Summary of Public Executions


For Map of Execution Sites, Click Here.

1. James Dougherty - August 6, 1813 - a soldier who murdered John Wait, a young man who lived at Salmon River, while Wait returned from delivering wood to Pike’s Cantonment. Hung near the lake shore on the "Boynton Road," body given to the medical society. [Indictment is not in the General Sessions Book; military case?]


2. William Baker - March 26, 1814 - a sergeant in British Army, executed as a spy. Hung on the sand ridge between Court and Brinkerhoff Street; the site was later the residence of S.F. Vilas, then contained within MAI.

According to Hurd’s History of Clinton & Franklin Counties, footnote at page 120: "It is said that for many years after this execution, the boys, on a still moonlight night, would go to the place where the gallows stood and say, ‘Baker, for what was you hung?’ and, after repeating the question three times and listening intently, they would hear - ‘N-o-t-h-i-n-g.’" quoting Palmer. [Indictment is not in the General Sessions Book; likely, this is a military case?]


 3. Francis de Alert - July 26, 1816 - when Col. Murray raided Plattsburgh in 1813, he released Alert and his father, who were in the county jail charged with murdering Peter Miller at Champlain. They fled to Canada; Francis crossed the line into Champlain in 1816 and was immediately arrested. He was convicted and sentenced to be hanged on July 26. [General Sessions Book records Indictments of Francis and Charles Allair on October 6, 1814 for Murder.]

"On the morning of that day, the people of the surrounding country, and from Grand Isle, assembled in numbers to witness the execution. Great was the disappointment when, about nine o’clock in the morning, it was announced that Alert had cheated the gallows of its victim, by hanging himself in his cell." Historical Sketches of Plattsburgh, Palmer, Peter Sailly.

"The sheriff, in order not to be cheated out of his fees, took this Frenchman and hung his dead body. . . . Dr. William Beaumont of the army was given his body." Recollections of Mary William Torrey by Alan Everest at 21.


 4. Peggy Facto - March 18, 1825 - hung in the Arsenal Lot on Broad Street (approximately where St. John’s 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.]


5. Alexander Larrabee - March 23, 1834 - hung at the Arsenal Lot on Broad Street for the murder of his son-in-law, Leander Shaw. Declared his innocence to the end, causing a declaration to that effect to be read from the scaffold by the Rev. Father Rafferty. Historical Sketches of Plattsburgh at 46. [General Sessions Book shows Indicted October 1833.]


 6. Joseph Levert - November 16, 1847 - hung in the jail yard for the murder of his wife. He "made a written confession, in which he gave a detailed account of the murder, which was published in the village papers. It was a cool, premeditated act." Historical Sketches at 46.


 7. Joseph Centerville - March 28, 1855 - hung in the courthouse yard, from the same gallows as Levert, for the murder of his sister-in-law, Margaret Rock, an eleven year old girl. 

Some sources say that this was the last execution in the county. BUT we found records of another:

 8. Henry King - November 4, 1881 - was hung in the jail yard, after convicted at trial on September 14, 1881 for the murder of Michael Hamilton in Dannemora with an axe, according to Oyer & Terminer Record Book #3. Records of Clinton County Sheriff show that he was in fact executed on November 4, 1881.

By the end of the 1800's, public hangings were replaced by executions behind prison walls.  The first "electrical" execution at Clinton Prison was in 1892; click here for articles about these early executions. 

Learn about Thomas Edison's role in the invention of the Electric Chair.

Joseph Chapleau - 1890 - was the first person to be sentenced to die in the new electric chair at Dannemora.  He killed his neighbor, Erwin Tabor, on the Miller Road in January 1889, striking him several times in the face with a stake from his sleigh.  Chapleau claimed that Tabor had been poisoning his cows, and attacked him first, accusing the defendant of "blowing about him," telling people about the poisonings.   He was convicted after a jury trial and sentenced to death.

A newspaper article written the day after the murder expressed that "Chapleau's story is somewhat weak as he gives no reason why a man of Mr. Tabor's standing should be guilty of such a despicable act as poisoning a poor man's cows.  The article concluded, "The case is indeed a most sad one from beginning to end, and serves as another warning to men with bad tempers.  A blow struck in the heat of passion oft times brings with it a life time of sorrow, not only to the perpetrator, but to many innocent persons as well."

The conviction and sentence were upheld by the Court of Appeals in 1890.  The Court approved the admissibility of a confession made by the defendant during the Coroner's Inquest, finding it was voluntarily made, eventhough the defendant had refused to sign a statement informing him of his rights.  

The Court of Appeals also established a new rule that the question of a witness' credibility is for the jury to pass upon.  Here there were two eyewitnesses who first gave little information about the incident, but at trial testified in greater detail, saying they were frightened at being drawn into the case.  The Court ruled that there testimony was admissible, and "it was for the jury to decide whether they were to be believed or not."

In a 1986 article about the case.  Plattsburgh State professor Altina Waller describes that, after the formal appeal was denied, "all the members of the jury eventually petitioned the Governor of New York, stating that their first-degree-murder verdict was not appropriate and that they had since discovered information which changed their minds.  Supporting this document was another signed by all the county officials . . . ."  In June 1890, the Governor granted clemency, changing the death sentence to life imprisonment.