Life and Dying Confession
John Van Alstine
EXECUTED MARCH 19, 1819
For the Murder of William Huddleston, Esq. Deputy Sheriff of the county of
Schoharie. With a full account of his
Before the Honorable Ambrose Spencer, in Schoharie, Feb. 17, 1819
Together with a full and circumstantial account of his
His behavior under the GALLOWS, and his LAST AND DYING WORDS
to the spectators.
Printed by H. & E. Phinney, and sold by them at their Bookstore--Price $60
per 1000, $7 per 100, $1 per Doz. And 12 1/2 cts. single.
With privilege of Copy-Right
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW-YORK, SS.
BE it remembered, that on the eighteenth day of March, in the forty-third year of the Independence of the United States of America, A D 1819, GILES H. HUBBARD, of said District, hath deposited in this office the title of a Book, the right whereof he claims as Author and Proprietor in the words and figures following, to wit:
"A Life and dying confession of John Van Alstine, executed March 19, 181, for the murder of William Huddleston, Esq. Deputy Sheriff of the county of Schoharie, With a full account of his trial, before the Honorable Ambrose Spencer, in Schoharie, Feb. 17, 1819. Together with Mr. Hamilton's Speech, and Chief Justice Spencer's sentence."
In conformity to an Act of the Congress of the United States, entitled "As Act for the encouragement of Learning , by securing the copies of Maps, Charts and Books to the Authors and Proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned;" and also to an Act, entitled "An Act supplementary to An Act entitled An Act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts and Books to the Authors and Proprietors of such copies during the times therein mentioned; and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of designing engraving and etching historical and other Prints."
RICH'D(sm. type) R. LANSING,
(i)Clerk of the Northern District of New-York(i)
TRIAL OF JOHN VAN ALSTINE
JOHN VAN ALSTINE was indicted in Nov. 1818, for the murder of William Huddleston, and arraigned at a special Oyer and Terminer, held at the Court-House in Schoharie, the 16th of Feb. 1819, on the indictment, and pleaded thereto- Not Guilty.
On Wednesday, Feb. 17, 1819, at 9 o'clock, A. M. the trial commenced, before his honor Chief Justice Spencer. Present also, Judges Beekman, Bouck Shepherd, Shafer, and Hager.
Henry Hamilton, Esq. District Attorney, and Moses I. Cantine, Esq. counsel for the people.
Jacob Gebbard and Thomas J. Oakley, Esquires, counsel for the prisoner.
Mr. Oakley submitted to the court the question whether, under the present excitement of public feeling, it would not be proper to inquire of each person called as a juror in the case, whether he had formed an opinion as to the guilt or innocence of the prisoner.
Chief Justice Spencer was willing the enquiry should be made. Where that opinion is founded upon a knowledge of the facts, or information derived from persons who are to testify in the case, it ought to be preclude such persons from itting (sic) as juror. But where the opinion was formed from rumor, and flying report of the circumstances, it is not sufficient to set him aside.
The Jurors were then called. Nine were set aside as having formed an opinion--the prisoner exercised his right of twenty peremptory challenges to its full extent, and the following were sworn.
David Wilsie, Jacob Anthony, Storm (illeg.) A. Beeker. Jacob Friest, John Frymire, Jonathan Hughes, jan (sic) Usher Benjamin, Adam P. Becker, Peter Kniskern, Pa don (sic) Tabor, Timothy Kelsey, Peter A. Becker.
Mr. Hamilton then opened the cause to the jury in a speech of fifty minutes, of which the following is a brief sketch. It is impossible, without swelling this pamphlet to too great a size, to give any of the speeches at length.
Mr. Hamilton stated in a few words, the crime for which the prisoner stood indicted; the time when, and the place where, the murder was supposed to have been committed.
Mr. H. said, that the crime with which the prisoner stood charged, was one of the highest offenses known to our law; and if guilty he had forfeited all claims to society--and was no longer considered fit to be a member--that the man whose heart was so depraved, who was so lost to every sense of feeling, and so regardless of the duty he owed his country and his fellow-creatures, as to unlawfully, and with malice aforethought, to take the life of a reasonable being, was unworthy to associate with mankind--That the punishment inflicted upon the murderer was the same throughout almost the whole civilized world--that it was dictated by that sacred law which declares, that "whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." "Moreover, ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of the murderer; but he shall surely be put to death; for the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that has been shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it."
Mr. H. then proceeded to point out to the jury their duty as jurors, and the important and responsible situation in which they, as jurors, were placed--that the oath they had taken, to do justice between the people and their prisoner, to render a verdict according to the evidence that should appear before them, must govern them in the performance of their duty; and that, while they paid proper regard to the rights of the prisoner, and gave due consideration to whatever might appear on his behalf, they must, at the same time, remember that public justice had its claims--That, should it appear from all the facts, that///the prisoner was guilty of the crime with which he stood charged, the duty they owed to their consciences and to their country, demanded of them so to declare by their verdict--That the unfortunate event which had called them together as jurors, and into which they were about to enquire, had excited much agitation in the public mind--That opinions and prejudices had been more or less formed, wherever the tale of the murder had reached--that they however, as jurors, were bound altogether to disregard public opinion--that the prisoner was entitled to a fair and impartial trial, uninfluenced by extrinsic considerations, unbiassed (sic) by partiality, unhurt by prejudice; nor were the feelings of sympathy or compassion to weight with them, or enter at all into their deliberations--Without leaning to the right or to the left, they were simply to try the fact, from the evidence, whether the prisoner was or was not guilty--that in doing this they would render justice to their country, to their consciences, and to the accused.
Mr. H. said that he was not able to say that there would be any positive testimony against the prisoner, that there was any person who saw him commit the crime alleged against him--that positive testimony, in cases of this kind, was generally not to be expected--that the man who went coolly and deliberately at work, who in secret had whetted the instrument of death, would generally so lay his plans as to execute his purpose when there was no eye witness--there were therefore few instances arose but what they were under the necessity of resorting to circumstantial or presumptive evidence to make out the fact of guilt. Nor was positive proof always the most certain--A concurrence of well authenticated circumstances frequently compose a stronger ground of assurance that the positive testimony of one unsupported solitary witness--That the danger of being deceived was less, the actual instances of deception fewer in the one case than in the other--that one witness might be induced, from interest, prejudice, revenge, or from some other motive, to testify to that which was not true--But that it was not possible to be presumed that a large number of witnesses all relating different circumstances, but which should go in corroboration of each other, and all pointing to the same fact, could relate what was not true--That it was a true remark, "that circumstances cannot lie"--and that he was constrained to say, that in this case there was such a train of circumstances, so strong in their nature, and all in corroboration of each other, and all pointing to the guilt of the prisoner, that he feared there could be no possible doubt of his guilt.
Mr. H. here gave a minute detail of the evidence on which they should rely, on the part of the prosecution. After stating the evidence, he said, if the prisoner be guilty, he has been guilty of one of the most aggravated cases perhaps ever known--it has been attended with circumstances so cruel, so horrid, as to possess hardly a parallel in the history of murder--No sudden gust of passion--no fear of personal injury, actuated him to commit the horrid crime--but cool, deliberate and premeditated, he has lifted of his hand against the life of a fellow being. And for what? Not because the deceased was his enemy--not because he had done him any injury; but selfish, sordid, pecuniary considerations were his motives.
Mr. H. said, that the deceased had been murdered was certain. Has the prisoner committed the murder? That this was the important question which the jury had to decide--That they would hear the evidence, and from the evidence they were bound to judge between their country and the accused.
Testimony for the prosecution.
Dr. John C. Moeller--Was present when the inquest was held over the body of Mr. Huddleston on the 17th October last--saw the body taken from the grave--examined a fracture on the left and upper part of the head, three inches in length, and one and a half in breadth --the contents of the left eye were///out, and the right eye injured--Had no doubt but the wound on the left side of the head would produce death, in some instances immediately.
Jesse Shepherd--Was present on the farm of John Van Alstine, the prisoner, when the body was found--Knew it to be the body of Huddleston--saw the wound on the left side of the head, described by Dr. Moeller--the humors of the let eye were discharged--bones of the nose broken, and the right eye severely injured--all of the wounds abundantly sufficient to produce immediate death--had no hesitation in saying, deceased died of those wounds.
