The Children of Benjamin Dye

[Thanks to Jack, Sandi, and Larry for collecting these stories]

Benjamin Dye, the son of James and Sarah Leach Dey of Middlesex County, New Jersey was born in 1752 in Middlesex County and died in 1788 in Greene County, Pennsylvania. He was married to Sarah Elizabeth Lemley in Greene County, Pennsylvania. They had three children who were all born in Green County:

Benjamin Dye, died about 1788, and left minor children among whom were a son, James Dye, for whom Stephen Gapen was appointed guardian by Greene County, Pennsylvania, Orphan's Court on September 12, 1799. Daniel Jones was appointed guardian for George Dye and Sarah Dye, children of Benjamin, on November 14, 1806."

James Dye married Barbara Livengood in Greene County, Pennsylvania. In about 1816 he followed his brother George to Morgan County, Ohio (now Noble County. It is known that James lived on the site of the County Orphanage, in the late 1800s.

  1. George Dye was born on January 20, 1786 and married Sarah Calvert on January 7, 1807.

    The following is from the collections of Jack "the story teller" Barker.

    Benjamin and Sarah had three children: James (my ancestor), George, and Sarah. This is about George. For further (and more detailed) information, see History of Guernsey Co Ohio, History of Noble Co Ohio, and Index to the War of 1812 Pension Files (#26082)

    George was born 30 Jan 1786 in Greene Co PA and died 3 Mar 1847 in Boone Co IN). He was orphaned in 1793 (at the age of 7) when his mother died. His father had died in 1789. In 1791 Daniel Jones (a neighboring family and member of the Goshen Baptist Church) was appointed George's guardian. On 7 Jan 1807 in Greene Co PA George m. Sarah Calvert (b. 7 Dec 1785 Greene Co PA; d. 8 Jul 1845 Boone Co IN)

    In 1808 George and Sarah moved to Morgan (now Noble Co) Ohio. In 1811 George built a log barn the Alexander McKeis' farm one mile north of Caldwell Ohio. After completing the barn, George enlisted as a Private in Captain Simon Beymer's Co (from Guernsey Co) under the command of Colonel Robert Bay. They were stationed at Beam's Blockhouse near Mansfield Ohio. Nine miles east of the Blockhouse was the home of Methodist preacher James Copus, his wife and nine children. At the beginning of the War of 1812 the British incited the Indians of northern Ohio to hostilities with the Americans. Because of this Copus and his family were brought to the Blockhouse for protection. Copus stayed a few days but declared he was going to return home in spite of the warnings of the Blockhouse Captain. A detatchment of nine men (including George Dye) were sent to escort the Copus family home. When they arrived at the Copus cabin, all was well. The soldiers spent the night in the barn and the soldiers prepared to return to the Blockhouse the next morning. Several soldiers were at the nearby spring washing up, and had left their guns stacked up near the cabin. During the night Indians had surrounded the cabin and while some of the soldiers were at the spring, they attacked. They rushed in between the soldiers and the cabin and began firing. Three of the soldiers at the spring were killed and scalped. Three others tried to run. Two (George Shibley and John Tedrick) were killed and scalped. The third (Robert Arnoock) was wounded and escaped but his body was found a few days later in the woods. George was wounded (his hip shattered by a bullet) but he and the other two soldiers managed to get into the cabin. Mr. Copus was wounded and died, leaving the wounded George, two other soldiers, Mrs. Copus and nine children to defend themselves against 45 Indians. The fighting continued for several hours when the Indians finally retreated. George Lautz, one of the remaining two soldiers, was wounded as was one of the Copus' daughters. The last soldier (Joseph Archer???) was not wounded. When the Indians retreated he ran back to the Blockhouse and got help. A monument was erected at the site of Copus Battle.

    In 1833 George owned a mill on the old McCleary farm on the road from Hiramsburg to Sarahsville (Noble Co Ohio). The mill, originally built by John Farley, was sold by George to Mr. Cramlett in abt 1835.

    At that time, 1835, George and his family moved to Boone Co Indiana. He is buried at the Eagle Village Cemetery in Boone Co IN.

    (Dye Data, 1984, p. 1).

    George must have lived close to Ezekiel Dye on what became the Dye Road in Morgan County, Ohio. George served in the War of 1812 and ).

    George is buried in the Eagle Village Cemetery Boone Co Indiana.

