My 9x Great Grandmother, Rebecca Briggs Cornell was the victim of murder... a trial in October 1673 determined her death to be at the hands of her son, Thomas.
First, let's get the family connection:
Rebecca and Thomas Cornell were the parents of
Elizabeth Cornell, born January 15, 1637 in Saffron Walden Essex England. Her daughter was
Elizabeth Almey Morris, born September 29, 1663 in Tiverton, Rhode Island. Her daughter was
Elizabeth Thompson, born in 1680 in Passage Point, New Jersey. Her daughter was
Rebecca Clayton, born July 22, 1725 in Freehold, New Jersey. Her son
Cornelius Clayton, born 1746 in Monmouth, New Jersey. His son
John Clayton, born April 19, 1774 in Monmouth, New Jersey. His daughter
Deborah Ann Clayton, born May 31, 1816 in Monmouth, New Jersey. Her son
Elias M. Gant, born August 1, 1843 in Osbourneville, New Jersey. His son
Theodore S. Gant was born December 16, 1884 in Osbournville, New Jersey. His son
Bruce B. Gant was born in 1924 and his son, my dad, was born September 21, 1949, in Atlanta, GA.
The transcription below was taken from http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~rinewpor/Cornell.html
It's long and the language is difficult but it's interesting. There is also a book that has been published about this story "Killed Strangely: The Death of Rebecca Cornell" by Elaine Forman Crane. http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/?GCOI=80140100409080 I might just buy this book~!
Transcribed verbatim by Jane Fletcher Fiske, 1998
Trial of Thomas Cornell for the murder of his mother, Rebeca Cornell
[Bold Numbers in brackets refer the page numbers in the original book.]
|Mr Nicholas Easton Governor|
Mr William Coddington Dept Goverr
Mr Walter Clarke — Asistant
Mr Daniell Gould — Asistant
Mr John Easton — Asistant
Mr William Harris Asistant
Mr Thomas Harris Asistant
Mr Thomas ffeild Asistant
Mr Joshua Coggeshall Asistant
Mr John Tripp Asistant
Mr Walter Todd — Asistant
Mr Job Almy — Asistant
John Sanford Recorder
James Rogers Genl Serant
Mr Peter Easton Genrl Treasurer
Mr John Easton Genrl Aturney
|Gran Jurriors Engaged|
Lt Joseph Torrey foreman
Mr Robert Stanton
Mr William Case
Mr Thomas Clifton
Mr Thomas Burge
Mr Gidion Freeborne
Mr John Clarke
Lt ffrancis Brayton
Mr Phillip Eades
Mr William Hiscox
Mr John Odlin
Mr Henry Lilly
Upon Indictment by the Generall Aturny Mr John Easton in the behalfe of our Soverreigne Lord the King against Thomas Cornell now prissoner ffor that on the Eveninge of the Eight day of ffebruary last in the 25th yeare of his Majties Reigne Anno 1672 the said Thomas did murther his mother Rebecca Cornell or was aydeinge or abettinge thereto. The said Thomas Cornell beinge cald for and brought forth into Court, and his charge Read, and demanded of whether Guilty or Not Guilty — pleads Not Guilty, and Referrs himselfe for Tryall to God and the Cuntry. After all Lawful Liberty granted by the Court as to Exceptions The Jurriors were sollemnly Engaged on the case and sent forth.
Jurriors on the case [listed in margin]
Mr Henry Palmer foreman Daniell Greenell
James Man William Allin
John Read John Spencer
Richard Dunn John Rogers
Serjt Clement Weaver John Bliss
John Strainge John Crandell junr
The Jurry Returne their Verdict publickly to him declared. Guilty. Thereupon theCourt doe pass this followinge centance to the Prissoner.
 Whereas you Thomas Cornell have been in this Court Indicted and charged for murthering your mother Mrs Rebecca Cornell Widow. and you beinge by your peers the Jurry found Guilty. Know and to that end prepare your selfe, that you are by this Court Centanced to be Carried from hence to the Com[m]on Goale, and from thence on fryday next which will be the twenty thre day of this instant month May about one of the clock to be carried from the said Goale to the place the Gallowes — and there to be Hanged by the neck untill you are dead dead.