Andrew P. Loucks--Called at prisoner's house at the 9th of October last, for the purpose of attending the sale--Came there about 3 o'clock P. M. and found prisoner harrowing in the field--Prisoner continued harrowing for a while, saying that he wished to finish, but came to the house before Huddleston appeared, leaving his horses in the field, and as witness supposed in the harness--In conversation witness asked prisoner if there was a vendue at his house that day; prisoner said in effect, "yes, they are always having vendues, but they may sell and be damned, if they take my property they will be glad to bring it back"--said he would not pay the execution in favor of Horning, because Horning had promised to stay proceedings--Also stated that Huddleston had misused him by telling persons he had an execution against him, and was a damned rascal and no man at all--Huddleston rode up on a grey horse; sun an hour and a half high--Prisoner asked why he had not come before; Huddleston answered it was time enough, and asked prisoner if he had any money for him: prisoner said "No; I don't want any"--Witness went away when the sun was behind the hills, leaving no person at prisoner's house but prisoner and Huddleston--Saw Huddleston last at prisoner's hog-pen, prisoner being then in conversation with Huddleston with witness, 5 or 6 rods off--Witness looking back after he had started for home and saw prisoner going towards the hog-pen--Prisoner was at witness' (sic) house the next Friday evening (16th)--Witness asked what became of Huddleston on the 9th, after witness went away---Prisoner said he went back of the barn soon after, toward Steenburgh's, since which he had not seen him--Prisoner also stated that he had paid Huddleston off, between 11 and 12 hundred dollars--believed Huddleston had run away, and asked if it was not probable that a man, worth very little money, when he received 11 or 12 hundred dollars would run away with it--Witness enquired where prisoner got the money; prisoner said of a friend; and if it would be any satisfaction he could produce that friend. He also said that Esquire Miller had intimated to him that he had put Huddleston out of the way. Witness was present when the body was found, on the 17th, in the field where he had seen Van Alstine harrowing in the afternoon of the 9th. First discovered blood in the corner of a fence near the barn, little (sic) west of a direct line from the barn to the field; next saw blood on a stone at a corner of the shed; then went into the barn and found a large stain of blood near the door, and heavy traces of blood from that to the back part of the barn, where a large quantity was seen on the sill and post. Blood was afterwards seen on a fence near the corner of the garden, which had been attempted to be rubbed off with a sod--one rail rotten on one side had been turned over; on turning this back several drops of blood were discovered--Last saw blood on another fence, leading from the barn to the grave. The grave with about three quarters of and acre around it not sown, was harrowed over after the body had been buried.
Marcus Brown--Was at Van Alstine's on the 9th--confirmed the testimony of Loucks in several points--saw where a horse had been tied in the swamp about a day.
William Beekman--Discovered blood at the corner of the garden fence--saw blood on another fence, which an attempt had been made to conceal--Went into the barn and found a part of the barn floor covered with straw and chaff;///(pg. 6)on sweeping the floor some blood was found on the front sill; also a large quantity on the next plank, covered with white lime or ashes, and traces of blood from this to the back sill and post on which a quantity was found, and traces again from this to the door. The post had the appearance of something bloody haven fallen against it.
William Maan--In removing a heap of straw on the back side of the barn, found under the sill an oak stake 7 feet long, 3 or 4 inches wide, and 2 thick, stained with blood, which had not dropped on it, but must have been occasioned by being struck across something bloody, or by something bloody having fallen on it--also saw a hair on the stake.
Jacob Kromer--On the 17th found the sheep skin Huddleston rode on his saddle under a log in the swamp, near where the horse had been tied--knew the skin by the hole in it--showed it to Mrs. Huddleston.
Jacob Crownse--Van Alstine called at his door on the 10th, and requested him to take down the advertisement in the bar room for the sale of his property, stating that he had paid the execution in favor of Horning; and after complaining that Huddleston had refused to allow some receipts Mr. Seelye had given him, said he had no doubt if Huddleston got eleven or twelve hundred dollars in his possession he would run off with it, as he believed him to be a damned rascal.
Jerediah Miller, Esq., [Mr. Miller was out on the 16th, the Friday after Huddleston was missing, making enquiries respecting him, and among others questioned Van Alstine very closely, but obtained unsatisfactory and very contradictory answers. His testimony is much abridged, and only the substance of some of the answers given.] Van Alstine first stated that he had paid the execution in favor of Horning and other demands amounting in all to 1000 dollars; that he had paid Huddleston on the 9th, and intimated that a man having so much money would be desirous not to be seen--Witness asked prisoner if Huddleston had an execution in favor of Elizabeth Waters--Prisoner believed he had--Witness said this amounted to 800 dollars; and the one if favor of Horning to 600 dollars; making 1400 dollars. Ques. "Did you pay all this?" Ans. "Yes." Q. "How much did you pay in all?" A. "Between 11 and 12 hundred dollars." This witness observed, would not make the amount--Prisoner replied that he had paid 1 or 2 hundred dollars before--Prisoner observed that he had part of this money lying by him, and received part of it from a friend but he refused though strongly solicited, to mention the friends name; Huddleston had his spectacles on when he received the money; prisoner took no receipt, but saw the execution endorsed satisfied; had also paid between 2 and 3 hundred dollars to Horning.
Ozias S. Church--Saw prisoner on Wednesday before the body was found--asked him if his property was being sold--Prisoner said no; there was but one execution in the world against him, and that was in the hands of a constable.
Suel Putnam--Found a bundle of papers in the hay in Van Alstine's barn last November.
Abraham Keyser, Jun--Produced the papers; among them were the two executions in favor of Horning and Waters, which had no endorsements on them.
Robert Eldrige--Was requested by prisoner, on the Thursday previous to the finding of the body, to change a five dollar bill badly torn--Witness at first refused, but afterwards changed the bill--Prisoner stating that he had no more money by him--Prisoner afterwards produced a ten dollar bill and two five dollar bills to be changed, all badly torn; witness changed the fives, but refused to change the ten. The bills were new and appeared to be purposely torn--After the prisoner had fled witness found blood on one of the bills he had received.///(pg. 7)
William Mann--Saw stain on the bill; had no doubt that it was blood.
George Horning--Had received no money on the execution in his favor before Van Alstine's flight.
John Somers--Heard prisoner, in a conversation respecting the execution in favor of Horning, about eight or ten days before Huddleston was missing, say, "Somers you will hear of worse things before this is settled--It must all come back again."
Mr. Miller--Called again; gave a very particular description of Huddleston's horse; which was an iron gray, with red or bay spots on its back, good size, four years old, a bunch on one fore foot.
Caty Empie--was walking along a foot path near the swamp (This swamp is about a mile from John Van Alstine's) and say a man leading a grey horse out of the swamp, whom she supposed to be Van Alstine.
Daniel Van Alstine--Resides in Waterford, Saratoga; has not at any time let the prisoner have any money.
Nathaniel Gott (illeg.)--On the 17th October, saw a person whom he believes to be prisoner, at Fitch's, in Cooperstown, about 11 o'clock, A. M. on a gray horse, (answering Mr. Miller's description,) and enquired the road to Utica; also to Whitestown and Herkimer--(Witness described the horse particularly, and also the person and apparel of the prisoner.)
Ira Tannes (illeg.)--On Saturday the 17th October, a little before noon, about three miles north of Cooperstown village, saw a man on horseback, going to the north, who enquired of witness the way to Herkimer. The horse was what he calls a grizzle grey and a good trotter; the man had on either a great coat or surtout with a cape; never saw the prisoner before now at court; should believe it to have been him; only thinks the appearance of the man older now than it appeared to him then.
Peter Ackler--Saw, on the same day, at about 11 A.M. man pass his house, 9 miles north of Cooperstown; road a grey horse; the man was of dark complexion, and had black whiskers; wore a brown great coat and black narrow rim'd hat; enquired of witness the way to Tunnicliff's Tavern, and distance to Schuyler's lake.
James Hamlin--Between the 15th and 20th October, a gentleman called at his door in Wilna, Jefferson County, and asked for some spirits, which witness handed to him on his horse; said to him, my friend, I guess I know you, your name is John Van Alstine; the person replied my name is Van Alstine, and rode off; had a gray horse with a switch tail; discovered a bunch on one of the horses fore feet; the person much resembled the prisoner, except in this, that his complexion was darker and whiskers longer--Witness knew, many years since, a John Van Alstine, who used to live at the Susquehannah, whom witness, at the time he spoke, took the person to be; never knew the prisoner.