    1. Benjamin 1808-1879
    2. Isaac b, 1809 Morgan Co OH
    3. Fannie b. 1810 Morgan Co OH m. Jacob Stonking
    4. James b. 1812 Morgan Co OH m. 1846 Ruth Ann Harmon
    5. Jacob b. 1814 Morgan Co OH
    6. George W. b. 1816 Morgan Co OH
    7. William b. 1818 Morgan Co OH
    8. Elizabeth b. 1820 Morgan Co OH m. John Ford
    9. Sally b. 1823 Morgan Co OH
    10. Samuel Harvey b. 1828 Morgan Co OH m. Melissa Bloomington Haue

  2. Sarah Dey was born in 1788 and she married William P. Willey They moved to Morgan Co before 1810 where William bought a small tract of land from Sarah's brother, George Dye.

    Sarah and William had at least three sons and they all married daughters of Benjamin Thorla and Elizabeth Allen of Morgan County, Ohio:

    1. Absalom Willey married Alice Thorla
    2. John Elvin Willey married Melinda Thorla
    3. James Willey married Emily Thorla

    Silas Thorla (writer of many of the Dye References was the second cousin, once removed, of these three sisters. Silia's father was Francis Thorla and his grandfather was Richard Thorla. Benjamin and Richard Thorla were brothers.

    Silas Thorla married Ella Dickinson, grandaughter of Axy Dye. Ella was the great great grandaughter of Ezekiel Dye.

    The family of William Polk Willey was involved in the Hoskinsville, Ohio incident. Silas Thorla contributed to this article.

    Marjorie Kinkaid sent in the photograph of the gravestones of William Polk and Sarah Dye Willey. William's stone seems to be in place but Sarah's has been moved to the base of the small tree. They are located in the Olive Cemetery, Caldwell, Noble County, Ohio

  3. James Dye was born on April 26, 1784 and he married Barbara Livengood, the daughter of Peter A. Livengood and Mary Povator. The story about Mary's experiences with the Indians and the scalping of two of Barbara's sisters is well worth reading!

    James and Barbara Livengood Dye had 13 children:

    1. John A. Dye was born in 1804 in Greene County, Pennsylvania and died in 1872 in Scotland County, Missouri. He married (1) Nancy Jane Archer and (2) Martha Jane Harryman

      [Jack Barker who supplied these wonderful stories is in this line]. In 1862 John enlisted in the 29th Regiment of the Missouri Militia and served as a fifth Corporal under Captain Hiram Henerett and later as 8th Sergeant in Company I, 29th Regiment, under Captain Zachariah Matlick. The 29th Regiment was Union.

    2. Sarah Dye was born in 1806 and married Elijah Hillyer

    3. Mary R. Dye was born in 1808 and married Samuel Bates in 1827

    4. Benjamin Dye was born in 1810 and died in Morgan County, Ohio in 1865. He married Amelia Mildred Davis

      They had nine children and one of their children, William (1842-1863) was a Confederate soldier who was killed during the Civil War. Benjamin who lived near Etna in Scotland County, Missour was shot and killed at his home by a party of Federal soldiers who had been sent there to arrest his son William. The shot which killed Benjamin was, according to the local records of the time, aimed at the son William, a Confederate sympathizer, and hit the father. The family says otherwise....they say the troops were sent there to kill Benjamin, also a Confederate sympathizer. They family buried Benjamin at night (inside the gate of the Etna Cemetery) in an unmarked grave because they were afraid of "atrocities on the grave" by Federal Troops.

    5. James Dye II was born in 1812 Greene County, Pennsylvania and died in 1862. He married Cassandra Thomas the daughter of Joshua Thomas and Catherine Livengood. They had nine children, including James Dye III (b. 1832) who served in the 21st Missouri Infantry (Union), was captured at the Battle of Nashville (Eastport) and sent to Andersonville Prison. James II was a soldier in the Anti-Mormon "War" at Nauvoo Illinois. There are two versions of the death of James II...the "Official" one (as reported in the History of Adair Co MO): On the evening of 5 August 1862 (Colonel) Porter's (Confederate) Troops picked up James Dye, a farmer who lived a half mile west of the Westenhaver Place. Dye was doubtless a Union sympathizer since he had two sons with the Federal Troops (James III and Samuel - who was with the 39th Missouri Mounted Infantry at the Battle of Centralia). Some of the Union troops knew Dye to be a Union sympathizer and as one who would know the movement of the Union Troops in the area. Dye would tell them nothing and Porter ordered Dye to be taken along as a prisoner as Porter's troops moved toward Kirksville. Dye, after being kept prisoner all night, was brought before Porter early the next morning, and was told to "get going" for home. As Dye started off on a run, he was dropped by two bullets which lodged in his skull...supposedly from Colonel Porter's own pistol. The Family version (from a hand-written report by James family in the custody of Eugene Dodge, A Missouri historian and Dye researcher) ....James was on his way from home with a team of horses. Riding with him was his son John Julius Dye. They were stopped by Confederate forces. He was asked to produce the whereabouts of several Union sympathizers and when he would not do so, the tropps turned the team and wagon around and sent the boy John Julius toward home. Then they stood James up against the tree and while begging not to be shot, they shot him in the head "and tore the head all to pieces". (As an aside, I was raised in Kirksville and Colonel Porter's family was well known in those parts. They started one of the first schools there...Porter School...which was still operating up to my childhood. It was, of course, an all-white school. The schools were not integrated in Kirksville until right before World War II.)

