have been two cases of conviction for murder in this county. The first
of these murders was committed by Henry Crist, in the killing of
Chambers, his son-in-law. The parties lived in the township of
Washington. Chambers's wife had repeatedly made complaint to her father
of ill treatment by her husband. Crist went to the house of Chambers,
and at¬tacked him with a butcher knife. Chambers ran; and, while
running, Crist seized a rifle which hung over the door, and shot him:
he fell, and, in a few moments, expired without speaking. A neighbor,
Mrs. Flint, was present and witnessed the deed. Crist was arrested, and
put into the jail at Salisbury. This jail was made of square, hewed
logs, some of which may yet be seen lying near the house of Enoch
Rails-back. The principal witnesses were his wife, a young son, his
daughter [Mrs. Chambers,] and Mrs. Flint. He was found guilty, and
sentenced to be hung. The people from the remotest parts of the county
attended to witness the execution.
The prisoner was conveyed to the gallows in a wagon, seated on his
coffin. Daniel Fraley, a Methodist minister, yet remembered by some of
the old settlers, standing in the wagon, preached a sermon to the
people. At its close the rope was adjusted around his neck, the cap
drawn over his face, and the wagon drawn from under him—a mode of
execution not practiced at the present time. The murder was committed
in the autumn of 1815, and the execution took place on the first of
To the foregoing statement, principally taken from Rev. Ira, C. Smith's
book, before referred to, we subjoin the following:
When Crist's son, a youth of about fifteen, was called to the witness'
stand on the part of the prosecution, Crist said to him: "Now, sou,
tell the truth, though it may convict your father." It is said this
son, after the execution of his father, took charge of the body, and
conveyed it home on a sled, in the night, and alone, through the woods,
a distance of ten or twelve miles.
An account of the second murder trial and execution,
was written for the Indiana True Republican, in 1867, which is in
substance as follows:
Hampshire Pitt was tried in November, 1822, for the
murder of William Mail. Both parties were colored men. The murder
occurred on the farm now owned by Thomas C. Straw-bridge, about four
miles north of Richmond, on the Newport turnpike. Says the writer:
"Pitt lived with a woman ostensibly his wife, between whom and Mail he
suspected an improper intimacy. His suspicions were thought to be well
founded, and there was for him, on that account, considerable sympathy.
Though a bad man, he was a smart, plausible old fellow. He was a tinker
by trade, and therefore a useful man. Traveling, as he did, among the
people, mending their old pewter ware, and supplying them with new
plates, basins, &c, and withal making himself agreeable, he had
become quite a favorite. A large part of the bone and muscle of the
young Hoosiers of that day is made up of mush and milk partaken from
basins of his manufacture. For one, I am ready to acknowledge the full
extent of my obligations in this respect,"
Pitt meeting Mail, and being greatly enraged, cried
out to him as he advanced, " You are there, are you ? Bill Mail, you
have been in the habit of calling me old man; my name is Hampshire Pitt, or General
Pitt; and if you call me old man again I will put this through you!"
flourishing at the same time a dagger, with which he almost instantly
stabbed him to the heart. He was promptly arrested and confined in the
old log jail at Centerville, which stood immediately east of the place
where the present jail stands.
He was tried and found guilty; but Associate Judges
McLane and Davenport, over the objections of Judge Eggleston, granted a
new trial. The next jury rendered a similar verdict.
The day of execution was a very unpleasant one; yet
thousands of men, women, and children flocked to witness the scene. A
rude scaffold was erected, under which the doomed man was driven in a
cart. There was no trap-door or other arrangement to give him a fall,
thereby breaking his neck and shortening his suffering. The rope was
adjusted and the cart drawn on, leaving him suspended until he was dead.
Before the day of his execution, Pitt engaged
another colored man, by giving him his horse, to take charge of his
body and see it interred. Having got the horse, the colored man sold
the body for ten dollars in advance, to two physicians for dissection,
and left the country. Pitt having been informed o£ the fact, sent
for Christopher Roddy, who promised to take charge of the body after
the execution, and keep it from the physicians. At the execution, Roddy
was present with a coffin on a sled, and the physicians with a wagon
without a coffin. After the body was cut down, a struggle for the body
ensued, and Roddy prevailed. He conveyed the body in the coffin to his
home in Salisbury, and guarded it through the night, and buried it the
next day. But fearing the body might be found, he disinterred it the
next night, and, it is said, carried it on his shoulder, without the
coffin, some seven miles and buried it in the woods. The next day he
felled a number of forest trees across the grave; and the doctors never
got the body.
Roddy is reputed as having been an intemperate,
profane, and very wicked man. But he seems not to have entirely lost
his sense of honor, having faithfully fulfilled his engagement with
Pitt. He was a Revolutionary soldier, and had served during the whole
period of the war.
Allusion was made to the criminal code of
Indiana territory, which authorized whipping for certain crimes. The
writer in the True Republican, who, in the winter of 1866, from his
review of the recorded proceedings of " The Courts in the early times
in Wayne County " has furnished most of the information respecting the
two cases of murder, informed us also that whipping, as a punishment
for crime, was legal, as late as the year 1820. The following was the
judgment of the court in the case of a conviction for larceny: "It is
considered that the defendant do make his fine to the state in the sum
of five dollars, and that he restore to said the said one dollar and fifty
cents, in silver, and one ten dollar note on the
Lebanon Banking Company, of the value of ten dollars, and that he
receive on his bare back five lashes.
This part of the penalty, however, was remitted by the governor.
Source: History of Wayne County, Indiana by Andrew W. Young 1872