Champion, Jefferson, NY

Incidents

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INCIDENTS

During high water in the spring of 1862, a crowd had collected upon the bridge, attracted by the unusual height of the river.While they were watching the flood wood and timber that were being carried over the dam an old, desert mill, standing a short distance above the bridge was suddenly loosened from its foundation, and carried with such violence against the bridge as to sweep it from its position. The greater number of those upon the bridge succeeded in reaching the shore in time to avert the accident. A son of Mr. Fox, the miller, with Charles Lewis, a companion, were not so fortunate. Young Lewis was carried down the river for several miles, but finally succeeded in reaching the shore. The Fox boy was not seen after the accident until his body was found, several weeks later, upon the bank of the river

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On Thursday, January 9, 1873, it was reported that the body of an unknown man had been discovered on Deer Lick creek, on Martin street, about two and a half miles from Great Bend. It was a very stormy day,--snow very deep, and the weather very cold. The body of the murdered man was taken to Watertown. In one of his pockets was found an envelope directed to "Charles Wenham, Copenhagen, N.Y., care Wm. Davenport," in the handwriting of Charles Sutherland. In the envelope was found one hundred dollars in national currency. A little examination left no doubt in the minds of the officers that the body found was that of Wenham, that he had been murdered, and that Sutherland was the murderer. A party of three constables, with Chief of Police Guest, left Carthage to secure Sutherland, and reached Joen Dryden’s, near Copenhagen, after midnight. In the mean time, George Dryden, seeing that Sutherland was strongly suspected, telegraphed his brother to get Sutherland and bring him to Carthage. At Copenhagen, John and Charles Dryden met him, and started from the hotel to go to Charles Dryden’s house. He was asked about the murder, but denied all knowledge as to Wenham, except that he left him in Carthage, about eight o’clock on Monday night, January 6; that he could clear up all suspicious circumstances in five minutes after reaching Carthage. Shortly after this the officers arrived; Sutherland was arrested, and the party started for Carthage. When about half a mile on their way the prisoner had a spasm, but denied having taken poison. He subsequently had five spasms, and died in the last, about three-quarters of an hour after leaving Dryden’s. Arriving at Carthage, his body was taken into the Lewis House office. District Attorney Williams, a physician, and others were called in, and it was pronounced a case of strychnine poisoning.

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Hiram Smith, living near Copenhagen, in Lewis county, was afterwards suspected of having been a party to the murder, and he was arrested at Copenhagen, October 20, 1873. An examination was held before the recorder, and Smith was committed to wait the action of the grand jury.

He was indicted in December, 1873. In February he was arraigned, and entered his plea of "not guilty." Messrs. Levi H. Brown and Nathan Whiting were designated by the court to defend him. The trial commenced before Judge Morgan, in May, 1874. After a trial which lasted for five days, he was found guilty, and sentenced to be executed July 24, 1874. Although Smith had made certain confessions before his arrest, he claimed upon the trial that he had been led to do so through representations made by others. He protested his innocence so strongly that the governor, at the request of Judge Morgan, postponed the execution until October 23, 1874, and subsequently, at the suggestion of Judge Morgan and District Attorney Williams, until December 4. Smith and his counsel and friends had thus six months after the trail in which to investigate his case. A number of affidavits were procured in behalf of Smith, and presented to the governor, who heard the case finally on November 5. He rendered his decision November 16, in which he said a thorough examination of the whole case left no doubt upon his mind of the guilt of Smith, and therefore he could not interfere to prevent his execution. He was executed in the jail at Watertown, December 4, 1874.

That portion of the village of Great Bend which lies within the town of Champion consists of a hotel, kept by William Fredinburgh, a store kept by Daniel McNeal, a grist-mill owned by D. B. Sterling, and paper-mill owned by the Great Bend Paper-Mill Co. (Jefferson County History, L. H. Everts, 1878)

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Transcribed by Holice B.Young

Html by Debbie

December 26, 1999

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[Jefferson County ALHN][NY ALHN]

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