An NYCHS Timeline
Executions by Hanging
in New York State

(Page 3: 1792 - 1794)

With links to more information on selected cases.

Open Note on ESPY and Hearn
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Close Note on ESPY and Hearn
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Can you fill any data gaps? Please e-mail webmaster Thomas C. McCarthy at


On Sept. 21 William Wilson, white, 24, was hanged at Kingston for the Aug. 10 fatal shotgunning/beating of a neighbor Malcolm Duffy with whom he was on intimate terms but whom Wilson, being drunk mistook in the dark for one of the group of rowdy youths that had harrassed the two men a previous evening. Hearn has an extensive account.

On Oct. 5 Isaac Jones, white, 24, was hanged at New City for the May 30 fatal stabbing of Daniel Odell of Clarkstown during a brawl at a Haverstraw dance that featured liquor in abundance.



Elm Tree Corner image from the very fine Colonial Albany Social History Project site.
Three slaves, convicted of starting the blaze that on November 17, 1793, burned down much of Albany, were hanged in that city the following year. Two girls, Bett, 12, and Dinah aka Dean, 14, were executed March 14.

A man named Pompey aka Pomp, who had received reprieves, was executed April 11. What was described as "his dying confession" was sold from a shop at No. 2 Pearl St.

Some sources say the public hangings took place at the northwest corner of the State and Pearl Streets' intersection known for its elm tree.

The tree, planted there by young Philip Livingston in front of his father's house in the 1730s, eventually became a landmark at what was one of the town's main intersections.

Note tree on 1794 map from
the excellent Colonial Albany Social History Project site.
Because the corner served as a place of execution from colonial times, the location became known as Hanging Elm Tree Corner.

However, one source says Dinah was "hanged in the presence of a multitude gathered around the gallows erected on Pinxter Hill."

Bett appears to have been among Phillip van Rensselear's slaves while Dinah was among Volkert Douw's slaves. To whom Pompey was bound as a slave is unclear. Douw had been Albany mayor. Van Rensselear had been an Albany alderman and would later become mayor.

General agreement exists that the fire caused major damage. One report estimated more than 60 buildings were destroyed in downtown Albany that Sunday evening. Flames spread from Leonard Gansevoort's stable and quickly consumed most of the other wooden buildings in the block of Market Street bounded by State Street, Middle Alley, and Maiden Lane.

To keep the fire from igniting the rest of the city, Pearl Street homes were wetted down and some wooden buildings were chopped down and cleared away to create a firebreak. Rain also helped.

Sources differ as to the circumstances surrounding the start of the blaze. A New York State Freedom Trail Commission Report states that the fire was "started to avenge an unpopular slaveowner." Din R. Gerlach wrote an article in the Journal of Black Studies (March 1977) entitled "Black Arson in Albany, N.Y., November, 1793" detailing "a series of fires in the City of Albany that resulted from racial tensions in the late 1700s."

With stereotyping common then, a Nov. 30, 1793 newspaper reported that "the fire was occasioned by some Negroes having their pipes in a barn, enjoying themselves over a bottle of rum." A 1911 family history, obviously defensive on behalf of the slave owner Douw, attributed the arson to one particular slave "of pronounced vicious tendencies, Dinah, who set fire to the barn."

While awaiting trial and then while awaiting their eventual execution, the prisoners would likely have been held in the Albany Prison that is shown on the 1792 Albany City map as situated on the Public Square, off Eagle and State Streets.

At that time the principle jailer would have been Sheriff John Ostrande, who served in the Albany County Militia as a sergeant during the Revoluntary War.

As background to the case, consider (a) the 1790 census counted 572 slaves as residing in Albany and (b) Albany numbered only about 573 households. Not every household had slaves but about a third did, meaning those that did usually had more than one. For example, van Rensselear had five. An 1827 state law ended slavery in New York.


The $500 reward offer for apprehension of John Ryer in the murder of Deputy Sheriff Isaac Smith.

On Oct. 2, 1793, a white male named John Ryer was hanged in White Plains for the murder of Deputy Sheriff Isaac Smith. The Westchester deputy had been killed May 17, 1792 responding to a report of a disturbance in a tavern owned by Levi Hunt. It was situated in what is now South Bronx (NYC having annexed the section in 1874).

In the late 18th Century, the area was rural. Hunt's Inn served as a stopping place for stagecoaches from Danbury and Mamaroneck. The inn was a one story wooden building with a pitched roof that was used for numerous public purposes such as public hearings.

Ryer was a member of a prominent Westchester farming and cattle-raising family with extensive holdings in the region. On this occasion he was drunk and unruly. Deputy Smith responded to a request from Hunt for help. Ryer, who had two flintlock pistols, used one of them to shoot the deputy and then fled northward, eventually crossing into Canada.

Smith was highly regarded in the county for his service during the Revolution as well as his civic and political activities.

Only a year earlier the Town of New Castle, covering much of Mt. Kisco, Millwood and Chappaqua, had been formed from the Town of North Castle (that continued to retain Armonk, Banksville, and North White Plains). Smith was New Castle's first supervisor.

More than a decade earlier, along with dozens of other Westchester patriot leaders, Isaac Smith signed a petition to Gov. George Clinton noting that "the gaol [has been] removed to Bedford since the burning of White Plains" and asking help to set up "a guard of 30 necessary to look after prisoners."