    6. Elizabeth Dye was born in 1814 in Greene County, Pennsylvania and died in 1895. She married Lewis Devolld

    7. Anna Dye was born in 1816 in Green County, Pennsylvania and died in 1897. She married Samuel Brown

    8. George Dye was born in 1816 in Greene County, Pennsylvania and died in 1843. He married Nancy Devolld

    9. Catherine B. Dye was born in 1819, in Morgan County, Ohio and died in 1841 in Illinois. She married Thomas J.B. Lane

    10. William Dye was born in 1820 in Morgan County, Ohio and died in 1901. He married Susan Cameron

    11. Harrison Dye was born in 1823 in Morgan County, Ohio and married Nancy Roberts

    12. Peter Dye was born in 1825 in Morgan County, Ohio and died in 1894. He married Louisa Frakes

    13. Andrew Jackson Dye was born in 1829 in Morgan County, Ohio and died in 1891 in Illinois. He married Ruth Frakes. daughter of George Frakes. In 1891 A.J. was killed by Stirling Holt. I have several pieces of information, including the newspaper account, witness accounts, and statements by AJ Dye and Stirling Holt. Apparently Jack had killed a man named Holt at Cassville MO in a shoot-out over a cow trade. At the same time AJ was leasing land from Stirling Holt (a brother) over the border. Obviously the Dye/Holt relationship was strained (and the 74 year old AJ was known to have killed two men before in shoot-outs in MO) and the 34 year old Stirling Holt was not being paid the rental on his land. The two men, both armed and both "readt" for each other, met on Big Road at the head of the Spavinaw one Saturday afternoon. The quarrel started again. It was said Dye reached for his pistol when Holt shot Dye in the stomach with one barrel of a double-barreled shotgun. Dye was able to ride off and got to a neighbors house where he told a somewhat different story before he died there. (Dye said that Holt stepped out from behind some bushes and shot him before he could say a word or defend himself.) Holt surrendered five days later (after his family had secured the services of an attorney). Holt was released on $740 bond and never went to trial.

    James Dye married Rebecca Brown in 1847 and the had three children

    1. Laura Jane Dye was born in 1848 in Illlinois and she married Jospeh Farver

    2. Margaret Rebecca Dye was born in 1852 in Illinois and she married Lorenzo Conn

    3. Rachel Minerva Dye was born in 1853 and she married William L. Burrows

    The story of James that follows was pieced together by Jack Baker.

    Abt 1816 James moved to Morgan Co (now Noble Co) Ohio. He followed his brother George to the area. James owned the land on which "the Children's Home now stands.....James became quite wealthy, sold out and moved to Illinois" (1887 Noble Co History). In 1820/21 in Noble Co where James and his sons were successful hunters/trappers/farmers,.they were neighbors to James Noble (also a successful hunter/trapper). From this period to 1831 the neighbor Noble incurred the wrath/enmity of the Dye boys who "committed many deprivations upon his property and on one occasion fired bullets through his door. After years of lawing, he succeeded in lodging some of them in jail". I'm not sure what happened next, but at this same period James sold his farm and moved, with his family at least 11 of their 13 children) , to McDonough Co IL. (I SUSPECT it was go to jail or get out of they got)

    When James moved to McDonough Co he had with him a bag of money containing 5500 silver dollars. He invested much of the money in a tract of land that lay just over the border in McDonough Co not far from the present location of Fountain Green. At least one of James' sons, Peter, was a soldier in the anti- Mormon War at Nauvoo Illinois.

