September 5, 1824
January 4, 1825
January 22, 1825
January 24, 1825
February 13, 1825
February 28, 1825
March 18, 1825
March 24, 1825
Peggy Facto - March 18, 1825 - hung in the Arsenal Lot on Broad Street (approximately where St. Johns Academy stands) for the murder of her new-born child; strangled with a cord then thrown in the fire. Francis Labare tried as accomplice and acquitted. Her body was given to the medical society. "A great many went to see her body, although it had been agreed that it should not be seen. Many young men went. So much talk was made of this that they said that no other body should ever be given to the doctors." Recollections of Mary Williams Torrey at 21. [General Sessions Book shows both Indicted for murder in October 1824.]
*Following is the entire text of the Governor's letter denying clemency and giving his reasons for doing so. The letter was addressed to Peter Sailly.
Peter Sailly, Esq
Plattsburgh Albany 28 February 1825 In Judge Walworth's official report of the case of Peggy Facto dated the 24th of January, after stating the facts, he says "I became satisfied that the woman was perfectly abandoned and depraved and that she had destroyed this child and probably the one the year previous, not for the purpose of hiding her shame which was open and apparent to everybody that saw her but for the purpose of ridding herself of the trouble of taking care of them and providing for their support." In a subsequent communication of the same Judge dated the 13th of February, he enclosed a petition signed by yourself and a number of respectable citizens soliciting a pardon for the said Peggy Facto either on condition of leaving the United States or otherwise. The petition states three grounds for the interposition of the Executive. 1. doubts with many as to the guilt of the convict. 2. as to this being a case that requires a public example. 3. As to the policy of executing any person for the crime of murder when the public opinion is much divided on this subject. And the Judge observes, "Although I have no doubt of her guilt, the testimony on the trial being so irresistible that the jury were out but a very short time and I sincerely believe that under the circumstances, her execution would have afforded an example beneficial to the community particularly in the County where many offenses of this kin have been committed, I have now no hesitation in saying, after the feeling which has been produced, that the execution of this woman would be worse than useless, as in the Country no capital punishment can with propriety be inflicted contrary to the general wishes of the community; and believing also as I do that the commutation of the punishment by changing it from death to imprisonment in a case where there was no pretence of insanity or doubt of the guilt of the convict, would in its effect upon the community be much worse than even a free pardon, which few would ever hope to obtain, I do therefore join with the petitioners in recommending a pardon for this unfortunate woman." The representation of the Judge and the facts of the case clearly establish the guilt of the convict and the frequency of the horrible crime of infanticide evinces the necessity of penal influence. I can therefore see nothing in the two first suggestions which would warrant the extension of mercy. I am aware that some enlightened and benevolent men disbelieve in the justice, and many doubt the expediency of the punishment of death. And I agree in so far that it ought only to be inflicted in flagrant cases, but the crime of Murder is certainly one in which the ultimum supplicum ought to be applied. This is prescribed by the law of nature and is justified by our holy religion and the common consent and practise of mankind. And you will excuse in saying that as to the efficacy of the example, the petitioners are very liable to err in their opinion. As their excellent character elevates them above those feelings which govern the conduct of the depraved and abandoned and they cannot realize in their own sentiments the motives that predominate with that of the community. If terror loses its influence with them then indeed the life of no man will be secure. Desirous of manifesting all due respect for the opinions of my fellow citizens and of dispensing mercy in all proper cases, I am reluctantly compelled by an imperious sense of duty, to refrain from changing the sentence of the law. If a pardon were granted in this case, it would be a virtual declaration of the impunity of infanticide. Not having an opportunity of a personal communication with you, I have viewed it proper to make this written explanation and while I highly respect the benevolent feelings which have produced the application for mercy I can only express my deep regret that the solemn obligations of my office put it out of my power to comply with it. I am very truly and respectfully Your friend /s/ DeWitt Clinton
Newspaper articles record the conviction, sentence, and execution.
