Abigail White Whipping


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Two hundred years ago, the Cheshire Bank in Keene, New Hampshire printed Ten Dollar bank notes with the date January 12, 1805. The Brattleboro Reporter newspaper for March 8, 1806 describes the counterfeit bills that were made of these---the Ten Dollar bills were "well executed, and known only by a critical examination with the true bills." Some Two Dollar bills of this Bank, altered to Ten."


Stephen Trask, the leader of the Keene counterfeiting gang, escaped from the Newfane, Vermont gaol on the night of July 12, 1809. The gaoler, Zatter Butterfield, described Trask as about forty-five.


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He is about six feet high, light hair, cut short, light blue eyes, down cast and Gallows-looking - He wore away dark coloured velvet Pantaloons, a brown Surtout, and old hat, and what was peculiar, he had on a Seal skin waistcoat, the hair being principally worn off - And every honest man who sees him, will take him up for a villain, "his very looks convict him of crimes the most enormous."


In this Trask gang was Abigail White. When Zatter Butterfield reported her "Strayed or Stolen" from the Newfane gaol the night of September 30, 1808, he described Abigail as "about six feet high, very straight, and very pleasing in her conversations and manners, light complexion, she was very genteely dressed, the last time she was seen in the custody of the gaoler, when she travels she commonly wears laced boots. . ."


Abigail White is famed as the last woman whipped in Vermont, on August 10, 1808 at five o'clock in the afternoon---then being imprisoned for the fifty-one days before her escape. Judge Royall Tyler had sentenced her to thirty-nine stripes with the cat o' nine tails, the fine and court costs.


A great crowd witnessed Abigail stripped to the waist, her bare arms bound to the post with its crossbar near the top. The High Sheriff of Windham County, Mark Richards, and seven deputies set to, some delivering the lashes with force.


Deputy Lemuel Whitney gave two lashes as lightly as possible, but let his third lash fall as a gentle reminder that women were, by law, entitled to "their thirds"---his reference to the widow's share in one-third of her husband's estate.


According to eyewitness Charles K. Field, who was four years old then, "Near the close of the whipping her back became raw, and she suffered excessive pain and she shrieked and screamed terribly in her agony."


In C. Horace Hubbard and Justus Dartt's 1895 History of Springfield, Vermont, is recorded a key reminiscence by Fanny Richards, the then twenty-one year old daughter of Sheriff Mark Richards. For the whipping, "Mr. Richards gave orders to his daughter Fanny and a daughter of Mr. Whitney to prepare the scourge. This they did in the cause of humanity by making the tails of slack-twisted woolen yarn, and the scourge was applied according to law, but left no marks. It was probably the last sentence under this law before its repeal."


There were two women named Abigail White in the Trask family circle. Abigail (first cousin to Stephen Trask) born August 29, 1762 to Noah White and Rebecca Trask. Abigail Anthony (aunt to the above Abigail) who married Nathan Trask in 1793.


Stephen Trask was born in 1764. He married Judith "Juda" Hunt. In 1830 Trask entered that Mint from which all counterfeits derive---that is, he died.


This notice appeared in the Vermont Phoenix for December 27, 1844---


The Past--Whipping Women.--We copy the following from the Brattleboro Reporter of August 13th, 1808. Was such an event as is here recorded to take place now, it would awaken great indignation. But times 'aint as they use to was:'

Mr Fessenden,


During the session of the Supreme Court holden at Newfane, which has this day closed, Abigail White, a woman about forty years of age, late from the province of Lower Canada, was convicted of passing counterfeit bank bills; and was sentenced by the Court 'to be whipped thirty-nine stripes, to be fined, and to pay the costs of prosecution, and stand committed until sentence be performed.'--This day 5 o'clock afternoon, she received the corporeal part of her sentence at the public whipping post in this town, and she now stands committed until the other part be complied with.

Newfane, August 10th, 1808.


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Hon. Lemuel Whitney


One of the leading men of his time in this town, was by trade a silversmith. He was born in Petersham, Mass., in 1764, and came to Vermont in 1785. The first years of his residence in this State were passed at Newfane, where he held the office of sheriff.


