Date: December 15, 1824
Location: Boston, New York
Victim: John Love
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Accused: Nelson, Israel, and Isaac Thayer
The brothers immediately took possession of Love’s cash and the disposed of the notes Love had on them. Then they tried to collect the debts Love had on others. Finding that they would need power of attorney to collect the debts, they forged this document and claimed that Love had gone to Canada leaving them in charge of his business.
The case against Isaac and Israel was circumstantial but compelling. Witnesses saw Love with the Thayer’s on December 15, the day the hogs were slaughtered, but did not see him any time after. Several neighbors recalled hearing a gunshot on the night of December 15. The body was buried near Israel’s house and the brothers had attempted to profit by Love’s absence.
Israel and Isaac’s defense team, led by Thomas C. Love (no relation to the deceased) attempted to challenge the facts and the conclusions drawn by them, cautioning the jury against convicting innocent men on circumstantial evidence. But the jury was not swayed by Love and after deliberating half an hour, returned a verdict of guilty.
Nelson’s trial was held on April 23 and was essentially the same as his brothers’. At 11:00 that night, after deliberating for only a few minutes returned a guilty verdict.
All three Thayer brothers were sentenced to hang.
Before their hanging the Thayers made a full confession, confirming the presumptions made by the prosecution. When asked why they did it Nelson explained that through small loans at high interest Love had obtained nearly all of their property. With the threat of debtors’ prison hanging over them they decided murder was the only solution. Nelson added:
“I thought I might as well run the risk of being hung as to lose my property and go to prison too”The Eire Canal would soon make Buffalo a large industrial and shipping center, but in 1825 Buffalo was a frontier village with a population of just 2,000 people. Though Buffalo itself was small, the execution of the Thayer brothers in Niagara Square in the center of town drew a crowd of 20,000 – 30,000 witnesses. The Thayers were led into the square wearing white caps and shrouds, preceded by a cart carrying three coffins. As they walked, surrounded by soldiers, a band played a slow and plaintive air. At 2:00 PM on June 17, 1825 Israel, Isaac, and Nelson Thayer were “launched into eternity” together, hanging from the same gallows.