From the founding of the county in 1694 until executions were moved to Trenton in 1905, at least 35, and perhaps as many as 40 people were executed. Of the 35, 27 were white males, 5 were black males, 2 were black females, and one was a white female. Their crimes were murder, burglary, horse theft, rape, treason, home invasion and highway robbery, but only murder after 1786. All but 9 were executed before this jail was built.
Elizabeth Freeman, who slit her husband’s throat with a razor valued at 25 cents in 1831 and Joel Clough, who stabbed his girlfriend (his landlady’s daughter) in 1833 – were held in our jail’s dungeon but hanged in a meadow in Hainesport. The other seven were led from the dungeon out into the jail yard to be executed.
Justice was speedy. Wesley Warner appealed, and was executed a few days over 2 years after the crime. John Young was executed a few days less than 2 months after the crime. George Smalls and Rufus Johnson were executed in a double hanging a few days over 2 months after. Drawings of these two can be found in the hallway outside the dungeon.
All executions were by hanging. Theoretically, someone who is hanged should die quickly of a broken neck. But none of the sheriffs had any extensive experience in hanging people. Between the inexperience of the executioners and the fact that they used a hemp rope less than one inch in diameter, hangings were particularly grisly affairs in which most of the convicts died of strangulation rather than broken necks.