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Josiah Burnham
Hanging
August 12, 1806
For the murder of, Russell Freeman Esq,
& Captain Joseph Starkweather
On December 17th,  1805

The New Hampshire Gazette reported on December 31, 1805

Horrid Deed !!!

On the morning of the 18th inst. Russell Freeman Esquire and Captain Joseph Starkweather, being confined
 in the same room in the prison at Haverhill with Josiah Burnham, a prisoner confined for forgery. Owing to
 some misunderstanding that had existed between the prisoners, Burnham in cold blood drew his knife which was
          a  long one which he carried in a sheath, and taking advantage of  Starkweather's absence in another part of the
 room he inhumanly stabbed Freeman in the bowels, which immediately began to gush out.
At the noise occasioned  by this, Starkweather endeavored to come to the assistance of his friend  Freeman,
when horrid to relate, Burnham made a pass at  him  and stabbed him in his side, and then endeavored to cut his
throat and the knife entered in by his collar bone. Burnham after this made a fresh attack on Starkweather and
stabbed him four times more. By this time  he had grown so weak that the monster left him and flew at Freeman
who all this time was sitting holding his bowels in his hand, and stabbed him three times more.
       This abandoned wretch then attempted to take his own life, but did not succeed. By this time the persons in the house were alarmed and came to the goal door, and after considerable exertion entered and secured the murderer.
    Freeman lived about three hours and Starkweather about two from the time the assistants entered the prison.
our informant mentions that Burnham appeared in good spirits and said he had done God's service.

William Whitcher wrote, in Some things about Coventry-Benton:

 Burnham was tried and convicted of murder and sentenced to be hung July 15, 1806, but the date was
subsequently changed to August 12, in order that he might "have further time to prepare for death." 
His execution which occurred at Haverhill, and which was the second hanging in Grafton County, was
one of the great events of the time. It occured on Powder House Hill at Haverhill Corner in the presence
 of 10,000 people who had gathered from near and far to witness the gruesome spectacle.
Entertainment was rare in those early days, and the most was made of this one.
Previous to the execution a lengthy sermon, preceded by music and prayer was delivered to the assembled
multitude by the Rev. David Sutherland of Bath, the victim about to be launched into eternity furnishing
the  preacher with his most vivid illustrations.

Whitcher depicted Burnham as well known but generally notorious.

We might wonder why they allowed  him to have a knife in prison.
Burnham was indicted at Plymouth. At his trial Associate Justice Livermore, the father of Arthur Livermore,
and later chief justice of the NH supreme court, was one of the presiding judges. Daniel Webster, then a young
 unknown attorney, assisted in Burnham's defence. He later said of the trial : "I made my first and only solitary
argument of my whole life against capital punishment, and the proper time for a lawyer to urge this defence is
when he is young and has no matters of fact or law upon which he can find a better defence.


This is from the book "Josiah Burnham" his trial and execution for murder
by William Witcher
Found at the Historical Society of New Hampshire

For a period of more than thirty years Josiah Burnham was a well known character in the towns Bath, Coventry
 ( Benton), Warren, and Haverhill. He was land surveyor, schoolmaster, blacksmith, speculator, almost constantly
 engaged in litigation, and bearing anything but a good reputation for honesty and morality. During the later
part of his career he was hopelessly in debt, and there is good reason to believe that he had been  confined in jail
for debt and possibly for certain dishonest transactions for some six years previous to his crime of murder.

He came of good New England stock, and was a native of Kensington (Farmington), Connecticut, born August 12, 1743,
 the son of Josiah and Ruth (Norton) Burnham. His grandfather was the Rev. Willliam Burnham, a graduate of Harvard College, class of 1702, and was pastor of the church at Kensington(Farmington) for a period of thirty-eight years. He was
 one of the leading clergymen of the Connecticut colony, and according to Hinman was "a gentleman of great wealth".
His wife the grandmother of Josiah was a member of the famous Wolcott family. The Rev. William Burnham was the
son of William and Elizabeth (Loomis) Burnham of Weathersfield, Conn., and the grandson of Thomas Burnham,
 born in England in 1617,educated as a lawyer and who, emigrating to America sometime prior to 1649, became
one of the early and most influential settlers of Hartford, Conn. and one of the largest land-owners in the colony.
Josiah Burnham married Elizabeth Porter and must have come to the Coos Country prior to 1774 since in an indented
 article of agreement made on the 15th day of June in that year between himself and David Whiting of Greenwich and
 Joseph Smith, both of the County of Fairfield and the colony of Connecticut, he is named as of Bath, County of
Grafton and province of New Hampshire.

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