Isaac Page--Says that on the 5th November last, he fell in company with John Van Alstine, the prisoner, at Kingston, Upper Canada; witness then had with him the governor's proclamation, offering a reward for the apprehension of the prisoner; witness in conversation with the prisoner, enquired of him his name and residence; that prisoner told witness his name was John Allen, that he resided in Guilderland, in the county of Albany, that he had been between five and six weeks from home, that he had no acquaintance with John Van Alstine or William Huddleston, nor had he heard of the murder of the latter--That they went in company in a British schooner to fort George, where they landed on 9th November; from there they went to Black Rock, and on the 11th embarked at that place in the Commodore Perry, for Saudusky; but at Long Point were obliged, on account of adverse winds, to heave anchor and lie to; the gale was so severe that it broke the vessel's cable, and they were driven back to Black Rock; and on the 16th went ashore; that soon///pg. 8 after his landing, the prisoner was apprehended by Mr. Slocum, and still insisted that his name was Allen; that he had with him two bundles; in the one he had clothing and in the other was provisions, and wore shoes; that at that time prisoner's complexion was much darker and his whiskers were larger, than they now appeared.
John C. Moeller--The prisoner had on a light snuff colored surtout when he returned, which he believes he saw him wear before he went away.
Betsey Huddleston--Is the widow of William Huddleston, the deceased; says that she is confident the sheep skin shewn her by Doct. Kromer is the same her husband used on his saddle--The horse has not since come to her knowledge--That she has never received the spectacles of her husband; that the case shewn her by Peter Staats is the case wherein the deceased used to keep his spectacles.
Welcome Butterworth--Witness and three others, on the night of the 16th October, around the prisoner's house to watch movements--A man about midnight came from the house, witness went to head him, but did not succeed; the person had on a surtout coat; thinks the nearest he was to him was twenty rods; it was moon light--The prisoner's horses were all at home next morning.
The prisoner's examination, taken before Hermanus Bouk and Jabez W. Throop, Esquires, was produced and read in evidence, in these words.--
Says that on the 9th day of October last he was at home, in the town of Sharon, in this county; saw William Huddleston at his house that day; came there in the afternoon; his wife and children were from home, except a couple of small ones; Marcus Brown and Andrew P. Loucks and William Loucks had been at prisoner's house sometime before Huddleston came; Huddleston came alone; his business was, as he understood from Loucks to sell prisoner's property; but when he came he informed prisoner that he had postponed the sale by the direction of the plaintiff; Huddleston asked prisoner if he had any money for him; prisoner replied that he believed he had some; paid him the balance which was on the execution; he had a couple against him; did not pay up the whole; paid between eight and nine hundred dollars; about a month before he paid it to Huddleston, he had borrowed of Daniel Van Alstine, of Saratoga county, about five hundred dollars, but gave him no note or other security for it; said he did not want any; said he would let prisoner have more money if he wanted it, and then he was to give security for the whole; Daniel Van Alstine lives 20 or 30 miles from Schenectady; the residue of the money he collected from different people in Guilderland, when he had his horse; got some also in Sharon; borrowed twenty dollars of Andrew P. Loucks, some time in the latter part of summer or fore part of the fall; paid Huddleston about one hundred dollars some time previous to the 9th October, but cannot recollect the precise time; paid it to him at Zachariah Keys' in the presence of Peck, the blacksmith, near Keys'; paid Huddleston at several times before, several other sums; had a note against Keys, and Keys paid fifty dollars for prisoner to Huddleston, and prisoner gave him up his note; that Huddleston had an execution against the prisoner, in favor of George Horning, for about six hundred dollars; one other execution of about one hundred and thirty dollars, issued by Powers and Adams, in Catskill; that on the 9th of October last there was a balance due on these executions, of between two and three hundred dollars, the precise amount he does not recollect; that he, the prisoner, paid that balance on the 9th of October, to Huddleston; that Huddleston had also on the 9th of October, an execution against prisoner, (as he informed the prisoner,) in favor of the widow of David Waters, of Albany; does not know what the amount of that execution was; paid nothing on that execution that day, nor since; paid the money on///pg. 9 the 9th October, to Huddleston, in the house of the prisoner; no one was present when he paid the money; says that when he saw Huddleston coming down the hill, towards the house of the prisoner, he made no remarks about Huddleston, that he recollects; that Huddleston rode on a grey horse to the house of prisoner, on the 9th October; that when Marcus Brown and Andrew P. Loucks went away, the prisoner and Huddleston went into the house together, and then he paid him the money; that after they came out of the house Huddleston went away; led his horse; prisoner let down the bars near the hog pen; Huddleston led his horse and went by the barn towards the turnpike; the prisoner then went to dragging again; had left his horses standing in the drag; that this was about sun set; did not return to the house till some time in the evening; his wife was up yet; he was dragging in grain which he had sowed; that he did not drag any land adjoining the field sowed that was not sowed; that the last he saw of Huddleston was when he went through the bars; that he has not seen him since; that he went to bed about ten o'clock; his wife went to bed also; that he did not get up that night before day; that the first thing he did in the morning, he went to the barn to feed his horse; that in the evening, or in the morning, cannot say for certain which, his nose bled; changed his clothes in the morning to go to Cherry Valley; cannot say whether there was any blood on his shirt or not, or on his coat, or vest, or pantaloons, or boots, or hat, there might have been; there was some blood near the door inside of the barn; came from the bleeding of his nose; saw a pair of spectacles in the house; said he thought they were Huddleston's; took them and sent them by a stranger to Huddleston's house; does not know that any one harrowed in the field but himself, and is confident he did not harrow any land but what was sowed; harrowed again on Monday; recollects of calling at Jacob Crownse's on Saturday, the 10th of October; asked Crownse if he had seen Huddleston that night; Crownse said he had not seen him; told Crownse he had paid off Huddleston two executions; wanted Crownse to take down the advertisements of the prisoner's property; but Crownse said that he did not know as it would be proper; did not stop at Eldridge's store on his way to, or return from Cherry Valley; went to mill at Eldridge's; left his cloth there to be fulled; owed for carding of some wool; offered a five dollar bill to the fuller; he could not change it; did not pay him; got some money changed by Robert Eldrige, on Wednesday or Thursday; two five dollar notes; got Cherry Valley money for them; that one bill was torn; Eldrige did not like to take it at first; offered the same bills to Huddleston; he refused to take them; was satisfied that there was a strong suspicion, among the people, that he, the prisoner, had murdered Huddleston; and this he collected from what Crownse, Miller and Loucks told him; understood that there was going to be a general search for Huddleston the Saturday when he went away in the morning; started from home before day; went on foot; in the evening, when he went to bed, he had no idea of going; got awake about midnight, his wife spoke to him and said that he had wanted to go, that he might go off now; that he asked her the reason why she spoke so; she said she felt uneasy; that if he had a mind to go she would consent; that upon this he concluded he would go; got up and dressed himself; went to bed that night about the usual hour--when he came out of the house saw no one, walked off, is sure he did not go off of a walk till he got to the Turnpike at Louck's; got to the State Bridge about day light, crossed the Bridge on foot, did not eat any breakfast, nor dinner, had a piece in his pocket--passed through the city of Schenectady sometime in the afternoon, staid at a tavern in Niskauna; does not know the name; got there in the evening, and left there about break of day; next morning crossed the Cohoes's Bridge, went through Waterford; called for no breakfast or dinner that day; had some cake with him; staid the next night at a tavern, does not know the man's name; went directly on foot to///pg. 10 Plattsburgh, got there on Wednesday, then took the steam boat to St. Johns; got there on Thursday morning; made no stay there, paid $3 for his passage on board the boat; does not know the name of the Captain or Boat; did not give his name to the Captain of the Boat, nor to the guard at St. Johns'; was not required by either to do so; from St. Johns' went to St. Lawrence, does not recollect the name of the place; was about 26 miles; then went down the river about 3 miles and crossed over to Montreal; thinks the river is about half a mile wide where he crossed; from Montreal he went up the river St. Lawrence to Kingston, staid at Marselus's an uncle of his wife two nights; from Prescott he crossed over to Ogdensburgh; there he intended to come home but on his second thought he gave up on the idea and crossed over again to the Canada side; from there he went to Kingston; saw a man there who had an advertisement for John Van Alstine, the man said his name was Page, asked prisoner his name--told him his name was John Allen; went in a sloop to Fort George from there he crossed to Black Rock from which he went to Buffalo he went on board a sloop; met with adverse winds; the sloop returned again to Buffalo; he went ashore and was taken by Slocum; was taken before a magistrate and examined; committed to goal; did not own his true name before he was recognized by Heath, formerly from Cobleskill. When he left home he took a saddle with him; took it out of the old house; left it with a neighbor; got 7 dollars of him; called the man up out of bed where he left the saddle; will not tell his name; when he came out of the house to go off on Saturday morning, he was not pursued by any one.
