William L. (William Leete) Stone.

Letters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams online

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distance west of Batavia, with which to spread the combus-
tible liquid, he set fire to it by means of a dark lanthern, and
as the fire blazed up, he fled. Some person, as he supposed,
followed him, but he turned upon him, and, dashing the lan-
thern in his face, succeeded in effecting his retreat. These
details, furnished under oath by Mr. Mann, corresponded
so exactly with the circumstances under which the fire must
have been kindled ; the walls having been swabbed with
turpentine, and the dark lanthern found near by ; that an
officer was forthwith dispatched to Buffalo, for the purpose
of arresting the incendiary. But the messenger was direct-
ed to consult with some confidential friends at Buffalo in the
first instance, and be governed by their advice. After a
private consultation, it was determined not to arrest How-
ard, for reasons with which I am not acquainted. It was


believed by them, however, that he would not leave the
place, but would be forthcoming at any after-time when he
might be wanted — and the messenger thereupon returned to
Batavia ; — such precautionary measures having been taken
at Buffalo, as it was supposed would prevent Howard from
knowing that he was suspected. Other information having
been received by the committee, a messenger was a second
time despatched to Buffalo ; but Howard had suddenly disap-
peared. A second deposition was now spontaneously fur-
nished by Mr. Mann, of a yet darker character, going to
confirm the suspicion, not only that a dreadful alternative
had been adopted by the conspirators, at once to silence
Morgan and the story of his wrongs, but that Howard had
been one of the leaders in the tragedy. Mr. Mann, in this
second deposition testified, substantially, that at about the
time he heard of the abduction, Howard informed him
that Morgan had been taken to Fort Niagara, and impri-
soned : that those with him, [Morgan,] had drawn lots, to
decide who should execute his masonic penalty upon him ;
and that the lot had fallen upon him, the said Howard. Ac-
cording to the deposition, Howard appeared to be much
distressed about it, but seemed to think that he had only
performed his masonic duty. Howard held several subse-
quent conversations with the deponent upon the subject ;
but although he gave him to understand that the penalty had
been executed, he never afterwards spoke of his own agen-
cy in the transaction. Mr. Mann himself stated that he
had felt unpleasantly in keeping such a secret ; and that,
finally, after advising with his friends, he had determined to
make the disclosure.

These depositions were of a startling character ; but, had
it not been for the flight of Howard, from the eccentric tem-
perament of Mr. Mann, who was well known to us in this
city, they would not, unsupported, have made a very deep
impression here. Mr. Mann, originally a blacksmith, had


relinquished the trade, and after a regular course of study-
been admitted to the bar in this city. Not succeeding, how-
ever, in the profession, he retired to the country, and resum-
ed his early occupation. I knew him very well, in 1820-
'21. Soon after he made these depositions, he became
positively insane, and in a few months afterwards, died
a raving maniac. His unfortunate end threw still more
doubt upon the truth of his statements, as it is by no means
an unusual occurrence for those whose minds are diseased,
to fancy their best friends, or even themselves, to be guilty
of the blackest and bloodiest crimes, but of which they are
perfectly innocent. In process of time, however, circum-
stances enough have been revealed, to prove, very satisfac-
torily, that, even if he were crazy, so far as Howard was
concerned, there was certainly some " method in his mad-
" ness." Nothing further has ever been heard of Howard,
except that on fleeing from the west, he came to this city,
where he had before been employed as a journeyman book-
binder. It was on or about the 10th of March, 1827, that he
absconded from Buffalo. In March, 1829, a man named
Avery Allyn made an affidavit in this city, setting forth,
among other things, that in March, 1828, he attended an
encampment of Knights Templars at St. John's Hall, for
the purpose of perfecting himself in the higher degrees ;
that during the evening, the Templar who officiated as
Prelate, stated to him that they were certain of Morgan's
death ; that the person who had executed the penalty of his
obligation upon him, had been in that encampment, and con-
fessed himself to have been the one who gave him the fatal
blow. Another Templar, during the same evening, made
a corroborating statement to Allyn ; — and both avowed that
after consultations upon the subject, they had furnished the
man money, and sent him to Europe. Allyn admits that he
himself thought it was all right at that time, and for a con-
siderable time afterwards.


