-
out. He went to look for him, and on the street in
llarri-burg he met Babcock with a crowd of men.
The husband charged him with the murder, the
crowd surrounded him, and in the excitement he
made an admission ; then, seeing he had given away
bis case, he confessed the whole matter and gave
himself up to a justice. In September he pleaded
not guilty to an indictment for murder, ami the court
assigned counsel to defend him. Up to a few days
before the trial Crill talked ami acted sensibly, al-
though he appeared to be Buffering from a nervous
disease. Then his manner changed completely; he
pretended to be unable to talk, and acted like a fool.
His defense at the trial was insanity, but he acted his
part so badly that the jury saw through it. lie wa-

convicted of murder in the tir-t degree. A strong

efforl was made to have the sentence of death com-
muted, but the Court of Pardons refused to inter-
fere. On April 1st, Governor McClellan granted him
a reprieve of three week- from April 8d, ami on Wed-
nesday , April 21st, he sent the death-warrant to Sheriff
Decker. fixing the hanging for Saturday, the 24th.
The last Of his family to take leave of him was hi-

daughter, Harriet t Inshorn, who visited him on Mon-
day. He fore -be was admitted she was searched, and
a buttle of laudanum was taken from her. Crill was
very much affected at parting with her, and cried
pitifully. During the last few days he refused to
Bee anybody, spending the greater part of his time in

This was the tir-t execution that occurred in New
Jersey under the new law, which admits of only
twelve per-niis appointed by the court, twelve special

deputies commissioned by the sheriff, three members

of the condemned man'- family, and two ministers of

pel designated by the condemned, to be present
ami witness the e\ cut. The hanging took place in an
Inclosure, sixteen by twenty feet, adjoining the jail, in
which a platform twelve feel square had been built,

and on this platform stood the new gallows. At a

quarter to eleven o'clock- the jury of twelve men ap-
pointed by the court to witness and report the e\. , u-
tinn were sworn and subscribed their names. The
following were the gentlemen named : William M.

Smith, Thomas (!. Bunnell, Richard P. Goodman,



Whitfield Gibbs, Dr. Thomas Ryersou, Dr. Levi D.
Miller, Dr. Martin Cole, Jr., Job J. Decker, Joseph
McMieke, Nathaniel K. Bray, Obadiah P. Armstrong,
and Luther Hill.

Frederick Crill was born in Warren County, near
the Sussex County line. When he was about five
years old his parents moved to Canisteer, in Sussex
County. His parents were very poor and ignorant,
and his mother was subject to fits and other diseases.
Crill never received any education, except a little at
Sunday-school and what he picked up himself. Not-
withstanding this great disadvantage, he grew up to
be a shrewd man. He probably inherited some nerv-
ous affections from his mother, and his temper, which
was bad in his youth, grew worse as he grew older,
until it became almost uncontrollable. He quarreled
frequently with his friends and neighbors, and often
these quarrels would end in a fight. He gained a
reputation during his early years as a fighting man,
and people said he was " able to lick anything around
Canisteer." He appears to have always had a passion
for women. At eighteen he fell in love with a young
woman whom he called Fan Slack. After about a year
he ceased his attentions, but she soon afterwards came
to him with an infant and induced him to marry her.
After living together a short time they disagreed, and
Crill says they went before an oflicer and signed a
paper mutually agreeing to separate, with the privi-
lege of each marrying again. According to report,
Crill soon afterwards married again and moved to
Paterson, where it is said he shot his new wife, but
had her buried secretly, and told such a plausible
story that the matter did not get out until several
years after, when it was revived at Sparta. Then
Crill explained it by saying that he was cleaning his
gun, not knowing it was loaded, and that it went off
accidentally and shot her. Crill afterwards denied
this story, and said he never had more than two wives.
Not long after this Crill married his last wife, in Pat-
erson, and returned to Sussex County, where a num-
ber of children were born to him. He chopped wood
and worked in the mines for a living. He spent a
great deal of time hunting game, and was a splendid
marksman with both rifle and shot-gun. Once,
when out shooting with his son, it is said, he became
angry at the boy for not answering promptly when
called, pointed his gun at him, and pulled the trigger ;
but the cap was defective, and the gun failed to go off.
Another time, it is alleged, he threw a hatchet at the
same boy, barely missing his head. It was not safe
to anger him at any time when there was a dangerous
weapon within his reach. For several years he was
a member of the Methodist Church at Canisteer, and
was quite an exhorter. At the same time he was
thieving and gambling, but this did not become
known until he sued a man for a gambling debt of
forty dollars. He was immediately dropped from the
church-roll, and he then said lie could make more
money serving the devil than the Lord. Crill had

