|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.