When this deposition appeared in an Anti-masonic paper,
which fretted its hour upon the stage in this city, and soon
departed, I was exceedingly shocked. I had not beheved,
however wickedly a portion of the fraternity had conducted
in the west, that the Masons of this city, or any portion of
them, had been cognizant of the Morgan business, either ac-
tively or passively, or in any manner consenting thereto.
The affidavit was so full, explicit, and circumstantial, that
it wore the appearance of truth ; and yet, the fact, that, by
his own showing, the author had acceded to the propriety
of the course of the Masons on the occasion referred to, and
had concealed this horrible truth for the space of more than
a year, added to certain other unfavorable circumstances
which it is needless to mention, conspired, altogether, to
make me question his veracity. He had, moreover, incul-
pated a gentleman in his statement, who, before ^nd after,
wards, I had the strongest reasons for believing as innocent
of all knowledge or participation in the affair, as I am my-
self. Still, I was determined diligently to investigate the
matter ; with which view, I devoted a large portion of each
day for a week, and entered upon a thorough course of exami-
nation and inquiry. The result then was, a full and entire
belief, that not one word of Allyn's statement was true ; and
so I have expressed myself times almost without number.
But since my present investigations were commenced, I
have satisfied myself that I was unable to reach the facts
of the case ; and that, however Allyn might have been mis-
taken in some of his details, and as to the identity of the
gentleman to whom I have alluded, there was yet essential
truth in his story. I have recently been informed, in a man-
ner which leaves not a particle of doubt upon my own mind,
that Howard was in this city, at or about the time mention-
ed. I believe that when he fled from Buffalo, he proceeded
aiong the shore of the lake to the village of Erie ; thence
through Pennsylvania and Maryland to Baltimore ; that, on


his arrival there, he engaged a passage on board of a ship
for a foreign port ; — that he was closely pursued ; — that on
proceeding from his hotel to the ship, then about getting un-
der way, he espied his pursuer on the deck of the ship be-
fore he had quite reached it ; — that he instantly changed his
direction, unperceived, directing the porter to take his bag-
gage away, as he had made a mistake as to the dock ; — that
he jumped on board of a steam-boat, and succeeded in reach-
ing Philadelphia, where he consulted a lawyer. Thence he
came to this city. I believe that he was at St, John's Hall ; —
that some unworthy Masons of this city, — but who they
are, I know not, — did cherish and provide for him, knowing
his situation and his crime. I believe, further, that he was
taken across to Long Island, by the aid of his masonic friends
here, and finally put on board of a packet-ship, bound for
England, from the lower extremity of Long Island, at the
entrance of the harbour at Sandy Hook.

I am, sir, very sincerely yours^


New- York, Feb. 22, 1832.

Gov. Clinton had written to Mr, Talbot, chairman of
the Batavia committee, on the 7th of February, expressing
his surprise that of late he had heard nothing from him.
He mentioned rumors of further important disclosures-
which were said to have been made, and urged him to fur-
nish all the authentic intelligence upon the subject that
could be obtained, desiring also to know the views of the
committee respecting any further measures that ought to be
adopted for the discovery and punishment of the offendersv
Mr. Talbot, in behalf of the Batavia committee, replied
to the above-mentioned letter on the 1st of March. In this


reply were enclosed the depositions of Messrs. Trumbull
Carey, Timothy Fitch, and Hinman Hoi den, testifying to
the discoveries which had been made by the committee of
investigation at Lewiston, of which they were members,
affording the strong reasons for believing that Morgan had
been put to death, which we have already seen, and direct-
ly inculpating Bruce, the sheriff of Niagara. The deposi-
tion of John Mann, the substance of which has also been
given, was enclosed in this communication from Mr. Tal-
bot, accompanied, however, by extracts from a letter from
a professional gentleman in Buffalo, who was consulted in
the premises, and who seemed exceedingly reluctant to be-
lieve in the guilt of Howard, at the same time bearing
strong testimony to his integrity and industry, and the
general excellence of his character.