    It seems like James' sons continued to be "problem children" in Illinois. Three of them (James, Harrison and Benjamin) appear to have been involved in the Gin Ridge Affair

    Barbara Livengood Dye died in 1846 and the next year (2 Sep 1847) James married his second wife, Rebecca E. Brown (d/o William Brown). Rebecca was 39 years younger than James and from what records I have been able to find she was a very attractive young lady and a "fine trophy" for the well-to-do James. This marriage caused some problems with the children of James and Barbara particularly since Rebecca was younger than 11 of the children. James and Rebecca had three children: Laura Jane, Margaret Rebecca, and Rachel Minerva. On 27 May 1854 James was murdered. (This is documented in the Macomb (IL) McDonough Independent, the Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, the History of McDonough Co and in some personal papers in my files) Many pages were devoted to this murder but I'll give the shortened version.

    James had been receiving death threats (suspected, but never proved that they came from his wife and her accessories). At around 9:00 PM on 27 May 1854 James was shot with his own pistol. The slug entered his left breast just above the heart and lodged on the right side near the spinal column. Apparently the "plan" was for Rebecca to say he was shot (while in bed) by an intruder. (James supposedly kept a rather large sum of money in the house). Jmes didn't die right away and for two or three hours Rebecca stayed in the house with him waiting for his death. James was a strong, healthy old cuss and Rebecca finally had to do him in by hitting him in the head with a flat iron. She stuck to her plan but was hard pressed to answer the injury to the skull, the shot, and the time difference between the two. Apparently Rebecca had two accessories: Rev. David B. Burress (turns out the Reverend and Rebcca were having an alledged affair) and S. P. Rhea (Ray). All three were immediately arrested and placed in jail. Rebecca was tried and found guilty. She was sentenced to five years in prison but because of "good conduct" was pardoned shortly after. (I believe she served three months). S.P. Rhea was also convicted and he served his entire five years. The Reverend Burress escaped and was never heard from again. Oh, yes, Rebecca got her dower from the estate of James and married (1857) Charles Montague. She lived the remainder of her life in the Macomb Il area and died in 1874.

    James was buried in Pope Cemetery in McDonough Co. The cemetery was left alone and after many years of cattle grazing the stomes were knocked down and the actual gravesites lost. In the 1960s the Dye family who had long since moved to Missouri brought the stones of James and Barbara to the Bible Grove MO cemetery and had them embedded in cement there.

    Some of the children of James and Barbara have interesting histories: John A. served in the 29th Regiment of Missouri Militia and was a sergeant during the Civil War

    Two of James sons were killed in the Civil War. One James II (living in Adair County, Missouri) was killed by Colonel Porter's (Confederate) Troops who were searching for James II's son, a Union Soldier. I have a copy of the write-up one of James family made regarding the incident (reported in Adair County Missouri History). "Colonel Porter stood James up against a tree and while begging them not to shoot, they shot him in the head and tore the head all to pirces".

    James II's son, James III was in the 21st Missouri Infantry during the Civil War and was captured and imprisoned at Andersonville. He escaped, rejoined his company and continued in the war.

    Benjamin was killed in 1861 by Federal Troops were searching for his son William (who himself was later killed during the Civil War). This was in Scotland County, Missouri, right next door to Adair Co MO.

    Andrew Jackson Dye was shot from ambush and killed in Arkansas. Apparently "Jack" killed a man named Holt in a fight over a cow trade. "Jack" was ambushed by Sterling Holt, a brother to the man "Jack" killed.

    Jack Barker

    The following account of James and Rebecca was sent in by Edith Chaney,


    Perhaps the most exiting murder trial that ever took place in Fulton County [Illinois] was "The People vs. Rebecca Dye" in which the defendant was accused of killing her husband. The year was 1855. The case is interesting, from a historical standpoint, because at that time it was very rare for a woman to stand trial for a capital crime. Also, the story behind the trial is a fascinating tale of family hatred and hidden passion.

    Although it was tried at the Circuit Court in Lewistown, the case did not originate in Fulton County. James Dye was killed at his home northwest of Colchester on May 27, 1854. A McDonough County pioneer, he was born in Pennsylvania during 1787 and moved to Ohio early in the nineteenth century. He married a woman named Barbara (last name unknown), and they eventually had twelve children. During the 1830s the Dye family moved again, to Illinois. Their homestead in Hire Township, McDonough County, was established in 1836 or 1837.

