19th Century Crimes


All of this information is taken directly from original Clinton County court documents.  Most of it is in direct quotations, with phrasing and spelling as used in the old records.  Some of the most intriguing reports are highlighted.

The oldest Indictment found in the Clinton County records is dated "the first Tuesday in October in the year of our Lord one thousand Seven hundred and Ninety Seven."  It charges that Caleb Mory of the Town of Peru "feloniously did falsely make forge and Counterfeit and cause and procure to be made forged and counterfeited and did willingly act and assist in the false making forging and Counterfeiting a certain promissory note for the payment of money purporting to have been made by one John How payable by him to the said Caleb Mory on order for the sum of thirty three pounds nine shillings and fourpence the first Day of May next after the Date of the Said false forged and counterfeited promissory Note with Interest for value received and further purporting to be dated at Peru on the Twenty Ninth Day of November in the Year of our Lord one Thousand Seven hundred and Ninety Six . . . "

Clinton County General Sessions Book [covering October 1804 - October 1833] reports Grand Jury Indictments and General Sessions trials. Begins "1st day of May one thousand eight hundred & four and the twenty eighth year of our Independence"

"A Proclamation was made and the court opened.

Proclamation for all Justices, Coroners & other officers who had taken any Inquisitions or recognizances whereby they have let any person to bail to put in their records thereof that the People’s Justices May Proceed thereon.

Proclamation for the Sheriff to return the Precept . . . .

Court was in session the first Tuesday of May and 1st Tuesday of October

The judges present October 3, 1804 included Samuel Hicks.  It was reported that the Grand Jury indicted Samuel Hicks for assault on William Corbin, so "Judge Hicks left the bench & his Indictment being read, he pled Not Guilty. A jury trial was held and he was found not guilty. William Corbin pled guilty to assaulting Hicks, presented evidence in mitigation of his fine, was fined $25, which he paid to the Sheriff in Court. The Sheriff was then ordered to pay from the fine, $4 to each witness subpoenaed by the People. [It appears that Samuel Hicks was indicted for assault again on May 15, 1816, and again found not guilty.]

Verdicts are reported in the General Sessions Book. Usually the jury left and then returned, but some say "the jurors without leaving their seats do say that the prisoner ___ is Guilty [or Not Guilty] and so they say all."


The most common charges in Indictments are Assault & Battery [esp. for men], Larceny [the few women indicted were for larcenies], forgery, passing counterfeit money, perjury.

First Burglary Indictment was May 14, 1812

First Rape Indictment - October 1825; only other = May 1827

Breaking Gaol (or Attempt) = May 15, 1812 and May 1826

Keeping a Bawdy House - May 5, 1813

Dueling - against two defendants - October 2, 1816

Challenger for a Duel - October 10, 1818 - found Not Guilty

Some convicted prisoners sentenced to state prison in City of New York at hard labor for 7 years. [People v Daniel Watkins, October 3, 1810, Grand Larceny and People v Levi Washburn, May 15, 1812, attempting to break the gaol]

Other homicide indictments for Clinton County during 1804-1833, besides Peggy Facto and Francis Labare:

October 7, 1819 - manslater (sic) - People v Robert Tripp

May 9, 1821 - manslaughter - People v George Hyde

October 3, 1822 - murder - People v John Starr (sp?)

January 1823 - murder - People v Lucind St Clair

May 1826 - murder - People v Olivia Steel


January 27, 1825 - The Malone Telegraph  reported the following sentencings in Plattsburgh on January 22.  The same article reported the conviction of Peggy Facto for murder, and the acquittal of her co-defendant, Francis Labare.

Julius C. Clark, for passing counterfeit money, was sentenced to the state prison for seven years.

Joseph White, for passing counterfeit money, for life.

Thomas Riley, imprisoned in the county gaol for three months.

Abraham Van Cleek, one month.

Counterfeiting. - On Monday last, Julius C. Clark was apprehended in this village, by Justice Skinner, for passing counterfeit money. He had in his possession about 120 dollars of spurious bills, on a great number of banks, a list of which will be found below. He was committed to prison on Monday; and the court being in session, was indicted on Wednesday, tried on Thursday, sentenced to the state prison on Friday, and probably will take up his line of march for the place of his destination on Saturday or Monday. In this instance, Justice has pursued the offender with a rapid step.


Record Book of Oyer & Terminer #3 ( September 17, 1877 to April 12, 1886) shows other Murder Indictments:

People v Hattie Parker - hung jury on September 21, 1877 in Homicide 1st Degree after jury was with the constable all night (p. 10).

People v Mary Abare - murdered her husband; examined by a commission and found to be insane on November 30, 1883 (p. 163).

People v Francis Palmer - Indicted on November 18, 1885 for Murder 1st Degree.



Thank you to Suzy Kudrle, Kent Delord House, Museum Educator for help with the research!

Additional thanks to Clinton County Court Clerk Terry Gordon, Major Michael Smith of the Sheriff’s Department, Marilyn Smith and Cathy Paul of the Clinton County District Attorney’s Office for researching old Court and Sheriff’s records.