Home Crime and Scandal Six Places Where A Gallows Once Stood

Six Places Where A Gallows Once Stood


So many people died on the gallows in New England that you may well have walked over a spot where someone met his or her maker.

With hanging as the primary form of execution in the United States until the 1890s, more than 400 people in New England have been hanged by the neck until they were dead.

Hangings used to serve as public spectacles back when film and video weren’t around to provide violent entertainment.

The Gallows

Typically, crowds would gather to watch as the prisoner was taken to the gallows, usually in a horse-drawn wagon. The hangman bound the prisoner’s hands and feet, tied a blindfold around the head and placed a noose around the neck. Then a trap door would open, the prisoner would fall through and, theoretically at least, the weight of the prisoner’s body would snap his or her neck.

Often that didn’t happen, and the prisoner died a slow gruesome death. Sometimes the prisoner had strong neck muscles, sometimes the prisoner didn’t weigh enough, sometimes the rope was too short and sometimes the hangman put the noose in the wrong position. In that case, the prisoner would die of slow strangulation, eyes popping, tongue protruding, limbs thrashing violently and bowels loosening.

Massachusetts has hanged 198 people, Maine 21, Connecticut 108, New Hampshire 24, Rhode Island about 50 and Vermont 21.

Here are six places where people were hanged, one in each state. If you know of an interesting place where someone was hanged, please share it in the comments section.

New London, Conn.


A 12-year-old girl was once hanged on the gallows here in New London.

Connecticut authorities hanged Hannah Occuish in New London on Dec. 20, 1786, the last female executed in the state. She was only 12 years old.

Hannah had murdered six-year-old Eunice Bolles after Eunice accused her of stealing strawberries she’d picked in New London. The colonial court didn’t recognize extenuating circumstances. Hannah’s mother was a Pequot Indian, her father African-American. Both parents died, and she may have suffered a mental disability. Shuttled among foster homes as a child, she had been forced to work as an indentured servant by the age of 12.

On July 21, 1786, Eunice was walking to school when Hannah lured her into the woods with the promise of a piece of calico. Hannah then beat and strangled her to death, and tried to cover her body with large stones.

A passerby soon discovered Eunice’s body, and Hannah confessed to the crime. Officials charged her with murder and, after a swift trial, she was convicted and sentenced to hang.

She cried during much of the day of her hanging, which took place on a gallows built behind the old meeting house, near the corner of what is now Granite Street.

The Rev. Henry Channing from Yale College gave a long sermon before the hanging, at Hannah’s request. It was called “God Admonishing His People of Their Duty, As Parents and Masters.”

“She seemed greatly afraid when at the gallows, and said but little to anyone,” according to The Courant on Dec. 25, 1786. “She thanked the Sheriff for his kindness, and launched into the eternal world.”

Fort George, Castine, Maine


Where Ebenezer Ball died on the gallows at f Fort George in Castine, Maine

Maine has executed 21 people by hanging. Hanging, in fact, has been the only way Maine executed anyone.

In the summer of 1811, a Deer Isle counterfeiter named Ebenezer Ball met his maker before a crowd of people in the center of Fort George in Castine, Maine. Ball had shot to death a sheriff’s deputy, John Tileston Downes, who tried to arrest him.

After a jury found Ball guilty, he appealed the case, claiming he didn’t intend to shoot the sheriff’s deputy.

Nonetheless, Ebenezer Ball was executed on Oct. 31, 1811. A local minister, Jonathan Fisher of Blue Hill, wrote two ballads on the hanging.

Officials erected the gallows in the center of Fort George. A large crowd followed the criminal as he was escorted from the jail to the gallows. Parson Fisher sold copies of his ballad to the crowd:

But oh! The sight — the shocking sight
This day our eyes did see,
A sinful and a harden’d wretch–
Launch’d in eternity.

Proctor’s Ledge, Salem, Mass.


Memorial to the victims of the Salem witch trials at Proctor’s Ledge, site of the gallows where they were hanged.

You might think the 19 people hanged for witchcraft in the Salem witch hysteria of 1692-3 met their maker on Gallows Hill. But you’d be only partly right. They were hanged on Proctor’s Ledge, a city-owned wooded spot on Gallows Hill.

Sidney Perley identified the spot as the site of the hangings around the turn of the 20th century. The scholars merely confirmed his research.

In 2016, a group of seven scholars who called themselves the Gallows Hill Project identified Proctor’s Ledge as the site of the hanging after five years of research. They used court records, maps, ground-penetrating radar and aerial photos. The city marked the spot with a memorial.

South Cemetery, Portsmouth, N.H.


Entrance to South Cemetery, where Ruth Blay once died on the gallows.

Ruth Blay died a slow painful death before a thousand spectators in Portsmouth, N.H. On Dec. 30, 1768, a horsecart took her to the highest point on South Street, now South Cemetery, and an executioner placed a noose around her neck.

She stood on the wagon under a newly built gallows, and the horse pulled the cart from under her feet. It probably took her several minutes to die of slow strangulation.

Ruth Blay was hanged because she concealed her illegitimate child. A 31-year-old schoolteacher, she ultimately admitted to wrapping her stillborn baby in a quilt and hiding it under the floorboards of a barn in South Hampton, N.H. Children playing in the barn discovered the baby’s body three days later.

