On This Date in History: In early America, crime was often seen as a result of one’s sinful nature and punishment was often accorded the guilty with the idea of one being rehabilitated from his sinfulness. But, the ideas of the root of the criminal mind took a bit of a turn on this date in 1780 when an entire family was killed. Modern accounts say that Barnett Davenport was born in 1760 and enlisted in the Continental Army as a teenager. He was at Valley Forge and Ticonderoga. Toward the end of the war, he found himself taken in by a kindly family in Connectict. Caleb Mallory lived with his wife, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. They took Davenport in as a boarder. A few months later, on Feb 3, 1780 for no apparent reason, Davenport clubbed Mallory to death and then pounded the seven year old grandchild with a rifle butt and also concluded the life of the daughter-in-law. Now, houses of the time were not that big and one would think that beating three people do death might wake anyone who might be dozing. But, I guess the wife and the other grandchild were pretty sound sleepers and they slept through the whole thing. So, Davenport decided to set fire to the home after looting it of whatever he could take.
Davenport eventually fessed up to the crime and the new nation was shocked. It began to rethink the notion regarding crime in general and specifically murder. Since nothing had ever happened like that before, the presscorp wasn’t sure how to cover it. Today, of course, every cable show would be live for every minute of every day until something better came along. But back then, it was quite a quandry. Apparently, the idea of what could cause someone to perpetrate such a heinous crime was altered from that of sinner to one of inherent evil. To some degree, that perception continues today with reporters like Geraldo insisting on editorializing regarding the nature of a particular crime or alleged perpetrator. It always makes me scratch my head when a tv anchor says something about a “senseless murder”. That insinuates that there are murders that make sense.
I suppose this type of reporting may have been born following this case, or at least not long afterward. Take a look at how John Warner Barbour wrote about the history of Washington, CT in 1836. I guess it must have been a pretty boring town because Barbour’s history lasts all of 4 paragraphs, with the last and longest totally devoted to the Davenport crime. Below is that last paragraph and take note of the hyperbole and opinion that fills the text. He has no sources noted nor anything that tells us that he wrote this history based on nothing more than street talk. On the one hand, its a good example of how one must be careful when citing sources for an academic work. Then again, today this type of writing might win Barbour some national award for journalism.
This town has been the theater of one of the most atrocious murders ever committed in New England. The murderer was a man, or rather fiend, by the name of Barnett Davenport. From his own confession, it appears that his parentage and early education were exactly fitted to produce his wicked life and his tragical end. Untutored and unrestrained by parental government, he was left to grow up at random. In the morning of life,no morality was inculcated upon him, and nosense of religion, either by precept or example. On the contrary, he was, from early years unprincipled, profane, and impious. Before he was nine years old, he was expert in cursing and swearing, and an adept in mischief. At 11 years he began to pilfer. At 13 he stole money. At 15 he entertained thoughts of murder, and rapidly waxed harder and bolder in wickedness. At 19, he actually murdered a family in cold blood. As a friendless wandering stranger, he was taken into the house of Mr. Caleb Mallory, and treated with the utmost kindness, in December, 1779. Scarcely two months had elapsed, before the murder was determined on. The night of Feb. 3d, 1780, was fixed on to execute the horrid purpose.. With a heart hard as adamant, he lighted a candle, went into the lodging room of his benefactors, and beat them to death with a club. A little grandchild being with its grand parents shared the same fate, and two others were left in a sound sleep to perish in the flames. Having kindled a lire in three of the rooms, he fled, after robbing the house of its most valuable articles. But from an accusing conscience, and from the hand of justice, which followed hard upon his steps, he was unable to flee. He was taken and executed at Litchfield in the May ensuing.
Weather Bottom Line: I have good news and bad news. First the bad news…a little shortwave dropping through the flow today will bring a little snow and be followed by reinforcing cold air. It is rather likely that we will remain below freezing for the next several days with lows some morning in the single digits perhaps for a few folks. The good news is that the amount of snow should be minimal. While the shortwave is relatively small, its potent but it won’t have a whole lot of moisture to work with. The NAM is calling for about 3/4″ of snow for Tuesday into Wednesday and the GFS somewhere in the neighborhood of an inch and a half Tuesday through Wednesday. The rest of the good news is that there appears to be a pattern shift setting up with the polar jet moving north as big storms crash into the California coast. So, I suspect that we will move above freezing for Friday afternoon and stay there through the weekend into early next week. Don’t break out the bikinis and speedos just yet because its not going to be that warm, but should be an improvement for a least a few days.