November 24, 1737

1737 November 24 (Thursday).  I went to the Prisoner as early as I could, and Mr. Burr was with me to assist in penning down what the Prisoner[1] had to deliver by way of Confession and Warning to the World before his Execution.  In it I was as punctual and strict as I could be in inserting his own words as near as I could, and when any others were used.  It [here this portion of the diary ends].

[1]Forbes: The sad story of Hugh Henderson we learn from these dying confessions, which, together with a poem on his untimely death, were published as a broadside and sold as a warning to all youth.

He was of Scotch-Irish descent and came to Massachusetts about 1735, and for two years indulged his wicked practices, when he was arrested and convicted of breaking and entering the house of Abner Newton, of Westborough, who lived at this time in the old Thomas Rice garrison.  (See note for March 14, 1737.)

Four indictments were found against him, two for burglary and two for larceny, and he was tried, convicted and sentenced to be hanged on one for burglary.  The Court was the Superior Court of Judicature sitting at Worcester in September, with the following named judges on the bench: Benj. Lynde, Paul Dudley, Edmund Quincy, Jonathan Remington and Richard Saltonstall.

In the following extracts from the Confession, we can detect Mr. Parkman’s pen:

“The Confession and Dying Warning of Hugh Henderson Who was executed at Worcester in the County of Worcester, Nov. 26, 1737, Signed by him in the Presence of four of the Ministers, the Morning of the Day of his Execution.

“I, Hugh Henderson, otherwise through my wickedness called John Hamilton of about 28 or 29 Years of Age, was born in Armagh in the Kingdom of Ireland, received Baptism in the Manner of the Presbyterians and was brought up by my uncle, who was obliged to give me suitable Learning, but did not; which Neglect, together with my own Neglect of learning the word of God afterwards, was a great reason of my taking to such wicked Courses as have brought me to my unhappy, untimely End.

“I began with smaller Sins, while I was Young: with but stealing Pins: against which I received warning oftentimes, but persisted in it, and was very disobedient, till I increased further in Sin.”

Then follows warning to various classes of people and confession of various sins, and the confession ends:

“Having given this Warning, I desire to commend myself to the Charity and Prayers of all God’s People for me, and that You would lift up your Hearts to God for me, for the Pardon of my Sins, an interest in Christ, and that I may be sanctified by the Spirit of God: But above all I commend myself to the infinite Mercy of God, in my dear Redeemer, begging and beseeching that through the Merits of His Blood, I may this Day be with Him in Paradise.”

“Hugh Henderson

“Signed with his Mark.”

A True Copy Examined

“Per Ebr. Parkman.”

The poem is entitled:

“A Poem occasioned by the Untimely Death of Hugh Henderson alias John Hamilton who was hanged at Worcester for House Breaking, Nov. 24, 1737” – and an extract therefrom reads:

“The Scene we did but lately view

Too well evinces this is true –

A man with healthful Vigour bless’d

The Morn of life but hardly past,

Compelled to leave the pleasing Light,

And stretch away to endless Night;

Because regardless of his Peace,

He chose the flowery Path of Vice.”

The uncle receives his deserts in the poem as follows:

“But when he met with no Restraint,

And found his Uncle was no Saint,

In Vice’s pleasing Steps he ran.”

The N. E. Weekly Journal, Dec. 6, 1737, says:

“On the day of his Execution the Rev. Mr. Campbell of Oxford preached to the Prisoner and a great assembly, a very suitable sermon on I Peter 4-5.  The Prisoner was exceedingly moved and in such Anguish of soul that the Expressions of it in the face of the congregation, in crying and moans, in prayers and tears and passionate gesture there were even to disturbance.

“At the place of execution, after the Rev. Mr. Hall of Sutton had prayed, the prisoner with great earnestness desired all that were present to hearken well to what was going to be read to them, and to mind to take the warning contained in it, after which he put up a most importunate and pathetical prayer himself which manifested more of knowledge of religion, sense of his own state and humble faith and hope in God, than anything that has been received from him before.”

So was ended this sad chapter in the history of Worcester County — her first execution!