    As the years went by, James Dye became a wealthy farmer. By the time of his death, he owned hundreds of acres of land and much livestock, as well as four tenant houses. Devoted to making money, he displayed little interest in his family. He neglected the education of his children and often quarreled with his sons. He ordered two or three of them off his property after they had come of age. After his first wife died in the mid-1840s, he married Rebecca Brown. That was in 1847. She was twenty- four; he was sixty. Dye's children, some of whom were older than their new step-mother, opposed the match. This situation is remarkably similar to the story line of Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms (1924). In that famous play, the father is a selfish, materialistic farmer who constantly quarrels with his grown sons and then marries a woman who is younger than they are. Coincidentally, that play was set during the 1850s - and it ends with murder.

    Little is known about the relationship between James and Rebecca Dye, but in the years that followed she commonly referred to him as "the old man" and addressed him as "Pap". Dye never expressed any dissatisfaction with his young wife and apparently came to trust her with money matters. Rebecca's opinion of him is unknown. They had three daughters. Dye continued to quarrel with his sons. Arguments, fights, and lawsuits occurred. During the early 1850's, for example, Peter Dye hit his father with a gun barrel during one fight, and the old man threatened to kill him if he set foot on the farm again. All of the older children feared that they would not be included in their father's will, and that Rebecca would get everything. At the time of his death, the old man, who apparently refused to recognize his advancing age, still had no will.

    In the early 1850s Dye rented one of his tenant farms to Reverend David B. Burress, a much younger man, who raised a small amount of livestock and occasionally preached at nearby Christian churches. During 1854 he quarreled with the old man, too, over the planting of corn on the rented acreage. Burress developed a liking for Rebecca, and she evidently was impressed with him. A love affair was kindled, but whether it led to adultery is one of the unresolved questions of the Dye murder case. Burress was planning to leave McDonough County at the time of the murder.

    Not long before the killing, Burress and the old man had a fight. When Dye ran and got a pistol, Rebecca took it away from him and broke up the quarrel. Apparently, their business disagreement had caused the fracas. Some of the neighbors also found Dye hard to deal with and didn't like him. One of them, Stokely P. Ray, evidently sent an anonymous letter to the old man, threatening his life, not long before the murder. Ray felt he had been cheated by Dye in a business deal. The murder took place on May 27, 1854. Dye had gone to bed for the night, and while he was sleeping, someone bashed his head in with an axe. Then he was shot in the chest. The neighbors, who later testified at the trial, heard Rebecca yelling and came to see what was wrong. According to Jessie Martin, when he arrived she cried out, "O, Jessie, some one has come here and killed the old man...".

    A coroner's inquest was held the following day, at which the older sons of James Dye directed suspicion toward Rebecca, who was the only person known to be in the house at the time of the killing. On May 29 she was arrested, along with David Burress and Stokeley Ray. All three were indicted by the grand jury, but Ray was later released for lack of evidence. The other two were held without bail until the fall term of the Circuit Court. Rebecca engaged the most noted criminal lawyer in western Illinois, Macomb's Cyrus Walker, who immediately requested a delay until the spring court term. He also got a change of venue to Fulton County and arranged to have Rebecca tried separately.

    The case attracted several other talented criminal lawyers. The prosecution staff included William C. Goudy of Fulton County, Alexander F. Wheat of Adams County, and Bryant Scofield of Hancock County. Aside from Walker, the defense lawyers were William Kellogg and Lewis W. Ross of Fulton County, and Julius Manning of Peoria.

    The case also aroused intense public excitement. The McDonough Independent called it "a most diabolical murder", both "horrible and heart-sickening". The very idea that a young mother might have committed such a deed was shocking, if not incredible. Nearly ninety residents of the county were called as witnesses.

    When the trial opened in April of 1855, the courtroom in Lewistown was jammed. There was no standing room left, and some who wanted to see the proceedings could not get in. Half of the spectators were women. Jury selection was a long process because so many residents had formed an opinion about the case during the year since the murder had been committed. Most people felt she was guilty. The case was not only sensational, but potentially historic. If the jury convicted Rebecca Dye of murder, she would be the first woman in Illinois to be hanged.


    The trial of Rebecca Dye for the murder of her husband raised a number of important issues, including the value of circumstantial evidence, the problem of pre-trial prejudice, and the capability of females to commit premeditated murder. In general, it revealed much about the functioning of the criminal justice system during the 1850s, but very little about Rebecca Dye.

    William Goudy opened the trial by briefly stating the intent of the prosecution and stressing the value of circumstantial evidence. That approach was taken because there was no witness to the murder. In fact, he asserted that "circumstantial evidence, in many cases, was better than positive testimony, [because] the guilty mind always acts inconsistent with its innocence..."