The Centance beinge pronounced and to him openly declared The said Thomas Cornell is Remitted to the Generall Serjants Custody safely to be kept till the day of Exicution.
A warrant ordered and granted to seize the Estate of Thomas Cornell and make Returne thereof to this Court.
Ordered that a strict Watch be kept in and about the prisson untill the day of the Execution of Thomas Cornell, and that the said Thomas Cornell shall be manacled and surely fastned to the great chaine — And ordered that James Clarke and James Browne cunstables in Newport are Authorized and desired to Asist the Generall Serjant in settinge and orderinge the watch for secureinge the said prissoner, which watch are to be Eight in the Night time and four in the day time.
Those following are Testimonys Concerning Thomas Cornell Murdering of  his Mother Rebeca Cornell: which was ordered to be Recorded.
Thomas Cornell the son of Rebeca Cornell, being inquired of us the Coroners Inquest, doe declare yt in the eveninge before twas darke, came into the roome and satt downe & discoursed with his Mother Rebeca for ye space of about one houre and a halfe; and then went forth into the next Roome, where he stayd about Threequarters of an houre, then his Wife sent his son Edward into the roome to his Grandmothr to know whether shee would have some milke boyled for her supper; the Child coming in to the roome saw some fire in the roome upon the floore, and the Child came back unto us, and fetcht the candle to see what fire it was, Henry Straite went Presently into the roome, my selfe and the rest followed in A Huddle, Henry Straite coming in saw some fire, and stooped, and with his Hands raked fire upon the floore, supposing it to be and Indian that was Drunke, and Burnt, soe he layd hold of the Arme, my selfe Immediately following, by the light perceived it was my Mother, and Cryed out, Oh Lord it is my Mother.
Before me William Baulston Assist. & Coroner.
Before me William Baulston Assist. & Corroner.
under our hands this Present 9th Day of February 1672/3.
|William Dyer fforeman Edward Lay|
John Sanford Thomas Brook
Georg Lawton Hugh Parsons
|John Albro Peter Talman|
John Anthony senr ffrancis Brayton
Thomas Wood William Wilbore
of ffebruary 1672/3 As Atest John Sanford Secretary.
of ffebruary 1672/3. As Atest John Sanford Secretary.
The above Premised Henry Greenland & Simon Cooper did both upon their Oaths affirme to the above Premised, Evidence or written, to be truth before John Cranston Depty Govr & Practioner in Phisick & Chyrurgery
We whose names are hereunto subscribed being by the Depty Govr & major part of the Councell of this his Majesties Colony of Rhod-Island and Providence Plantations, appointed and Empanneled A Coroners Inquest on the Body of Mrs Rebeca Cornell (Widdow to ye deceased Mr Thomas Cornell of Portsmouth) who came to an untimely, and uncertaine Death, in the night ffollowing the Eight day of this Instant month ffebruary, who this Instant Day, for A Second Inquire, was taken out of Her Grave, upon severall Suspitious reasons Rendered to the Govr, Depty Govr, and sayd Councell. And the Corps of the sayd Rebeca, being Dilligently searched by Chyriurgions in our view, and in their search, as under their hands appeares, they findeing A Suspitious wound in the Body of the sayd Rebeca Cornell in the uppermost part of her Stomake. And wee alsoe finding that the Body was much Burnt and Scorched by fire wee doe declare, and returne our Verdict to be, That wee Conceive and Judg, to the best of our understandings, that by the aforesayd Suspitious wound, and fire, shee the sayd Mrs Rebeca Cornell came bye her Death. In witness whereof wee have sett or hands ye 20th day of ffebry 1672/3.