The Bronx borough historian Lloyd Ultan speculates that Smith may have been deputized by the Westchester County sheriff for the specific purpose of responding to the situation at Hunt's Inn. Rather than maintaining a full-time force of deputies, the sheriff likely maintained a roster of reliable law-minded citizens assigned as needed.

A week after the slaying, Governor George Clinton issued a proclamation noting "Isaac Smith, deputy sheriff . . .was inhumanly murdered" and offering a reward of $500 for the apprehension and delivery "to the keeper of the Common Jail" of "a certain John Ryer [who] stands charged with the commission of the said horrid crime." That amount was considerably more than an average worker's total income for an entire year.

A Westchester man, aware of the case and perhaps also aware of the reward, reported to authorities that he had spotted Ryer working as a chainbearer for surveyors mapping the wilds of Quebec. Ryer was arrested, extradited and jailed in White Plains where he was tried, convicted and executed.

The Bronx 46th Pct. stationhouse on Ryer Ave.

On May 14, 2000, Deputy Isaac Smith's name was added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. thanks to research into the 1792 murder case by police historian and retired NYPD Sgt. Michael Bosak, a charter member of NYCHS. Smith's is the earliest dated entry engraved on the national memorial honoring law officers killed in the line of duty in the U.S.

Ironically, NYPD's 46th Precinct station house in the Bronx is situated on Ryer Avenue that got its name from the family that included 1792 cop-killer John Ryer.

The July 13, 1793, Windham Herald quotes among "The last words, dying speech and confession of Ezra Mead," white, a cooper, at his May 31, 1793, execution in Poughkeepsie at age 40 for the stabbing death Jan. 5 of Jacob Horton, a miller, of Fishkill: ". . .being afflicted by a certain neighbor of mine, in words and actions, was driven by turns to drinking to excess; and in one of these fits of insanity, I committed the crime for which I suffer. But . . . I was not willfully guilty of the crime aforesaid; at that present moment I might have suspected he had injured me, but not being master of my reason, have been guilty of what I never intended to have done . . . . that I forgive all mankind, and hope the Lord and they will forgive me, and that they will take warning by my untimely end."

According to an account in the Jan. 26, 1793 Windham Herald, the dispute involved Horton objecting to Mead's treatment of Horton's sister-in-law at the latter's home, telling him to stop or else be ejected from the house. Reportedly Mead professed friendship toward Horton, appeared to slip on the wet flooring near the door, and knifed Horton who came to Mead's aid in an attempt to prevent the latter falling. The NYCHS webmaster expresses appreciation for informational leads provided on this by Patty Johns, who does genealogy as a hobby. Horton is one of the surnames she researches.

Four men -- George Blossing, John Hartenbeck, John G. Hobbold and Joel White -- were hanged for forgery in 1793, according to ESPY without providing an execution date that might link them. Hearn lists a George Blasius, white, a Dutch immgrant convicted of falsifying a deed to acquire property and hanged Nov. 4 in New York City. † *

Town of Hurley NY logo.
A black slave named Charles was hanged July 3, 1793, at Kingston for axing the master of the house at Esopus, retired Col. Cornelius Wynkoop, Dec. 5, 1792, who had sought to calm him after he had become angry at his treatment by others in the household, according to Hearn. Christopher H. Wynkoop's Wynkoop Family Research Library site reports that Cornelius D. Wynkoop was one of the Associators of Hurley, NY (July 6, 1775). Only a few days earlier (June 30) he had been appointed a Major of the Third Regiment raised in Ulster and Duchess counties and few weeks later (Aug. 2) was made Lieut. Col. Promotion to Colonel came April 11, 1776 and it was he who likely made the address of welcome to General Washington at Hurley. "Cornelius was killed by one of his Negroes, who had been infuriated by punishment received from the son of Cornelius, on account of a disturbance that he had made in the kitchen, and by a reprimand from Cornelius himself. The Negro mistook the father for the son, probably."

A black man named Absalom was hanged Oct. 25, 1793, at Jamaica, Queens, for robbery on a public road. By the way, those who know their Bible may note that King David's son Absalom, leading a rebellion against his father, got his head caught in a tree (some believe his long hair became entangled in low branches). While thus hanging from the tree, the disloyal son was slain by David's soldiers.

Back to Page 1: 1779 - 1784
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Forward to Page 4: 1795 - 1801
Forward to Page 5: 1802 - 1806
Forward to Page 6: 1807 - 1812
Forward to Page 7: 1813 - 1815
Forward to Page 8: 1816 - 1817
Forward to Page 9: 1818 - 1819
Forward to Page 10: 1820 - 1824
This NYCHS web survey/timeline uses, as a starting point, the NY list from Rob Gallagher's version of "Executions in the United States, 1608-1987: The ESPY File" on his interesting Before The Needles site. NYCHS ran Google searches on all the relevant names listed in ESPY and on execution histories of the state's counties. To offset shortcomings in ESPY and gaps in web information, NYCHS also includes data from the authorative Legal Executions in New York State: A Comprehensive Reference, 1639-1963 by Daniel Allen Hearn. NYCHS acknowledges and appreciates Mr. Hearn's permission for the use we have made of data from Legal Executions in New York State: 1639-1963 to which he retains all rights under his copyright.

Only the briefest outlines of Hearn data are provided in the listings above. Most entries in his book contain much more extensive detail. Information about his book can be found at the web sites of its publisher McFarland & Co., Inc. and major on-line book dealers such as Amazon and Barnes&Noble.

More 'Timeline on NYS Executions' under construction.

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