Plattsburgh, Jan.22. The circuit court commenced its session in this place on Tuesday last, judge Walworth presiding. Besides a number important and intricate civil trials, which were disposed of by the presiding judge with his usual ability, the following criminals have been tried and convicted, viz.
Peggy Facto for murdering her infant child, was found guilty and sentenced to be executed on the 18th of March.
Francis Le Bere, was tried for aiding the murder of the child of Peggy Facto, and acquitted.
The following is the substance of the remarks of Judge WALWORTH, and of the sentence pronounced by him, on Saturday last, in the case of Peggy Facto, convicted for the murder of her infant child.
You have been convicted for the murder of your infant child; and after a fair trial, and a patient investigation of your case, the Petit Jury has been constrained by their consciences and their oaths, to pronounce you guilty of this most unnatural and aggravated crime.
It is with emotions and feelings the most painful, that I enter upon the discharge of the important duty which devolves upon the court, and which I am now compelled to perform. It is to pronounce the sentence of the law, which is to deprive a fellow mortal of existence, and send her to the bar of her Creator and her God to answer for the conduct of her past life and where her destiny must be fixed for eternity.
If in the discharge of this most painful duty, which can ever devolve on those who are entrusted with the administration of human laws, I should in dwelling upon the enormity of the offenses which you have committed, and the unexampled wickedness of your past life, make use of strong language to show the aggravation of your guilt, and the depravity which you have exhibited; be assured it is not for the purpose of wounding your feelings, neither is it intended to oppress or afflict one on whom the righteous judgment of heaven is so heavily pressing. It is, if possible, to awaken you to a proper sense of your awful situation. It is, if possible, to reform you and prepare you to meet the ignominious death that awaits you. It is, that by contrition and repentance, you may be enabled to shun a punishment more dreadful than any which can be inflicted by human laws the eternal ruin of your guilty soul.
From the testimony given in your trial, there can be no doubt of your guilt, or of the aggravated circumstances attending the commission of the crime. There is every reason to believe you were immediately and directly concerned in the murder of your helpless infant, whom you were bound by the laws of society , and the ties of nature, to cherish and protect. Yes, there are very strong reasons for the belief that your own wicked hands have perpetrated the horrid deed. And if there was any other guilty participator in the murder, that your own wickedness and depravity instigated and persuaded him to participate in your crime. To the crime of murder, you have added the crime of perjury, and that in the face of Heaven, and even on the very threshhold of eternity. I am also constrained to say, it is much to be feared, that you will meet more than one murdered child, as an accusing spirit at the bar of Heaven.
The punishment of death has been denounced against the crime of murder, not only by the law of all civilized nations, but also by that law which was written under the immediate dictation of the most high. As God himself has prescribed the righteous punishment, so there is also reason to believe that in the wise dispensation of his overruling Providence, there are very few offenses of this description committed which are not ultimately discovered and the wicked perpetrators thereof brot to merited punishment.
Wretched and deluded woman! In vain was the foul and unnatural murder committed under the protecting shade of night, in your lone and sequestered dwelling, where no human eye was near to witness your guilt. In vain did you endeavour to consume your murdered infant in the fire. In vain did you secrete the body, and endeavour to obliterate all traces of your wretchedness and shame.
Miserable and infatuated mortal! You forgot the eye of your God was fixed upon you. The eye of that God who suffers not even a sparrow to fall without his notice, and to whom the light of the day and the darkness of the night are one and the same.
Little did you imagine when you tied around the neck of your struggling infant the fatal string with which you deprived it of existence, or when you placed its body upon the fire, that He would cause the senseless chord and the scorching blaze to come up as swift witnesses against you. And as little did you reflect, when you concealed the mangled remains, secure from the search of mortals, beneath the rubbish of the woods, that there was one above who witnesses all your movements; one who could cause even the brute creation to become his ministers of vengence to execute his holy will. And that by dragging forth the mutilated body of your murdered child to testify against you, even the dogs could be made to furnish the means of your detection and condemnation.