|John Sanford foremn|
Francis Brayton senr
 Thomas Cornell senr of Portsmouth being Examined concerneing the untimely and uncertaine death of his Mother Rebeca Cornell, wch happened on the 8th of ffebruary 1672/3 in the Evening of the same Day: sayth, he coming in to the House from his Occations: a little after sunsett went to visett his Mother, his son Thomas being then with Her, and satt and discoursed with Her in her roome where shee keept, about one houre and halfe, and then Left her and went to Supper, haveing salt-mackrill for Supper, which his Mother cared not for because shee used to say it made her Dry, and haveing supt, his Wife sent his son Edward to his Mother, to know whether shee would have milke boiled for her supper, or what else shee desired, which might be about Three quarters of one houre, from the time he left her, he being the Last that was with Her; the sayd Edward called, Grandmother, Grandmother, and noebody Answering, and perceaving fire in the roome; came out, and sayd lett me have the Candle to see what fire that is in the other roome, whereupon wee all rann in, in hast, and Henry Straite ran in ffirst, and Rakeing the fire with his Hands, tooke hold of his Mothers Arme, thinkeing it had been A Drunken Indian, and spake Indian to her; at last sayd here is A Drunken Indian Burnt to Death; But the sayd Thomas Cornell, coming in last, perceaved by Her shoose which he saw by the light of the Candle, that it was his Mother, and sayd, Oh Lord, it is my Mother, and tooke up her head in his Armes to see if any life were in Her; findeing her burnt, lyeing along upon the floore with her head towards the fire, her Cloths burnt of on her below and some above, and the Valins of the Bed burnt, and the upper part of the Curtaines where he Judged Shee stood when Shee was on fire; before Shee fell, her Apron & one of her Petty-coats being Cotton and Wooll, and Judged that her Clothes tooke fire from A Cole that might fall from Her Pipe as shee satt Smoaking in Her Chaire, and haveing seene her in that Condition, as above related, sent out and called in some of the Neighbours liveing neare; which is all that he knows of the Death of his Mother abovementioned; not Judging any one were Instrumentall in any Measure to procure her Death.
|Taken before us the 21th|
of ffebruary 1672/3
|Nich Easton Govr|
Jon Cranston Depty Govr
ffrancis Brinley Assistt
John Easton Assistant
Joshua Coggeshall Assistant
Sarah Cornell the Wife of Thomas Cornell of Portsmouth, being Examined Concerning the Death of her Mother in Law Rebeca Cornell, sayth, yt ye evening her sayd Mothr was found dead in ye House, about one houre or more, or such a quantity of time; before shee was soe found, her Husband Thomas Cornell was with her to see how shee did, hereing that shee was not well, & tooke A Quill of yarne in his hand to winde, after he came out, he winded halfe a Quill of yarne, & then went to Supper, & one of ye Boies was sent to her sayd Mothr, to know what Shee would have for Supper, upon opening of the dore, ye Great Dogg being in her roome, Leaped out over ye Boy, & ye Boy came out in hast, & desired A Candle to see wt fire yt was in ye roome, whereupon most in the House ran in & found her sayd Mother Rebeca Cornell lyeing dead in the floore, being Burnt, but how it came shee knows not, nor can Imagine, but Lookes at it as A wonderfull thing, & the more in regard, part of her Clothes being Cotton and wooll, ye wooll was burnt & ye Cotton Remained whole, which John Gould, John Spencer, & Job Hawkins afterwards saw, comeing to ye House for yt Purpose: ffurther sayth, wn Georg Lawton & John Albro, being sent for, went into the roome, they smelt ye scent of the Burning of the Clothes, & none before, & when Henry Straite went in first he thought it had beene an Indian yt lay there Dead.
