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Did Betsy Reed Give {Editor’s Note — This article from the June number of the| Illinois Bar Journal, with permission of the publish- er is an adaptation of a newspaper feature story which first appeared in the Lawrence ville Daily Record under the by- Vine of Winifred K, Armstrong,| publisher and editor of the Re-|" cord.) -A strange woman, robbed in| white rode to the hanging tree on. her coffin while singing hymns of praise. The day was| Hubby Arsen the village of Lawrenceville inj been the first woman ever exe-| is used] Southern Iinois. ‘Mrs. Elizabeth Reed, a Craw- ford county farm housewife, had been found guilty of poison- ing her husband, Leonard, with| a mixture of arsenic and sassa-| fras tea, and causing his death. ‘Twenty thousand people, ma-| years before Mrs. Mary In Sassafras Tea? The Trial And Hanging Of Illinois’ Only Woman To Die On The Gallows cuted in the United States and] most certainly was the first —| and’ last — woman to die in Illinois for a capital crime . i - oe Oo ‘The time was some twenty] Surratt| ny of whom apparently drove| was hanged in 1865 for her part] wagons or rode horses from| in the Abraham Lincoln assassi- long distances to Lawrenceville, a Ae hand to witness the! han cay 23, 1845. The place was Elizabeth Reed may have' \ nation ‘The Surratt hanging has been publicized erroneous- (continued on Page 11 Col. 3) ar tee i (Continued From Page One) ly as the first in this country. ‘The hanging of Elizabeth Reed occurred at a point where Wal- nut and Sixth streets, if exten- ded, would intersect in Law- renceville, Court documents and news- paper clippings collected over| a period of years reveal the strange story of a woman var-| fously described as beautiful, ugly, old, young, jealous, in- different, a‘! ease” and| a lovely spiritual person, Modern readers, going over' the court papers, invariably re-| mark that either Sherlock Hol- mes or perry Mason would have torn the evidence against Mrs. Reed to shreds. The case would) not even have come to trail. Perhaps there is more than the crumpling papers show. 0-0 On August 19, 1844, the body of Leonard Reed was found at| his farmhouse in Crawford| County, and evidence was pre-| sented to investigating officers which was considered enough to warrant summons of a coro-| ner’s jury. ‘The coroner’s jury ruled that| Reed had come to his death by poisoning and that the “‘said death was committed by a cer- tain Elizabeth Reed, late of Crawford County.” Later a grand jury found that “Blizabeth’ Reed, not having the| fear of God before her eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil” had murdered her husband with| a mixture of white arsenic and sassafras tea. Leonard innocently drinking} about half a pint of this nausea-| ting mess, “then and there be- came sick and greatly distem- pY pered in his boy.” He lived from vwrvv yl Mi. Als. il. Ac, ili, AAR. ay, i. AR. li, Ml, Min, Sal. li. hl. Sy cl an Voter: tions by pamphlets s does not have to voting record is a jo the public free — pring fi : TED bills. \ ) FOR: al code and is not the tering as an individual ADES PLES (Pa, Pol. Adv.) ee ee ee VV YY VN Betsy Reed Give Hubby Arsonic In Sassafras Tea? |The Trial And Hanging Of Illinois’ : Only Woman To Die On The Gallows'’, August 15 until August 19., dy- ing in great agony. oo Elizabeth was taken into cus-| tody, arrested.on the oath of| James M. Logan, examined by| two justices of the peace, and| confined in the county jail at Palestine, I, which was then! the county seat of Crawford! County. But “Betsy” Reed was a wo- man of spirit, and attempted to escape by setting fire to the jail. Feeling ran so high against her in Palestine that —she,| m1 through her attorneys, Messrs. French and Linder, asked for a change of venue, The change of venue was granted, and she was brought] to Lawrenceville, where her| trail took three days to com-| plete. Judge William Wilson, famous: figure in early Ilinois legal cir-| cles, presided, and Aaron Shaw, later a well known criminal| lawyer, was her prosecutor. 