Your crime with all its aggravations is now before you, and you are about to receive the sentence which is shortly to deprive you of life. You are about to enter upon the untried retributions of eternity. And I beg of you not to delude yourself with vain hopes which never can be realized. But let me entreat you, by every motive temporal and eternal, to reflect upon your present situation, and the awful fate which awaits you. That by timely repentance you may obtain a hope of that pardon from your God, which you must not expect from mortals.
When again in the solitude of the prison, where you will be permitted to remain for a few short weeks, reflect upon all the circumstances of that horrid night when your infant was strangled by the hands of its mother. Reflect upon the situation of your husband whom your depravity has driven from your bed and from your bosom upon your aged parents whom your crimes will send to their graves in sorrow. Reflect upon the situation of your poor orphan children, on whom you have entailed disgrace and infamy, - and who are soon to be left friendless and unprotected, to the mercy of an unfeeling world. And when your feelings become softened by these reflections, let me again entreat you, before the curtain of life falls forever, and before the Judgment seat of your God, that you fly for mercy to the arms of a Saviour, and endeavour to seize upon the salvation of his cross.
Listen now to the awful sentence of the law which I am compelled thus to pronounce upon you.
You are to be taken from hence to the prison from which you came, and from thence to the place of execution, and there on the 18th day of March next, between the hours of twelve at noon, and two oclock in the afternoon, you are to be hanged by your neck until you are dead and your dead body is to be delivered to the president and members of the Medical Society for dissection. And may that God whose laws you have broken, and before whose throne you must then appear, have mercy on your soul.
Peggy Facto was executed in this village yesterday at two oclock, P.M. A large concourse of people, as is usual on such occasions, assembled to witness the scene.
Peggi Facteau was executed in Plattsburgh, on Friday last, in pursuance of her sentence, for murdering her infant child.
Editorial written in the
Plattsburgh Republican - Saturday March 24, 1825
The new editor of the Intelligencer in giving an account of the execution of Peggy Facto has very unjustly censured the officers whose duty it was to officiate on that occasion.
Whether the article is designed to apply to the sheriff or to the officer commanding the guard, it is equally unworthy. Those gentlemen are incapable of doing anything which in the language of the sensitive editor, "must be felt as cruel mockery to the convict."
The editor of the Intelligencer asserts that the procession moved to the quick step of a lively tune, either the "Soldiers Joy" or some other equal, calculated to excite a gay feeling and brisk movement. In this remark we are well assured, that he is all together too fast. The procession moved off in common time, the music playing a plaintive tune; and one no more calculated to produce a "gay feeling" than Roslin Castle or playing Hymns.
But to show at once, that those who had charge of the procession acted in the most discreet and delicate manner. It may be proper to mention that it was from an apprehension of producing an unfavorable effect upon the prisoner; and in the administering of religious counsel to the unfortunate woman in her last moments, that the drums which had been muffled were uncovered.
When the editor makes unjust charges against others of attempting to do away the "effect intended to be produced by public executions," he ought not to forget the part which he has played in the tragedy. The pamphlet which was published on the morning of the execution, as the fruit of his labor, should have not other tendency than to produce a contrary effect from that intended by public executions. That production was calculated to produce dissatisfaction with the court and jury and to weaken the confidence of the public in the faithful and just administration of the law. And it could have an effect to produce discord and an attempt to reduce the glamour. It is because our populations have too much good sense to be operated on by artificial excitement, and have a deep sense of the importance of having laws administered, but no thanks to the writer.
The writer also complained of much ribaldry and light mindedness in the trial. Every person with whom we have talked with bears testimony to the fact, not withstanding, the strong sympathy for the unhappy woman. That the whole assemblage conducted in the most orderly and appropriate manor; and that instead of "light mindedness" a sense of solemnity prevailed every countenance and affected every heart.
