Lad of Seventeen Butchers an Octogenarian

Image from the University of Vermont website An Agricultural History of Hinesburg, Vermont – (Preliminary Research page)

New York Herald (New York, New York) Apr 27, 1869

THE BOY MURDERER IN VERMONT.

A Lad of Seventeen Butchers an Octogenarian.

Sketch of His Crime, Capture, Trial and Sentence.

WINDSOR, Vt., Dec. 23, 1870.
In the State Prison in this place is now confined, under sentence of death, a young man only nineteen. His crime, the murder of a defenceless old man in his own doorway, is justly considered one of the worst cases of homicide ever known in Vermont. His cool indifference and apparent carelessness of the consequences of his diabolical performance show an amount of depravity seldom found in one so young. This boy’s name is Henry Welcome, of French parentage, and his victim was Mr. Perry Russell, of Hinesburg, Vt. Mr. Russell was a well known and respected farmer, a member of the methodist Episcopal Church, of some considerable property and aged about seventy-six years.

THE MURDER
was committed on the evening of the 3d of October, 1868, about half-past eight. Mr. Russell and his wife, the sole occupants of the house, had retired to rest about eight o’clock, but half an hour afterwards were startled by a knocking at the door. Mrs. Russell told her husband not to open the door until he assertained who was there. Mr. Russell accordingly made inquiry, and was answered, “Joe Bushy, I want to come in.” Deceived by mention of a name with which he was familiar, he opened the door and was instantly felled by a blow from a heavy barndoor hinge, twenty inches in length, in the hands of Henry Welcome. His groans and exclamation, “O Lord!” aroused his wife from bed, who, coming to the spot, saw the young assassin standing over the unfortunate old man and raining a shower of blows upon him with the murderous hinge. Almost paralyzed with terror for her own safety, the old lady fled to the nearest neighbors, one hundred rods distant, and alarmed them, who proceeded in turn to the next house, and from there they all returned to the scene of the tragedy. The murderer had gone, but his victim was lying on the floor, where he had first fallen, in a pool of blood and breathing heavily. He lingered in an unconscious state until the next morning at ten o’clock, when he died. The surgeons in attendance found nine scalp wounds from one to three inches in length and a deep cut in the crown of his head. The murderer, after finishing his horrid work, ransacked the house for the plunder he expected to obtain, but could find nothing except a small black trunk containing notes, deeds and other valuable papers. This was afterwards found on an adjoining farm in a field half a mile distant, the contents taken out and strewed around. Welcome was induced to murder the old man in hope of finding a large sum of money, but in this he was foiled, as Mr. Russell had, a few days previous, deposited his funds, some $5,000 in United States bonds, in a bank at Burlington, a few miles from Hinesburg. He knew that Mr. Russell possessed this money, because he had at one time worked for him.

THE PURSUIT OF THE ASSASSIN
was active and successful. The services of N.B. Flanagan, an expert detective of Burlington, were immediately secured, and a reward of $1,000 was offered to bring the villain to justice. On the 5th of October, just two days after the butchery, he was arrested at Waterbury, Vt., where he had gone on the cars from Essex Junction, and he was taken to Burlington. On his way there he met the funeral procession of his victim and displayed the most astonishing indifference and utter coolness.

THE TRIAL.
After a preliminary examination before a justice he was committed to jail to await trial at the County Court. The following April his case came up, and a verdict of guilty was given. On a technicality of law he was allowed to appeal to the Supreme Court. Pending the session of that tribunal he was remanded to the State Prison at Windsor, the jail at Burlington not being considered sufficiently secure. The Supreme Court having confirmed the edict of the County Court, Welcome was sentenced “to solitary confinement one year in the State Prison at Windsor, and then to be hanged by the neck until dead.”

EFFORTS FOR COMMUTATION
of sentence to life imprisonment at hard labor were nearly successful. The Legislature in session last October were petitioned on two grounds, viz., the extreme youth of the prisoner and the dodge of insanity. The House of Representatives turned a willing ear to these petitioners, notwithstanding the fact that a much larger number of his own townsmen prayed that the extreme penalty of the law might be enforced in his case. They even went so far as to allow his lawyer to plead before them as a jury, as it were — a proceeding which has no precedent in the doings of of any legislative body. A committee was also appointed to visit him in the prison; and the result was that two bills were passed, one to commute Welcome’s sentence, the other to abolish capital punishment. Such summary action startled the people of the whole State tremendously. Protests arose from every quarter, especially from the clergy and the press. The Senate, however, to their honor be it said, refused to pass either of the bills. People breathed free once more. The efforts of a few false philanthropists to override the just and wholesome laws of the State, which have heretofore been rigidly enforced, have signally failed. In consequence of this extraordinary effort made to save one of the worst villains from his just deserts  great interests is manifested in this case. The people of Vermont feel that their safety lies in a vigorous execution of the law.

