Oscar F. Beckwith: Tried Six Times, Finally Swings


The story of Oscar Beckwith, the murdering cannibal, is mentioned in the above book.

Arrested for an Old Homicide.

HUDSON, N.Y., February, 24. A special from Gravenhurst, Province of Toronto, to the Daily Register says: Oscar F. Beckwith, charged with the murder of Simon A. Vandercook, at Austerlitz, Columbia county, January 10, 1882, was arrested on the Parry Sound district, east of Georgian Bay, Province of Toronto, Upper Canada, on Sunday by Ex-Sheriff Henry M. Hanan, of this city. The prisoner was in the wilderness 100 miles from civilization. He was conveyed to Toronto and lodged in prison awaiting extradition. Beckwith burned the body of his victim, some portion of which he pickled for food and escaped.

Trenton Times, The (Trenton, New Jersey) Feb 24, 1885


A Long Chase After a Murderer.

BRACKBRIDGE, Ont. Feb. 24. — On Jan. 10, 1882, in Austerlitz, Columbia county, N.Y., Oscar F. Beckwith, alias Charles White, murdered his companion and partner, cutting the body of the victim into pieces, burning the head and limbs in a box stove, and salting down the trunk. The remains were afterward found in the shanty which had been occupied by the deceased and the prisoner. Detective J.P. Gildersleeve, of Kinderhook, Columbia county, N.Y., went to work on the case and followed the criminal to the Pacific ocean, and thence through Canada along the Canadian Pacific railway. He put himself in communication with Detective Rodgers, of Barrie, and D.F. McDonald, a government woodranger, and these, with the assistance of Chief Constable Perkins, of Gravenhurst, accompanied by Detective Gildersleeve and Sherif Hamor, of Columbia county, N.Y., succeeded in arresting the murderer Beckwith at South River, in the district of Parry Sound. The party passed through here with the murderer, en route to Toronto.

Chester Times (Chester, Pennsylvania) Feb 24, 1885



Finally Strung Up on the Gallows — The Victim Nearly Eighty Years of Age — A History of His Crime — and Numerous Trials — A Hunt for Gold Leads to the Crime.

HUDSON, N.Y., March 1 — Oscar F. Beckwith, was hanged at the court house in this city at nine minutes past ten o’clock this morning for the murder of Simon Vandercook of Austerlitz, January 10, 1882.

This case became celebrated from the fact that the murderer was six time sentenced to death but succeeded in escaping the penalty until to day. Beckwith, who is seventy-eight years old, is repulsive in appearance. His conduct during his two trials and three years of confinement has been brutal, and he evidently delights in showing that he is a fiend in human form.

The crime was committed January 10, 1882. Beckwith lived alone in a hut in the town of Austerlitz, Columbia county. It was perched on the side of a mountain, where he believed there was a gold mine. For weeks and months he searched for the precious metal, but eventually a company purchased the land in the vicinity including the lot on which was located Beckwith’s little home. Vandercook, a robust, hearty man, about twenty-five years younger than Beckwith, was selected as manager of the property. From that time Beckwith entertained a hatred of Vandercook, and finally killed him and partly burned the body in a stove. On January 12 suspicions became aroused and a party of searchers headed by an officer went to Beckwith’s cabin and broke in the door. The dead body of Vandercook lay upon the floor. One ear, a foot and some other parts of the body had been cut off. The parts remaining were horribly mutilated, and a terrible stench pervaded the apartment. Two axes, on which were flesh, blood and gray hair, were found in one corner of the cabin. Three years passed without any tidings of the murderer. Detectives kept up the search, and in February of 1883 he was found chopping wood in a wild section of Ontario, Canada. He had been living there for some time under the name of White.

In the course of time he was extradited and brought to Hudson. He was found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to be hanged January 8, 1886. The case was taken to the general term, which confirmed the judgement of the lower court, and he was sentenced to be hanged, the day for execution being July 20. An appeal was taken to the court of appeals, which likewise affirmed the conviction and the date of Beckwith’s execution was fixed for the third time. The prisoner’s counsel, Levi F. Longley, then moved for a new trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence, and Judge Ingalls granted the same on the affidavits presented. Appeals were taken to both the general term and court of appeals by the prosecuting attorney, who opposed Judge Ingall’s order granting a new trial.

The second trial was begun on February 2, 1887, but in the meantime the prisoner’s counsel asked for the appointment of a commission in lunacy to examine into Beckwith’s sanity.

The commisssion, after hearing the testimony of several physicians and experts, pronounced him sane, and a second jury, after a week’s trial, found him guilty of the crime with which he was charged. The fourth day set for his execution was March 24, 1887. The case then went to the general term for a second time, with no better results than before, and he was sentenced for the fifth time to be hanged, the day set for the execution being October 14. The court of appeals was again resorted to, but soon all hope was lost, and the old man, almost tottering by the grave, was sentenced to be hanged Thursday, March 1.

The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) Mar 1, 1888


The execution of Oscar F. Beckwith, aged seventy-eight years, who murdered Simon Vandercook in 1882, and who had been six times sentenced to death, took place in Hudson, N.Y. on the 1st.

Stevens Point Journal, The (Stevens Point, Wisconsin) Mar 10, 1888

From the Lost Gold (Treasure Finder) website:

4) Somewhere in the Columbia County town of Austerlitz, high on one of the snow capped cones of the Tatonics lies an abandoned gold mine. (It was not very profitable as the yellow streaked quartz yielded very little gold.) Oscar Beckwith was born in this area in 1810, and after many years of traveling the west, returned home at age 67. After finding traces of gold on his property, he sought financial backing from a certain Simon Vandercook, taking him on as a partner. The partnership did not work well and in 1882, Beckwith did away with his partner. The grisly remains were found hacked up and disemboweled in his cabin. The skull had been charred inside a wood stove, the liver cooked in a frying pan and other parts apparently prepared for pickling in a brine barrel.

Beckwith was able to escape justice for six years, but was eventually found and brought to justice. Beckwith eventually confessed his crime and described in detail how he had bludgeoned, stabbed and partially consumed his victim to get rid of the evidence. The crime was so gruesome that Beckwith was sentenced to death by hanging.

While awaiting the sentence to be carried out, he told some of his visitors about the discovery of a new gold vein, much richer than the first, which he discovered just before he eliminated his partner. No coaxing would get him to reveal the location of the new site, for he hoped the governor of New York would commute his sentence. He was hanged on a cold March morning in 1888, in the courtyard of the jail at Hudson. Shortly thereafter, the infamous blizzard of ·8 swept across the Taconics, obliterating Beckwith? old cabin and any signs of his gold mine.

Was there a second gold mine? Greed was probably the incentive for Beckwith? murdering his partner Vandercook, thus it lends credence that a new gold vein had almost certainly been found.

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