Henry Fife, Charlotte Jones, and Monroe Stewart

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Among the most infamous Allegheny County murders – featuring the first woman to go to the gallows, a wrongful conviction, an unsolved murder, and buried treasure – is the darkly gothic tale of Charlotte Jones, Henry Fife, and Monroe Stewart.

Jones, 25, and Fife, 21, who were romantically tied, conspired to rob Jones’ aunt and uncle of their life savings and use the money to begin their lives together. On April 30, 1857, they did so, stabbing to death George Wilson and Elizabeth McMasters in their log cabin home near Glassport, twelve miles south of Pittsburgh, in the process. The elderly siblings lived modestly and kept their considerable savings in their home.

The assailants stabbed Wilson multiple times and beat McMasters to death with a poker. They are reported to have stolen $600 and buried the money for later retrieval along the bank of the Youghiogheny River.

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The next morning, a neighbor found the murdered siblings when she stopped by their home. Suspicion quickly fell on Jones, who had been seen in McKeesport at the same time the bodies were found and was reputed to have been involved with her brother, William, in the March 30 murder of Samuel H. White in Washington County, where she lived. White, who was reported to have had $750 in his home, had been killed under similar circumstances to Wilson and McMasters. Jones and Fife were arrested on May 1.

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After her arrest, Jones first blamed her brother. Soon after, she confessed, casting herself and Fife as the unwitting accomplices of Monroe Stewart, a friend and work associate of Fife. Stewart, who had been seen with Fife shortly before the murders, did not approve of Jones. Arrested on that basis, Stewart steadfastly maintained his innocence throughout the ordeal that followed.

In the wake of a sensational and closely followed eleven day trial – the newspaper coverage was nearly stenographic – in the summer of 1857, all three were found guilty on July 11, 1857.

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Pittsburgh Morning Post

They were sentenced to death two weeks later. It was the first felony murder to result in a capital conviction in Allegheny County history. Their convictions were upheld on appeal. Fife and Jones were scheduled to hang on February 12, 1858, with Stewart scheduled to follow on February 26.

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Pittsburgh Morning Post, July 27, 1857

In dramatic statements from the gallows on February 12, 1858, Jones and Fife completely absolved Stewart of any involvement in the incident. Fife declared Stewart a friend who had no involvement in the crime. Jones, clearly the mastermind of the crime, acknowledged that she had originally implicated Stewart because she feared he would try to persuade Fife to leave her.

Indicative of the tempered support for the death penalty in that era, as reflected in the regular legislative attempts to abolish its use that were just beginning to wane as civil war loomed, the Pittsburgh Morning Post published a bloodless account of the executions.

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Pittsburgh Morning Post, February 13, 1858

Jones and Fife were hanged side-by-side; both hangings were botched, resulting in slow deaths by strangulation. Jones was the first woman, and one of only two women, to be executed in Allegheny County history. She was also the first woman to be executed in Pennsylvania since the controversial 1809 execution of Susanna Cox in Lancaster County; a case that strengthened public sentiment against the capital eligibility of infanticide (see the Allegheny County case of Mary Martin).

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Contributing to the true crime murder genre that was so popular in the 19th century, the story of their crime, trial, confessions, and executions was told in a quickly-produced pamphlet.

Monroe Stewart, whose execution was scheduled for the following week, was pardoned on February 22, 1858, making his the first wrongful capital conviction in Allegheny County history. His freedom was short-lived. While in jail, Stewart had contracted smallpox. He died in Passavant Hospital on March 9, 1858. His death so soon after his pardon came to be seen by some as divine proof of his guilt and was said by others to have been faked by authorities to allow him to leave the area.

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Pittsburgh Daily Post, March 10, 1858

In another Gothic twist, the stolen money that Fife was said to have buried was reportedly found in 1880 by boys playing in the area, only to have it quickly stolen from them by a red-headed stranger.

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New York Times, June 19, 1880

The murder of Samuel H. White was never solved. Charlotte’s brother, William Jones, Jr., was convicted of the murder on November 23, 1857, but had his conviction overturned in February 1858. He was acquitted at a second trial in May 1858, but back in prison multiple thereafter for a series of violent crimes.

Daniel Werling

In perhaps the most egregious of the many domestic homicides to result in a capital conviction in Allegheny County’s history, Daniel Werling killed his wife, Barbara, on Saturday, April 7, 1894, shooting her while she worked at the Diamond Market (the present location of Market Square). Werling had just been released from prison for a prior assault on his wife.