0-0 The witnesses against Mrs. Reed were James M. Logan, Harrison Reed, Eveline Deal and) John Harriman. Logan, who kept a store, sold drugs, and did a bit of doctor- ing on the side, testified that Reed died of “inflamation of the stomach, induced by some| poisenous (sic) drugs.” He saw Reed on August 18, and believed| that the dead man's stomach was then in a state of “inci- pient mortification.” Harrison Reed, whose relation- ship to the dead man is not| indicated, gave Logan a paper which had contained arsenic, Logan said he had no. know- ledge that Elizabeth had bought| the poison at his shop, but he’ had reason to believe that she obtained it there. Eveline Deal, who signed her} statement with her mark, seems| to have been a servant in the Reed household. Her evidence didn’t help “Betsy” Reed: “T see Mrs. Reed take a small paper of white powder and she put it in a cup of sassafras tea and she gave it to Mr. L, Reed which seemed to make him very sick and caused him] bers vomit immediately. . . she emp- tied the powder from the paper. I beleive she intended to throw it out of doors but it fell on| the door step. ... . I took up| the paper and looked between! two glass tea plates that set in the cupboard and same place that I see her take the powder] from and there I found another| paper. . , the same kind of paper. .. . pieces of an old book leaf that was considerably’ smoked. The first opportunity| I gave them ( the pieces of| paper) to Mr. Harrison Reed.” I. R Wynn, another witness, testified : “I did not see Mr. Reed until ‘a few minutes after his death. I_ suppose from the symptoms: given me by Dr. Logan and others that he had been brought! to his death by the internal use of arsenic. “I attended Mr. Reed last summer, but did not know cer- tian what was the matter with him at that time, but believe now that his sickness was cau- sed by the use: of arsenic.” Poo All this ‘time, “Betsy’” pro-| tested her innocence, but’ there is no record of witnesses called in her behalf by her attorneys. The jury, Henry Sheradden, Edward P. Fyffe, Joshua Dudly, Jack M. Morris, James V. Rob- inson, John L. Bass, William R. Jackman, Elijah Gaddy, Em- sley Wright, William — Collins, James W. Corrie, and Silas| Moore, twelve good men and lawful, returned the verdict: Guilty as charged. At nine o'clock the following] morning April 29, 1845, “Betsy” Reed was sentenced to, be taken on May 23, 1845, from the place| of her confinement to a com of the courthouse and there to} be hanged by the neck until she was dead. 0 Vivid written descriptions of the hanging have been handed] down in Lawrence county fami-| lies for generations. In the very] early years of the 20th century, Mrs. Isaac Cunningham, _ then| well in her seventies, told of! going to the hanging. She was about eight years old, she said,| and her father took his family| to witness the event, ‘The day was clear and balmy, Mrs. Cunningham: said, and ev- en before daylight people gath-| ered at the place where. the| scaffold had been erected. It was. a very plain affair, just a beam projecting from” a post. Betsy rode from the jail to the gallows on her coffin, Mrs. Cunningham reported. She was dressed in spotless white, and mounted the platform singing| psalms. John Seed, a well - known Methodist exhorter, prea- ched a long discourse, liberally punctuated with “‘Amens” from his listeners. ‘The sermon finally ended, the black cap was drawn over “Bet-| sy's” head, and the noose was adjusted. An axe blow cut the tope which sprung the trap, and Betsy” Reed’s body dangled ov-| er a newly dug pit, The awful-| ness of the sight of the hanged woman's body turning round| and round at the end of the tope haunted the little girl's dreams for years. oo ‘The eyewitness accounts dit- fer in details. In one version she did not ride to the gallows on her coffin, but was driven| there in a buggy by John Sede, who had recently baptized the woman in the Embarras River. Sheriff Samuel Thorn, the exe- cutioner, walked beside the con- veyance, carrying a long rifle, according. to this story. The gallows was left standing. Not too many years ago, there] wete older eltizens in Lawrence- ville who could remember as| children playing “hanging” on the remains of the rotting tim- ‘Some of the stories now say| that she murdered her husband! Because she was jealous of ano- ther woman; others say that she herself was involved in a love affair and wished to be} rid of the inconvenience of a| husband, ed ‘The grave site is still a mys tery. All agree that she was| not buried at the place of exe-| cution. According to one story, the grave is located at a slight-| ly depressed area at the east| entrance of the Lawrenceville| cemetery. The site is unmarked, Another family hands down al legend that her body was taken, from this grave during the night| after the hanging and removed| to a plot in a family pene No one spoke for “Betsy” Reed. Was she the victim of a ser} vant girl's spite, a relative's dislike, or a strange set of circumstances? Or was she guil- ty as charged? 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