Telegraph. Malone, March 31, 1825.
EXECUTION OF PEGGY FACTO
Before noon, the period pointed out in the sentence, between which and two oclock the last act of the law was to be performed, the concourse had become very great, and although, as is always the case, on such occasions, there was much ribaldry and light mindedness in the crowd, yes there was on the countenance of a small portion, an expression of anxiety and solemnity better fitted to such an awful ceremony.
At a few moments past twelve the prisoner was brought from the jail in a state of feebleness which required the assistance of the officers, by whom she was placed in the vehicle prepared for the purpose when the procession moved on, formed by the Light Infantry company under the command of captain Sailly, and the Rifle Company commanded by lieut Couch the whole under the command of captain Baily. A crowd preceded and followed the cavalcade on foot and in waggons the latter class were a great part females of various ages from the decrepitude of the grandmother, down to the rosy cheekd maiden in her teens, all eager to witness the rare show, in which the death of a human being was to afford food for their curiosity. Many of these had come from a distance, in spite of the badness of the roads, which could scarcely be worse.
The procession moved to the quick step of a lively tune either the "Soldiers Joy" or some other equally calculated to excite a gay feeling and a brisk movement. The impropriety of this needs no comment. It must have been felt by everyone who had a proper conception of the effect intended to be produced by public executions, to be in direct violation of the sensation which it is supposed will pervade the minds of the spectators. At the same time, it must be felt as cruel mockery by the convict, if at such a moment persons so situated can be sensible of what passes around them.
When the prisoner arrived at the gallows which was plated in a field west of the meeting house, she was taken from the waggon and placed upon the scaffold by her attendants to whose honor it may be said that not one of them could refrain from tears. She was attended by Monsieur Giroux Roman Catholic Curate of St. Luke, who had come from his parish to attend her last moments. After having joined him in prayer, she declared she was innocent of the crime for which she was to suffer and then she forgave all her enemies. She was then lifted up by one the officers, who was about to proceed to the performance of his duty, that on her uttering a faint scream excited either by terror or hysterical affection, he allowed her to be seated for a moment, when she become composed, and signified her readiness, upon which she was raised, and the cord adjusted, during which she again declared herself innocent, and prayed for the forgiveness of her enemies, and while in the utterance of these words, the bolt was pulled, and the platform dropped, and with scarcely a convulsive motion, her soul was consigned to the land of spirits.
The crowd was orderly and quiet, and no fighting or disturbance took place among the lower order until late in the day.
THE EXECUTION OF PEGGY FACTO
Every person of candour who attended the trial, must admit that the judge summed up the testimony in the most clear, dispassionate and just manner: he explained the law in its true spirit, and gave the jury an impressive admonition of the important duty which devolved upon them. Every spectator was deeply impressed with the solemnity and perfect propriety which characterized every transaction connected with the trial.
The jury were men of the fairest characters, and every person who heard the testimony must be satisfied that the verdict was such an one as the law and the testimony, and their oaths, required them to give. Here, the unpleasant duties of the court and jury were at an end: and in the whole transaction, we are at a loss to discover anything which could be disapproved of by the most prejudiced: Much more, any thing which ought to expose them to remark in a catch-penny pamphlet, bottomed upon some pretended new discovery of evidence, which is probably some old womans story.
After conviction, a strong feeling prevailed in favor of having a pardon granted; and we were among the number who thought it desirable that the governor should commute her punishment. But it is not to be inferred from his refusal, that it was because he delighted in the death of a fellow creature. One thing is certain, that the pretended censure upon the presiding judge, if the allegations furnished any cause of complaint, was for the non-performance of acts, which the governor alone had the power of performing. The 5th sec.of the 3d Art. of the constitution, says, - "The governor shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons, after convictions for all offences except treason & crimes of impeachment." The constitution presupposes that there might be cases where the court and jury would be required by law to condemn, and where executive interference would be proper, after conviction. And the constitution also supposes that the governor exercise the prerogative of mercy . . . . the opinion of the court and . . . for until "after conviction." He . . . more power in the premises than any other person: after conviction he has all power. The powers of the court were prescribed by law, and were bound by the stern mandates of justice: The power given to the executive was ample; no statute limits his power; the law of his own . . . alone, gave bounds to the exercise of the prerogative of mercy.
