Patty Cannon was, by all accounts, among the most barbarous and amoral women in American history. In antebellum Delaware, Patty Cannon led a gang who kidnapped free blacks and sold them into slavery further south. She would indiscriminately murder any man, woman or child—including her own husband and baby— who stood in her way. An1841 murder pamphlet sums it up, “And we can truly say, that we have never seen recorded, a greater instance of moral depravity, so perfectly regardless of every feeling, which should inhabit the human breast.”
The Indiana Hero -1820
In 1819, when the State of Indiana was still frontier country, Amasa Fuller, a prominent and popular citizen of Lawrenceburg, was courting a young lady of that town. While Fuller was away on business, the young lady’s heart was stolen by a younger man, named Palmer Warren. Fuller returned to find that his true love had agreed to marry her new suitor. When Warren refused to fight a duel with Fuller, Fuller shot him in cold blood. But Amasa Fuller was so popular in Lawrenceburg that, when a ballad was written about the murder, the young lady was cast as the villain, and Fuller was “The Indiana Hero.”
The Thayer Brothers -1824
The year 1825 was a momentous one for Buffalo, New York. The Erie Canal opened, connecting Lake Erie to the Hudson River, a celebration honoring the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American Revolution was held in Buffalo, and the city held its first and only public hanging. At least 20,000 witnesses gathered in Niagara Square to watch thee brothers—Nelson, Israel, and Isaac Thayer—hang from the same gallows.
The Kentucky Tragedy -1825
Jereboam Beauchamp stabbed Col. Solomon Sharp to avenge the honor of his wife, Anna Cooke Beauchamp. The story of the murder—known from the start as the Kentucky Tragedy—was viewed by the Beauchamps as one of love, treachery, vengeance, and tragic heroism; all the elements of the romantic novels they both so dearly loved. But in reality, Jereboam and Anna were enacting another familiar American narrative: two troubled misfits lashing out at a world they both disdained.
The Sheriff's Mistress -1828
In the summer of 1827, George Swearingen was a hardworking, upstanding, young family man. He and his lovely wife, Mary, had a new baby daughter. Working as clerk and deputy to his uncle, the sheriff of Washington County, Maryland, George was being groomed to take his uncle’s job. Everything was going George Swearingen’s way; then he met Rachel Cunningham. In September the following year, George and Rachel were fugitives, running from the charge of murdering Mary Swearingen.
Saturday, October 8, 2016
The 1820s were indeed murderous with most of the country still frontier and the forces of justice barely able to contend with a violent population. The stories of these murders have survived nearly 200 years through murder pamphlets published at the time but the facts they contain cannot always be trusted. The incidents are often exaggerated and where more than one pamphlet was written for a murder, they seldom agree on names and events and can even take opposing views on the guilt of the accused. In some cases, such as the murder of William Morgan, what really happened is the subject of heated debate to this day. In spite of—or maybe because of—the uncertainty of their facts, the stories of murder from the 1820s still resonate.