The hanging of John Williams and William Schooler, July 1637

In 1637, two men convicted on separate counts of murder were executed in Boston on the same gallows. John Williams was convicted of killing John Hoddy near Great Pond in Wenham on the road to Ipswich. William Schooler was tried in Ipswich and found guilty of killing Mary Scholy on the path to Piscataqua. The following is reprinted from A Journal of the Transactions and Occurrences in the Settlement of Massachusetts and the other New-England Colonies, from the Year 1630 to 1644 by Governor John Winthrop, Esq.

“Month 7, 1637: Two men were hanged at Boston for several murders.

A Journal of the Transactions and Occurrences in the Settlement of Massachusetts and the other New-England Colonies, from the Year 1630 to 1644 by John Winthrop

The one John Williams a ship carpenter, who being lately came into the country and put in prison for theft, broke out of prison with one John Hoddy, whom when near the great pond in the way to Ipswich beyond Salem, he murdered, and took away his clothes and what else he had and went with them to Ipswich, where he had been sent to prison, and was there again apprehended, and though his clothes were all bloody, yet he would confess nothing, till about a week after that the body of Hoddy was found by the cattle, who smelling the blood, made such a roaring as the cow keeper looking about, found the dead body covered with a heap of stones.

The other, William Schooler, was a vintner in London, and had been a common adulterer as himself did confess and had wounded a man in a duel for which he fled into the low country, and from thence he fled from his Captain and came into this country, leaving his wife (a handsome neat woman) in England. He lived with another fellow at Merrimack, and there being a poor maid at Newbury, one Mary Sholy, who had desired a guide to go with her to her master who dwelt at Piscataqua; he inquired her out, and agreed for 15ƒ to conduit her thither.

But two days after he returned, and being asked why he returned so soon, he answered that he had carried her within two or three miles of the place, and then he would go no further. Being examined for this by the magistrates of Ipswich, and no proof found against him, he was let go; but about a year after, being impressed to go against the Pequods, he gave ill speeches, for which the Governor sent a warrant for him, and being apprehended and supposing it had been for the death of the maid, soon spake what they had heard which might occasion suspicion.

He was again examined and divers witnesses produced about it, whereupon he was committed, arraigned and condemned by due proceeding.

Murder & Mayhem in Essex County by Robert Wilhelm

The state of the evidence was this:

  1. He had led a vicious life and now lived like an atheist.
  2. He had sought out the maid and undertook to carry her to a place where he had never been.
  3. When he crossed Merrimack he landed in a place three miles distant from the usual path from whence it was scarce possible he should get into the path.
  4. He said he went by Winicowett house which he said stood on the contrary side of the way.
  5. Being as he said within two or three miles of Swanscote when he left her, he went not thither to tell them of her, nor stayed by her that night, nor at his return home did tell anybody of her ’till he was demanded of her.
  6. When he came back he had above 10ƒ in his purse, and yet he said she would give him but 7ƒ, and he carried no money with him.
  7. At his return he had some blood upon his hat, and on his shirts before, which he said was with a pigeon which he killed
  8. He had a scratch on the left side of his nose, and being asked by a neighbor how it came, he said it was with a bramble, which could not be, it being of the breadth of a small nail; and being asked after by the magistrate, he said it was with his piece, but that could not be on the left side.
  9. The body of the maid was found by an Indian about half a year after in the midst of a thick swamp, ten miles short of the place he said he left her in, and about three miles from the place where he landed by Merrimack (and it was after seen by the English) the flesh being rotted off it, and the clothes laid all on a heap by the body
  10. He said that soon after he left her he met with a bear, and he thought that bear might kill her, yet he would not go back to save her.
  11. He broke prison and fled as far as Powder Horn hill, and there hid himself out of the way for fear of pursuit, and after, when he arose to go forward he could not, but as himself confessed, he was forced to return back to prison again.

At his death he confessed he had made many lies to excuse himself, but denied that he had killed or ravished her. He was very loth to die, and had hope he should be reprieved, but the court held him worthy of death in undertaking the charge of a shiftless maid, and leaving her, when he might have done otherwise, in such a place as he knew she must needs perish, if not preserved by means unknown. Yet there were some ministers and others who thought the evidence not sufficient to take away life.”


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