Thanks to all of you who have been concerned as to how Bill and I survived the Seattle earthquake. Although there was serious damage all around us, we were fortunate that in spite of a lot of “stuff” on the floor there was no harm done. Our 1927 farmhouse must be sturdily built as it has withstood numerous earthquakes throughout the years.
My intent for this article was to cover an entirely new topic, but due to some incredible discoveries on our recent trip to Washington County, NY, my plans have changed. I will be returning to the subject of my May 2000 article to tell you “the rest of the story” about Aaron Olmstead (son of Jabez and Miriam). I spent a lot of time researching Aaron and his family and felt I had been reasonably thorough and was pleased with the results. I had mentioned that Aaron’s last appearance in the Washington County records was the court case charging him and several others with armed robbery. I had assumed that he might have been run out of town or run off on his own, leaving his wife and children behind. I could discover no further record of him, but it appeared that his two children, son Aaron Jr. and probable daughter Miriam were enumerated with their grandfather Jabez Olmstead in the 1800 Hebron census. With the help of the new Washington County archivist I was able to solve the mystery. He is in the process of microfilming all the records and getting more information into their computer system. He has made great progress. What I am about to tell you was not even available when we were there one year ago. This time I was able to view on film the daily court records that started in the year 1793. It was a slow process and I wish we could have stayed longer, but we did amazingly well for only one day.
I found the trial of Aaron and his partners in crime, which took place on the first of June 1798. He was sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in the state prison in New York City. The other members of the gang received lesser sentences. Daniel Osborne ten years, Samuel Case two years, Sherman Manville one month in the Salem gaol, and Reuben Case was found not guilty. My next step was to search the old issues of newspapers from Washington County. In the 8th of January 1798 edition I found the following article:
“On Saturday last, was committed to the gaol of this town; Daniel Osborne, Reuben Case, and ___Case of Hebron; and Aaron Umstead of Hampton; for having committed many outrageous robberies in almost every town in this county, one of which was a trunk of dry goods, amounting to 900 dollars, belonging to Mr. Apollus Austin of Orwall in Vermont; which was taken off a wagon in Granville at Capt. Lee’s Inn. It is with singular pleasure we inform the public, that a considerable part of the goods has already been found, and the villains having confessed the fact, it is hoped no great loss will accrue. It must be a pleasing circumstance to every honest man, particularly the inhabitants of this county, that the nest and gang of such a daring set of rascals is entirely broken up.”
In the February 19th newspaper I found a wonderful advertisement: “ STOP THE VILLAINS. Broke the gaol of the County of Washington, on the night of the 13th inst., REUBEN CASE, about five feet eleven inches high; dark complexion; had on when he went away, a blue coat and light colored clothes. AARON OLMSTEAD, about five feet nine inches high, about thirty years of age, and has a remarkable turn with his eyes; had on when he went away, a blue coat, red vest, and dark coloured overhalls (sic); and ABIEL LINDSEY, about five feet ten inches high, about twenty two years of age; had on light coloured clothes when he went away. The above Case and Olmstead was committed for repeated robberies; and Lindsey for burglary. Whoever will apprehend and return the above runaways shall receive THIRTY DOLLARS Reward – ten dollars for each of them, and all necessary charges paid by ABNER STONE, Gaoler of Washington County. Salem, February 17, 1798.” Just to let you know the significance of the reward money, I saw many other ads for runaways with the reward only being a penny or two! Aaron must have been apprehended at some point as he was back in jail in time for the trial.
The final article regarding Aaron Olmstead was dated June 4th 1798. It gave a summary of the convictions and sentences of each man and then the following about Aaron: “This morning Osborne and Case were conducted from the gaol on their way to the state prison. Olmstead chose to evade his punishment, by a voluntary murder of himself, which he executed last night, by strangling himself, with the assistance of two silk hankerchiefs (sic) and a napkin. The Coroner’s inquest was immediately held, and found to be suicide; a striking instance of the horror of imprisonment, when a man, in the prime of life, prefered (sic) a cruel death to twelve years confinement. While the crimes of the miserable culprit excite detestation; the sympathetic bosom cannot restrain the sigh of sorrow at the melancholy event.” Can you imagine a reporter today using such flowery prose, especially to describe such a gruesome event? My husband, Bill, wondered if maybe Aaron had a little “help” with his strangulation from the prison warden. I guess we’ll never know the answer to that
Although I have told you the “rest of the story”, it certainly won’t be the end of my search. Those of you who know me well, understand that I don’t like to give up and if there is more information to find I will keep on looking. Unless something unexpected arises I hope to finally get to the subject of James Olmstead for the next newsletter. He lived in Oakland County, Michigan and was the third husband of Anna Warren Day Olmstead. She was the widow of Jabez Olmstead Jr. If anyone has something to tell me about this family before I get started, the help would be much appreciated.