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Diamond Market

The day he was released, Werling pawned his watch and bought a gun, intent on carrying out his threat to kill his wife. He did so brazenly, approaching her in full view of patrons and peddlers, and shooting her multiple times.

When Werling was apprehended by patrons, he is reported to have said “I had a right to do this. I have cause to do this.” He also said he wanted to kill the market superintendent. Once in custody, he confessed to police.

Records indicate Werling had been imprisoned at least eight times over the previous eight years, always for domestic violence and always for a few months at the Allegheny County Workhouse. The tone of the newspaper coverage indicates his crimes were not taken very seriously. Barbara (Bock) Werling maintained a stand at the market as a means to support her family during her husband’s frequent periods of incarceration and drunkenness.

 

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Pittsburgh Post, May 21, 1891
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Pittsburgh Press, December 14, 1891

At trial, Werling claimed he was insane due to excessive alcohol consumption. After brief jury deliberations, he was convicted of first-degree murder on June 19, 1894, and sentenced to death on June 30.

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Pittsburgh Daily Post, June 20, 1894

At the time of his conviction, the Post-Gazette wryly noted: “Evidently the jury in the Werling case reasoned that if a particular type of insanity would lead a man to deliberately plan and execute the murder of his wife; declare he was glad of it repeatedly and wish he had been able to kill another person, the proper treatment for that kind of insanity would be twisted hemp. The community generally will approve the remedy.”

His appeal and pardon request rejected, Daniel Werling was hanged on July 9, 1895. A state that could not be aroused to protect the life of Barbara Werling had acted decisively to kill her killer.

George Schmous

George Schmous, a German-immigrant iron worker, lived with his wife, Catherine, and their three children on the steep slopes of the South Side. There, in the middle of the night of July 26, 1893, in “one of the most dastardly crimes ever recorded” in the area, Schmous killed his wife and two daughters, Mary and Maggie, beating them with a hatchet and a lamp while they slept, then attempting to set the house on fire to conceal the crime. The beatings were especially vicious. Neighbors intervened before the fire could spread.

The Schmous’s were poor, unhappy, and struggling. Catherine was described as having a violent temper and a “reputation as a fighter;” George was described as simpleminded. They quarreled frequently.

Schmous was immediately arrested. He confessed to firemen and police on the scene, but denied his guilt at trial. Though the motive for the crime was never clearly established, speculation focused on an insurance policy on the lives of the children. The surviving child, Johnnie, served as a key witness against his father.

Schmous was found guilty on September 23, 1893. “The defense was lame,” the Daily Post noted. His claims of insanity and imbecility were unsuccessful in gaining a new trial or a pardon, though the evidence of his mental instability was certainly present. Schmous was hanged on September 20, 1894.

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Patrick Fitzpatrick

On the evening of September 2, 1891, Patrick Fitzpatrick and Samuel Earley quarreled inside Mulvihill’s Saloon in the Phoenix Hotel. After Fitzpatrick was told to leave, Earley followed him onto the sidewalk. There the fight continued, with Fitzpatrick stabbing and killing Earley. Fitzpatrick was quickly apprehended by police.

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Mulvihill’s Saloon, 1901

In a case that played on the class and ethnic stereotypes of the time, the dim and dissolute Irish-born Fitzpatrick, a self-described tramp and former brewery worker in Dublin, was contrasted with Earley, a more sober, hardworking, and prosperous English-born steelworker.

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From the Coroner’s file

Fitzpatrick, who had a prior robbery conviction, was convicted of first-degree murder on September 29, 1891, less than four weeks after the killing. Despite evidentiary circumstances ordinarily associated with a second-degree murder conviction, Fitzpatrick’s appeal and pardon requests were denied.

Patrick Fitzpatrick was sentenced to death on October 24, 1891. In the first execution in nearly eight years, he was hanged on May 24, 1892. In the fashion of the day, the Pittsburgh Press published a lengthy article discussing the execution that included a detailed description of the final hours before the execution. Fitzpatrick is described in the most favorable and sympathetic terms.

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Pittsburgh Press, May 24, 1892

This was also the first case since Jewell’s execution in 1854 in which a white man was executed for a fatal assault – as opposed to a felony murder – against another white man.

