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True Crime in 1834 - The Bristol Cradle Murder, Part 2

William Booz, in the capacity of constable, later took Joseph Blundin to the county jail. Bidding farewell to his wife and children, Joseph lamented loudly over his deed, declaring that he had struck in self defense, believing that Aaron was going to attack him again.

The Deputy Attorney General for the Commonwealth who would prosecute the case was Charles E. DuBois, a position to which he was appointed in February 1833.

Charles Ewing DuBois, was the eldest child of Uriah and Martha DuBois, born at the Deep Run parsonage on 16 Jul 1799 (See other family member profiles in "The Doylestown DuBois" category). Five years afterward, his parents removed to Doylestown, where he continued to reside the rest of his life. He was educated at the Union Academy under his father's tutelage. Charles later studied law under Abraham Chapman, Esq. and was admitted to the bar on 28 August 1820. In 1823 he was commissioned clerk of the Orphans' Court and filled that position for six years. He also at one time filled the position of postmaster. The leading work of his life, though, was as a practicing attorney. In that capacity, his judgment was implicitly confided in by his clients, while his opponents never feared that any unfair advantages would be taken of them. Great trust was placed in his honor and his scrupulous morality. His opinions were carefully considered before they were given, so that when given they carried weight and commended themselves to the court. His appeals were made to reason, justice and law, rather than to the passions, emotions, or prejudices. During Joseph Blundin's murder trial he would be assisted by Caleb E. Wright, who had recently been admitted to the bar in 1833.

Joseph Blundin was tried at the court on 13 September 1834 before Judge John Fox. His defense was in the hands of Thomas Ross and Eleazar T. McDowell. These three men had all been involved in Lino's and Lucretia's trials two years earlier.

At the trial, men testified that Aaron Cuttlehow was frequently starting quarrels and fighting with everyone. Dr. E. Swain, who examined the victim shortly after his death, while his body was still on the wagon, described the wound. He declared that the spine was entirely severed, being cut obliquely from the left side and that the carotid artery and the jugular vein must have been cut off due to the severity of the wound. The windpipe, he said, was not severed. This was the reason Aaron could speak briefly, during the pulsations, which were probably about twelve beats, before he died.

Joseph declared that his action was not planned nor even thought of until he saw Aaron on the wagon, until the moment he raised his cradle when he thought he had to defend himself. The rest, he said, was like a dream.

The main effort of the defense was to show the absence of premeditation, as the fact of the killing could not be questioned. It was a case of being pushed one too many times that he lashed out and killed Aaron with the tool he happened to be carrying at the time. All evidence portrayed the crime as a temporary lapse by an otherwise decent man rather than the premeditated work of a cold-blooded killer. Liquor had been consumed in the field, but there was no satisfactory evidence that Joseph was intoxicated.

After arguing the case nearly twelve hours, the jury brought in a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree. Judge Fox sentenced Joseph to be hanged in the jail yard on 2 January 1835 in the presence of the jury. As Charles read the indictment to the unfortunate man, the tenderness of his sensibilities was such that he was overcome with emotion. Joseph made no manifestation of emotion on receiving his sentence, but the people at large were not satisfied with the verdict, and the papers published numerous communications from different contributors, indicating the adverse sentiment of the community. McDowell and Ross appealed for a new trial, which was denied.

Then fate, in the person of a Mr. Anderson of Delaware County, stayed the hangman's noose. He presented a petition before the state legislature for the abolition of capital punishment. If the bill should be passed, everyone agree that Joseph should benefit. He was given a respite until 17 April. Still the bill was debated. Another reprieve was granted until 20 May. But the discussion in Harrisburg continued until Joseph began to despair of any assistance from that source.

The governor respited Joseph three times, the last of would expire on Friday, 14 August 1835, setting the date of his execution.

Joseph may have read the extensive details of Lino's escape from the same prison that were published in newspapers three years earlier. He attempted his own escape, following Lino's plan almost to the letter. Taking a few coals from the small stove that warmed his cell, he hid them in an earthen vessel. The keeper who came to extinguish the fire for the night did not detect them. Joseph sawed off his irons, fanned the coals into a glow and burned a hole through the floor large enough to let himself down into the cellar. From there, he gained access to the jail yard. He had cut up his bedding and made it into a rope. Tying one end of it to an axe, he threw it over the wall. Up he went, slowly, until his groping fingers could almost reach the top. Then the fasteners gave way and Joseph fell to the ground where he lay, his hip and leg so badly injured that he could not rise. The sheriff found him in the morning in this bruised and helpless condition. Such was the sympathy of the public that a rumor was spread that the sheriff left the means of escape within reach of Joseph and then left the building to give him an opportunity to use them. The unfortunate man was carried back to his cell where he lay on his narrow bed, listening to the ring of the carpenters' hammers as the gallows took shape in the jail yard.

In spite of the many letters of protest printed in the newspapers and sent to legislators and the governor, Joseph's hour finally came. He parted tearfully from his wife and family. He had to be carried by the sheriff and a deputy to the scaffold where he sat quietly in a chair while the rope and cap were adjusted, for he was still crippled from his fall during his attempted escape. And so he was hanged, meeting his fate with resignation and courage.

"The cup which he has been made to drink," wrote one protestor, "was not sprinkled with the mercy which was due him."

He was the buried in the potter's field. In the first half of the 19th century the county potter’s field was a burial place of last resort for the indigent and a site to inter the unclaimed bodies of strangers and prisoners. Very little was recorded of the Doylestown potter’s field. However, an Act of the Assembly passed on 7 May 1855, instructed Bucks County to remove the bodies to the almshouse burial ground and sell the land. Whether Joseph Blundin and the others buried in the potter’s field were actually disinterred and relocated may be up for debate. The graves in potter’s fields were usually unmarked, and the success of disinterment would depend on how systematically the graves were laid out and how well the locations were recorded. The County may have done its best effort to clear the land of bodies before selling it to a private owner, but after 20 years in the ground did the county remember the location of Joseph's grave? He probably lies on the almshouse grounds, but it is possible his grave and others remain where houses now stand at the corner of East and Court Streets.

We do not know much more about Joseph Blundin. He appears on the 1830 census as being between 20 and 29 years of age. He is married with a wife in the same age range. He had three children, all under 5 years of age; one boy and two girls.

Even less is known of Aaron Cuttlehow. Since no information was immediately found during my research, I then changed tactics and went down another path that I have used so many times before: his last name was misspelled. With that in mind, I did find multiple tax records for an Aaron Cuttleyow during this period. Digging further with the belief that was closer to his real name, I found a listing for a Jacob Cuttleyow, who was between 40 and 49 years old, with a son in the same age range as Joseph and his wife (20-29), and suspect that Aaron was Jacob's son. As a note, the last tax record that I found for Aaron was in 1833, which coincides with the timeframe.


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