Read to the prisoner, and prisoner refused to sign this examination, without it was read by some other person for him.
Wm. HERM's. BOUCK, JABEZ W. THROOP, PETER SHAFER,
Justices of the Peace
Peter Staats--After new year the witness moved a load of hay from prisoner's barn, found spectacle case in the hay which he then produced in court and gave to Mrs. Huddleston.
William Duncan--Early on Monday Morning, the 12th October, saw the prisoner harrowing the field near where the body of Huddleston was found--the place where he was buried was then harrowed.
Mr. Oakley stated in a few words the grounds of the prisoner's defense--That testimony would be offered to explain away many of the circumstances--That the blood in the barn, and in the corner of the fence, might have been occasioned by the killing of fowls--That blood was also found in another direction, leading from the swamp to the grave--That Van Alstine had left his harrow in the field which some other person might have harrowed over the grave--That the prisoner being placed under circumstances of suspicion, they could, from the nature of the case, do no more than explain those circumstances in the best manner. When the whole facts were before the jury, Mr. Oakley said he should have a great variety of remarks to offer, tending to show the impropriety of convicting the prisoner on the present evidence--and that, under all the circumstances, to acquit him would be the safer way.
Witnesses for the prisoner.
John Salsbury--Witness and John O'Brien, who has since run away, were at the prisoner's house a week or ten days before Huddleston was missing to doctor a sick horse; that they killed two fowls; one under the shed, which the hogs run away with and tore in pieces, and the other in the barn.
John G. Kling--About three weeks before Huddleston's body was found, witness was at the prisoner's, he had a sick horse; saw Salisbury, the last witness, and another man there, whom he did not know; they talked of killing chickens; that the prisoner was in the habit of leaving his harrow and plough in the field whilst using them.///pg. 11
Frederick Brazee--Worked for prisoner six months last summer; Van Alstine was in the habit of leaving his harrow and harness in the field over night; that in the fore part of the summer some sheep were marked in the barn; that prisoner's nose was in the habit of bleeding; that in threshing their seed wheat, the grey mare got hurt, and bled in one of her legs, but thinks the straw and chaff prevented the blood from coming to the floor.
Michael Hallenbeck--Was at Van Alstine's when the body was found; saw blood from the fence, as spoken of by other witnesses; saw also blood in a direction from the swamp to the place where deceased was buried; one drop on the stone wall; several on timber lately cut in the swamp, an on an old log; saw grey hairs where the horse had been tied in the swamp; there was a straw in Huddleston's hair when he was dug up.
Peter Karger--Was one of the bearers at Huddleston's funeral, thought he was a heavy man.
Ann Brower--Was at prisoners (sic) the week previous to the finding the body of Huddleston; assisted in washing; the clothes had been previously boiled in lye before she saw them, but saw no blood.
John G. Kling--says it is four hundred and seventy paces from the barn to where Huddleston was buried, and one hundred and seventy paces from the stone wall to the same place.
For the people.
John Epie--Got out the timber spoken of by Hallenbeck, where he saw blood, the Wednesday after Huddleston was missing.
Joseph Putnam--Saw Huddleston weighed a short time before he was missing; his weight was 147 pounds; he was a man of about 60 years of age; saw straw in his hair when he was dug up.
Abraham Keyser, Jun.--Saw one wheat straw in the hair and some chaff when the body was dug up.
Nicholas Russell--Was at prisoner's barn, said it would take a great many fowls to make as much blood as he saw on the barn floor; should not think that a hog carrying a fowl could get blood on the fence.
William Beekman--The blood on the fence was as much as two or three feet from the ground.
Nicholas Russell--Saw blood in the wheat nearly one or one and a half rods out of a direct line from the second fence to the grave of Huddleston.
Jesse Shepard--From the situation of the large wound, the temporal artery must have been devided (sic), which consequently would cause the immediate flow of considerable blood.
Andrew Loucks, Jun.--Saw blood on a shirt on the bleach at the prisoner's the same day Huddleston was found.
Ann Brower--Said those stains were iron rust.
Gotley Peckly--Saw clothes on the bleach, and found on examination blood on part of a shirt.
William Beekman--Said prisoner was considered a pretty strong man.
Betsey Van Alstine--Daughter of the prisoner, was called by him, and said, that on Friday, the 9th of October, she returned home after dark; after supper her father said he was going to drag, and went out; witness did not hear him return--The children brought in a pair of spectacles from the barn, on Saturday morning; her father took them & said he was going to Cheery Valley, perhaps he should see Huddleston.
Jesse Shepared--Was present when Huddleston was weighed, at the time spoken of by Mr. Putnam and confirms his statement as to his weight.
Here the testimony closed.
The trial having continued, without intermission, until twelve o'clock at night when the testimony closed, with all parties being much fatigued, it was understood that but one of the counsel, on each side would address the jury.
Mr. Oakley then addressed the jury in a highly finished and ingenious///pg. 12 speech, which engaged the attention of the court more than two hours. The limits of this pamphlet will not allow the whole of this speech to be published; and any abstract that could be made, would appear under so many disadvantages, that the speech is entirely omitted.
Mr. Cantine replied to Mr. Oakley, in a speech of an hour and ten minutes in length, replete with sound argument.
CHIEF JUSTICE SPENCER then stated to the jury the responsible duty that they had to perform, in deciding on a case, and gave a clear and striking history of the evidence, in a charge which occupied about an hour.
The Jury retired, and at five o'clock returned with a verdict of Guilty.
On Thursday at nine o'clock in the morning, the prisoner was called to the bar to receive his sentence. The house was so thronged that the court was scarcely able to proceed: when order was finally restored, the CHIEF JUSTICE observed to the prisoner:
You have been indicted for the murder of William Huddleston. You have been arraigned on that indictment and plead not guilty. You have put yourself upon your country: that country have (sic) found you guilty. What objection have you to offer why the sentence of the law should not be pronounced against you? The prisoner replied-"None Sir".
[His honor the Judge then proceeded to pronounce the sentence, in a feeling and impressive address to the prisoner, which was deeply felt by every individual present, as well as the unfortunate prisoner, himself. The sketch, can be thought nothing more than a resemblance of the original. The notes of the reporter were imperfect; and not examined until so late a day, that they were of necessity the only guide, without any assistance from memory-The great anxiety of the public mind, however, induces him to furnish the following, which may give some faint idea of the original eloquent address.]
The Judge stated in effect to the prisoner;---That with malice aforethought, he had murdered William Huddleston, an officer in the due performance of his duty--that the prisoner had a fair and impartial trial--he had the benefit of objecting to twenty jurors--a number of others had been set aside on the grounds that they had formed against him unfavorable impressions--he had in fact almost had the selection of his own jury. That the Jury had listened with patience to what had ben offered for and against him; and when it became their painful duty to present a verdict of guilty, the prisoner must have observed by the voice and countenance, they pronounced it with the deepest grief.--The prisoner had the benefit of eminent counsel, who produced every proof, & suggested every excuse of a rich & fertile mind in his behalf--he had the assistance of opulent and influential friends--the public prosecutor had conducted with the greatest humanity and liberality towards him, in the bounded duty of his office, and in the sacred duty he owed his country. So that no one could say he had not had every possible indulgence.
