Was She the First Murderess in New World America?

The Richardsons, even though one of them served in the highest level of Pennsylvania’s Provincial Government, were very dysfunctional. These records go from 1688 to 1689 in Philadelphia, but the murder happened in Kent County, (West) New Jersey.

John Richardson’s sister was accused and tried for murder, but we don’t know from the records of the Provincial Council, below, who was killed and how she did it.

Apropos, John Richardson, a member of the Provincial Council, was censured by the same council for being drunk and disorderly, on March 15, 1683.

Then another record, dated May 13, 1690, says about John Richardson, as follows:

Credible information being given to this board that John Richardson, the elder of Kent County has behaved himself so violently and inhumanely towards [his] wife that it is much feared he may be her death; whereupon it was ordered that a warrant be sent down to the justices of the county to make a thorough examination into the matter with direction that upon sufficient proof to bind him over to his good behavior and to secure him in prison until he find good and able security” (Minutes of the Provincial Council p. 337)

Then the Provincial Council revokes John Richardson Jr.’s license to keep an ordinary (a tavern, sometimes with an inn).

30 July 1690

Ordered that notice be given to the magistrates of Kent County [now in Delaware] that Council has thought fit (upon an ill character of John Richardson, Jr.) to make void the license he had to keep an ordinary and that are desired to take care it be suppressed accordingly (Minutes, p. 342)

Now let’s get back to John Richardson’s sister, Judith Roe.

19 May 1688

Upon the reading of the petition of John Richardson, in behalf of his sister Judith Roe, who had sentence of death passed upon her the beginning of this month, in a provincial court held in Kent County, humbly beseeching that the governor would be pleased to grant to said Judith Roe a reprieve.

It is ordered that a warrant should be sent to the sheriff to suspend her execution till further order. (Minutes, p. 227)

4 Mar 1688/9

It appeared to be granted upon the petition of John Richardson, brother to the murderer, which petition was read. It appeared also that a sentence of death had passed upon her in a provincial court held in the County of Kent, where the fact was committed and that the said provincial court was duly authorized by the then President and Council by commission under the lesser seal, dated 2 April 1687.

Upon consideration of the petition, etc. it was ordered by the President and Council the 19 May 1688 that the sheriff should suspend the execution till further order upon the whole matter. It was ordered by the Governor and Council, the secretary only dissenting, that the said order of suspension be of no further force and that the sheriff of the said County of Kent do cause execution to be done according to the tenor of the judgment passed by the Provincial Court and the day for doing thereof be on the fifteenth day of this present first month, commonly called March, and the Mr. Clark be desired to take care of the order for execution be delivered to the sheriff for that purpose (Minutes, p. 253)

She was executed, probably by hanging, on March 15, 1689 (our dating).

Does anyone want to find the court record in Kent County, New Jersey? Look for her case in April 1687.

Things were not always righteous in Quaker church history.

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