The pause in executions that preceded Fitzpatrick’s hanging paralleled renewed questions about the death penalty in northern states in this era, during which both Maine and Iowa abolished the practice. Patterns of migration and immigration which saw limited numbers of Black migrants and most immigrants coming from Northern and Western Europe were associated with limited sense of threat.

Consistent with that, the Pittsburgh Daily Post expressed broad doubts about the efficacy of executions. “The legal killing of a human being for the illegal killing of another has very little effect as a warning,” and rather accomplishes only retribution. Noting that there had been nearly four hundred homicides in Allegheny County since the last execution, “we question if the number would have been reduced had there been an execution every month.” With a curious use of the word “victim,” they concluded that “the sacredness of human life is not enforced by the gallows. People read of executions to learn of the fortitude, hardness, or craven weakness of the victim, not to draw moral lessons.”

The Pittsburgh Press expressed similar hesitancy about the efficacy of the death penalty. Using the calculus by which culpability is measured, Fitzpatrick’s case was thought to be one of second-degree murder. The warden charged with overseeing his execution was quoted as expressing dread due to his “tender feelings” for Fitzpatrick, a “model prisoner.”

Curiously, immediately preceding its judgment that  “[t]here never was a more decent or orderly execution in this or any other jail,” the Press described Fitzpatrick’s slow asphyxiation; “The body hung motionless for 18 minutes. At 6 ½ minutes the heart moved still feebly and at 8 ½ minutes both pulse and heart were perceptible. At 11 minutes the beat was normal, but the pulse barely fluttered and at 18 minutes Dr. Ranhauser pronounced the man dead and turned the body over to the jury.”

Establishment opinion about the death penalty would change dramatically, as would the pace of executions. With the influx of Southern and Eastern European “new immigrants” and the first Black migrants into the rapidly expanding steel and coal industries, Fitzpatrick’s execution can be viewed as the last of an era in which capital defendants were primarily and securely white men and the capital machinery was more judicious in carrying out executions.

The Battle of Homestead was only seven weeks away. Mechanization and the associated deskilling of labor and the brutal suppression of a “non-white” laborers were bringing an end to the “craftsmen’s empire” of industrializing Pittsburgh. With that change, the assembly line moved faster and the gallows got busier.

Christian Jacoby

Christian Jacoby, his wife, Lena, their four children, and a servant, Anna Maria Suttler, arrived in Pittsburgh from Offenbach, Germany, on July 7, 1858. Upon arrival, they checked into the hotel of Daniel Herwig at 395 Penn Avenue, downtown.

Jacoby had lived in Pittsburgh and worked in a rolling mill for two years prior to his marriage and was returning with his wife and family en route to Chicago to start a life in the United States.

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That evening, Christian and Lena Jacoby went on a long walk across the Monongahela River and to the west along the Ohio River to a remote area. There Jacoby shot and killed his wife. The next morning, with Anna Maria Suttler, who was pregnant, posing as his wife, the Jacobys continued to Chicago.

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Pittsburgh from the Ohio River, 1850s, very near the site where Lena Jacoby was killed

After Lena Jacoby’s body was found near Cork’s Run on the Ohio River on July 10, an investigation began that ultimately led to her identification and to Christian Jacoby’s arrest in Indiana on August 27. Investigators found that ammunition in his possession matched the gun and ammunition found with Lena Jacoby’s body.

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Pittsburgh Daily Post, August 30, 1858

Reports from Germany supported the understanding that was coming into focus; that Lena Jacoby was poorly treated by her husband, that Christian Jacoby was the father of the child Suttler was carrying, and that their illicit relationship was the cause of Lena’s death.

At trial, the state used the gun and ammunition evidence, including a bullet taken from the victim’s disinterred body, as well as his relationship with Suttler, to implicate Jacoby. In his defense, Jacoby claimed his wife committed suicide. Ironically, Suttler testified in support of that argument, stating that Lena Jacoby had told her that she felt unvalued next to Suttler. After six days of testimony and twenty minutes of deliberations, Jacoby was convicted of first-degree murder on November 20, 1858.

After his motion for a new trial was rejected, Jacoby was sentenced to death on December 11. After his appeal (Commonwealth v. Jacoby, Volume VI, p. 177, 1858) was rejected on January 14, 1859, no recourse remained.

Christian Jacoby was hanged on May 20, 1859, side-by-side with David Evans, who had also murdered his wife.

