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1828 Robbery of the Chambersburg Bank 

John McKean Murders Wife

The Centinel (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania), Wednesday, November 18, 1807

At the court in Chambersburg, last week, John McKean of Washington township, Franklin county was tried for the murder of his wife - found guilty and sentenced to death.

The Centinel (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania), Wednesday, November 25, 1807

Extract of a letter from Chambersburg, Nov. 17

At our court, last week, John McKean, of Washington township, was tried for the murder of his Wife, it appeared by witnesses, that the prisoner and his wife were much addicted to intoxication; that when in that situation he frequently severely beat her; and that he had, as well on the morning of the day on which the horrid deed was perpetrated, as at other times, swore he would kill her! The evidence against him was but presumptive, but of that violent nature, as to not leave the smallest doubt of his having been her murderer; and the cruel, savage, usage he had frequently given her; his threats; the patience with which she bore them; and lastly, the slow, barbarous, and most horrible death he put her to, evinced so great a degree of "deliberate malice", and a mind so void of social duty, and so fatally bent upon mischief, as to leave no doubt of the degree of his guilt. "I do not think," said one of the witnesses, "that I could have put my finger upon any part of her, from her feet to the crown of her head, without putting it upon an old or new sore!"

Great exertion was made by Mr. Duncan and Mr. Snively (the prisoner's counsel) especially the former, to raise a doubt in the minds of the jury, as to the degree of guilt. He quoted a number of strong and similar cases, to show the impropriety of taking away a man's life upon presumptive evidence alone, however strong, and closed a very ingenious defense with declaring it to be the duty of the jury, if a single doubt had arisen in their minds, as to this point, to decide that doubt in favor of the prisoner.

Judge Hamilton concluded his charge much in the same language. "If (said he) one doubt is on your minds, you are honest men, and therefore the life of that man in the bar is saved."

The Jury retired about three-fourths of an hour, and returned with a verdict of GUILTY! On Friday morning the Judge pronounced upon the prisoner the awful sentence of the law, preparatory to which he addressed him on the nature of his crime, in language appropriate and peculiarly impressive, which visibly affected all present but the unhappy McKean, who remained apparently unmoved!"

The Centinel (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania), Wednesday, January 13, 1808

Chambersburg, Penn., Dec. 19

On Tuesday last the public witnessed the melancholy exit, agreeable to sentence, of the inferable John McKean. At an early hour on that morning the streets near the goal, and particularly leading to the place of execution, were crowded with spectators. About 11 o'clock the prisoner was brought out, accompanied by the usual officers and several divines. A strong detachment from the militia (.?......) previously drawn around the (?.....) prison, he was conducted with (.?....) between their files to the gallows (.?....) arrived at the place of execution, two of the preachers of the society of Methodists addressed alternately the criminal and the spectators, on the melancholy spectacle before them, and concluded the service with an appropriate and fervent prayer, during the whole of which, the unfortunate being who was the cause of their worthy zeal kept his seat in an apparent state of stupid insensibility. Having bid farewell to the pious gentlemen around him, and the Sheriff, he was launched into eternity precisely at half past one o'clock.

It being nearly fifteen years since the citizens of Franklin county had witnessed a scene of this kind, an unusual degree of curiosity was displayed on the above occasion, there not having been less, it is supposed, than 5,000 souls at the place of execution.

He was born in the county of Derry, in the kingdom of Ireland in the year 1767. He desended of indigent parents, who died when he was young, in consequence of which he received little or no learning - a misfortune to which he attributed the immoral and irreligious course he had pursued through life. He immigrated to America in the year 1783, and shortly after became acquainted with and married in Philadelphia, the woman whose unhappy end has been the cause of the ignomious death he has suffered. The this woman he had five children, four of whom are dead.