Under all these circumstances, a jury from his own county had found him guilty. Indeed a case more strongly marked had never presented itself to a court. The Judge observed, that he had yesterday taken occasion to remark on circumstantial evidence--that it is as satisfactory as witnesses of the fact; and more so than one or two witnesses of ordinary standing; who may have secret passions to gratify, and may glut their vengeance (sic) by the sin of perjury. But it is impossible that witnesses testifying to such a multiplicity of circumstances tending to the same end, so strongly corroborating each other, could be purjured. Huddleston left a dependent family who had no powerful connections, and no means to corrupt the witnesses or bias the public mind. The judge then stated, that for the satisfaction of those who had assembled to hear the awful judgement pronounced, he would briefly recapitulate the facts. It appears, said the judge, by your own confessions, that on Friday the 9th of Oct. Huddleston was left alone with you. Your wife and eldest daughter were away.--Since that day Huddleston had not been heard of or seen until the body was found in the field. You ploughed over his grave; the harrow passed over it,///pg. 13 but no seed was sown. Had any other person with your horses harrowed over that man's grave, you must have known it. You admit you did not know of any person having done so and that no seed was sown. But look at your barn! there (sic) this willful and odious murder was committed. The copious effusion of blood affords the clearest demonstration that there the deed was perpetrated. The Judge then remarked, that the pretences set up and properly urged by the prisoner's counsel, were idle, he would not say contemptible. That the prisoner did not set them up himself; but his story of bleeding at the nose must strike every reasonable man as improbable. and appear as it was, unsupported by any evidence. His honor noticed the circumstances of the spectacles which had been found by the child in the barn the next morning, and recognized by the prisoner, and remarked by his daughter, who was placed in the distressing position of bearing witness against the father, in telling, the truth, had saved her soul from perdition. The circumstances of the papers found in the haymow was noticed. The horse of Huddleston, the Judge continued, was rode by you through Herkimer and Jefferson. In Wilna you admitted your name, and the time stated by the witness comports with the time you left home. With a fleet horse you fled, expecting pursuit. You fled for life. You passed into Canada, and in Kingston saw the Governor's proclamation, and called your name John Allen, intending to elude pursuit, and travel to a distant land. (here the typeset changes down two-points)
Under all these circumstances, we say, it was impossible for a jury not to find you guilty. The judge then told the prisoner that his days were numbered, that he was shortly to leave all sublunary (sic) things; his wife was to become a widow, his children were to be left fatherless, and through their lives bear the infamy he had brought upon them. Unjust the Court were sorry to say, because uncontrolable (sic); but the finger of public contempt would be pointed at them. Consider, said the judge, the character of a murderer in a Christian land. What crime had that man committed? You put him out of existence, and sent him unprepared to another world, without time to repent of any improper deeds he may have done. And you will meet him at that tribunal where dissimulation and false pretences and all vain things will be done away. What an unmerciful being! In a Christian land, fully conscious of the horror of the crime, to lift your hand against the life and imbue it with the blood of a fellow being: and for what? Had he injured you? Huddleston, the judge was informed was an inoffensive man. He was tender and compassionate, and had shown the prisoner a remarkable lenity (sic), in putting off sale of his property. The prisoner had no excuse, he had not offered one. But to gratify a diabolical passion, or actuated by motives of sordid avarice, he had done a deed that called upon him the justice of an offended country. The crime of murder is punished with death. It should be so. If under these circumstances, he had taken the life of Huddleston, who might not next fall by his arm? You are cut off, said the judge, as a cumberer of the earth, for a twofold purpose, removing a dangerous member from society, and for an example to others. You are, therefore, in a few days, to be put to death, by hanging between heaven and earth, as unfit for either. There is no escape; no earthly power will rescue you; the Legislature will not interpose; in a case so unusually aggravated, they will turn a deaf ear to your calls. What remains is to exhort you to prepare for the awful event that awaits you. Van Alstine, you have imbrued your hands in the blood of a brother! Yet there is hope in the scriptures. Humble yourself before the throne of grace. If you sincerely repent of the crimes committed, there is pardon in the world to come.
The court then entreated him, in a pathetic manner, to avail himself of the offers of redeeming grace, and lay hold on the promise of eternal life, and did hope and trust that the awful example would impress every one with a deep sense of the danger of indulging irregular desires, and teach them to subdue and rule those dangerous passions, and especially to eradicate the sin of avarice. His honor then alluded to the case of Casler, a native of Montgomery, who was executed in this county not more than nine months ago, for poisoning his wife; asked the prisoner if he had heard of that case, and exhorted all within the hearing of his voice to lay it to their consciences, and let it make a deep and lasting impression on their minds, that there was no hope of escape for the murderer.
The Judge then stated to the prisoner, that the court had the power of giving his body over for dissection, but that he had many most respectable friends; that their feelings, and the feelings of his wife and children, should not be torn and lacerated by the knowledge that his limbs were placed under the knife of the surgeon.
"The sentence of the Court therefore is, that you be taken from hence to the place from which you last came, and that you remain until Friday, the 19th day of March next, and that on that day, between the hours of 1 and 3 o'clock, you be taken to the place of execution and be hung by the neck until you are dead. The Lord have mercy on your soul."///pg. 14
LIFE AND CONFESSION
HAVING but a few minutes longer to live in this world, I feel it a duty I owe to my own conscience and that world that I am shortly to know no more forever, to leave behind me a brief, but true account of my life, and frank and full confession of my crimes, for a solemn admonition to others, of the awful situation to which a stubborn will and head-strong passions may bring a man, without first leading him through the several gradations of smaller crimes.
I was born in the year 1793, in the town of Canajoharie, county of Montgomery, the state of New York, of respectable parents, and had my life been spared, should be forty years old the 14th day of April next. I received an education sufficient to enable me to read very well, and write a little. When about sixteen, my father moved to the town of Sharon, in the county of Schoharie, on the place on which I have ever since lived. At the age of about seventeen, my father died, leaving me the only son to conduct the affairs of the family, consisting then of my mother and three sisters. Though from the age of 12, the care of pretty much all the business had fallen to me, as a boy I was distinguished for great activity and perseverance. When about eighteen, I began to mingle with the society of young people, and was extremely ambitious to obtain credit and be considered one of the first and most respectable among them. My mind and my attention were much given to worldly affairs; my anxiety to secure property honestly was very great; and my success was so remarkable that good luck seemed to prosper in all my undertakings. I began at an early age to trade and traffic, first in small things and then in larger, and was particularly fond of trading horses. In all these transactions every thing seemed to turn into my hands without trouble--though my bargains were always fair, for I would never use deception, nor take advantage of the necessities of men.
I commenced paying my address to the woman who is now my wife, at about the age of twenty, and at twenty five married her. This union was dictated, on my part, by the warmest and purist love, which has continued ever since unabated. Her character and her treatment towards me has never altered from the hour that I first became acquainted with her to the present day. Our friendship has been uninterrupted. Seldom, if ever, has a harsh word passed between us. In all the troubles that have overtaken us, she has been kind, tender, peaceful and obliging. Whatever my conduct may have been, she never cast upon me a word of reproach or rebuke; nor have I, knowingly, done any thing to excite or injure her feelings.
My mother and my two younger sisters (my eldest being then married) kept house for me until my own marriage, and lived with me for about two years after, when some dispute arose between them and my wife, the grounds of which I have not to this day learned. I took part with my wife, which caused my mother and sisters to leave me. From this time, my luck seemed, in some degree, to leave me, and the embarrassments which have had a sensible effect on my temper, seemed to commence.
As there is nothing, except the crime, I am about to expiate, remarkable in my life, a brief description of the habits and propensities is all that will be useful or interesting. My great ambition has been to get along in the world without any favors from others; and by my single exertions I had succeeded in accumulating a very handsome property; I had (///pg. 15) an (sic) pride to dazzle and show, but only to have my affairs prosper.--Though prudent in my expenses and close in my dealings, the poor man who has called at my door has not gone away empty. My feelings were tender to the poor, and I was ever ready, as far as my power, to relieve their wants. My disposition was such that I could be led any way by persuasion, but never driven an inch by threats, opposition or persecution. My powers of mind and body were greater, and my ambition stronger, as difficulties and troubles gathered around me. I was, from my earliest youth, fond of attending frolics, horse-races, and such wicked amusements--though I was never much addicted to gambling, and none to drunkedness. When I have heard of a horse race, I have rode sixty miles to attend; and have been, on such occasions, a week from home, while I knew my business was neglected and my property going to waste. It is this habit that brought me into many troubles, and perhaps to an untimely end. It led me to neglect my interests, and thus brought embarrassment upon my estate. These irritated my temper and inflamed my passions. I would therefore, entreat all, and more especially those entering on the threshold of life, to hear the warning voice of my dying moments, and never engage in horse-racing or any practice that may draw their minds from a regular attendance on their business.
