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Pair of notorious crimes dot Putnam County's early history

Monday, August 24, 2009

(Photo)
The current site of the Charles Leuteke house at the corner of Locust and Berry streets was the location of the first hanging in Putnam County in 1824.
Even in the early days of its formation, Putnam County had some criminal notoriety -- first with a murder-suicide and later a crime that resulted in the first hanging in the county.

According to "Weik's History of Putnam County," the first murder in the county was a murder-suicide involving several families settled in the vicinity of what is now Cloverdale.

The family of James Robinson built their temporary home near where the Cloverdale Cemetery stands today. Robinson's wife hired her neighbor, Eunice Bandy, to help spin some flax.

When Bandy returned the spun thread, Robinson told neighbors it was short.

Gossip about the incident went on until it got back to Ambrose Bandy. He was furious and threatened to sue Robinson.

This in turn enraged Robinson, and he became unfriendly with all the people who gossiped in the first place. He was particularly angry at the Bandy, James, Macy and Kilgore families.

Several days later Robinson loaded his rifle, told his family they would have to provide for themselves and went looking for the men of the four families.

He first approached the Bandys, who saw him coming and hid behind a tree. Next Robinson headed to the Kilgore home, but they also saw him coming and hid.

Robinson went to the Macy cabin where John Macy and his son James were working together in a clearing in front of their home. Apparently, Robinson couldn't shoot Macy in front of his son, so he walked past.

Next, he headed to the James home near Mount Meridian. Robinson slunk behind trees to about 50 feet away from James, who was felling trees.

Robinson took aim and fired.

The ball passed through James' left arm and through his body from side to side.

James ran through the woods to the family cabin. When they saw his wound they sent to Greencastle for the doctor.

Robinson returned home and reloaded his rifle. His wife and children were working in a clearing away from the cabin. Only his oldest daughter was there caring for the baby.

He went outside the cabin and attached one end of a string to the trigger of his gun and the other to a peg sticking in the wall outside the house. He cocked his gun and laid it above his breast. He drew the gun toward him until it discharged. It went through his heart and killed him instantly.

James lingered for 28 days before he died of blood poisoning.

"Weik's History of Putnam County" also said the first hanging in the county occurred 16 years after James and Robinson died.

It was the summer of 1840 when the body of a man who had been dead for several days was discovered in Clinton Township, about 7 miles from Greencastle.

It appeared to be a death by violent means, but the body was too decomposed to identify the remains.

A hat was discovered in the nearby bushes with a letter inside addressed to Abraham Rhinearson in Bloomington, Iowa. It seemed Rhinearson and a man named George Thompson set out for Indiana together.

John Lynch, the town constable, went to Iowa and found Thompson, who confessed to the crime. He was running out of money and killed his companion for the less than $5.

A jury trial was held, and a verdict returned within 20 minutes of deliberation.

Thompson was convicted and sentenced to execution on Feb. 12, 1841.

A grove south of town near the corner of Locust and Berry streets where the Charles Leuteke house now stands was chosen as the hanging site. Hordes of people came for the spectacle.

The local militia had to help keep the crowd back as the condemned man was driven by wagon to the area. He was seated on his own coffin.

The rope was attached to the branch of a large elm tree and Thompson was hanged.


Comments
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Wow, I bet our local lady embezzlers are glad they didn't live back in those days! Consequences for actions used to be quite harsher 100 years ago.

-- Posted by just a local on Mon, Aug 24, 2009, at 1:33 PM

Interesting, My family lineage, John Macy, James Macy, Hiram Macy, Ella Macy Denny, and my father Willard Denny.

Don Denny Champaign, IL

bodenny@sbcglobal.net

-- Posted by bodenny on Wed, Aug 26, 2009, at 3:56 PM


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