Three Hangings


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Yates County


Since the organization of Tompkins county there have been three executions for murder, the first public, and the other two in the jail yard. In the fall of 1831 Guy C. CLARK, a shoemaker, brutally murdered his wife with an axe, in a part of the old Columbia inn, then occupying ground on the corner of State and Cayuga streets and part of the Clinton Hall block on the north. CLARK was tried, convicted and hung in public at Fall Creek, almost upon the precise spot occupied by the large brick school house, but upon an elevated bluff since brought down to a level. The day of the execution, February 2, 1832, was a stormy one, melting snow covering the ground. A band of music headed the procession which conducted CLARK to his fate. Many thousand spectators were present, some arriving on the previous day, and a few who were unable to find accommodations camped out over night or found shelter in barns or outhouses. Peter HAGER 2d was sheriff and Minos McGOWAN, under-sheriff. The body of CLARK was buried, but it is doubtful whether the grave was very carefully guarded, as the body was stolen on the night following the execution.

On the 13th of July, 1841, a shoemaker named John JONES was murdered by John GRAHAM, a fellow-workman, in a ravine just north of Buttermilk Falls, about two miles southwest of Ithaca. The remains of JONES were discovered, GRAHAM was arrested, JONES's watch found upon his person, and money which evidence showed was taken from the body of the murdered man. Although the evidence was wholly circumstantial, it was so conclusive that GRAHAM was convicted and executed in the yard of the old court house, on ground now occupied by the county jail, on May 5, 1842. Edward L. PORTER was sheriff, and William BYINGTON, under-sheriff.

In 1871 an aged man named John LUNGER and his wife occupied an old boat drawn up on the shore of the lake a few rods south of Goodwin's Point, nearly eight miles from Ithaca. Michael FERGUSON, a nephew, lived with them, and a young girl was employed by them. FERGUSON killed LUNGER and his wife, took the girl in a row boat, crossed the lake, came to Ithaca and started on foot to escape into Pennsylvania. The murder was discovered, FERGUSON pursued, captured, tried, sentenced, and hung June 17, 1871. He was dull of intellect and possibly never fully realized the enormity of the crime he committed. Horace L. ROOT was sheriff, and R. H. FISH, undersheriff.



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This site was last updated 01/07/07