It was the duty of that officer to execute the law which made it discretionary with the Judge of the County Court how many lashes should be applied to the naked skin of the convicted transgressor of Vermont laws. ... Once during his term of office, as he informed us, he was ordered by the court to whip a woman, at the public whipping post, for passing counterfeit money. The shoulders and upper part of her person was completely stripped of clothing, that the naked skin might be exposed to the lash. Under this severe trial of his gallantry the lashes, especially two out of three, fell so lightly, she could be hardly conscious of receiving any, but the third lash, that being a gentle reminder that women were, by law, entitled to "their thirds."


Henry Burnham's "Brattleboro, Windham County, Vermont. Early History, With Biographical Sketches of some of its Citizens." (Brattleboro: Published By D. Leonard, 1880), pages 68-69.


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Samuel W. Porter received his education at Newfane, Brattleboro and Chester Academies, studied law with Hon. William C. Bradley of Westminster, Vt., and first opened an office in Putney, but removed to Springfield, December, 1815, where he spent the rest of his life. He married Fanny Richards, daughter of Hon. Mark Richards of Westminster, Vt., which resulted in a happy union for half a century. Mrs. Porter, before her marriage, lived in Westminster, and an incident which occurred in [missing word or words] was often related by her. A woman was sentenced to be publicly whipped at Newfane with the cat-o-nine-tails,---thirty-nine lashes applied upon the bare back. The execution of this sentence devolved upon the high sheriff, Mark Richards, and his deputy, Lemuel Whitney. Mr. Richards gave orders to his daughter Fanny and a daughter of Mr. Whitney to prepare the scourge. This they did in the cause of humanity by making the tails of slack-twisted woolen yarn, and the scourge was applied according to law, but left no marks. It was probably the last sentence under this law before its repeal.


C. Horace Hubbard and Justus Dartt, History of the Town of Springfield, Vermont, with a Genealogical Record, 1752-1895 (Boston: Geo. H. Walker & Co., 1895), p. 415.


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Episode 6. The Whipping Post. A woman from Wardsboro was the supposed victim and the sheriff and his aid did a most thorough job. This was the last person to be whipped on Newfane hill. Tradition says the victims were tied to a tree and whipped, the tree always dying, thus the reason for the whipping post.


Brattleboro Reformer, August 4, 1915.


During the first Old Home celebration for Williamsville, an historical pagaent was given at the Grange Hall on Friday evening, July 30, 1915. In one episode, the photographer Porter C. Thayer impersonated the Rev. Ebenezer Morse.


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The Whipping Post


At an early day corporal punishments were inflicted at every term of the Court on Newfane Hill. The writer of this sketch, when a mere boy, well remembers witnessing the whipping of old Mother White, of Wardsboro, in August, 1807. She was convicted of passing counterfeit money, and sentenced to receive thirty-nine lashes upon her bare back. A great crowd of men and women collected to witness the whipping. The Post was in the form of a cross, with a transverse strip near the top, to which her bare arms were bound, and her body was stripped to the waist. The High Sheriff applied a certain number of stripes, and the balance were allotted to his Deputies, some seven in number, and some of them applied the blows with great vigor. Near the close of the whipping her back became raw, and she suffered excessive pain and she shrieked and screamed terribly in her agony. The writer of this sketch, although very young, remembers the scene distinctly. The Meeting House and Academy stood a few rods above the site of the Whipping Post, and their windows were filled with women, gazing intently upon the revolting scene. This was probably the last woman publicly whipped in Vermont, for the Legislature abolished the Whipping Post that fall and provided for the building of a State Prison at Windsor.


Charles Kellogg Field, Esq., Centennial Proceedings and Other Historical Facts and Incidents Relating to Newfane, the County Seat of Windham County, Vermont, 1774-1874 (Brattleboro: D. Leonard, Steam Job Printer, 1877), pages 32-33.


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Azubah Wife Of Deacon Moses Kenney


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