Delaware County NY Genealogy and History Site

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Mr. Howard F. Davidson, County Historian, wrote two articles for the Republican Express in the May 27, 1971 under the heading of "History of Delhi". While perusing through these papers I came across the articles and found them to be quite interesting. Below is his write up: --Linda Ogborn, August 5, 2005

Two murders in Delaware County "way back when".

The First Murder Trial
In June of 1814 the courthouse became the scene for the first trial for murder in Delaware County.

The construction of that section of the Ulster and Delaware Turnpike between Andes and DeLancey resulted in many farms being leased in this section for the first time. In 1806 a tavern was built on the west side of Cabin Hill close to the turnpike. This building, still standing was kept in 1813 by Asa Crocker.

On Saturday July 24, 1819, James Graham, Hugh Cameron and Alexander McGillivray, who all lived less than a mile from the tavern went over the hill just south of the tavern into Fish Hollow to help other neighbors roll up a log barn for Joseph Kellogg, a new settler who was just cutting out a homestead for himself.

Some time previous to this Graham had been accused of stealing money at the store of Robert Leal which at that time stood near the entrance to the present golf course. Although he had been tried and acquitted of the charge taunts from the other two men had caused him to hold a resentment against them.

No quarrel occurred during the day and all worked well and a short time after sundown the three men were seen leaving together on the trail leading to the turnpike near Graham's home.

When Cameron and McGillivray failed to reach home an alarm was sounded. Sunday, Graham was found to be home, and on being questioned he claimed that he had left the others to quarreling with each other.

Further search found the two men dead on the trail near Graham's home. Both had been clubbed to death.

Oliver Peake, the coroner, who lived at the mouth of Peake's Brook was immediately sent for. On his arrival a jury of inquest was assembled and sworn on the spot. After a careful search the murder weapon , an ironwood handspike about four feet in length and two inches in diameter, was found in a brush heap, about sixteen inches on one end was covered with blood and hair.

After the discovery of the weapon, the jury adjourned to 'Crocker's tavern. Suspicion of graham resulted in a committee being sent to search his house, There they found some blood stained clothes which they took for evidence.

The verdict of the inquest was that Cameron and McGillivray were buried in a meadow a few hundred feet north of the tavern. Standing today by a stone wall on the east side of the highway is a fashioned field stone on which this inscription can be read:

"In Memory of Hugh Cameron aged 36 years And Alexander McGillivray aged 27 years who were inhumanly murdered near this place on the night of 24th of July 1813. Cameron and McGillivray were lovely and in their death they were not divided."

On the night of September 20, Graham got somehow to the fireplace in the jail and climbed up through the chimney and made his escape and returned to his home near the tavern, but of course knowing he could not stay there he started east along the turnpike.

When the neighborhood learned that he had been seen in Cabin Hill they set out to recapture him and found him in the hay mow of Thomas Ladd who lived in the south corner of what is now the Town of Bovina. After a fierce struggle Graham was overpowered and tied with ropes.

When Graham was returned to the jail, Matthew Ray, the blacksmith, forged leg irons weighing forty pounds which he riveted to Graham's legs, where they were to remain until his trial of June 15, 1814.

The district attorney at the time of the murder was Randall S. Street of Poughkeepsie whose district covered Delaware, Duchess, Orange, Sullivan and Ulster counties. Ambrose Spencer was the justice of the supreme court.

Graham was brought before the court on June 15. Erastus Root, with Mr. Douglass to assist him, was assigned by the court to defend him. The prisoner was arraigned the next day and pleaded not guilty, and his trial began at seven a.m. on June 17. The witnesses proceeded to tell the story and produced much undisputable evidence against Graham. White Root in defense could produce no evidence that some other person might have committed the murder.

The jury retired at 6:30 o'clock and twenty five minutes later returned into the court with a verdict of guilty. The prisoner was brought into court on June 20 and the following sentence pronounced: "The sentence of the Court is that you be taken from hence to the place from which you last came, and that you remain until the 29th day of July next, and on that day, between 12 and 2 o'clock, you be hung by the neck until you are dead, and that your body then be delivered over to Ambrose Bryan and Asahel E. Paine, Surgeons, for dissection. And may the Lord have mercy on your soul."

James Graham was hung on gallows erected in a field just east of the Delhi Cemetery. It is reported that so many people from all parts of the County came to see the execution that many could find no lodging.

In another article Mr. Davidson wrote for the Republican Express of June 3, 1971 follows:

Five years after the hanging of James Graham another exciting trial took place in Delhi. Nathan Foster was brought before the Court accused of poisoning his wife.

From the Albany Argus, Friday, July 16, 1819 -
"Trial for Murder - At the Oyer and Terminer held at Delhi, Delaware County, by his honor Judge Woodworth last week Nathan Foster was convicted of the murder of his wife by arsenic and sentenced to be executed on the 6th day of August next between 12 and 3 o'clock p.m. Mr. Elting, district attorney and Mr. VanBuren, attorney general, for the people; Messrs. Root, Sherwood and Sudam for the prisoner. The trial lasted two days an one night and was a very interesting one."

New York Evening Post, for the Country, Wednesday, July 21, 1819. "Delaware County, Oyer and Terminer: On the 1st inst. the trial of Nathan Foster for the murder of his wife by poison came on before his honor Judge Woodworth. It appeared upon the trial that Foster was rising of 60 years of age, ignorant, passionate and depraved; his wife about 70, very amiable; pious and exemplary. They had raised a respectable family of children, some of whom were used as witnesses upon the trial to establish their father's guilt. Among the witnesses introduced was the partner in the illicit and adulterous intercourse, which led Foster to commit the horrid deed; she appeared with her illegitimate infant in her arms and testified to her own shame and their joint depravity.

In October last Foster procured arsenic with which to kill rats; part of it used; the remainder unaccounted for; in January the family, except himself and wife, were absent from home for nearly an hour; soon afterwards she was taken violently ill, with those symptoms which usually indicate poison by arsenic; she died in about 18 hours; no physician attending until a few minutes before her death, and but few of the neighbors having been called in; these with other circumstances excited suspicion in the neighborhood, and eventuated in the body being opened, the contents of the stomach examined, and by several chemical experiments, the presence of a large quantity of arsenic detected. The evidences of the prisoner's guilt were drawn from his declarations and the attending circumstances, which eventually became irresistible strong and conclusive. He asked one of the witnesses, "if old Ellen (his wife) was well in heaven, if she would marry him." - to another he declared "he could put old Ellen out of the way", etc. The examination of the witnesses occupied two days. The counsel in summing up and his honor in charging the jury occupied about eight hours. The jury in less than half an hour returned a verdict of GUILTY.

Messrs. Root, Sherwood and Sudam, counsel for the prisoner; Messrs. Elting, district Attorney, and VanBuren, attorney general, for the prosecution." Same Newspaper, Thursday, August 12, 1819.

"Nathan Foster was executed on Friday last in Delaware County for murder in pursuance of the sentence of his honor Judge Woodworth. It is manner (sic) of regret that he gave no evidence of penitence or contrition, but stubbornly persisted in asserting his innocence to the last."

The gallows upon which Nathan Foster was hung, was erected on Cherry Hill north of the old reservoir.

Noteworthy of this trial is the fact that Martin VanBuren, a future President of the United States, then Attorney General of New York, came to Delhi in aid in the prosecution of the case.

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