The Man Who Was Hanged Twice
. . .
NYCHS presents a report by Roger Larson on his research into the case of James McLean, the man reputedly "hanged twice."

Genesee County, in Western NY between Buffalo & Rochester, held its first public hanging in 1807. Roger Larson, author of the main text in this web presentation about the case, here provides some source notes.

Notes on Some Source Materials Researched

By Roger Larson*

In my recent search, I also came upon several other documents related to this case:

  • A May 31, 1808 document for the administration of the estate of William Orr
  • A hand written account copied from "Genesee County History by Safford North, page 87" and titled at the top of the first page as "Sheriff Call." (?)

    This article's author , Roger Larson, has enjoyed a rewarding career spanning over three decades with one of the domestic U.S. automakers.

    Presently he manages its private satellite broadcasting studios that provide national dealership and employee training and corporate communications.

    Genealogical research is a hobby spawned by an early impassioned interest in his maternal family's genealogy records originally compiled in the late 1920s.

    Expanding this interest to other family members led him to pursue his research in Scotland, Sweden, Canada and throughout the Eastern and Midwest U.S.

    He has visited numerous locations in New York seeking and collecting information for this article.

    The document discusses the events surrounding the murders. Essentially, it contains the same information with certain subtleties:

    • "all three were squatters on the forty thousand acre tract..."
    • "McLaughlin interfered (after the second axe blow to Orr) to prevent a tragedy..."
    • the tree felled by Orr "was located on land that McLean claimed..."
    • McLean "hid in a hollow log near his house"
    • McLean "was recognized at a tavern a few miles east of Canandaigua..."
  • Another newspaper account, dated May 23, 1931, discussing the history of Wm. Orr's farm and the events leading to the murder. The headline reads, "Covington Recalls hanging In Batavia," and the only differing fact is the description of the tree cutting as "a chopping bee." At the bottom of the article is, "Perry Herald," which I assume was the paper's namesake. (Perry, NY)
  • A contemporary paperback book titled, "Caledonia, A History of the Town and Village" by Esther M. Hayward, Town and Village Historian.

    A chapter is devoted to the murders and is a reprint of the Rochester newspaper clipping already included in this web presentation. However, some 'corrections' are inserted at the end, one of which by Mrs. A.H. Collins claiming the dispute was over "a line fence," that "Mrs. McColl gave the alarm (not the son), and that "no food was carried by the mother to the son" (McLean).

    Mrs. Collins also incorrectly states that "Mr. McLachlen was 46 years of age," probably from the incorrect gravemarker inscription, and "that 'Collin' (should have been William) Orr was 34 years of age."

    According to Henry Feeley, a local historian, McLean "...was hung in Batavia, was buried, and his grave marked by a pile of stones just over the fence along the north side of the Lehigh Valley railroad tracks right of way, where the third intersecting farm, west of the Swamp Road meets it. It is said to have been the McLean family burial ground, but all trace of other graves are gone."

    I sought to locate the place as described above, but no one could tell me where the railroad was located, whether the Swamp Road ever existed, or where the intersecting farms may have been located. I'd like to think if Mr. Feeley (who has passed away) was correct that the gravesite of James McLean may some day be found

*Written for NYCHS by Roger Larson. Both Roger Larson and NYCHS reserve and retain all rights. Commercial use prohibited. Address requests for educational non-commercial use to

Return to main text The Man Who Was Hanged Twice page by Roger Larson.

Timeline on NYS
Executions by Hanging
in Auburn Prison:
1890 - 1916