Unlike Any Other
From A Life of Privilege to the Gallows
The Story of An 18th Century Woman from A Prominent New England Family Who Went from A Life of Privilege to The Gallows
Bathsheba Spooner was the daughter of Timothy Ruggles, a general in the French and Indian War, president of the Stamp Act Congress, Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, and a leading loyalist in Massachusetts during the Revolutionary War; the epitome of upper class.
Like her father, Bathsheba was smart, strong-willed, and a staunch British loyalist. Forced to marry a man she did not love, Bathsheba withstood her husband’s abuse for years until a young Continental soldier entered her life. But when this well-heeled mother of three small children discovered she was pregnant with the soldier’s child, her thoughts quickly turned to murder.
Based on a true story, the events that follow Bathsheba’s life, her decisions, and her ultimate demise will show readers that Bathsheba Spooner was, in fact, Unlike Any Other . . .
The next morning, after everyone else was seated, the four of us were led in. The room smelled less of the human odor unavoidable in large gatherings of people sitting for an extended time. And it was filled again. Justice Cushing did not order the bailiff to close the doors; people streamed outside, down the steps, and into the street where hundreds more had gathered.
The jury deliberated for forty minutes. We stood at the railing, watching and waiting, as the justices talked amongst themselves. Mr. Paine and Mr. Lincoln sat at the attorney’s table, each scribbling notes and talking to the clerk now and then. I tried to catch Mr. Lincoln’s eye but he didn’t look my way.
Finally, the bailiff came into the room and spoke in a low tone to Justice Cushing. The justices sat imposingly in the chairs, their full authority on display. When the jury was brought into the room and seated, Cushing looked at them.
“Have you determined a verdict?”
“We have, chief justice.”
“Give the verdict to the bailiff.”
My heart was hammering in my chest as the piece of paper that would determine my future was handed by the foreman to the bailiff who delivered it to Cushing. The room was silent, the air eager with anticipation. I could feel the intense excitement flowing through the crowd.
Cushing read the verdict to himself, and then motioned for the other justices to move to a separate room to decide our sentence. They returned in less than ten minutes. Cushing looked at the bailiff, who motioned to the four of us.
“Defendants all rise,” the bailiff said.
We stood at the bar facing the justices.
Cushing sat magisterially, the paper folded in his hands.
“James Buchanan, William Brooks, and Ezra Ross, you are hereby found guilty of the murder of Joshua Spooner. Bathsheba Spooner, you are hereby found guilty of being an accessory to the murder of Joshua Spooner. The four of you are hereby sentenced to be hanged by the neck until your bodies are dead. Your execution date will be determined by the Council of the State of Massachusetts Bay. This trial is concluded.”
I hung my head, and my shoulders quivered as I began to cry, but it was only a moment before I regained my composure.
Brooks pounded on the bar, presumably angry at the judgment; Ezra stared blankly, as if in disbelief; Buchanan showed no emotion whatsoever.
“Justice is done!” someone yelled to the crowd outside.
A loud cheer went up from the people assembled in front of the courthouse.
“If I could only undo all that I have done,” I whispered.
When the sheriff and his men took us outside, the crowd went silent. They watched us with an unnerving intensity. Ezra was in the lead followed by Buchanan and Brooks. I was last. The air was still; the only sound was a single loud “Caw!” from a large raven sitting on the meetinghouse roof.
Ed Londergan is the author of the award-winning books The Devils’ Elbow and The Long Journey Home. Having researched American history for many years, he is a frequent speaker with a focus on colonial Massachusetts. A graduate of Holy Cross, he lives in Warren, Massachusetts.