Saturday, October 4, 2014

52 Ancestors #40 - Two Murderers - One Gallows

While looking for records relating to my 9th great-grandfather, John Capen, I found a minor notation that he served on the jury in the murder trials of John Williams and and William Schooler. This intrigued me to investigate further and I came across a post by Robert Wilhelm on the blog, Executed Today. 

William Schooler was a man with a checkered past. He was an admitted adulterer who had fled to Holland to escape the law after wounding a man in a duel in England. He came to New England without his wife and lived on the outskirts of the town of Newbury, by the banks of the Merrimack River. 

Mary Scholy was a servant girl who for some unknown reason had come to Newbury from the area called Pascataquack (now Portsmouth, NH) and needed a guide to help her return to her master. 
Google Maps shows that it would be an 8-9 1/2 hour trip walking from Newbury to Portsmouth on modern roads - It would obviously have been more challenging in colonial times. 

When William Schooler heard that Mary needed a guide, he offered his services for fifteen shillings. She accepted without knowing he had never made the trip before. Schooler returned to Newbury suspiciously early with a scratch on his nose that he blamed on walking into some brambles and blood on his hat that he attributed to killing a pigeon. However, there was no evidence to contradict his story so nothing happened until her body was found in the woods north of Newbury by an Agawam Indian. She had been exposed to the elements for several months so not much could be told from her body except that her clothes had been removed and found in a pile nearby. Schooler continued to protest his innocence and refused to confess but in the end was convicted of ravishing and killing Mary Scholy. 

John Williams was a recent immigrant to the colonies who had been imprisoned in Boston for theft. he escaped with another prisoner, John Hoddy. As they traveled near the east end of the Wenham Great Pond, they had a fight that left John Hoddy dead. There are conflicting stories of how this came to be discovered - one blames John Hoddy's dogs for drawing the attention of neighbors and the other says Williams was recognized as a criminal arrested in Ipswich. Either way, the body of John Hoddy was located when a farmer's cows started bellowing and an investigation led to the discovery of Hoddy's naked body covered by stones. Unlike Schooler, Williams confessed to the murder but to protect his rights of due process, his case was tried before a jury and he was sentenced to death. 

Both men were found guilty of murder and hanged together on the same gallows on Boston Common on September 28, 1637. 

Photo by mlhradio/CCBY

For more information see this source: 

John Capen - on jury for both trials
James Capen & Hannah Lawrence
James Capen & Elizabeth Call
James Capen & Sarah Pinson
Thomas Capen & Mary Wyman
Thomas Capen & Mary Abbott
Timothy Capen & Sarah K. Abbott
Edward Abbott Capen & Mary Jane Abbott
Fanny May Capen & Edward Mellen Carter
Thomas Richard Carter - my grandfather

Edward Abbott Capen & Mary Jane Abbott were second cousins - Timothy Capen's sister, Deborah was Mary Jane's grandmother. Deborah married William Ackley - their daughter, Sarah Ackley married John Abbott and they were the parents of Mary Jane. 

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