Common charity leads to the belief, of all who have been required to act this unpleasant business, have discharged their duty conscientiously; & should not have entered upon the subject, but for the ungenerous & stupid remarks of a drivelling pamphlet.
March 21, 1981
The woman was escorted by one rifle unit and one infantry unit of the U.S. Army and taken by wagon to a place called the Arsenal Lot where she arrived at about 1:30 P.M.. It was a warm Saturday afternoon and a large crowd lined the procession route. Many of the curious were women of all ages.
The young lady, a mother of at least three children, was helped out of the wagon by army officers and led to a wooden platform, her attendants were in tears as she climbed the stairs and as she walked to the center of the stage-like structure the crowd fell silent.
A few minutes later, after a priest offered prayers, one of the army officers adjusted a rope tightly around the young woman's neck and stepped back. A bolt built into the platform was pulled and the young woman plunged to the ground, her neck snapping as the rope reached its end and grew taught. Witnesses said the woman's body convulsed only slightly, then dangled quietly in the uncommonly warm March air.
Once her body was cut down, the crowd dispersed, many of the people making for local taverns and an afternoon of late-winter talk of the hanging and murder. A group from Grande Isle, who walked across a frozen Lake Champlain to witness the execution, had to take boats back because the warm weather broke up the lake's ice. Meanwhile, the woman's body was turned over to the local medical society for dissection.
Peggy Facto, from Beekmantown had become the first woman executed in Clinton County. The year was 1825 and it was the most infamous case of the period. The details of how Facto supposedly murdered her infant child are particularly gruesome.
Facto was convicted of strangling her newborn daughter with a two foot cord on September 5th of the previous year. Prosecutors claimed she took the remains into the woods and buried them under a pile of rubbish. Later, neighborhood dogs found the body and ripped it from its resting place. Facto was tried and found guilty on January 19, 1825 and, three days later, was sentenced to be hanged.
But Facto, married to a man by whom she bore at least two children, had a lover. His name was Francis LaBare, although they were known in local newspapers as "a Beekmantown couple."
She and her husband were not living together at the time of the murder. During the trial, Judge Reuben H. Walworth implied that Facto's husband left her because of her unchaste lifestyle.
To make matters worse, the judge, in a report to Governor Dewitt Clinton, suggested Facto may have murdered another infant in the same manner. There was no charge of murder in the earlier incident, nor is there a report of a body being found.
The case would seem closed were it not for one curious item: LaBare, the lover, was also charged with murder in the same case. He was actually tried the same day as Facto, a few hours earlier.
LaBare was reportedly at the scene of the crime and was charged with assisting Facto. According to historic accounts, however, the courts and public opinion of the day tended to exonerate males in cases like this. LaBare was acquitted of the charge and freed.
Facto proclaimed her innocence even as the noose was slipped around her neck. There was a local movement to have the sentence reduced to life imprisonment or have Facto exiled to another country. A number of famous county residents, including Peter Sailly, petitioned Governor Clinton on her behalf. General Benjamin Mooers, who employed Facto as a servant, believed she was innocent.
Some believed Facto was insane, others whispered the child was LaBare's. Did he put her up to the killing? Did Facto stand by as LaBare killed the child, then refuse to implicate her lover? Did she fear that implicating LaBare would lead to the discovery of the remains of another dead child and her conviction on a second murder charge? Was LaBare's alibi airtight? Did Facto die so her lover could live?
These questions, and others about the case, will probably never be answered. It is not known whether Facto or LaBare have any known relatives or whether descendants of others involved possess material about the case that is now more than 156 years old.