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In another tragic turn, Anna Marie Suttler’s baby died shortly after birth.

 

David Jewell

David Jewell was well-known around mid-nineteenth century Pittsburgh. Born and raised in the city, he worked as a painter and was the Captain of the Neptune Fire Company, a volunteer fire company and active social organization. In an era before organized policing, he had even served as a watchman.

Jewell was also known as a rogue character, “a desperado of respectable connections” frequently involved in fights and living rougher than his upbringing would indicate. Relatedly, volunteer fire companies, once viewed as essential civic organizations, were devolving into little more than street gangs.

In a series of cases that foreshadowed greater violence to come, Jewell was twice arrested for stabbing another man during a street fight. The first assault occurred in 1848.

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Pittsburgh Daily Post, April 10, 1848

In a second assault, Jewell and a friend were arrested for an unprovoked assault on a soldier, William Doyle, on May 28, 1852.

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Pittsburgh Morning Post, May 31, 1852

Only six weeks later, during the Fourth of July celebration of local fire companies, James A. Cochran, a friend of Jewell’s, got into a fight with Samuel Mitchell, a fellow firefighter and former jail guard, who is alleged to have insulted Cochran. Jewell, who was free on bail in the Doyle case, and others joined in the fight, with Jewell stabbing and killing Mitchell.

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The privileged white man, free despite a history of violence, served as a stark contrast to the message of Frederick Douglass’s famous, “The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro” oration, given that same day at Rochester’s Corinthian Hall.

The “cutting affray,” as such incidents were described at the time, was a growing source of concern as young, single men became more numerous in industrializing Pittsburgh. Volunteer fire companies, for all of the important service that they provided, were also notorious for the raucous and often violent behavior of their members.

In a closely watched trial, Jewell was convicted of first-degree murder on December 8, 1852, and sentenced to death. Cochran and William E. Gaw were acquitted.

Despite the strength of the case against him, concerted efforts to save Jewell’s life were undertaken by his many friends and supporters.  First was his appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which raised issues about the composition of the jury and the conduct of the trial (Jewell v. Commonwealth, 22 Pa. 94, 1853). That effort failed when the court concluded that overturning Jewell’s conviction on such narrow, technical grounds “would render justice impossible in many cases, and expose society unprotected to the danger of the worst crimes.”

Next was a pardon campaign that included petitions signed by numerous citizens. That effort also failed. An unprecedented effort to interfere in the judicial process by enacting legislation calling for a new trial was also undertaken. That bill failed by a single vote (Pittsburgh Morning Post, February 11, 1854).

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Death Warrant, David Jewell, July 19, 1853

Just prior to his execution, Jewell nearly escaped when friends smuggled him a saw. When he was taken to the gallows on March 24, 1854, poison was found in his cell.

After having exhausted all legal and other means to avoid execution, David Jewell spoke from the gallows to decry the process that convicted him and declare himself “a man in the full vigor of life, who is about to die.”

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Pittsburgh Gazette, March 25, 1854

In the context of rising anti-slavery sentiment and approaching civil war, Jewell’s execution was taken up by anti-slavery advocates as a “barbarous practice” that accomplishes no public good.

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Anti-Slavery Bugle, Lisbon, OH, April 1, 1854
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The Liberator, Boston, May 12, 1854, excerpted from the Pittsburgh Tribune

James Galligo

James Galligo’s wife, whose name is not recorded but who is described in newspaper accounts as white, left him to live with another man, Jacob Rogers (also Rodgers). Both Galligo (also Gallego or Gallagher) and Rogers are described as black or mulatto. Seeking revenge, Galligo went to Rogers’ home and stabbed him to death on December 12, 1837. He then turned himself in to the mayor’s office and confessed immediately afterwards.

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Pittsburgh Mercury, December 20, 1837

image001Public Ledger (Philadelphia), December 21, 1837

After pleading not guilty, Galligo was convicted of first-degree murder on December 20, 1837, less than three weeks after Rogers’s death.

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Pittsburgh Mercury, January 3, 1838

Galligo’s motion for a new trial was rejected and his death sentence was imposed the following week, on January 8, 1838. A month had not yet passed since Roger’s killing.

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In his pardon request, Galligo’s attorney noted that “a large portion of this community have manifested a considerable degree of sympathy in his behalf, and a decided disinclination to see the unfortunate man made the subject of capital punishment.”