No man, perhaps, ever possessed a more stubborn will or violent temper than mine. This stubborness has cost me many sacrifices of property. When sued, I would sooner let a hundred dollars go for five, than ask a man for a friendly arrangement. My passions, which were easily excited, have often carried me to the most violent extremes--they were, however, easily appeased; and I never treasured up my emnity or wore a hypocritical face. This violence of passion and stubborness of will, I attributed, with suitable allowences for constitutional temper, to the indulgence granted to an only son, & to the situation in which I was placed, of acting as it were from childhood for myself. Not being accostumed to obedience in those tender years, my temper would not in older age, brook controul (sic). The only violent act, except the one for which I am under sentence of death, I was led to commit, was that of killing a horse of mine, which I did by a blow from a stick, in the moment of passion. Deliberate injury I have never committed--though, when persons have attempted to cheat me or wrong me out of my property, I have carried my revenge so far as to hurt them, as well as myself. The suspicions that have been scattered abroad, since my confinement, of my having burned Judge Beekman's barns, I can say, as my last words, have no foundation in truth. Passionate as I have been, and those who witness the awful situation to which these passions have reduced me, who can amagine (sic) the agonies of remorseful conscience, who may behold the terrors of an ignominious punishment, will hardly need that I should lift my dying voice to bit them beware of cherishing a stubborn will, and o yielding themselves up to the influence of violent passions. Passions, often indulged, lead to acts that we little dream of. On the fatal 9th, when the sun rose upon my possessions, little did I think its setting rays would witness me with murderous hands. It is not a year since I stated in Judge Beekman's presence, (and, I stated it as the firm conviction of my mind), that there were two things I should never come to--the state's prison and the gallows. How often have these words occurred to me since the regretted 9th, and taught me the vanity of human///pg. 16 boasting, and the weakness of human resolution, when opposed to long indulged passions. I do confess that I took the life of Mr. Huddleston. The circumstances attending that gloomy transaction I will relate as they actually took place.
I had understood that my property was to be sold on the 9th of October. I did not receive this information from Mr. Huddleston, as I had not seen him for the three or four weeks previous. The sale had been appointed on an earlier day, but had been postponed, though not at my request. I staid at my house until, in consequence of the sale, but finding that no persons came, I went out to harrowing in the field, and kept at my work until three or four o'clock, when I saw four men riding towards my house, one of whom came to me. A short time afterwards I went to a part of the field from which the house could not be seen, but discovering no movements to indicate a sale, I thought of not going down, and went to harrowing again, and after harrowing a short time, I felt an inclination to go down; and accordingly left my horses in harness in the field, and went down; the sun being about an hour and a half high. I found Andrew P. Loucks, William Loucks and Marcus Brown standing at the bars that lead towards the barn. Andrew mentioned that he had heard there was to be a vendue here. I replied, as near as I can recollect, that there were a good many vendues, but they did not seem to sell much. A short time afterwards, in conversation, I observed that Huddleston had not acted like a man, and was, I believed, a damned rascal, or words to that effect, and believe I stated also that I had told Huddleston so--alluding, in my own mind, to what had taken place at a previous sale of my property, without harboring in me any though of revenge. In a moment, Huddleston appeared in sight, coming down the hill. I was standing by an apple-tree when he came up and shook hands with me. "Mr. Huddleston said I, why did you not come sooner; we have been waiting for you?" I do not remember that he made any answer, but immediately asked me if I had any money for him. I made an answer, to the best of my recollection, "I don't know but I have a little:"--though Mr. Loucks and Mr. Brown state that I answered "No: and I don't want any." Mr. Huddleston immediately got off, from his horse (sic) and tied him to the apple-tree, where I stood. After a little conversation, he called me aside to the garden gate, and told me that he had another execution against me, of which I was not before informed; that the sale was postponed for a week, and he had advertised on the new execution. During this conversation, William Loucks took his horse and rode off. Brown, I believe, went off about the same time, tho' I did not see him go away. Andrew had mounted his horse and entered into conversation with me respecting some oats. At this time Mr. Huddleston went to the barn, opened the door, walked in and came back again; went around the back part of the hog-pen, returned, and went into the old house; came immediately out and went towards his horse; I, at the same time, went down and came to him about the time he untied his horse. He then asked if I could pay a small sum, on an old execution. I replied I did not know but I could make it out. He added he would then give his horse a few oats; we accordingly went down to the barn. I let down the bars and he led his horse over. When his horse walked over, he said "it is too bad--too bad; "I observed, in a smiling way, that I would take my horse and run away; he answered, in the same manner, "You had better not; if you///pg 17 do I shall follow you." He led the horse into the stable, and I took a shovel full of oats from the granary and gave him. He shut the stable door and came into the barn, and asked me if I had a half-bushel, saying we could make out the sum due on the old execution there. I went to the granary and got a half-bushel--he met me about the center of the barn floor, took the half bushel from my hands, and put it near the door and sat down on it; his feet, I should say, nearly quite or on the sill. He made out the amount about eight dollars and forty cents; and, as his pocket-book was lying on his lap, I asked to see the last execution he had received against me; he turned his papers over and shewed it to me, without putting it out of his hand. He then stated that Seelye had ordered him not to allow any receipts, but to go and collect the whole of the execution in favor of Horning. I was then standing near him on his left side, having in my hand a round stick of oak or hickory, about two feet and a half in length, and one inch in diameter, which had been used two or three years to bar the barn doors. I held this in my hand for the purpose of closing the doors--expecting, soon as the oats were given his horse, we should return to the house. He was shutting up his pocket-book when he mentioned that Seelye had ordered him not to allow the receipts. As he spoke these words in less than the twinkling of an eye, I raised the stick (sic) had in my hand, and struck him violently across the left side of his head. He saw the blow coming and attempted to avoid it, which was the occasion of its striking under his hat. He instantly fell on his face, entirely out of the barn. I have no recollection of striking him a second blow--If there were marks of more than one blow, I cannot account for them, though it is possible that I might have followed up the first blow with another without remembering it. I dropped the stick from my hand and perceived my youngest boy standing on the fence near the old house, about one hundred paces from the barn, and suspected from his actions he had seen something: I immediately took Huddleston by the feet, and , with one jerk, drew him into the barn, the door being about half way open. I did not perceive that he gave a struggle, though he had not yet expired. I left him, without knowing whether he would revive or not, as I saw my boy coming towards me. I walked towards the boy who was then running to meet me, and told him to stop. And then asked the oldest boy, who was also near, if he could go and unharness the horses. He said he tho't he could, and I ordered the younger boy to go with him. (sic) then returned to the barn and found Huddleston was not yet dead; I dragged him to the back part of the barn and laid him on some straw; I also threw straw over him. I then watered my horse and afterwards went to chopping wood, trying to contrive some plan to secrete him, for where to put him or how to dispose of him I did not know: To dig a hole in the sod, would not be safe--At last it struck me that I might bury him in the ploughed field.