dyspeptic trouble for nearly twenty years, and about
four years ago it rendered him unfit to do manual
labor. He had frequently pleaded in petty lawsuits
before the justices of the peace, and when he was
obliged to give up hard work he made this his regular
business. He was a good speaker, and he made him-
self so well acquainted with the law applicable to
justices' court cases that he frequently won suits over
lawyers of large experience. He became known as
I " Crill the Pettifogger."




Although the county had been settled for over
half a century, it is doubtful if in the year 176(3 it con-
tained a single physician. At that time its people — •
engaged, as their descendants mostly are to-day, in
agriculture and mining — were hardy, industrious, and
healthy, consequently seldom required the aid of the
physician, surgeon, or obstetrician. Roots and herbs
were the common remedies, and the midwife was more
in repute than the regular physician. In fact, medi-
cal men were few. Mr. Edsall, in his "Centennial
Address" of 1853, speaking of Johnsonsburg — the
first seat of justice of the old county — says, "Here
Dr. Samuel Kennedy, the first practicing physician
we have any word of, fixed his location. His practice
extended so far over the county that professional rides
of twenty or thirty miles were common events in his
career. He was an able practitioner, and prepared a
great number of students for the profession. Drs.
Linn and Everitt, and several other physicians of the
last generation, derived their first knowledge of the
healing art from this iEsculapian veteran of old Sus-
sex. Dr. Kennedy died, at an advanced age, in the
year 1804. I may as well remark here as elsewhere
that the practice of medicine has never been a lucra-
tive business in this county. The air of our moun-
tains is peculiarly favorable to health and longevity."

In 1824, when Warren was formed and Sussex
County was restricted to its present limits, with a
population of less than twenty thousand souls, the
ratio of physicians was quite respectable, eleven
doctors were at that date practicing medicine in the
county, — viz., David Hunt, Samuel Hopkins, and
Jacob Sharpe, of Newton township ; Elijah Everitt,
of Greene ; Jacob and Elias H. L'Hommedieu, of
Hardyston ; Berret Havens and Heman Allen, of
Wantage ; Jacob E. Hornbeck and Jacob L. Van
Deusen, of Montague, — none of whom are now living.

" The leading mind was Dr. Fowler. He came into
the county a few years prior to its division, and soon
compelled all its physicians either to take license or
retire. Into his hands speedily passed the consulta-



tion business, and his opinions may therefore be taken
as a fair indication of the scientific status of the pro-
fession at that time. A very able praetili t "I the

pre-ent day [1866], who was contemporaneous with
the last years of Dr. Fowler, says of him, ' He was by
far the best naturally-endowed practitioner I ever
knew.' Of acute perception, vivid imagination, and
Vet Of judicial mind, an original thinker, his native

talents placed him far in advance of hi- day, when

( 'ulleii and his disciple lln-gory shaped the theory
and practice of the country. He was as familiar with
Brown and Darwin as with Cullen and with the other
writer- of his time. He knew the institutes of medi-
cine, and could formulate as well as practice them.
. . . He was fond of saying that 'the whole art of
medicine consisted in knowing when to Stimulate

and when to deplete,' — an aphorism that requires
but slight modification to be level with the present


In more recent times, with the growth of the
county in population and wealth, has been a corre-
sponding increase in luxury, which, witli the injudi-
cious use of Stimulants and narcotics, has "conspired
to disturb both mental and physical functions, to injure
the various organs and cramp and distort the intel-
lect. Whilst the influences named have increased

the tendency to and complication of zymotic disease,
disorders of nutrition, perversions of special func-
tions, and derangements of the general balance, the
growth and development of the county has so im-
proved the face and soil of Sussex that malarious
affections are manifestly diminishing."

As to the status of the profession in this county, if
success be the criterion, the practitioners of Siiss rX -

Online LibraryJames P SnellHistory of Sussex and Warren counties, New Jersey : → online text (page 51 of 190)