He continued in Philadelphia about seven years, during which time he lived tolerably happy with his wife. He then removed to near Carlisle and shortly after to Pine Grove iron works. Here, unfortunately he found the kind of company, where, to use his own language, "he (..?..) had to associate with bad, frolicsome company." From these works he removed to a Mr. Stiffy's place, near Mr. Gordon's tavern, where he followed farming. His wife then drank very hard. "We lived, " said he, "very rough - her drinking put me out of order - we frequently quarreled and sometimes I struck her."

From Stiffy's place he next removed into Waynesburg, and lastly to the place of Mr. Downey, where the partner of his intemperance breathed her last.

On returning from a venue, when he lived in Waynesburg, and finding his wife too much intoxicated to get him his victuals, he got into a violent passion, struck at her with an ax, and severely cut her hand. From the impression this circumstance appeared to have left upon his memory, there can be but little doubt, but that a mere miracle, at that time saved her life.

About a week before the death of his wife, he said, they had a violent quarrel, on account of her drinking; that he then "switch'd" her with an oak stick, which he did not think was a thick as his finger. A few days after, she complained of being (..?....) he thought was occasioned by (?...) the Sunday morning following (..?..) of August) after getting breakfast (?...)selt, and giving some to his (..?..) was lying in bed, he said he went to a neighbor's house about two miles distant, and when he returned about sunset, he found her lying on the floor dead and that he immediately informed the neighbors of her death. Upon being cautioned of the awful consequences of dying in that situation, he asked "what do you want me to say?" It was answered "to acknowledge your guilt and implore the mercy of God." He replied, "I will acknowledge no such thing - I am not guilty, or I would," being asked whether he thought the whipping he gave her about a week before had not been the cause of her death, he said, "I don't know - I cannot tell," and added that he knew not how she came by her death; he suspected no person for killing her, and stated a number of circumstances to induce in others a belief of his innocence; but which he agreed should not be mentioned, as they would evince an enmity in his mind against the witnesses; which he said, tho' he had some time before it, he then freely divested himself of, and that he had forgiven them, which fully convinced the writer (..?...) that a conviction of guilt rested on the head of the prisoner, not withstanding (..?..) give denial!

His parents belonged to the church of England; but he acknowledged, that himself and his wife never joined any society, and in fact, that they had lived in the open violation of all the Christian duties! The insensibility he displayed, from his first confinement to the moment of his execution, evidenced an ignorance of mind and callousness of heart, shocking to humanity; and taking all the circumstances into consideration, it would appear that by a course of unparalleled intemperance, and by the frequency of domestic quarrels - the mind of McKean had become familiarized to acts of barbarity, prepared for the commission of that crime for which he has now made an atonement to the offended laws of his adopted country.

Murder of Mr. Rupurt

The Centinel (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) January 1 1812


A Mr. Rupurt, we are informed, who lived on Warm Spring road, about 6 miles from this town, was found dead, on Wednesday last, in the road near Back creek. On examination he was found to be stabbed in several places. The inquest who sat on the body, returned a verdict of murder by some unknown person. - Chambersburg, Dec. 24

Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania)
December 27 1820

The noted Plymert, who twice made his escape from the Pittsburg jail, has been taken up in this city, and safely lodged in prison - Franklin Gazette

Gettysburg Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania)
November 6 , 1822 Page 2

Chambersburg, Oct. 29

Attempt To Rob & Murder!

On Saturday night the 19th inst., two or three villains broke into the dwelling house of Mr. George Besore, in Letterkenney township in this county, with the intention of murdering and robbing. Mrs. Besore was up in the kitchen at the time one of them attempted to enter through a window, - she boldly struck him with the tongs, when another quickly entered and unfastened the door. Mr. Besore then came from his bed to the kitchen when one of them flashed a loaded pistol at his breast, which fortunately did not discharge. A scuffle ensued and Mr. Besore obtained the pistol, and he & his wife flew into an adjoining room and fastened the door, - from which they called upon a relation who slept up stairs. After an ineffectual attempt to prize open the room door, the villains suddenly became alarmed and decamped, leaving one of their hats and the pistol, which have led to a suspicion of the daring perpetrators, and three persons have since been apprehended and committed for trial. - Repository.

