in Sandwich 1809 – 1909
from The Township of Sandwich Past and
Present, by Frederick Neal (1909)
Before and after of an
unknown condemned man being hung in the town
of Sandwich. Photo taken by Frank G. Kiborn of
1313 Sandwich St. E. Windsor. (Windsor Directory 1923-24)
the early part of Sandwich’s existence as a District
seat, punishment was dealt out with a liberal hand. In those
days the law read “Murderers, horse and sheep thieves
shall be hung in some public thoroughfare and remain in full
view of passersby until the flesh rot from their bones.”
It is said that a woman and a man were gibbeted on the brow
of the hill near Mill Street and known as Lot 4, East Russell
Street [near the Duff-Baby House]. The crime for which they
are said to have suffered for was murder.
the time when the office of Sheriff was held by William Hands
two young men, both of Chatham, (one colored and one white),
were gibbeted on the brow of the hill on Russell Street, nearly
opposite of what is known by the citizens as Cook’s
Canal. At that time Bedford Street terminated at South Street
and the public thoroughfare continued down South Street to
Russell, down Russell for a short distance and then gradually
ran towards the river until the River Road was reached along
by the Pittsburgh Coal Company’s dock and fish hatchery
at the intersection at McKee Road.
iron frames, or “gibbets,” consisted of an iron
bar, which when placed on the person to be punished reached
from the back of the neck to his heels. To this perpendicular
bar was clasped an iron ring which clasped the neck, another
encircled the waist, while two others firmly held the ankles.
“gibbets” stood on an elevation overlooking the
road. This big-boting made a great commotion in the neighborhood,
and the exposed remains became so offensive as to excite the
strongest opposition to the law.” The dreadful smelling
things must be cut down and buried,” was the cry. But
who was to do it? Such an action would be in defiance of law
and might bring unknown severity upon the heads of the people
who interfered. There seem to have been few brave enough to
attempt the noisome work.
Hands was a man of courage and decision, a conspicuous character
that rode about mounted on a strikingly white horse.
dark night during the heat of the argument regarding the occupants
of the gibbets, a white horse was seen in the immediate neighbour-hood
of the gibbets, and next morning not a sight was to be seen
of bodies. No arrests were made and the worthy sheriff refused
to talk on the subject and took no action to discover the
person or persons who defied the law.
1889, the property on which the bodies of these two men were
buried was purchased by Calvin Cook and made into a gravel
pit. One day while the labourers were engaged in digging they
came upon a quantity of bones and iron frames. The writer,
hearing of this discovery, visited the gravel pit and succeeded
in saving and securing the complete skeleton of one of the
men and the gibbeting irons in which it was enclosed. The
discovery and a complete history of the incidents was published
in columns of the Windsor Record at that time.
day or two afterwards Calvin Cook, the owner of the property,
demanded possession of them and the writer very reluctantly
gave them up. These “irons” have since passed
on to other hands.
far as can be ascertained all the executions that followed
up to the present time (1909) took place at the Sandwich jail,
the condemned men being hung by a rope from a scaffold.
man named “Bird” was hanged in 1834 for killing
a peddler in the Long Woods, in Kent County. Bird met his
victim in Chatham and followed him to the place where the
crime was committed. When arrested he had the peddler’s
pack with him.
1840 a man named Huffman was hanged for murdering his daughter’s
illegitimate child in Kent County. Huffman was a Methodist
preacher and had a beautiful daughter by whom he fathered
a child. His child was found drowned in the Thames River.
1838 a man named Fitzpatrick was executed for committing unmentionable
crime on a daughter of a prominent family in Amherstburg.
He protested his innocence to his last days. Some years after
a man named Sellers confessed on his deathbed guilt of the
crime for which Fitzpatrick had suffered.
Young was tried September 27th 1858, and sentenced to be hung
on February 20th 1859. Young came with his wife to Windsor
from Paw Paw, Michigan, during the fall of 1858. The day of
his arrival he wandered with his wife to a lonely back street
in Windsor and there shot his wife to death.
the day of his execution, he succeeded in making his escape,
it is said, by burning a hole in the floor and then digging
his way out from under the building. When he made his escape
from prison he left a very sarcastic letter addressed to Sheriff
McEwan [see biography, The TIMES, September issue #37].
familiar with the details of this horrible crime looked upon
“the burnt hole in the floor” story with grave
suspicion. The hole in the floor would scarcely admit of a
child passing through it, and the actions of the jailor in
charge at that time were considered not above suspicion and
it was openly hinted that he had a hand in the supposed escape.
any rate a change was made and a new jailor appointed. Young
was the first man sentenced to be hanged after the MacKenzie
brothers built the new jail and courthouse.
The Township of Sandwich
Past and Present, 1909 is available at The
TIMES Book & Gift Shop, 560 Chatham Street West for
$14 plus gst, (519) 255-9898
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