Date: January 10, 1820
Location: Lawrenceburg, Indiana
Victim: Palmer Warren
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Accused: Amasa Fuller
"The Indiana Hero" - Anna Underhill
Amasa Fuller was madly in love with a young lady of Lawrenceburg, Indiana, named Catharine Farrar (though court records and other sources refer to her simply as the “young lady.”) Attorney Oliver Hampton Smith, who knew them both when he was a student in Lawrenceburg, described her as “a young, though not handsome girl, with a broad English accent.” In spite of her reported unattractiveness, Amasa Fuller was deeply in love with the girl and they were engaged to be married. Their wedding date was set for January 10, 1820.
In November 1819, Fuller traveled to Brookville, Indiana, on business. While he was away, Palmer Warren, a younger but also well respected citizen of Lawrenceburg, began calling on Miss Farrar. Within a month, Warren proposed marriage and, though already engaged to Fulller, she accepted. The middle of December, Amasa Fuller received a letter from the girl in which she renounced all feelings for him and enclosed the ring he had given her. The letter was signed by the young lady, but was written in Warren’s handwriting.
The letter left Fuller in a state of gloom and melancholy. On Friday, January 7, he left Brookville for Lawrenceburg on foot. He arrived that evening and took a room at Coburn’s Hotel, which happened to be next door to the residence of his true love, and in the same building as the office of Palmer Warren. Fuller met Warren several times in the house and attempted to pick fights, which Warren declined each time.
On Monday, January 10 –the day he had hoped to be married—Fuller borrowed a greatcoat with pockets big enough to hold the pistols. He went outside, and when Warren opened his office door, Fuller followed him into the office. Within a minute, a witness, Mr. Farrar, heard a pistol report from Warren’s office. He tried to open the door, but could not because Warren’s body, lying crosswise, was blocking the door. He pushed open the door to find Fuller standing next to the body in a room filled with smoke and the smell of powder. Warren, not yet dead, was on the floor, struggling in his last agonies.
Farrar grabbed Fuller and exclaimed, “Good Heavens! Fuller, is it possible you have done this?”
Fuller replied, “I am a man, and I have acted the part of a man! I have been ridding the earth of a vile reptile! I glory in the deed!”
On the floor, next to two pistols—one discharged, one still loaded—was a note saying, in effect, that Warren, in the presence of the Almighty God, swore to renounce all pretensions to the young lady, and acknowledged himself to be a base liar and a scoundrel. After his arrest, Fuller said he had written the note and presented it to Warren to sign. When Warren refused, Fuller offered him a pistol, bidding him to defend himself like a man. When Warren refused this as well, Fuller shot him, point blank, through the heart.
Trial: July 7, 1820
With little else to offer in their client’s defense, Fuller’s attorneys advised him to plead insanity. While there was much evidence that Fuller was more gloomy and melancholy than usual, as if something disturbed his mind, there was no evidence of insanity. The jury deliberated for two hours, then returned a verdict of guilty.
Verdict: Guilty of murder in the first degree
Judge Eggleston sentenced Amasa Fuller to be hanged on March 31, but the date was postponed so the case could be appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court. The verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court, but by this time popular sentiment had turned in Fuller’s favor. The people of Dearborn County, almost unanimously, signed a petition to the Governor for the pardon of Fuller. Fuller was so sure that he would receive a pardon that, when an opportunity arose to escape jail, Fuller opted to stay in jail. He did not receive the pardon, and on August 14, 1820, in front of a crowd of thousands, Amasa Fuller was hanged.
Not long after the execution a ballad began to circulate which compared Fuller to Samson and elevated him to “The Indiana Hero.” In the song, Fuller goes to the gallows with great dignity:
When the morning came that brave Fuller was to die,And his fickle mistress is chastised:
He smiled and bid the world adieu.
Like an angel he did stand, for he was a handsome man;
On his breast he wore a ribbon of blue.
Of all the ancient history that I can understsnd,
Which we're bound by the scripture to believe,
Bad women are essentially the downfall of man,
As Adam was beguiled by Eve.