Taken before us. Nich~ Easton Govr
At a meeting of ye Dept Govr Mr ffrancis Brinley, Mr John Easton & Mr Joshua Coggeshall Assistants, Held at Mr Joshua Coggeshalls House in Portsmo ye 22th of Feby 1672/3.Henry Straite being brought before ye Dept Govr & the sd Assistts & Examined wt he could say and relate concerning the late Deceased Rebeca Cornells death. Answered yt ye night that ye sd Mrs Rebeca Cornell lost her life, he was some part of ye night, at Mr Georg Lawtons & came not to Mr Thomas Cornells (where he Diated & Lodged) untill supper time, & wn he came in, some part of ye supper was upon ye Table, & they were gooing to Supper, & sitting downe to Supper. Mrs Rebeca Cornell, who usialy used to be at Supper with us, not being there, this Examinate saith he inquired where ye sd MrsCornell was, & why shee was not at supper wth them, Mr Thos Cornell Answered, we haveing nothing but mackrill to supper, my Mothr will not eate any, for shee saith it makes her dry in the night. The Examinate further saith, yt as soone as they had supped, Tho[m] Cornells wife sd to one of ye boys, by name Edward, goe to yor Grandmother, & ask her whether shee will have any milke for supper; the Ladd going, Emediately returned, and askt for A Candle to see what fire yt was, yt was in his Grandmothrs roome, whereupon they all ran, & this Examinate came  first to the dore, & into ye roome, & espieing fire on ye floore, he clapt his Hands upon it, and raked away ye fire wth his hands, and then thought it had beene an Indian, & tooke hold on ye Arme, and shakt her, speakeing Indian; whereupon MrTho[m] Cornell clapt his hands & cryed out, Oh Lord, it is my Mother. And this Examinate also saith, yt there was noe fire in the Curtaines, nor about ye Bedsted when he came in, yett ye Curtins & Valliants at ye foote of the Bedsted was burnt. And alsoe saith yt ye Body lay wth the head towards ye Southmost Dore, & ye feete towards ye other Dore, in wch roome we were & ye Back lay towards ye Bedsteadd ye face towards ye Westmost Window, & lay on ye left side; Also the said Examinate saith yt at other times when they have had Mackrill for Supper, ye sd Mrs Rebeca Cornell used to be called, & did use to come & supp with ye rest in Mr Thomas Cornells roome.ffrancis Brinley Assistant
|Taken before||John Cranston Dept Govr|
ffrancis Brinley Assistt
|John Easton Assistt|
Joshua Coggeshall Assistt
Mary Cornell wife to John Cornell of Plymouth Colony in New-England, Aged 28 yeares or thereabouts, Apeared before mee ye 3d Day March 1672-73 & upon Her sollemn Engagmt, declareth as followeth. That about 3 or 4 yeares past, shee this Depont, being at her Mothr in Laws House Mrs Rebeca Cornell of Portsmth on Rhod-Island, Widdow, & now dead, or Deceast. This Depont saith that her Mother in Law Mrs Rebeca Cornell, haveing beene in Her Orchard, returneing into ye House, tould this Depont, yt shee had beene run[n]ing after Piggs, & said shee being weake, & had noe help, & shee being disregarded, shee thought to have stabd A Pen-knife in her Heart, yt shee had in her hand, & then shee should be ridd of Her Trouble. But it came in her minde, Resist ye Devill who will [illegible] shee sd shee was well satisfied, & further saith not. Taken upon Oath ye [illegible] March 1672/73 before [illegible].
 George Soule Aged 34 yeares or thereabouts being Engaged, saith yt he being at Mr Tho~ Cornells House on Rhod-Island ye same day Mathew Allins House was Burned in the Winter, last, and this Deponant speaking wth Mrs Rebeca Cornell, shee said shee would goe live wth her son Samuell ye next spring. This Depont urging her yt shee was better where shee was; shee said yt A differance was arisen between her & her son Thomas, about rent. This depont sayd shee spoke unadvisedly to say shee would remove. Shee Replyed: wt doth this tend too. Shee said he would have the Hundred Pound bond out of her hand. And this Deponant saith, shee said shee would goe live wth her son in the spring, if shee was not otherwise disposed of, or made away. and further this depont saith not.
Taken this first day of March 1672/3.
This Depont further saith he Judged Mrs Rebeca Cornell to Be in a Passion.