To this letter Gov. Clinton replied on the 7th of March.
It was then understood that the report of the Lewiston
convention, was in a forward state of preparation. In re-
ference to this statement, the Governor, in his answer, which
was addressed to Mr. Talbot, remarked : — " As soon as
" the publication of the Lewiston convention appears, I will
" come to a definitive resolution as to the course to be pur-
" sued by me. I wish you would expedite this measure as
" far as is in your power. As the next step on my part
" may involve important consequences, I hope to have be-
" fore me all the light that can be furnished. Will you also
" favor me as soon as possible with the result of the BufFa-
•*Io investigation?"

The letter from which the preceding quotation is made,
was followed by another of which the annexed is a copy: —

" Albany, Uth March, 1827.
" Sir,

" In reviewing my letter to you of the 7th of March
instant, I think it proper to avoid all ambiguity, by stating^


explicitly, that immediate measures ought to be adopted for
proving and testing the allegations contained in an affidavit
respecting a person criminated at Buffalo.

" In the affidavit of Messrs. Carey, Holden, and Fitch,
it is stated that the sheriff of Niagara county, was concern-
ed in the abduction of Morgan. I wish this charge to as-
sume a specific shape, and to be accompanied by all the ev-
idence that can be produced, in order that he may have a
hearing, and, if guilty, be ejected from office.

" I should be gratified in knowing whether any exposi-
tion of this afiair is to be made by the Lewiston convention,
or any other body of men. As most of the information is

said to emanate from Dr. T ■, it would be important

to have his affidavit, and such testimony as can be adduced
to support his statement and character, — both of which have
been seriously impeached.

" I have only to add, that I am determined to use every
means in my power, to develope all the mysterious pro-
ceedings connected with the ab.duction of Morgan, and to
bring the offenders to condign punishment. Sooner or la-
ter this will in all probability be accomplished ; but the
sooner it is done, the better ; and I rely upon your continu-
ed and faithful co-operation as good citizens, and useful
members of society.

" I am, &c.


« Theodore F. Talbot, Esq."

On the 17th of March, Governor Clinton spontaneously
communicated a special message to the assembly, in the
following words ; — " Gentlemen : The abduction of William
" Morgan being an act of unprecedented violence, has justly
" excited unequivocal reprobation ; and the apprehensions
" which are entertained of his fate, have produced general

*' alarm and anxiety. Understanding that this subject is



♦* under the consideration of your honorable body, I have
" thought it proper to communicate to you all the informa-
" tion in my power respecting it ; and this I should have
** done before, had I not been apprehensive that a premature
" disclosure might have interfered with pending investiga-
" tions. If any future intelligence of importance should be
" received, I shall not fail to communicate it." Accompa-
nying this message were a considerable number of papers^
comprising copies of the correspondence which had taken
place between his excellency and the western committees,,
together with a variety of other documents relating to the
subject of the outrage, and the several proclamations already
noted. The message and documents were referred to the
committee of the assembly on courts of justice, to which
had previously been referred sundry petitions and memorials
of the people on the same subject.

Two days afterwards, viz. on the 19th of March, his ex-
cellency issued his third proclamation, by which an increas-
ed and specific reward of ojie thousand dollars was offered
to any person who should restore Morgan to his family, if
livings or discover and bring to punishment his murderers, if
dead ; — and a free pardon was tendered to any one of the
accomplices of the crime, who should make a full discovery
of the offender or offenders.*

At the time this proclamation was issued, a delegation
from the western committees was again on a visit to Lewis-
ton and Fort Niagara, foUowring up the investigations that
had formerly been made, but as yet with no decisive re-
sults. A number of additional depositions were collected
by this committee, and a variety of facts and circumstances
elicited, strengthening the former conviction, that Morgan
had been brought to, and imprisoned in, the fort, and that
there were many individuals implicated in this part of the

* See Fac simile, in tlie Aj>i>cndix..