THE CRIMINAL
is now in close confinement, calm and quiet. He occupies his time mainly in reading the books furnished by the prison library. Although he takes no exercise, his health is excellent and he eats hearty meals. The chaplain of the prison visits him constantly, and it is to be hoped that the doomed young man will seriously contemplate his dreadful end, so fast approaching. The execution is to take place on Friday, the 20th day of January next.

New York Herald (New York, New York) Dec 26, 1870

[Excerpt]
WINDSOR, Vt., Jan. 19, 1871.

Henry Welcome, a lad of nineteen, who has been in close confinement in the State Prison in this place the year past for the crime of murder, is to be executed here to-morrow. This young man was born in Hinesburg, Vt. His father is a French Canadian and his mother an American. Though poor they were very respectable, and the mother, a professing Christian, trained up her family, consisting of eleven children, in the same pathways of virtue in which she herself had been instructed. But, alas, her pious teachings did not restrain Henry from an early career in the paths of crime. At a tender age he developed some very bad qualities; was idle, disobedient, ill-tempered and of a very revengeful spirit.

HIS FIRST EXPLOIT
which brought him into the clutches of the law, at the age of sixteen, was the hiring of a horse and buggy, which he ran away with. He was captured and lodged in the jail at the city of Burlington; here he remained awaiting trial until he was nearly seventeen years old. His case coming before the County Court, the jury brought in a verdict exonerating him, on account of his extreme youth, from any vile intent, more than a boyish scrape in running away with the team. He was accordingly discharged from custody and arrived home just three days previous to the night of the murder.

THE VILLAGE OF HINESBURG,
where the deed was committed is a mere hamlet, consisting of a few houses, church, store, tavern, &c., the central trading point and Post Office of the township of the same name. The population are almost wholly farmers. It is situated in the southern part of Chittenden county, about ten miles from Burlington, the county seat. The nearest railway station is Charlotte, on the Rutland Railroad, about five miles distant. One would suppose that in such a quiet, Christian and comparatively secluded community incentives to vice would be rare; but where is evil not found?
…..

New York Herald (New York, New York) Jan 20, 1871

The Gallows

WINDSOR, Vt., Jan. 20, 1871.
Henry Welcome, formerly of Hinesbury, to-day paid the awful penalty of death for the murder of an old man named Perry Russell, in September, 1869. This is the ninth execution for murder which has taken place within the boundaries of the State of Vermont.

Yesterday afternoon several people visited him, among them a reporter, to whom he made some further and interesting statements in regard to his early life. It seems that he left home at the age of fifteen, contrary to the commands of his parents, to go to Boston, and worked there a while. From this step he dates his commencement of a career of crime. He soon fell into the company of wicked men and lewd women, and from drinking he took to gambling, and then taking money in small sums from his employer, who, finding out these things, warned Welcome to desist or leave his employ, which latter course he immediately pursued, arriving home only a short time before he stole the horse and buggy.

During the afternoon he was calm, collected, ate well and slept some, being ever ready to converse with those who were disposed to see and talk with him. Last evening a special guard was placed at the door of his cell, who remained in attendance until he left the cell for the last time. The chaplain remained with him until eleven o’clock P.M.

THE CULPRIT’s STATEMENT TO THE CHAPLAIN.
Welcome appeared much broken down. Tears and sobs came from his bosom. He wrote a last farewell to his sorrow stricken family, which was extremely affecting. He did not appear to have as much fortitude as the time drew near. To the chaplain he made the following statement:

I hope that my sad end will be an effectual warning to all young people against disobedience to their parents, the use of strong drink and the choice of bad company. These things have been my ruin. May God save others from coming to my miserable end. I have no ill will toward anybody, and I ask forgiveness of all that I have wronged. My prayer is that god would have mercy on my soul and make my example of use to others. The Word of God and the hopes of the Gospel are now my only refuge, and the cry of my heart is to Jesus, “Lord remember me when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom.”

THE LAST PRAYER.
His last prayer in the cell before the chaplain left him was, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” During the latter part of the night he got considerable sleep.

THE NIGHT BEFORE THE EXECUTION.
Early in the evening some considerable excitement was caused by the attempted escape of a convict, who his in one of the shops, but was found, after a thorough search with a rope tackle for climbing the wall, and was incarcerated in the solitary cell. Also during the night two men were brought in, who were arrested by detectives Flanagan and Squires on the night express, suspected of being the burglars concerned in the Waterbury Bank robbery, which took place on Wednesday night. Notwithstanding these disturbances, Welcome slept quite well from two to four o’clock. He had conversation with the guard about the army, &c., which diverted his mind so that he was almost cheerful again.

This morning he partook of a slight breakfast, and the chaplain reached his cell about nine o’clock.

THE ERECTION OF THE SCAFFOLD
commenced about that time also. The noise of the hammers could easily be heard throughout the prison. It was the same one which had been used in former executions — a common gallows, two drops, with a fall of six feet six inches. From the platform, which is nine feet long by four feet wide, to the crossbeam is eight feet. The drop itself is four feet long and eighteen inches wide. The rope is common half-inch, and is the same that was around the necks of Cavanaugh, Ward and Miller. The gallows stands in the southeast corner of the prison, between the corridor and the wall.