I went into the house and took my supper, and, on taking my hat, told my wife I would go out to drag a little, as I wished to finish. I went out and took my stubbing hoe out of the old house, carried it to the barn, and there took a shovel and passed through a corner of a piece of woods, to avoid being seen by my wife. In the bright moon-light, I fancied every step I took, she, or some one else saw me. I chose a spot in the ploughed field and dug a hole, eighteen inches deep, in the earth. I was then perplexed to know how I should get the body there, and returned to the barn uncertain whether I should be able to carry it or not. I remov-///pg. 18ed the straw from him, and putting the money I found, in my own pocket. I took out his pocket-book an hid it in a dung hill, then placed the dead body on my sholder, carried it out the barn, shut the door after me, carried it to the fence, near the shed, and laid it across the fence; and finding that blood dropped from the head, I tied his handkerchief round the head, took off my coat, and replaced the body on my sholder, carried it back of the garden, through a corner of the woods--came to the second fence, where the blood was found, and being unable to climb the fence, I took off the top rail, and got over with the body on my shoulder--kept in the road ten or twelve paces--turned in by the butternut tree, and passed thro' a gap in the fence into the ploughed field, and threw him into the shallow grave I had prepared; having carried him from the garden fence to that spot, a distance of 400 yards without resting, or once putting him from my shoulder. I then took off his boots, which I concealed under a stone, about twenty yards east, and I covered the body over with earth. After placing his inkstand under the fence, I returned with the hoe and shovel to the house. I was now at a loss how to conceal the horse, so I left it that night in the stable, and rising just at day-break the next morning, I put on the saddle and rode him down the road until I came to a small bridge, about a half a mile from my house, under which I then placed the saddle; then took the horse into a swamp about a mile farther, a place in which I had never before been, and tied him to a sapling, by a rope carrying back the bridle in my hand, and putting it under a log, near the saddle, went home, took my horses, and harrowed over the grave where the body had been buried, and nearly half an acre around it, without having sown it--then turned out my horses and went to breakfast, rubbing out the blood on my return, on the second fence with leaves, and on the first with sod, as stated in the testimony. I then hid all the bills I had taken from Huddleston, (except a three dollar bill which I kept in my pocket,) in a stump, where they remained until Saturday afternoon, when I took them out and found them eaten, as I supposed, by mice. These were the bills three of which I exchanged and offered to exchange with Mr. Eldridge, and were $10 and three $5 bills. The bills, when placed in the stump, were whole and clean, and the pieces Mr. Eldridge supposed to have been torn out, were eaten by mice. The hat I put under a stump, and though entirely out of sight, I imagine was seen by every one who travelled the road. I loosened the horse I had tied in the swamp on Monday just before sun set--he ran out of the swamp about a half mile before I could catch him, by which I was discovered by Caty Empire, as stated in her testimony. When I first saw her I stopped, she stopped also; I then led the horse directly towards her, and she went on. On Monday night I left him in Empie's field. Tuesday morning I put him in the corner of a field, near a place called the fly, where he was kept until Friday evening, when hearing there was to be a search next day, I took him from there to a more safe place in the woods. I went home and told my wife what I had heard respecting the search--went to bed without any intention of going off--slept till twelve or one o'clock, when I observed to me that I had been speaking of going to look for another place, and if I chose to go she was willing, and would take good care of things at home. I asked why she said so--She answered; things seem to turn against you. I asked her then if she thought I had committed the murder. She said she did not know. I told her then if they came next day, (sic) they would probably put me in jail, and I had almost as lieve be in hell as in jail. I also said if I went off suspicions would be stronger;/// pg. 19 but finding it her wish that I should go, I got up and went off--carried a saddle to Huddleston's horse--rode that horse off about two o'clock in the morning, but saw no person when I left my house. My course was across the turnpike at Louck's--thence through Charleston to the Mohawk river, at Peter Yates'--from there through Amsterdam, Ballston, and Saratoga, to Whitehall, where I arrived on Sunday the 18/13(?)th, about noon; here I sold the horse and saddle for $66. I went from thence to Montreal, and then took my course up the St. Lawrence--staid a few days with a relation of mine, at the Long Sous, and then went to Prescott. When within about twenty miles of Prescott, I met a Mr. Jacob Haines whom I had formerly known, who was the first man I had seen, of my acquaintance, except my relation, since I left home. He informed me of the finding of the body, and of the reward for my apprehension.
From Prescott I crossed over to Ogdensburgh with the intention of returning home. Here I attempted to enquire of two men, whom I saw, the road to Richfield and Utica. But my head instantly became confused ad I was unable to pronounce any thing intelligibly. Upon which one of the men asked me if I knew what I was about. I then became more composed and made my enquiry so as to be understood: but determined to return immediately to Canada and accordingly directed my course to Kingston. Here I fell in company with Isaac Page, who showed me the Governor's proclamation offering $250 reward for my apprehension and called my name Allen. We went from there in company in a British schooner to Fort George; from there I crossed to Black Rock, and from Buffalo I embarked on Friday the 12th of November in the schooner Commodore Perry, intending to go to Sandusky or some secure place in the western country. We arrived and anchored off Long Point about sunset on Saturday evening. On Sunday morning the gale commenced, in the violence of which the vessel parted its cable. We then made a fruitless effort to remain near the place in the hopes of regaining the anchor after the storm should subside; but we were finally driven back to Black Rock. We landed at Black Rock on Monday the sixteenth; the same day I was taken and lodged in Buffalo gaol by Elias W. Slocum, who had been on board of the same vessel, and whose suspicions, he said, were excited by my appearance, and afterwards confirmed by the descriptions given in the Governor's proclamation, which was accidentally found on board. I still persisted in calling my name John Allen until I was recognized by a Mr. Heath, who had formerly resided in Cobleskill. From Buffalo I was conveyed to Schoharie gaol, where I have ever since been confined. On the 16th of February, I was arraigned on an indictment which had been found against me for the murder of Wm. Huddleston; the next day I had my trial and was pronounced Guilty. Of this trial I would remark, that the most candid and impartial justice was done me. I feel that the jury in pronouncing the verdict of guilty, did nor than was required by there duty and their oaths. My counsel made every defense for me that exertion and ingenuity could possible make. With the conduct of all the persons concerned, and every member of the court in particular, I am perfectly satisfied: His Honor the chief justice manifested towards me a particular tenderness and indulgence. His sentence was just, and made an impression on my feelings which I hope will have the happiest effect. I acknowledge the righteousness of the law, and the law, and the justice of the penalty; and submit myself to its requirements.///pg. 20
"i" indicates italics I below
Whatever composure it is said my conduct exhibited to the world, after the murder, my mind was certainly a stranger to it. Whilst carrying the hoe and shovel to the field where I intended to bury Huddleston, my imagination presented witnesses of my prpose in the corner of every field; and every time my spade removed the earthe from the grave a sound rung (sic) through my ears which I imagined could be heard through the whole neighborhood. While carrying the body on my sholder, from the barn to the grave, it appeared that the sound of every footstep could be heard a mile; and at every breath I fancied I heard the footstep of some pursuer. The blood in the barn I daily saw, and might, as my counsel said, have removed it, and also the stains on the fences, in such a manner that no appearances could have remained; but made no attempt to conceal that in the barn until, on the evening before my flight, I sprinkled lime on one of the stains as noticed by Judge Beckman in his testimony. The manner of my apprehension will be considered singular -- During the continuance of the gale on Lake Erie, I had but a faint expectation that human justice would ever have the punishment of my crimes. Whether in those adverse winds that baffled all exerction there was a partcular providence, to bring me before a human tribunal, and whether in the surge that threatened our destruction was manifested the wrath that overhangs the guilty, is not for me to say.
Not satisfied with the crime I had committed, the tempter of mankind beckoned me on to the last act which should complete my eternal misery. After I was taken up at Buffalo I was repeatedly tempted to take my own life; and once I put my handkercief to my neck and pressed it against my throat, but as it produced no effect, I took it away again. On the road to Schoharie, some wikid spirit told me at one time to seek a stone or some place where I could cast myself from the carriage and end my troubles with my existence; at other times that I should dash my brains out against a post or break my neck by rushing headlong down stairs.--But at every time some invisible power seemed to check me and say there would be time enough when I should approach nearer home.--When I reached home these temptations grew weaker and weaker, and had, when I arrived here, entirely forsaken me. It appeared to me at different times on my journey, that I could not live without the BIBLE; and one night I actually called for it but was not heard; feeling then relieved, I did not repeat the call.
The next morning after my arrival here, I asked for a bible, which I constantly perused, and found my desire to peruse it increased; it seemed to give me some relief, and inspire me with a love of Christ. Nights I tried to pray, but had no words to express my prayers, and knew not what to say; I pinched my hands and cried, still believing there was one who could relieve me from the insupportable burden that oppressed me. By degrees I appeared to gain strength and be able to pray more. There seemed to be a God I had read and heard of, who had given up his only
son to save me, who would pity my distress; In him I could hope--This hope has strengthened, and I feel that my heart is changed--that I have become a new man--and through the merits of redeeming grace, I may enjoy eternal happiness. I now resign myself to the will of that God, and trust myself and my immortal hopes in his hands. He is a just God, and will do with me as seemeth him good. Amen.
JOHN VAN ALSTINE.