Mary ye wife of Mr John Almy of ye Towne of Portsmouth Aged Thirty three yeares or thereabouts, being According to Law Engaged & Sworne, Deposeth & Testifieth yt shee hath severall times observed an Undutyfull-ness in Tho~ Cornell towards his Mother Mrs Rebeca Cornell, & saith yt shee hath severall times spoke of it to others. And further saith, yt ye sayd Mrs Rebeca Cornell told this Depont ytshee was much neglected, & yt shee was forced in ye Winter season, in ye cold wether to goe to her Bed unmade, & unwarmed, & was therefore forced to procure some woollin Cloth to wrapp her selfe in, before shee went to her could bedd. And alsoe ye sd Mrs Rebeca Cornell, told this depont, yt if shee could not Eate as all ye foalkes of ye House could, & at their times of Eateing, shee must fast, for there was nothing brought in for Her to Eate; ffurther this Depont testifieth, yt Anthony Shaws wife of Portsmouth (since ye aforesayd Tho Cornell was Imprisened) told this Depont, yt Tho Cornells Wife coming to ye prison to her Husband, they Desired some time of Privacy, & soe went together into A Private roome, & whilst they were together, ye sd Tho~ Cornell and his Wife had those Expretions each to other, yt if you will keepe my Councell I will keepe yors, & soe they spake each together, & then ye Dore of ye roome in which they were was opened.Taken before ye Dept Govr & part of ye Genll Councell. ye 11th of Aprill. 1673.Nich Easton Govr
Richd Smith Assistant
Elizabeth ye wife of Hugh Persons of ye Towne of Portsmouth, Aged sixty yeares or thereabouts being According to ye Law Engaged, & sworne, Deposeth, & Testifieth yt shee being wth Goodwife Earle, desired to lay forth ye Body of the Deceased Mrs Rebeca Cornell, they on ye Sabath Day towards night, Accordingly layd forth the Body of the sd Deceased, & saith yt then there was noe Apeareance of Blood about ye Corps, but comeing thether on ye Munday there had beene in the roome where ye Corps lay, Thomas Cornell wth Wm. Hall to measure ye Corps for ye makeing A Coffin to interr Her in, & some saying ye corps did purge, this depont went to see whether ye corps did purge or not, & found yt ye corps did not purge, onely saw yt shee had bled fresh Blood at ye Nose; and ffurther saith not.Taken before ye Dept Govr & part of ye Genrll Councell, the 11th day of Aprill 1673.John Sanford, Secretary.
Hugh Persons of ye Towne of Portsmouth Aged 60 yeares, or thereabouts, being According to Law Engaged & sworne: Deposeth & Testifieth that yt night Mrs Rebeca Cornell lost Her Life, this Depontcomeing to ye House: went in to ye Roome where shee lay, & Mr Coggeshall goeing in before this Depont, Emediately Mr Coggeshall went to ye outward Doore opening to ye Southward, to see whether it were fast bolted. And this depont heard Mr Coggeshall say yt Doore was fast Bolted. And further this Depont saith, yt upon ye hearth there was burnt sinders lay in A traine, & almost covered ye floare in such A manner as if shee had beene drawne thether.Taken before ye Dept Govr and part of ye Genll Councell the 11th Day of April 1673.John Sanford Secretary
Joane Coggeshall ye wife of Joshua Coggeshall aged about 38 yeares being Engaged According to Law, affirmeth yt being at the Widdow Cornells House about A yeare & halfe since; as neere as shee can Remember; shee ye sd Cornell Complained to Her, yt Her son Tho Cornell, carryed himselfe very unkindely to Her, detaineing Her Rent from Her, and would pay Her none, & was soe High & soe Crose, yt shee durst hardly speake to hime; & yt shee intended to gett men to speake to hime aboute it, & did nominate Wm Baulston, John Easton & Walter Clarke; & further sayd, yt her son Tho~Cornell told her, Her name did stinke about ye Island, or Country, And shee ye sd Widdow Cornell, desired Her yt shee would not speake of wt shee told Her, for shee should live A sadd life, wth Her sd son, if he should heare of it.Taken this 14th of Aprill 1673, before us.John Sanford Secretary
|John Cranston Dept Govr|
Richd Smith, Assist
|Francis Brinley Assist.~|
John Easton Assist.~
Waite Gould being Engaged According to Law, affirmeth to ye truth of ye Premises.