Gettysburg Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania)
December 11 1822 Page 4

Chambersburg, Dec. 3
In the case of John Harmon, convicted at the late session for a rape, the motion in arrest of judgment on the ground of a defense in the indictment mentioned in our last) was argued on the 22d, by Messrs Crawford, Clarke and Denny, for the prisoner, and Messrs Dunlop and Hetich for the Commonwealth. On the 27th the motion was overruled by the Court and the prionser sentenced to a confinement in the penitentiary at Philadelphia for ten years. - Repos.

Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania)
May 14 1823 Page 1

Chambersburg, May 6

At the court of oyer and terminer, held in this borough the week before last, Frederick Defebaugh, sen., indicted for an attempt to rob and murder Mr. George Besore, in October last; and Adam Defebaugh, Enoch Johns and Frederick Defebaugh, jun., indicted as accessaries before the fact to the offence committed upon Mr. Besore, received their trials. Frederick Defebaugh, sen. Was found guilty, and sentenced by the Court for that offence, ten years, and for a laceny of which he had at a previous court been convicted, three years, to hard labor in the penitentiary of Philadelphia. The others were acquitted. P. J. Hetich and George Chambers, Esquires, for the commonwealth and James Dunlop and Samuel Riddle, Esq. for the defendants. - Repos.

John Grover Offers Reward

Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) May 10, 1826

Mr. John Grover, near Chambersburg, offers a reward of $10 for the recovery of a dark brown Mare, which was stolen out of his Stable on Monday night, the 24th ultimo; and an additional reward of $10 for the apprehension of the thief.

William Duncan's Horse is Killed

Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) May 17, 1826

Chambersburg, March 2


We are informed that Mr. William Duncan of Cumberland county (who lately offered through the medium of this paper, a reward for the apprehension of James Taylor, who stole a horse from him, has had the horse with Taylor stole stabbed to death in his stable - and that on the same night his son-in-law and two other of Mr. Duncan's neighbors had each a horse killed in their stables by some unknown villain or villains. Such high-handed and ruthless wickedness loudly calls upon every member of the community to use their utmost exertions to ferret out and drag to speedy punishment the inhuman wretches capable of the commission of such a crime - for no one can be safe in his person or property whilst they are at large. - Repository

Hugh Greenfield Robbed

Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania January 17, 1827

Chambersburg, Jan 9

On Sunday night the 31st ult, the dwelling house of Hugh Greenfield, Esq., of this borough, was broken open and robbed of about 1700 dollars belonging to the public. - Repos.

Archibald M'Sperran Murdered - Conrad Hess Arrested

Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania May 9, 1827

Butler, April 17.


We have been informed that on Friday morning the 23d ult., the body of Archibald M'Sperran, of Franklin county, was found dead on the Franklin road near to Mr. Dewoody's tavern. From the marks on the body it is generally believed that he was murdered. A coroner's inquest was held on the body and found that the deceased came to his death by violence. We have not heard the particulars of this shocking affair, but flying reports state them to be as follows: That M'Sperran was at what is termed a frolick and that a person named Conrad Hess came there and that Mr. M'Sperran went with him to Franklin. Hess and M'Sperran returned to Dewoody's, stopped there some time, then went away in company together and were seen going up Sandy Hill.

Hess was arrested on suspicion of being the murderer of M'Sperran. We understand that he has been discharged from the arrest, on giving security for his appearance at the next court in Franklin. - Repository.

James Duffield Found Guilty of Seduction

Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania), September 5 1827

Chambersburg, Aug. 28.

A highly interesting trial has just terminated in which James Duffield of this county, was indicted for the crime of seduction, attended with many highly aggravating circumstances. An upright jury of fathers and brothers expressed their estimation of the defendant's guilt, by amercing him in $1,200 damages; restricted by the law on the one hand and by his means on the other, they could not inflict a heavier punishment; or he, no doubt, would have felt still more keenly, what men can do to avenge the violated dignity of their species - Repub.

William Adams Guilty of Burglary

Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania), September 5 1827

Chambersburg, Aug. 28.