Account of the Execution
Of John Van Alstine, at Schoharie, March 19, 1819
This being the day appointed for the execution of this unhappy man, a very large concorse of people had assembled at an early hour, to witness this solemn scene. Every arrangement having been made, the Prisoner signifed his readiness to quit the gaol, and was therefore conducted out of the same--he walked with a firm, steady step, and appeared undaunted, as he came forth--the immense crowd who were pressing in every direction, endeavoring to obtain a sight of him. He took his place, seated on his coffin, in a sleigh drawn by two white horses, being dressed in a white frock, with a white cap, tipped with black; behind him was another sleigh, with his friends, who were to receive his body after his execution. A procession had been previously formed, arranged by the Sheriff, consisting of the Clergy, Judicial and other Officers and Citizens, and the whole began to move at about 1 o'clock, P. M. escorted and guarded by two companies of horses, commanded by Captains Brown and Bouck, Capt. Vogle's company of light infantry, and one or two companies of militia, accompanied with solumn and impressive music. The crowd was so great, and the anxiety so strong to behold the prisoner, that it was almost impossible for the military to keep any kind of order, while going to the gallows. On arriving at the place of execution, which was on a rise of ground, about one fourth of a mile easterly from the Court House, the Prisoner, with the Sheriff and two Clergymen, mounted the platform under the gallows, when the exercises were opened by singing the 240th Hymn, the prisoner joint in the singing, with a distinct and audible voice--appeared quite composed, and wen through the whole hymn; after the hymn was finished, the Rev. Mr. Austin, of Carlisle, addressed the throne of grace, in a solumn and appropriate prayer, delivered with peculiar force and feeling, recommending the unfortunate criminal to the favor and protection of the Almighty--Van Astine very devoutly repeating some parts of the same, with much apparent fervency, while the Clergyman embraced him with his left hand over the prisoner's sholder. The 1st, 4th, and 5th verses of the 241st hymn, were then read by the Rev. Mr. Lintner, of Schoharie.--The prisoner again joined in singing, and appeared remarkably firm and composed; the rope being about his neck and fastened to the gallows; after singing, Mr. Lintner addressed the audience for about 20 minutes, in a discourse excellently adapted to the occasion--in the course of which he observed, that he had visited and spent considerable time with this unfortunate man during his confinement--that he believed Van Alstine possessed a contrite heart, and was truly resigned , appeared to feel a deep sense of his awful situation, as well as regret at the enormity of the crime he had committed--that he believed the prisoner had given himself to Christ, relied on him for salvation, and that he was///pg. 21 prepared to leave this world of troubles and perplexities, being perfectly resigned to his fate. Mr. L. descanted (sic) on the awful and terrible effects of passion--portraying in a strong and emphatic manner, the pecular situation of the prisoner before them, and warned surrounding spectators to restrain their sinful passions and propensities, the indulgence of which, on the part of the unhappy convict before them, had brought them all to behold his wretched and melancholy exit.
Van Astine now addressing himself to the Sheriff and wishing to know as to the strength of the rope about his neck, said, "is it strong?" and receiving assurance that it was, said, "keep up courage." This was during the address of Mr. Lintner, who soon closed his discourse, the prisoner bowing at intervals and assenting to the same. The Rev. Mr. Wait of Schoharie, then read a hymn which was sung, Van Astine enquiring when it was through, what time it was? Mr. W. then asked him if he felt firm in the Lord? to which he replied, with a kind of a smile---"I feel strong."
Mr. Wait then addressed the multitude, and occupied about 20 minutes, in which he exhorted the assemble to prepare for that great and solumn day in which all should be brought to judgement. The prisoner now appeared somewhat agitated--his hands were clasped together, and he trembled considerable; he however soon recovered, and again assumed his wonted composure. Mr. W. strongly urged all present to take warning, and to keep a strict guard on their passions--to improve from the fatal example before them, &c. (sic)
Van Alstine now conversed with the Sheriff in a low voice--appeared resigned, but firm and composed, to a degree that astonished all beholders. Mr. W. then read a hymn, during the singing of which, Van Alstine appeared to be making some enquiries of the sheriff, at the close of which he again discovered signs of agitation--his hands being closed, and his eyes raised upwards as if offering up ejaculations to heaven.
Mr. Wait closed with a prayer, which ended at about half past 2 o'clock.
Mr. Austin then addressing himself to Van Alstine, asked him whether he had anything to say to the multitude present? He rather declined, and at the same time looking at the sheriff, asked, "is the time up?" The sheriff informed him it was not yet up, and proceeded to secure his arms with a cord, tying them behind him. Van Astine now appeared to be a little chilled with cold, being thinly clad, but kept up a conversation with the clergy. After a few minutes had elapsed, he began to address himself to the people, observing in substance--that he was brought to the wretched condition in which they beheld him by giving loose to his ungovernable passions--was satisfied that justice had been///pg. 23 done him, and that he ought to suffer--that he had heretofore boasted there were two things he should never come to (meaning the state-prison and the gallows)--that he had not thanked God for the numerous blessings he had enjoyed--"I did not" says he, "thank God for what I eat and drank (sic), and I paid very little attention to church." But he said he had opened his eyes--that he relied on the merits of Jesus Christ, who was mighty to save--that there was only one Father for us all; for whom we should all diligently seek. "You all think you have a home" said he, "so I thought--but where is your home? Oh miserable sinners! Reflect on my last dying words; do you believe in God--a hell--a heaven--we must all be prepared for this great change--In have got my store from Christ--go home--take it to heart; you all have poor souls to save--hear my words, and excuse me if I do not speak them proper--I have had no education--God calls on us daily, but we will not hear him. My uncle used to tell me there was no hell, and I believed him; but I hope I have made by peace with Christ--Oh Jesus, give me strength! If you are weak, you cannot pray and are none of his."
He now suddenly stopped speaking as if supposing he was trespassing on the time allowed him, but the Sheriff telling him to go on, he continued;--"I have had a bad temper--I could not be drove--no person ever had a more stubborn will than mine; but, I beg you all to pray for me; I desire you all to love like one family, as we are all the children of God--when he cuts us down, oh, where shall we go! You may become a criminal as well as I--you do not know what you may be tempted to do--I little thought I should ever be tempted to commit such a crime as I have; but I caution you every one--now I am ready--I am prepared, and I go with love to God--I boldly say, Jesus Christ is my Savior." The several Clergymen as well as the Sheriff, now took leave of him, each taking him by the hand, and biding him a final adieu--his appearance being firm, and shewing scarcely any signs of agitation.
The Clergy and the Sheriff having descended the ladder from the scaffold, the unfortunate man proceeded--"The Lord has washed me--O Jesus come!--hear my voice--Oh you that have souls to save----seek the Lord while he may be found--knock, and it shall be opened unto you--don't be proud--the Lord will have mercy on you and receive you. Oh! what have I done!---I am a dying man, and a miserable sinner." He now appeared to address his words to the Rev. Mr. Linfer, who was to preach his funeral sermon, after his death, at the prisoner's house in Sharon, and after several admonitions, closed with saying, "preach the gospel as you find it in the scriptures." Then again turning to the multitude, he proceeded--"Gentlemen, I give you all a fair warning. I hope you will avoid sin. I feel strong.///pg. 24
The Lord has enabled me to thus speak. I am not ashamed to stand on this scaffold--I feel happy--I would not change situations for a thousand worlds. I am resigned--now I am ready--God be merciful to me." The Sheriff on leaving the scaffold, had mounted his horse, and for a moment or two, every spectator was hushed to silence from the awful moment that appeared to be approaching, in which by a single touch of the spring which supported the platform, a fellow mortal was to be launched into eternity!--all was profound silence--the day was fine, and the sun shone with resplendent beauty--a signal from the Sheriff, caused the fatal spring to be touched--the platform fell, and almost instantly poor Van Alstine followed--his weight falling suddenly, having broken the rope! The feelings of the spectators can be better conceived than described, at this awful moment, and such an accident may well supposed to have caused an agitation of the nerves, the like none present had ever before experienced.
The fall deprived him for a few moments of all sense, and it was sometime before he was sufficiently recovered to reascend the ladder, which however, he very soon did with some little assistance. Another rope was soon prepared, and the Sheriff, having adjusted it, again shook hands with him.
The unhappy man now looking at the spectators, discovered among them an old acquaintance and calling to him in a firm and distinct voice, said "Goodbye Cromwell." His cap was not drawn down over his face, and he appeared as though he wished it to be left off without having his eyes covered--he was told that the cap should cover his face, on which he said, "must I do it?" and being answered in the affirmative, he pulled it over himself, and offering up prayers to heaven, the fatal spring was again touched, and he was swung off about 2 minutes before 3--He appeared to expire without a struggle. His body hung for about 30 minutes, when it was taken down, and delivered to his friends.
A House,B Barn,C HogPen, D Grave where Huttleston was burried this ground having been harrowed, but not sown, E Ploughed land, F part of field sown, G corner of garden fence where blood was seen, H second fence here blood was found, I swamp area where Huttleston's horse was tied, K K turnpike from Athens to Cherry Hill, L cross road leading from turnpike past Van Alstine's premises, M M M houses north side of turnpike.