Taken this 14th of Aprill 1673, before us.
|John Cranston Dept Govr|
Richd Smith, Assist
|ffrancis Brinley Assistt.|
John Easton Assistt.
Taken before ye Dept Govr & part of ye Genll Councell ye 14th of Aprill 1673.
Sarah ye wife of Nicholas Wilde Aged 61 yeares or thereabouts, being According to Law Engaged & deposed, testifieth to ye Truth of all yt is above Testified by Her Husband. And further testifieth, yt MrsRebeca Cornell told this depont yt Her Son Thomas, one time being Angry wth her, lookt very firce upon Her, & nasht, or sett his Teeth at her, & sayd shee had beene A Cruell Mother to hime. She told hime shee had not beene cruell, but A [torn] & sayd his Carrige & Expressions therein was A great Trouble, or Terror to Her. This depont askt Mrs Cornell how shee was able to beare such Afflictions. Shee answered yt shee should not be Able to beare it, but yt  God did support her, & in Her griefe shee had Scriptures come into Her mind yt did much quiet her.Taken before ye Dept Govr & part of the Genll Councell ye 14th of Aprill 1673.John Sanford Secretary.
The Deposition of Rebeca Woollsey is yt wn shee was last at Rhod-Island with Her Mother Mrs Rebeca Cornell falling in discourse one with Another, the Deponts Mother tould her Daughtour Woollsey that shee looked very poorly and the Depont told her Mother shee had cause soe to doe; her mother did Aske her why; the Depont told her Mother, yt shee had, had the smal pox, and yt shee was very much Afflicted and Troubled in mind, and yt shee was sometimes Perswaded to Drowne her selfe, and sometimes to stabb her selfe. Soe the Deponts Mother told her Daughter that shee must pray to God, and he would helpe Her. The Depont told Her Mother, shee did often call upon God, and he did here her, soe wn the Depont had done with this Discorce, the Deponants Mother told her Daughter that shee had beene divers yeares possest with an evill spirit, and that shee was divers times Perswaded to make away with Her selfe, and yett the Lord was pleased from time to time to preserve her. The Depont told her Mother, that shee would tell her Brother Thomas of it, and her Mother charged her not to tell hime, soe shee did not tell hime: And further sayes not.ffloshin 10 Aprill 1673 — This Testimony taken before meJohn Sanford Secretary
John Pearce of the Towne of Portsmouth Aged 41 yeares or there abouts being According to Law Engaged, Testifieth, that since the Decease of Mrs Rebeca Cornell, this Deponent being at the house of [torn - Wm ?] Wood, there was Thomas Cornell, and his Wife, and Thomas Cornell sayd, that his Mother in her life time had A desire to have A good fire, and further sayd, that he thought God had answered her ends, for now shee had it.Taken the 7th of May 1673 (in the morneing) before me.Robert Coe Justice of Peace
Mr. Phillip Eds of Newport being According to Law Engaged, Testifieth to the truth of what is above Testified by Liftt Joseph Torrey.
Taken in Court, ye 16th of May 1673. As Attests John Sanford Recordr
I Present and Indict Thomas Cornell of Portsmouth now Prisoner in his Majties Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations Senr. That against the feare of God, the Honour of our Soveraigne Lord the Kinge, and the Law and peace of this Colony, on the Evening of the 8th Day of Febry in the 25th yeare of the Reigne of his Majtie Charles the Second Annoque Domin. 1672. The sayd Thomas Cornell did violently Kill his Mother, Rebeca Cornell, Widdow, or was ayding or Abetting thereto, in the Dwelling House of his sayd Mother in the foresayd towne of Portsmouth, which act of his is Murder, and is against the Honole Crowne and Dignety of his Majesty the Laws and peace of this Colony.
Dated at A Genll Court of Tryalls held ye 12th May 1673