Ruth received three reprieves before she finally lost her life on the gallows. She was the last of three New Hampshire women hanged for concealment. After the American Revolution, New Hampshire abolished the death penalty for concealment.

Gravelly Point, Newport, R.I.

place-gallows-stood -ri

26 pirates where once hanged on 26 gallows here.

Gravelly Point in Newport, R.I. is the place where Rhode Island hanged 26 pirates in a violent spectacle on July 19, 1723.

A British warship had captured 35 pirates under the command of the notoriously cruel Edward Low. The British took most of them to Newport, R.I., where 26 of them were sentenced to death by hanging.

Rhode Island authorities attached their captured pirate flag onto the gallows at Gravelly Point. A large crowd watched – and celebrated.

“Never was there a more doleful sight in all this land than while they were standing on the stage, waiting for the stopping of their breath and the flying of their souls into the eternal world,” wrote one witness. “And oh! How awful the noise of their dying moans!”

Catamount Tavern, Old Bennington, Vt.


Monument on the site of the Catamount Tavern.

On June 11, 1778, the Republic of Vermont hanged David Redding, but didn’t bury his bones properly for another 198 years.

During the American Revolution, David Redding made the mistake of choosing the Loyalist side. He joined the Queens Loyal Rangers, and while out of uniform tried to steal muskets stored in a barn. Locals caught him and put him in a temporary cell in the Catamount Tavern barn. Redding escaped, but got caught in Hoosick Falls, N.Y.

A jury found him guilty of treason.

He almost died on a temporary gallows in front of the Catamount Tavern, but won a week-long reprieve. Only six jurors had heard his case; under English law, there should have been 12.

The crowd gathered around the gallows was disappointed by Redding’s reprieve. A clamor arose and the crowd threatened  violence.

But then Ethan Allen arrived, mounted a stump and spoke. “You shall see somebody hung at all events, for if Redding is not then hung, I will be hung myself.” The crowd, satisfied with Allen’s words if not his grammar, then dispersed.

A jury of 12 quickly re-convicted Redding, and he was hanged on June 11, 1778. A local doctor took possession of his body, which ended up as a teaching tool until the doctor died. The bones passed to his son, who stored them in his attic. Then the Vermont Historical Society got wind of the bones in the attic and took them, only to put them in a drawer. Finally in 1976, the people of Vermont gave David Redding a proper burial in the cemetery of Bennington’s Old First Church.

A statue of a catamount marks the site of the Catamount Tavern,  which burned in 1871.

End Notes

Images: Fort George By Billy Hathorn – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34096704; Gravelly Point, By The original uploader was Swampyank at English Wikipedia. – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Kurpfalzbilder.de using CommonsHelper., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5872173; Catamount Tavern Monument by Doug Kerr via flickr. This story was updated in 2021.


Gordon Harris July 14, 2018 - 8:25 am

The Clam Box in Ipswich MA is at the approximate location of Pingrey’s Plain, “where the wicked were hung.” https://historicipswich.org/2018/04/10/pingreys-plain/

The Day Rhode Island Hanged 26 Pirates - New England Historical Society July 19, 2018 - 8:19 am

[…] 26 pirates were hanged on Gravelly Point with their captured pirate flag attached to the […]

Robert Winters July 19, 2018 - 9:19 am

Let’s not forget the place of execution for Middlesex County, Massachusetts located near Porter Square, Cambridge on the eastern slope of what is now the Avon Hill neighborhood – one of the priciest parts of town. More at https://cambridgehistoricalcommission.wordpress.com/2017/10/31/time-travel-tuesday-spooky-stories-from-cambridge-history/

The Connecticut Witch Hysteria of 1647-63 - New England Historical Society October 30, 2018 - 7:47 am

[…] Young. As in all the witchcraft hysteria, she died on the basis of flimsy evidence. She went to the gallows on the site of the Old State House.  Thirty years later, the people of Springfield, Mass., accused […]

New Hampshire’s Infanticides of 1739 - New England Historical Society August 5, 2019 - 6:27 am

[…] Dec. 27, 1739, an executioner hanged first Sarah Simpson, then Penelope Kenny, before a large crowd in a field covered with […]

A. Lepage September 21, 2019 - 4:46 pm

Jason Fairbanks was hanged on the Dedham town common in 1801 for the murder of Elizabeth Fales

The Connecticut Witch Hysteria of 1647-63 - New England Historical Society October 2, 2019 - 7:56 am

[…] Young. As in all the witchcraft hysteria, she died on the basis of flimsy evidence. She went to the gallows on the site of the Old State […]

New England Witchcraft Trials: It Wasn’t Just Salem - New England Historical Society October 2, 2019 - 5:09 pm

[…] named Alse Young, died, as the others would, on the basis of flimsy evidence. She went to the gallows on the site of the Old State […]

A Sad Condition: Wilmot Redd and the Salem Witch Trials - New England Historical Society October 7, 2019 - 6:56 am

[…] and at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial.  In 2016, archaeologists confirmed her execution site at Proctor’s Ledge below Gallows Hill in Salem. Markers now memorialize the victims there as […]

A Spy for a Spy: John Andre Hanged - New England Historical Society September 17, 2020 - 7:30 pm

[…] rope being appended to the gallows, he slipped the noose over his head and adjusted it to his neck, without the assistance of the […]

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