Joe Menkevich has one foot in the 18th century and the other one here with us in the 21st. He brought back this news account of a crime in Frankford some 226 years ago on this date. I transcribed it myself from the pdf which you can read here to see the original text. It is a fascinating glimpse into the past. It is amazing that we still have these documents preserved and even more amazing that they can be accessed by those who have an interest.
Headline: Philadelphia, July 26; Article Type: News/Opinion
Paper: Columbian Herald, published as The Columbian Herald or the Patriotic Courier of North-America; Date: 08-10-1785; Issue: 82; Page: ; Location: Charleston, South Carolina
Philadelphia, July 26
On Saturday last was executed agreeable to the sentence passed upon him by the court of Oyer and Terminer, for committing a rape on the body of a young girl of reputable parentage, and unblemished character, the unfortunate Francis Courtney. He was a native of Ireland and had borne a good character until the day on which he committed the crime for which he paid his life as forfeiture. About twelve months ago he landed on these shores and for the discharge of his passage money bound himself to Mr. William Morris of this city. With this gentleman he lived to the satisfaction of his master and the family until Sunday the 3rd inst. When instigated by the devil, and by his own lustful passions, he robbed an innocent young woman of her chastity and happiness, the circumstances of which unhappy transaction are as follow:
The unfortunate sufferer in this affair was a hired servant; born and for many years a resident of this city. On Saturday the 11th of June, she removed to the house of a gentleman in the country, in which she lived until the time of her misfortune. Having been three weeks absent from her former master and mistress, she felt desirous of returning to Philadelphia and paying them a visit. Accordingly, upon request, she obtained liberty to go to the city, and for that purpose, was favoured with a horse. She set off from the place of her residence on Sunday morning, took breakfast and dinner with the domestics of Mr. Morris’s family; of which Courtney was one and about 5 o’clock in the afternoon, she started from town with the view of returning home —- When she had proceeded as far as Poole’s bridge, she was overtaken by Courtney, who insisted on escorting her part of the way home, tho greatly against her inclinations.
It was the intention of the girl to turn off at Frankfort Mills but was dissuaded from her design by Courtney, who assured, that he could conduct her by a better way. Accordingly they rode in company until they came to a narrow-land, about a mile below the Jolly Post. Down this Courtney insisted on their turning as the nearest way home — She tho’t it was not the right way, however they turned down and rode for some time, till they came to a small piece of woods. Here Courtney’s behavior first evinced the baseness of his intentions. He made use of hard and menacing language, which so intimidated the poor girl, that she prepared for leaping off and for attempting her escape; but his alertness unhappily exceeded her’s. Throwing himself on the ground, he seized her, drew her from her horse and dragged her across the road. It was in vain that the unhappy girl screamed ‘murder’ as loudly as her feeble voice would permit; in vain was it that she strove to protect herself from violation, by her own exertions. To suppress her shrieks, Courtney twice struck her with his fist on the neck and face; once attempting to thrust his handkerchief into her mouth, and once endevoured to tie it about her throat; however by thrusting her hand between her neck and the handkerchief, she preserved herself from being strangled. But fruitless were her efforts for the preservation of her chastity! No fortunate traveler was at hand who could fly to her assistance and minister a timely relief! No friend or relative to drop the tear of compassion over her misfortune, or to pour the balm of consolation into her afflicted bosom! No! The die was cast. Brutal strength prevailed over female imbecility.
Two women and a man were at a distance, hearing dismal shrieks, and supposing them to be some objects in distress, made towards the place from whence the sounds proceeded. When they approached the unhappy young woman, they perceived that she was in a most pitiable situation. Her hair was greatly disheveled, her neck and breast extremely bruised, her clothes tattered and muddy, and altogether, she resembled more a frantic person than one possessed of reason. She ran with lifted hands toward Mr. Glen, who was the person that came with the women to her assistance. He avoided her; but pointing towards Courtney, who was endevouring to carry off the horse of the injured girl; but perceiving that he was in danger of being overtaken, he mounted his own horse and fled with the utmost speed. At the Jolly Post he was overtaken, where his horse stopped, tho greatly to the surprise and confusion of his rider. He then cried out for help, declared that his pursuer intended to rob him. However his artifice availed him nothing. He was apprehended and committed to prison. The unfortunate girl in the meantime was, with much difficulty, brought to the Jolly Post, where after repeatedly fainting away, she was conveyed to bed. The next day she was examined by a magistrate and it was requisite that she should identify the person who had abused her, Courtney was produced. The moment she saw him she became violently convulsed, and it was a considerable time before she was sufficiently calm to declare that he was the very person. Nor was she less agitated when at court she was desired to look at the prisoner at the bar and declare whether he was the identical person by whom she had been violated. She looked up, but the instant her eyes caught his, she fell into such a throng of convulsions, that it appeared a matter of difficulty to preserve her alive. When she was somewhat recovered, she declared as before, that he was the very person. The trial then went on. Courtney was found guilty of the crime, sentenced to death and on Saturday last, as was mentioned above, made his exit from the stage of life.