That request was rejected by Governor Joseph Ritner, who was running – unsuccessfully – for reelection, and James Galligo was hanged on March 30, 1838, before hundreds of witnesses.

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This is all we know of the crime and punishment of James Galligo. The limited newspaper coverage available was little afforded to a crime involving a black offender and a black victim. Official records have not survived to fill the gaps in that coverage.

On April 10, 1834, Pennsylvania enacted an Act to Abolish Public Executions, becoming the second state to do so (following Rhode Island in 1833). Galligo was thus the first person executed inside the Allegheny County Jail, the first execution in the county in twenty years, and the first execution of a black defendant.

In the fifty years since Mamachtaga’s execution, a period in which I have been able to identify twenty murder trials in Pittsburgh, seven cases resulted in a first-degree murder conviction and four resulted in executions. Despite a black population of less than four percent on the city’s population, two black defendants had been sentenced to death and one was executed.

 

 

 

John Tiernan

John Tiernan and Patrick Campbell, fellow Irish immigrants, lived and worked together in Turtle Creek. Campbell had a contract to build a mile of the Pittsburgh and Greensburg Turnpike. Tiernan, a middle-aged man who left behind a family in County Kildare (and, reportedly, another in New York and a third in Philadelphia), subcontracted from him.

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Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, December 12, 1817

On December 7, 1817, a year and a half after beginning their work together and a few days after Campbell received a large cash advance for his work, Tiernan killed him with an axe and buried his body under the floorboards of their cabin. Tiernan fled, taking Campbell’s horse and other of his possessions. He was arrested in Westmoreland County on December 11, after suspicious neighbors found Campbell and began a search for Tiernan.

After being indicted on January 15, 1818, Tiernan was tried, convicted after fifteen minutes of deliberation, and sentenced to death on January 17, just six weeks after the killing. In the absence of eyewitnesses, the case against Tiernan was circumstantial, though the chain of events pointed clearly to his responsibility. His execution was set for March 25, 1818.

On that day, Tiernan was conveyed by cart to the gallows at Boyd’s Hill, guarded by city militia and with a long public procession in tow. A crowd estimated in the thousands watched an event so momentous in the city’s history that it was used for years to mark time. Almost exactly twenty-five years since Dunning’s execution, Tiernan became the second and last person to be publicly hanged in Allegheny County.

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Weekly Franklin Repository (Chambersburg, Pennsylvania), April 7, 1818

Already forgetting the short history of the newly formed city, the Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette wrote that “it was the first scene of the kind ever witnessed in this part of the country, since civilized men have occupied the soil” and that “eight or ten thousand persons were present.” Tiernan was buried under the gallows.

In the manner of the day, an abridged version of the trial and of Tiernan’s confession was published soon after the events.

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The turnpike connecting Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, a much needed route over the Allegheny Mountains, opened on May 20, 1818.

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Pittsburgh in 1816

Moved by the spectacle of large crowds and disorderly displays at hangings across the state but unable to achieve abolition legislatively, on April 10, 1834, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed an “act to Abolish Public Executions.” This compromise, understood as a partial abolition, moved hangings from a public locale to within the confines of the jail in the county in which the sentence was imposed.

Pennsylvania was the second state to make this change.* Rhode Island had banned public executions in 1833. It would be more than a century before Missouri followed suit, ending public executions in the United States.

* Between 1682-1834, 252 public executions were recorded in Pennsylvania, including two in Allegheny County.

Thomas Dunning

Thomas Dunning, a private in Captain Faulkner’s Rifle Company that had been raised in Washington County and had fought and lost in various Indian skirmishes, was garrisoned at the newly-commissioned Fort Fayette (in the present location of Pittsburgh’s Cultural District) under General Anthony Wayne. It was a particularly intense time at Fort Fayette, as General Wayne rigorously pushed and punished his troops in preparation for battle with Native Americans who had been victorious in recent battles.
Though little information about this case survives, we know that Dunning killed his wife, Catherine Worthington, on July 30, 1792. The killing occurred by stabbing and involved multiple stabbing wounds. Dunning then attempted suicide by stabbing himself. He claimed that the stabbing occurred during “a frenzy of drunkenness.” Subsequent accounts reported that Dunning and Worthington had a good relationship with no history of discord.
Dunning was convicted on September 5, 1792. His death warrant was issued on December 12, 1792. With his pardon request rejected, he was executed on January 26, 1793. Prior to his execution, he was described as showing “the strongest symptoms of sorrow and distress and every appearance of contrition and repentance.” He had no prior record.
Dunning’s was the first murder trial and first civil execution in Allegheny County. His hanging, at Boyd’s Hill, near the present-day courthouse, was public. As with Mamachtaga’s case, which could well have been treated as an act of war and tried by military authorities, that Dunning’s case (and the Moode case two years hence) were tried in civilian court suggests an effort to separate military and civilian justice and establish the primacy and legitimacy of civil authority, even at this early age in the life of American law.
 