    The opening statement for the defense was made by Cyrus Walker. He countered the notion that "circumstantial evidence could not lie", calling it an erroneous theory. Rather, he asserted that "as the enormity of the crime increases, so the character of the proof should be more certain". Walker also recognized that most people felt Rebecca Dye was guilty. After all, her husband had been an old man, and rumor had it that there had been some kind of relationship between her and Dye's tenant farmer, David Burress. Hence, the noted lawyer cautioned the jury against reaching a verdict on the basis of suspicions about an illicit love affair: "Suspicion [in the public mind] took the smallest circumstance and magnified it; and the natural disposition in every community to find out the cause - that restless, eager energy that seizes every point - directed attention toward the accused. I warn you, gentlemen, against any such restless eagerness, against the suspicion that blights without investigation, and condemns without proof. There is no contest here but as to who murdered Dye."

    More importantly, Walker made it clear that there were others who had strong motives for killing the old man: "He had frequent quarrels with his sons, fights and law suits. These engendered a bitter feeling between them, which often led to violence. After the old man's death, the boys were active to show the prisoner's guilt - they charged her with the murder and hinted of circumstances to cast suspicion upon her." In short, the sons of James Dye had spread the story about Rebecca and Burress. And, of course, if she were convicted of the killing, she would not inherit the old man's estate. His children would share it.

    Walker also strove to evoke the natural sympathy that jurors have for a young mother, especially one who had already suffered separation from her children: "Her life is in your hands. You can hang her up between the heavens and the earth, or you can send her home to her children, from whom she has been torn by the iron rule of law."

    It was a superb opening address, which also included remarks "questioning the propriety of capital punishment." Walker tried to make it as difficult as possible for the jurors to bring in a murder conviction.

    The prosecution did demonstrate that Rebecca and Burress had some kind of association involving money. She had apparently wanted to help him pay off a debt to her husband. And it was shown that Burress had quarreled with the old man. But there was no evidence of a love affair, although that was asserted by the prosecutors.

    Harrison Dye, one of the sons, was a major witness against Rebecca. He claimed that she had said his father "wasn't going to live long" and "she didn't see any satisfaction with him." He also asserted that Rebecca and Burress were "very friendly when there was no one there but them." (He apparently didn't find it illogical that he could know that.)

    Cyrus Walker did a superb job of impugning his testimony. The young man was forced to admit that he and his brothers had quarreled with the old man, that he had opposed the marriage to Rebecca, that his father had ordered him off the farm, and that he had spent $900 to pay for vigorous prosecution of the defendant. At one point, Walker demanded, "Do you want her hung?" and young Dye replied, "I believe it ought to be done."

    The most important witness for the defense was Calvin Simmons, a neighbor, who testified that threats of violence were exchanged between Dye and his sons, that the old man was about to make a will that would leave most of his estate to Rebecca, and that Dye trusted his wife and lived harmoniously with her.

    The weakest part of Rebecca's case involved her comments during the inquest. At that time, she indicated that she had been awakened by a loud noise, and had helped her wounded husband from the floor into bed, and had heard someone leave the house and run off. However, the coroner testified that James Dye probably couldn't have arisen from the floor with the wounds that he had. It was more likely that he was killed in bed, and that the bullet wound came after he was dead. (However, the assistant coroner, another physician, was not certain about either matter.) Another damaging point: the Dyes had four watchdogs, and any intruder would have had to get past them, coming and going. Rebecca Dye did not take the stand in her own defense.

    The concluding arguments occupied two days. While the prosecution portrayed Rebecca as "a criminal whose hands are reeking in the blood of her own husband," the defense asserted that her guilt was not proven. Moreover, they claimed that the very enormity of the crime raised reasonable doubts about the defendant's guilt. As Lewis W. Ross put it, "It is too unnatural to believe that the wife would do so foul a deed." Julius Manning relied on the same conception about the nature of women: "where the wife of a man's bosom is charged with the murder of her own companion, there is something so revolting in it that we shrink with horror from such a conclusion. Woman is not prone to crime..."

    Since the evidence was not conclusive, the jury had a difficult decision. They were split between those who wanted her hanged for murder and those who believed she was innocent. They eventually reached a compromise, one that allowed the law to punish Rebecca, as the probable murderer, and yet avoided the prospect of hanging a young mother. Nothing in the trial had suggested that Dye had been killed without premeditation, but the jury had been instructed at the outset of the proceedings that a verdict of manslaughter (killing without malice aforethought) was possible. So, Rebecca Dye was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to five years in prison.