VISITORS TO THE PRISONER.
During the forenoon quite a number of visitors entered the prison and watched the erection of the gallows with eager interest. At ten o’clock all reporters were given an opportunity by the Sheriff to see Welcome as he sat in his cell. He looked very bright, and talked with quite a degree of cheerfulness. In answer to an inquiry about how he had passed the night he replied, “Pretty well; I slept a little from two o’clock and ate some breakfast.”

“You look brightly,” said a reporter; “keep good courage. Its pretty tough, but keep up.”

“Yes,” said he, “I mean to.”

“Do you remember any one in Boston?” was then asked.

“Oh, yes. I remember Mr. Bates, lawyer, near Cornhill.”

“Do you want to send any word to him?”

“No; don’t know as I do particularly.”

“How about North street?”

“I have had enough of North street,” he said, with a smile and shrug of the shoulders.

“Well, goodby.”

And all shook hands with him and left the cell, only two friends and the chaplain remaining. All through this conversation he maintained a cheerful demeanor, standing erect, with folded arms. His is about five feet ten inches in height and of average form, with a rather pleasant face and black eyes.

PREPARING FOR THE FINAL SCENE.
As the hour of the final scene drew nigh the crowd around and in the guardroom of the prison augmented rapidly, and at half-past twelve there was a great press to obtain admittance; but none were allowed to go except those who had passes from the Sheriff or Superintendent of the prison. Among those present were the twelve legal witnesses selected by the Governor, and one or two friends or acquaintances of the deceased; also Dr. Robinson, a physician of Felchville, Vt., and Rev. Mr. Gadworth, a Baptist clergyman. The directors of the prison, Messrs. Hartshorn, Rice and Shedd, were there too. About noon the chaplain asked him if he would like anything to eat. He said he would like a cup of tea, which was brought to him. He then prayed for himself and the chaplain prayed with him.

THE DEATH MARCH.
At twenty minutes to one o’clock the death march commenced. The procession issued from the cell in order as follows: — The chaplain, Revs. Franklin Butler and Surrey, W. Stimson, Sheriff of Windsor county; the condemned, between Deputy Sheriffs Rollin, Amsden and Luther Kendall; the twelve legal witnesses, &c. Passing by his coffin, which stood near the scaffold, he ascended the stairs with tolerable firmness and stood upon the platform of the gallows. The persons upon the platform were the chaplain, the Sheriff, his deputies, Amsden, Kendall and Armstrong, and J.A. Pollard, Superintendent of the prison.

READING THE DEATH WARRANT.
The exercises commenced with the reading of a short passage of Scripture and prayer by the chaplain, when the death warrant was read by the Sheriff, after which he addressed the prisoner thus: — “Henry Welcome, have you anything to say why you should not suffer the extreme penalty of the law?”

THE CULPRIT’S LAST WORDS.
A moment of silence, and Welcome began: —

I cannot say much. Words are inadequate to express my feelings. I hope my situation and fate will be an example to others to keep out of bad company and low-bred places, and obey their parents and stay at home. Disobedience to my good parents has brought me here. I hope God will have mercy on my soul, for Christ’s sake. I have made my peace with God, and I want to caution young men, before these witnesses, not to touch liquor, for if they take one glass they will want another. I cannot say any more, my heart is too full.

These words were delivered in a trembling voice and with tearful eyes. After being placed on the drop, his hands and feet were strapped by Deputy Sheriff Amsden, and the noose adjusted around his neck.

A PRAYER FOR MERCY.
He then shook hands with the Superintendent, Sheriff and deputies; then he broke forth into a most fervent, touching and heartfelt prayer, his accents being quite distinct, although his whole frame was shaken with the violence of his emotions. He distinctly expressed his faith in Jesus and hope of full pardon for his transgressions, saying much in substance that was contained in his address. He particularly prayed for his poor mother; that he name might not be a lasting disgrace to her, and though dying so ignominiously in this world, felt confident in the hope of a blessed immortality. The chaplain then stepped and took his hand, speaking a farewell to him in tones inaudible to the deeply moved spectators.

THE BLACK CAP WAS THEN ADJUSTED,
and Sheriff Stimson said, in calm tones, “The time has now arrived when the extreme sentence of the law must be executed on you, Henry Welcome, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

THE LAST OF EARTH.
The spring was pressed by a deputy and at precisely two minutes before one P.M. the body of Henry Welcome shot downwards and his soul took its everlasting flight. In six minutes the pulse ceased to beat, and the prison surgeon, Dr. H. Clark, pronounced him dead. In twenty minutes the body was cut down and put in the coffin, to be burned within the prison walls. Thus the law is vindicated in Vermont.

New York Herald (New York, New York) Jan 21, 1871

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