LETTER xxni. 243

mysterious transaction. Among the depositions so collect-
ed, was one from a man named Paul Mosher, to whom Fox
had told the circumstances of his night journey from Youngs-
town. The story of Fox, as related on the morning of Sep-
tember 14, was widely different from his testimony on the
trial of Cheseboro and others. He at first informed Mosher,
when he had received no caution of concealment, that there
was a man gsigged and bound in the carriage ; and he
thought he had heard him called Morgan. But Mosher
also swore, not only to the threat of Fox's employer, that he
should lose his place if he was not silent, but that a short time
afterwards. Fox was made a Mason at Lewiston, for which
purpose, a special lodge was called. In January following,
when interrogated in court, as it has been shown. Fox swore
that he heard nothing of Morgan, nor did he see any force ap-
plied to any one whom he took to Youngstown. The em-
ployer of Fox had likewise afforded other evidence that
some transaction had taken place that was wrong. He had
been heard to speak of sending a man down to the fort, as
there was trouble ; he had said, " that another man must be
♦* smuggled away, to blind the transaction ;" and on the
morning after he had spoken of the trouble at the fort, he
had said, " he guessed that all was still enough." Another
deposition was obtained from a Mr. Tryon, who had been
at a ball at Lewiston, on the night of the 14th of Septem-
ber, after the installation. As he was proceeding towards
Youngstown, between three and four o'clock in the morning,
it being a clear moonlight night, he met five men walking
from the direction of Youngstown, towards that of Lewis-
ton, viz. Timothy Shaw, Samuel Chubbuck, Gen. P. Whit-
ney, James L. Barton, (the employer of Fox,) and Noah
Beach. Such a night- walk, for such persons, — for they were
all men of standing in the community, — was unusual. The
committee also obtained, at the same time, a deposition of
Edward Giddings, the former keeper of the fort, and the


personage who has subsequently figured so conspicuously
in the Morgan trials. But this document is an exceedingly
cautious one. The committee had made another close in-
spection of the fort and magazine. Giddings, at this time,
occupied a small ferry-house, near the fort, directly on tlie
bank of the river, and sometimes entertained travellers.
He had charge of the fort for several months previously to
the 1st of August, 1826, on which day he left it, and gave
up the key. He had left the magazine in perfect order. It
was now deranged, and there were many decisive evidences,
not only that it had been occupied, but that somebody had
been confined therein ; for the braces which had been ap-
plied to the door, and the marks of violence within, were
very distinct and convincing. Giddings made full expla-
nations as to the order in which he had left every thing in
the fort and magazine on the first of August ; but pretend-
ed that he could not account for the derangement of the va-
rious fixtures, and the appearances indicating that the ma-
gazine had been occupied by some one held in durance.
When distinctly asked, however, whether he had not been
called up by Bruce and Colonel King, on the night of Sep-
tember 13th, he declined answering the question ; but added,
that should he be legally called upon, he would attest to all
he knew. A clue to the fact indicated by the question thus
put, was afforded in the following manner : — " On the morn-
** ing of the 14th of September, a party of ladies and gen-
*' tlemen proceeded in a steam-boat from Youngstown to
♦♦ Lewiston, to attend the installation so repeatedly spoken
»* of. Bruce and King were on board, and, among other la-
♦* dies, was Mrs. Giddings. During the passage, one of the
»^ ladies familiarly asked, what he meant by going about at
" nights, and disturbing people, and calling up her hus-
*' band" — " Yes," observed Mrs. Giddings, « they came too,
** and routed up my jioor husband."


Many other circumstances, all tending to the same con-
clusion, were elicited at this time, by the committee. There
liad previously been a strong suspicion that Morgan had
been taken to the house of a prominent man at Newark, a
member of the provincial parliament of Upper Canada.
The imputation became so annoying to him, that he pub-
lished a letter, intending it to go forth as an entire contra-
diction ; but it was so equivocal and evasive, as to excite
still stronger suspicions against him. The committee, dur-
ing this examination, arrived at all but positive testimony,
that, although Morgan had not been taken to his house on
the night of September 13, yet that the gentleman referred
to had been called up late at night, and had seen Morgan
on the Canada shore. They also satisfied themselves, from
testimony too strong to be resisted, that Morgan had been
taken to the Masons at Newark, who refused to receive him,
and that he had been thence taken back again to the American
shore. Here their direct and positive testimony ended,
i But in addition to these circumstances, and many others
which it would be too tedious to enumerate in this place, the
committee obtained a deposition from a medical gentle-
man of Upper Canada, a Mason, who had been informed
by a brother Mason, that Morgan had been thus brought
across the frontier, refused, and sent back ; and that he
had subsequently been put to death at Fort Niagara, and
his body sunk in the river. The informant of this gentle-
man justified the deed, as being no more than was due to
the expositor of the secrets of the order. The tale was re-
peated to this gentleman, in December following the out-
rage, together with the particulars of the execution, as men-
tioned in the letter giving an account of tlie first meeting
of the committee at Niagara. The last informant, on being
interrogated as to the state of mind of those who had been
guilty of putting him to death, stated that they were much
troubled ; one of them had nearly gone crazy ; and that