    The prosecution had failed to prove its case, had failed to demonstrate that there was animosity between James and Rebecca Dye, or that there was love between her and Reverend Burress. But the victim was old, and the accused murderers young, and everyone felt that illicit passion was at the bottom of it. In all likelihood, the decision to convict was morally right, but it was legally wrong. The pre-trial prejudice that Cyrus Walker had warned about, which centered around the rumors of adultery, had been a powerful factor.

    Interestingly enough, David Burress was never convicted. He broke jail while awaiting trial in Warren County, then decided to give himself up. But he changed his mind again, broke jail a second time, and was never caught.

    Rebecca Dye was taken to the state penitentiary at Alton, where she was a model prisoner. Before her sentence was half over, the warden recommended that she be pardoned, and Governor William Bissell released her. She returned to Macomb, where she lived quietly until her death in 1874.

    Because she did not testify in her own behalf, did not try to explain herself or accuse anyone else, Rebecca Dye will always be the embodiment of a poignancy that we will never know. But because her husband, "the old man", was such a selfish and insensitive person, and because his sons so obviously pursued "justice" for all the wrong reasons, it is not hard to sympathize with the young woman, in spite of the fact that she probably committed one of the most brutal murders in the history of McDonough County.

    SOURCE: McDonough County Heritage, [Illinois], p45-49

    A Newspaper Style Account of the Trial of Rebecca Dye

    The crime of murder has been rare in this county; in fact, we believe that in proportion to its population there has been less crime in McDonough than in any other county in the State. Occasionally we are shocked with the announcement Of a terrible murder committed in our midst. This was true on the morning of the twenty-eighth day of May, 1864. On the evening before at about nine o'clock the alarm was given that James Dvo, a wealthy farmer living in the west part of the county on a iarm known as the "Prentiss farm,".was murdered. Neighbors of the deceased at once gathered, and an investigation was made, when it was discovered that Mr. Dye had been killed while lying in bed. An inquest was held upon the body by P. H. McCandless, the coroner of the county. 'After examining the body and care fully investigating the matter, the jury returned it verdict that the deceased came to his death by violent and unlawful means; by ,the hands of his own wife Rebecca, assisted by two accessories, David B. Burress and S. P. Ray, all of whom w.ere immediately arrested and committed to the county jail to await a hearing before the Circuit Court.

    On the tenth day of October following the grand jury of the county found a true bill of indictment against the above parties. The case being called in the Circuit Court, a continuance was granted until the next term of the court. At this term a change of venue was granted to David P. Burress, to Warren County, and Mrs. Dye, to Fulton county. A nolle prosequi was entered in, the case of Ray and be was discharged from custody- Mrs. DYE was duly tried at the April term of the Circuit Court ofFulton county,the trial.lasting nine days. It was probably the most exciting one that ever took place in that county. The court room was crowded at every session, many ladies being constantly in attendance. The counsel for the people were Messrs, Goudy, of Fulton, Wheat, of Adams, and Schofield & Mack, of Hancock. For the defense, M,,s. Dye secured the services of Messrs. Manning, of Peoria, Kellogg & Ross, of Fulton, and Cyrut3 Walker, of McDonough. Probably a better array of coutisel could not have been secured in the entire State of Illinois. They were all able men.