Mamachtaga

Just after the end of the American Revolution, before even the founding of Allegheny County, a time when Pittsburgh was more a fort than a town, a Lenape Indian, Mamachtaga (also Mamachtaguin) stabbed to death two white settlers, John Smith and Benjamin Jones, and injured two others, William Evans and William Freeman, on May 11, 1785.

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Killbuck (or Smoky) Island is on the far left

The killings, which occurred on Killbuck Island, a now-vanished narrow strip of land just off the north shore of the Allegheny River across from the Point, were in reprisal for earlier attacks against his settlement by whites moving in to the area.

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The Pennsylvania Packet, November 24, 1785

Tensions between Natives and whites had been intensified by the terms of the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, signed months earlier, which forced the Lenape to cede the lands north of the Ohio River. To the Lenapes, who had been forced westward by European settlement of the mid-Atlantic coast over the previous century, the cycle of European incursion, conflict, treaty, and abrogration was a continuing betrayal.

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Independent Gazetteer, June 4, 1791

After Mamachtaga was captured, he was briefly held at Fort Pitt, where threats were made to seize him from military control and kill him summarily.

At trial, Mamachtaga was represented by Hugh Henry Brackenridge, the most prominent Pittsburgher of the era, the founder of the Pittsburgh Gazette, the city’s first newspaper, the Pittsburgh Academy, which would become the University of Pittsburgh, and a future justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Brackenridge’s involvement in the case caused resentment among white residents. His chronicle of the case is the primary source of our understanding of it.

Brackenridge describes Mamachtaga as tempermental, violent, and prone to excessive drinking, a characterization that matches the stereotype of Native Americans a bit too closely to be entirely persuasive. He also states that Mamachtaga insisted on pleading guilty, characterizing him with a child-like honesty.

Despite the quality of his counsel and the significant due process protections he received under the circumstances, there was little chance Mamachtaga would not be convicted in a time and place so hostile to Native Americans. He was, on November 25, 1785. Of the jury, Brackenridge tells us only that they voted to convict Mamachtaga without leaving the jury box.

The scene at Hannastown on the morning of December 20, 1785, placed the ambitions and shortcomings of the new state and nation on full display. The setting was outside the courthouse, the first English court west of the Alleghenies, which doubled as a tavern, in a town that was founded as the Westmoreland County seat in 1773 but had since been destroyed by fire by the retreating British in 1782. All but the courthouse had been abandoned for the new county seat in nearby Greensburg.

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On a gallows constructed from rough-hewn logs, Joseph Ross awaited his execution. The twenty-year old Ross, who lived in the area, had been convicted and sentenced to death for buggery – intercourse with a farm animal; the details of his case are almost entirely lost to the unspeakable infamy with which his crime was regarded. His hanging, the last for that crime in American history, proceeded without incident. Because Ross’s crime was committed within the present-day boundaries of Westmoreland County, it is not included in this research.

Mamachtaga then mounted the gallows. His hanging was botched when the rope broke on the first attempt. He was returned to the gallows and hanged a second time. It was the first state execution of an American native and the first murder trial and execution west of the Allegheny Mountains.

Similar circumstances, though with a reversal in the identities of the parties, produced a diametrically opposed process and result a few years later. In the spring of 1791, Captain Samuel Brady, famous for his long service in fighting and killing Native Americans, killed several Native men and women near present-day New Brighton, northwest of Pittsburgh, apparently in retaliation for recent killings of white settlers. He fled and was able to avoid extradition but in 1792 was returned to Pittsburgh for trial at the urging of General Wayne, who was eager for Brady’s return to military service.

In a criminal trial that liberally mixed military and civilian justice in a manner that mitigated Brady’s criminal responsibility, the judge directed the jury to consider Brady’s killings acts of war. Under such pressure in a closely watched and celebrated trial, Brady was promptly acquitted despite his confession.