Saturday, July 2, 2011

1778 Bathsheba Spooner- A pregnant woman executed

Brigadier General Timothy Ruggles, a British loyalist, arranged the marriage of his daughter Bathsheba to Joshua Spooner, prior to his banishment from Massachusetts. The couple had 3 children and after only a few years of marriage Bathsheba grew unhappy in the marriage.
She then took a young man into her home, Eliza Ross. Eliza had gotten very ill on his way home to Linebrook MA, from fighting for the continental army under George Washington. Bathsheba nursed him back to health. On way back to the army he stopped by the Spooner home in July 1777.
Eliza visited again in December of 1777 and stayed through the new year. Eliza traveled with Joshua on business trips, and also had an affair with Bathsheba. During their affair Bathsheba became pregnant. She began urging Eliza to get rid of her husband before her pregnancy would prove she committed adultery.  Adulteresses were stripped down to the waist and whipped publically.
She gave Eliza nitric acid to poison her husband. Eliza couldn’t go through with it and returned to his home in Linebrook. Soon after Bathsheba invited two runaway British prisoners of war, Private Brooks and Sergeant Buchanan, into her home.  She discussed killing her husband with the soldiers and also wrote a letter to Eliza that the plan was in action. Eliza returned to the Spooner home on February 28, 1778. March 1, 1778 Private Brooks beat Joshua Spooner to death. Brooks, Buchanan, and Ross threw Joshua’s body down a well.
The murder was soon discovered, and the group was arrested within 24 hours. The three men implemented Bathsheba and her three servants. Brooks was charged with the assault of Joshua Spooner, Buchanan and Ross were charged with aiding and abetting in the murder. Bathsheba was charged with inciting and abetting in the murder.
During the trial, April 24 1778, the three servants testified for the prosecution. They were all sentenced to death and to be executed on July 4th.
Bathsheba petitioned for a postponement due to her pregnancy, based on common law that protects the life of a fetus. She was inspected by a panel of 12 women and 2 male midwives who said she was not pregnant.  A second examination occurred after Spooner and Reverend Maccarty protested the midwives report, which supported the pregnancy. The finding was not accepted and she was hung along with her three accomplices’ on July 2nd in front of 5000 spectators.
She was the first woman executed in the United States by Americans.
After a post-mortem examination it was discovered she was 5 months pregnant.
Mike Morris

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