    William C. Goudy opened the case for the people. He told the jury that they "were called upon to discharge the most solemn duty.that ever devolved upon man, in the discharge of which involved the life or death of a human being. The evidence they had to offer was purely circumstantial. No living being was known who saw the inhuman crime committed. But circumstantial evidence, in many cases, was better than positive testimony-the ,guilty mind always acts inconsistent with its innocence, and this marks out its own accusation. This is one of God's marks,upon crime. To hunt out, follow up, and arrest a criminal are its daily uses. By its aid the police of our cities are constantly bringing to light and arresting the perpetrators of evil deeds, who would otherwise,continue their crimes unmolested The prisoner before you is indicted fortthe murder of her own husband. The deceased came to his death by a blow upon the head from an axe or hammer, or from a slung-shot in the breast, or from both. Three persons are named in the bill of indictment, but you have only to inquire as to the guilt of the prisoner before you. We expect to show acts and-words between Burress and the prisoner that will show their connection with the murder, and bring to your mind uncontrovertable evidence of the prisoner's guilt. Should we do so, you have but one duty to perform, and that we sball expect at your hands." Cyrus Walker, for the defense, opened the Case and spoke substatially as follows: 'The arrangement thas been made by the counsel forthe defense that I sliould make the opening statement. I agree with the gentlemen that this is an important case. You, gentlemen, are to decide a momentous question. The Emperor of the Russias possesses no more power over the life of his subjects than you have over the life of that lady. Her life is in our hands. You can hang her up between the heavens and the earth, or you can send her home to her children, from whom she has been torn by the iron rule of the law. You must expect the case will be somewhat tedious; the issues involved are such it cannot be otherwise. That woman before you,whose life you hold in your hands, is accused of an unnatural crime. The difference between murder -and manslaughter has been fully and accurately stated to you by my -friend, and it is in your province to find her guilty of either, if the evidence should thus convince you. Certainty, beyond a reasonable doubt, is required in all criminal cases-tbe law rejects preponderance. James Dye, the deceased, was a man between seventy ,and eighty years of age. He was married twice. By his first wife he had twelve children. Six years ago be was married to the accused, by whom he had three children, one at the breast at the time of his murder. On Saturday, the twenty,seventh of May last, he was found dead in his bed, shot through the breast, and his skull fractured just above the left eye. As is very natural in such a case, there was much anxiety to find out the perpetrators of the deed. Suspicion took the smallest circumstance and magnified it; and the natural disposition in every community to find out the cause-that restless, eager energy that seizes every point-directed attention toward the accused. I warn you, gentlemen, against such restless eagerness, against that suspicion that blights witbout investigation,and condemns without proof. There is no contest here, but as to who murdered Dye. James Dye was a large farmer,a hard working man. I am bound to do justice to the living. I must speak of the faults of the dead. The deceased was an honest, industrious man, but he sadly neglected the education of his children-their moral and intellectual training was unprovided for; while his great aim was to accumulate property. He had frequent quarrels with his sons,fights and law suits. These engendered a bitter feeling between them, which often led to violence. After the old man's death, the boys were active to show the prisoner's guilt-they charged her with the murder and hinted ,of circumstances to cast suspicion upon her. The old man died intestate. There was a large dower coming to the prisoner. Tbev had various motives to induce, them to be forward in settling opinion against the accused. Knowing their previous quarrels, they sought to divert suspicion from themselves, and have sought every means to throw the guilt upon the prisoner. The prosecution has stated the rules of evidence. I wish only to add, as the enormity of the crime increases, so the character of the proof should be more certain. There never was a greater error committed thanthat from the pen of Dr. Paley,when be said that circumstantial evidence could not lie. It was a fine theory and having received the: sanction of so great a mind, has been handed down as incontrovertible. One ounce of sober sense upon such a point is better than the speculative wisdom of the world. Remember, you are not to enquire who murdered James Dye, nor, if she didn't, who did? You are only to decide as to the prisoner's guilt."

    Some eighty or ninety witnesses bad been summoned and were duly examined. As outlined in the remarks of the attorneys, the prosecution end endevored to prove criminal intercourse, or at least criminal intentions, on the part of Burress and the accused;, and that they might more surely and securely carry out their evil designs, it was necessary to get the old man out of the way. That they made a strong case against the accused cannot be denied. The defense, on the other hand, brought forward witnesses to prove the good character of their client, showing how she many, times acted as peacemaker between the old man and his sons how the old man regarded her as worthy of all codfidenee, giving her all the money she wished for, and making her his " banker," as he said; how that, in nature, he could live but a little while, and,that his intention was to leave all his property to the accused and her children ; that the supposed facts, as set forth by the prosecution, was entirely inconsistent with the state of affairs as they existed. The case was ably argued on both sides. After being out fifteen hours the jury brought in a verdict of guilty, and sentenced the accused to five yeard in the penitentiary. It is said that on the first ballot the jury stood four for acquittal and eight for conviction, and the verdict, as given, was a compromise.

    Mrs. Dye was in due time removed to the State's prison, but on account of uniform good conduct, and on the recommendation of the Warden, she was pardoned long before the expiration of her term. As to the guilt or innocence,we are not prepared to judge; suffice it to say, that, on receiving her pardon, she returned to Macomb, where she resided for many years, enjoying, we believe., the respect of all who knew her. She died in the year 1874.

    With reference to Burress, arrested for the murder of James Dye, his trial was never held. On the night of August 11, 1855, he escaped from the county jail, at Macomb, but returned, after an absence of about ten days,'and gave himself up to the authorities. On the evening of the tenth of November, following, be again' escaped. A reward of one hundred dollars was offered for his capture. He was traced to the State of Indiana, and a party went in pursuit of him, but,when they reached the place where he was seen, he was gone, since which time he has never been beard from. Whether guilty of the crime charged against him will probably never be known.