246 LETTER xxiir.

others had declared they would willingly deliver up every
thing they had, could they only bring Morgan back. It
was also added that the execution had been performed
agreeably to directions from the General Grand Chapter, tlie
funds of wliich were to be used to defray the expenses of
fines, &c., should they be discovered and prosecuted. A
member of the Genesee Committee, happening to be at
Lockport, had been informed while there, by a respectable
inhabitant of Niagara county, " that he had been for some
" time past working on the Well and Canal — that a friend,
" who resided in Canada, near the canal, had a few days
" before called on him, and exacted a promise from him to
" go to Batavia, and communicate to the committee that
" Morgan had been taken to Fort Niagara, in the night, put
" into the fort, and detained there three or four days — that
" they tried to get the Masons on the Canada side to take
" him, but they refused — that afterwards two ruffians had
" taken him out, cut his throat, and tied his body to a
" rope and stone, and thrown it into the lake — that he had
" been told so by Masons, of which society he was a mem-
" ber, and that he conscientiously believed it — that his name
" must not be used, or given in ; for if it was known that he
" had informed he should fare no better." All this, howe-
ver, was but circumstantial and hearsay evidence, and would
be wholly insufficient to convict of any capital offence, even
should attempts be made to obtain indictments. But as
yet, however strong the suspicion, there was no proof to
establish the commission of any crime, beyond that of the
.original abduction. Nor, after months of investigation, had
it been ascertained that any thing farther respecting
Morgan's person could be proved, than his getting into the
carriage at Canandaigua. All else was circumstance, con-
jecture, and mystery ; so skilfully had their plans been de-
vised ; so exactly executed ; and the secret so faithfully


But the conspirators took very efficient measures for es-
caping indictments even for the minor ofience of the ab-
duction. The parties suspected disappeared; witnesses
were spirited away ; and when attempts were made to pro-
cure indictments, witnesses often decKned to testify, alledg-
ing that they could not do so without criminating them-
selves. I have already spoken of the first grand jury, af-
ter the abduction, summoned by Bruce, for the county of
Niagara, of which he was sheriff. In like manner, each
successive grand jury summoned by him, or under his or-
ders, while he continued in the sheriffalty, was composed, a
strong majority at least, of Masons ; and the public prose-
cutor of that county was also a Mason, who knew all about
the affair. Hiram B. Hopkins, a Royal Arch Mason, and
one of Bruce's deputies, has declared that he had directions
in summoning the grand jurors, to select at least three-
fourths Masons — Bruce telling him at the same time, that
it would not do to have all Masons, as the device would oc-
casion suspicion. Hopkins states that when he had inquired
of them how they expected in the end to escape detection
and punishment, they always assured him they were in no
danger, as they would have to deal only with Masons. At
the April General Sessions of Niagara county, 1827, of
twenty-one persons present on the grand jury, thirteen were
Masons, of whom one was subsequently found to be an im-
portant witness, and another was afterwards himself indict-
ed as an actor in the conspiracy. It was before this jury
that complaint was made against Bruce, as one of the con-
spirators ; and a scene of corruption took place on this ex-
amination, unsurpassed, probably, in the annals of judicial
iniquity ; too flagrant, indeed, almost, for belief. Every pos-
sible effort was made by the jury, to shield Bruce. Another
witness desired to be excused from giving evidence, because
he was a poor man, and the fact of his giving testimony, he
said, would ruin him. He was excused ! One witness, not-

248 letteh xxiii.

Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Leete) StoneLetters on masonry and anti-masonry, addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams → online text (page 21 of 49)