The Court

A great variety of indictments were tried at the Court in this borough the week before last; among the most important were two for burglary and one for arson, preferred against a black man of the name of William Adams. He was found guilty on each and sentenced to the penitentiary for eighteen years. - Repository.

Thieves Rob G. A. Shryock's Store

Republican Compiler, Gettysburg, PA, July 2, 1828
Chambersburg, June 24th
Robberies. - On Thursday night last, the store of Jos. McFarland, Esq. was robbed of change that had been left in the drawer and an article of goods amounting to about 10 dollars - and on Saturday night last, Mr. G. A. Shryock's store was entered and robbed of 25 dollars. Although these robberies do not prove very serious to the sufferers, yet no thanks are due the depredators, who undoubtedly would not have spared any amount had it been left within their reach. From the manner in which these robberies were committed, it is evident their perpetrators are intimately acquainted with the situation of the houses in which the stores are kept. - Republican.

James Dickey Attacked and Critically Wounded
Republican Compiler, Gettysburg, PA, April 8, 1829
Chambersburg, March 31.
We learn with deep regret, that a most foul and wicked deed was perpetrated in Peters township in this county on Thursday night last. Some cruel and malicious villain entered the bed chamber of Mr. James Dickey, one of our most respectable citizens, and attempted to kill him with an axe, while he lay asleep. The monster struck him across the face with the edge of the axe, and left him for dead - and we are sorry to add there is too much reason to fear, that the dreadful wound may prove mortal. We understand that Mr. Dickey has no recollection of feeling the wound when it was given, and that a distressing mystery envelopes the affair with respect to the perpetrator of the crime. - Repository.

Ebenezer Cox Confesses to Murder of Colonel Dunn
Republican Compiler, Gettysburg, PA, March 30, 1830
Ebenezer Cox
We are informed Gen. Samuel Dunn, of this county has received a letter from a friend in Jefferson county, Va., stating that Cox, the assassin of his late brother Thomas Dunn, has made a full confession of his guilt, and has implicated seven other persons, one of whom is Crowl, who it will be recollected was arrested but dismissed by the Examining Court. Crowl and two of the others implicated had been taken when the letter was written. Cox says in his confession that they had taken an oath to each other to commit the act, and not to make any disclosures - that to affect their purpose they all met on a certain evening, in the rear of the Superintendent's house, dressed in women's clothes, and snapped their muskets at Mr. Dunn, whilst he was sitting by a candle, examining papers; but that the night being damp it injured the powder so much that none of the guns could be discharged! They then fell on the expedient of drawing lots, which were made from broom corn and held by Mills, one of the conspirators. He, Cox, drew the shortest which was the fatal one, and they urged him until he committed the deed. - Frank. Repos.
The individuals charged with having been accessary to the murder of Col Dunn, were brought before the Examining Court. There being no testimony to corroborate the statement of Cox, they were severally acquitted. - Shepherdstown Pioneer

Samuel Branch Arrested
Gettysburg Compiler newspaper dated March 12, 1869
Franklin Co. PA
Committed to Jail---A young negro named Samuel Branch, who had been in the employ of Henry Shank, near Waynesboro was arrested and brought before George Bender, Justice of the Peace, in Waynesboro on the 25th ult., charged with an attempt to commit a rape on the daughter of John W. Zook, aged 13 years. Not giving the bail required the accused was sent to Jail to await his trial in April.
- Contributed by Teresa Haines Rigney

Fahrney Dry Cleaning House Robbed
Harrisburg Telegraph, Harrisburg, Pa, January 01, 1914
Rob Cleaning House
Waynesboro, Pa., Jan. 1. - The dry cleaning house of "Doc" Fahrney, in rear of his clothing and clothes cleaning place of business in West Main street, was entered by robbers early Wednesday morning and carried off three suit of clothes, two coats, a pair of trousers, all left there to be cleaned, and 500 samples 9x5 ½ inches in sizes. Chief of Police Staley is working on the case.


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