Keep trying until you get it right


pendleton-0164-09-09-29-1236 1-wm(Sep 29 2009, cont.)

The old historic district of Pendleton looked like a likely place to get lunch. I rode east on State Street until it seemed I had gone out of town without finding anything. I turned around and returned, stopping for this photo downtown. I then stopped close to an intersection up ahead, looking up and down the streets. A man in a pickup at the stoplight rolled down his window and asked if I was looking for a place to eat. Well, yes I was. (How could he tell?) He recommended the Bank Cafe on the other side of the street (across the street from my bicycle on this photo).


It looks like the city government offices are housed in an old historic building. Nice that they stayed downtown and didn’t feel the need to move into some modern, soulless pole building.

I took a photo in case this was where court had been held back in 1825. I now know it wasn’t. But it was nearby. Court was held in a log cabin at the intersection kiddy-corner cross the block from the intersection in this photo, i.e. behind and to my left in this photo.

pendleton-0165-09-09-29-1320 1-wm

To get to the old court location, one could go down this street to the stoplight, then turn right, to the next intersection to the north. My best guess is the north side of that intersection, based on what I can see on a modern Google Map, and the fact that the site later became the location of a Universalist Church.

When Oliver H. Smith began his role as prosecuting attorney, one of the murderers, Hudson, had already been convicted and hanged. Smith said that in this new term of court, Sawyer was tried first for shooting an Indian woman, but that the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter. He said that immediately a second trial was begun for the killing of one of the boys in camp, after the same jury as had returned the manslaughter verdict was sworn in. These men were handy, because they were still in the box.

He described the jury as “a hardy, heavy-bearded set of men with side-knives in their belts, and not a pair of shoes among the whole of them; all wore moccasins.” That’s a little different from when I was on jury duty last month. We had to go through a metal detector and were told weapons weren’t allowed in the building. We all had shoes, too.

Smith had the job of making the case for a verdict of murder for the second case, even though, as he points out, both cases were cold-blooded murder.

I’ve been wondering why this was done in two separate trials. Was that a way things were commonly done back in the 1820s? I think nowadays two separate charges would be handled in one trial, according to what I’ve noticed in reading news stories about trials. And if Sawyer got two separate trials for two separate killings, why didn’t the other two defendants get the same. The accounts I’ve read seem to indicate that each of them killed an Indian woman, too, and then killed children in the camp.

What did the judge say in his instructions to the jury? Did he remind them, directly or indirectly, that the Indian observers were not going to consider a manslaughter verdict to be what the Indian agent had promised them? After the one manslaughter verdict, all subsequent juries returned verdicts of murder.

Maybe Oliver H. Smith expected us to be able to decipher the true meaning of his words without him having to spell it out. (His memoirs are here.) But at this distance, it’s hard to say.

I also see that the account of the trials as given in the 1880 history of Madison county (not available online) gives a slightly different version of the sequence of events. According to that account, the two trials of Sawyer weren’t held back to back the way Smith described. According to that one, the first trial was held on May 11, and the second not until May 13, after the two other defendants had been tried.

I presume there are Indiana historians who have researched this event more fully. Maybe they found court records or other contemporary records that constitute a more reliable source of information than either of the two accounts I’ve been reading so far. The wikipedi article about the event gives a couple of leads that may take me to primary sources, I hope.

One thing I like about that 1880 account: It lists the jury members not only for Hudson’s trial (which list I had with me on September 29) but for all the others as well. That means more people to check out, and maybe more bicycle destinations.

This article is tagged and categorized as follows: