Bathsheba Ruggles Spooner, Executed

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Bathsheba Spooner (Ruggles)

Also Known As: "executed while pregnant and 1st american women sentenced to death"
Birthplace: Sandwich, Massachusetts, United States
Death: July 02, 1778 (32)
Worcester, Massachusetts, United States (murderess who was hanged, pregnant)
Place of Burial: Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Brig. Gen. Timothy Ruggles, Jr. and Bathsheba Ruggles (Bourne)
Wife of Joshua Spooner
Mother of executed baby boy Ross; Elizabeth Spooner; Joshua Spooner, Jr.; John Spooner and Bathsheba Crocker
Sister of Mary Green; Richard Ruggles; Israel Williams Ruggles; Elizabeth Chandler; Timothy Ruggles, Jr. and 2 others
Half sister of Mercy Bassett; Desire Tobey; William Newcomb; Hannah Deborah Jennings; Peter Newcomb and 3 others

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Bathsheba Ruggles Spooner, Executed

Bathsheba Ruggles Spooner (c. 1746 – July 2, 1778) was the first woman to be executed in the United States by Americans rather than the British. She was the daughter of Brigadier General Timothy Ruggles.

Spooner had become involved with a sixteen year-old soldier in the Continental Army, Ezra Ross, whom she was nursing from injury. She became pregnant by him and convinced him and two escaped British prisoners of war, Williams Brooks and James Buchanan, to kill her husband, a wealthy gentleman farmer in Brookfield, Massachusetts. The three men ambushed him in his front yard as he returned home. After beating him to death, they dumped his body down a well.

Spooner and the three men were convicted in April 1778 and sentenced to death. Spooner pleaded extenuating circumstances due to her pregnancy, but her plea was rejected and she was hanged alongside Ross, Brooks and Buchanan on July 2. An autopsy revealed that she had indeed been pregnant.

Red Barn Films, a production company in Massachusetts, has recently launched an investigation into the execution of Bathsheba Spooner in an effort to discover the story as to what really happened. The Company is actively seeking information about the murder and execution for a book and film it is developing inspired by the real story.

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Names of Defendants: Bathsheba Ruggles Spooner, William Brooks, James Buchanan, Ezra Ross.

Crimes Charged: Murder, accomplice before the fact.

Chief Defense Lawyer: Levi Lincoln

Chief Prosecutor: Robert Treat Paine

Judges: William Cushing, Jedediah Foster, Nathaniel Peaslee Sargeant, David Sewall, James Sullivan

Place: Worcester, Massachusetts

Date of Trial: April 24, 1778

Verdict: Guilty

Sentence: Execution by hanging.

SIGNIFICANCE: Set against the background of the social disruption of the American Revolutionary War, this murder was sensational in its day, and has continued to intrigue historians and writers because of several unresolved elements in the characters and motivations of Bathsheba Spooner and her accomplices.

At a time when class distinctions were important and social status was determined by family lineage, both Bathsheba Ruggles Spooner and her husband, Joshua Spooner, were scions of prominent families of the colonial aristocracy, raised to a life of wealth and privilege. The Declaration of Independence and the ensuing war, however, caused family rifts and animosities that quite possibly affected the course of events that culminated in Bathsheba's execution. Her father, Brigadier General Timothy Ruggles, a lawyer, and himself chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas in Worcester, Massachusetts, from 1762 to 1764, remained a Loyalist, and the hatred generated by this extended to members of his family. Joshua Spooner's father, John Spooner, had immigrated from England and became a wealthy Boston commodities merchant. Although the bulk of his estate was inherited by his eldest son John, Joshua Spooner, the third son, was a wealthy and well-connected young man when he married.

Joshua Spooner was born in 1741; Bathsheba Ruggles in February 1746. They were married on January 15, 1766, and had their first child in April 1767. Three more children were born between 1770 and 1775, although the second son, John, died a few weeks after his birth. In these years immediately before the Revolution they were living in what was considered an elegant two-story house in Brookfield, Massachusetts, and were considered wealthy by their neighbors. However, it was becoming common knowledge that the marriage was not happy, and that Bathsheba had developed what she was to characterize as an "utter aversion" towards her husband. The reasons for the rift are not fully known, but records indicate that Joshua Spooner was frequently drunk and sometimes physically abusive of his wife, and was also a weak manager of his household and affairs. Bathsheba, on the other hand was independent, strongwilled, and impetuous.

Sharon Fehr:

June 13, 2008

This is a story about Brig-Gen. Timothy Ruggles' daughter after he left Boston.

I commented once that I can't understand why Hollywood hasn't made Bathsheba's story into a movie. It has all the popular elements! Actually, this is an extremely sad narrative.

Bear in mind that stories like this get twisted depending on your sympathies. Various articles have said the Brigadier arranged her marriage to a wealthy man before he left Massachusetts. Some say Joshua Spooner was an old man; others that he was only four years older than Bathsheba. Some say Joshua Spooner kept a mistress in the house, perhaps one of the servants. We'll never know all the contributing factors.

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BATHSHEBA RUGGLES SPOONER m. Jan. 15, 1766, Joshua Spooner, Joshua died March 1778

m. Hardwick, Worcester, Massachusetts

Daughter of Brigadier General Timothy Ruggles

Bathsheba b. Feb. 13, 1744/45 in Sandwich, Barnstable, Massachusetts

Hanged July 2, 1778, Worcester, Massachusetts, aged 33-34


        1.        Elizabeth Spooner
                 b. April 8, 1767
                 Age 11 at mother's death
        2.        Joshua Spooner
                 b. Feb. 21, 1770
                 Age 8 at mother's death
                 d. Sept. 18, 1801 in London, England, age 31
        3.        John Spooner
                 b. Feb. 26, 1773
                 d. Mar. 19, 1773, d. at three weeks old
        4.        Bathsheba Spooner
                 b. Jan. 17, 1775
                 Age 3 at mother's death
                 d. 1858, age 83
        5.        Unborn
                 d. July 2, 1778, day mother was hanged

Unidentified magazine printed in 1978, pp. 156-161.

The Last Pregnant Woman to be Hanged in Massachusetts

Deborah Stone

        It's really quite a horrible tale and though indeed it did occur exactly two hundred years ago, a good case could be made that it's an anniversary unworthy of note.  In fact, we would advise most not to read it at all.
        July 2, 1778 dawned oppressively hot in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Some hundred yards east of the common a gallows had been erected in what is now Washington Square.  A well-to-do Brookfield resident, Joshua Spooner, had been beaten to death March 2nd, and on July 2nd his four murderers were to be executed -- Bathsheba Spooner, Joshua Spooner's wife, her 19-year-old lover Ezra Ross, and two British soldiers, James Buchanan and William Brooks who were accomplices.  No single murder in Massachusetts' history before or since has led to the simultaneous execution of four people for the same crime.
        The gallows had been purposefully constructed outside the established streets of the town where there would be plenty of space for the milling crowds anticipated;  at least 5000 people, which was then twice the population of Worcester, were to gather for the hanging.  The murder and subsequent trial had received lavish publicity in the Massachusetts Spy, the leading newspaper of the day.  The crime had been denounced from paper and pulpit as "so premeditated, so aggravated, so horrid a murder ... [as has never been] perpetrated in America, and is almost without a parallel in the known world."  The storm of sensational rhetoric which swept through Worcester county guaranteed a massive turnout for the "turn-off" (as hangings were then called), by an outraged and titillated public.  Enterprising editor of the Spy, Isaiah Thomas, got some extra mileage out of the event by obtaining a detailed confession by Buchanan, Ross and Brooks, and printing it up in pamphlets in time to sell for two shillings apiece at the execution.  Bathsheba, though she readily admitted her guilt, had not publicly confessed the details; it was she -- beautiful, charming, socially prominent, judged "author and procuror of the bloody event" -- whom the people especially came to see hang.
        The Rev. Thaddeus Maccarty, rector at the Old South Church and confessor to the condemned, preached the execution sermon at noon to an overflowing congregation containing the three male prisoners under guard.  Bathsheba was not present as she was suffering from a brutal examination which took place a few days before to determine if she were pregnant.  She had petitioned the court for a stay of execution until she be delivered -- "a plea for compassionate consideration for the child stirring in my womb which was innocent of the faults of her who bears it."  She was examined twice by a board of midwives, and though they were by no means unanimous in their conclusions, her request was denied.
        The male prisoners were made to walk the two miles to the gallows site; Bathsheba rode in the Rev. Mr. Maccarty's carriage.  They had to push their way through the mobs, soldiers calling "Make way!  Make way!" before them.  We can well imagine people jeering, hurling insults at them in their progress, perhaps even snatching at their clothing or the carriage for memento mori.  A thunderstorm arose and according to an eyewitness account, "the fierce coruscations athwart the darkened horizon, quickly followed by loud peals of thunder, conspired together, and produced a dreadful scene of horror!"  According to Maccarty's Summary Account of the Prisoners, Bathsheba appeared "undismayed and unaffrighted by various striking scenes."  Upon approaching the gallows, Maccarty asked her if the sight of it did not strike her, and she replied, "not at all anymore than any other object."  "Her constitutional politeness still remained," he was moved to comment.
        Ailing, she crept up the stairs to the scaffold, and when presented with the halter she told the sheriff that it was the happiest day she ever saw, for "she doubted not it would be well with her."  She acknowledged that she justly died, and that "she hoped to see her Christian Heaven."
        At 2:30 P.M. Bathsheba Spooner, Ezra Ross, James Buchanan and William Brooks were executed.  Later that evening, at Bathsheba's request her body was cut open to reveal a perfectly formed male fetus, judged to be somewhat past five months.  In excessive zeal for justice, the State of Massachusetts had taken five lives instead of four.
        Her sister, Mrs. John Green, claimed Bathsheba's remains and had the body buried secretly in an unmarked grave to protect it from vandals.
        The notoriety of the Bathsheba Spooner murder case, as it came to be known, was due in part to the widespread coverage it received through the media -- represented by Isaiah Thomas.  Through the Massachusetts Spy he created an audience hungry for every detail of the Spooner case which he fed with succeeding issues of the newspaper as well as by pamphlets and broadsides of sermons, confessions and accounts of the prisoner's behavior.
        But the news coverage aside, the case itself, the murderer of a husband by his beautiful and unfaithful wife, pregnant by, and aided by a young and handsome lover, would attract attention in any age.  And the grim resolution, the inadvertent execution of an unborn child, caused such a wave of guilt and remorse -- the dregs of community vengeance -- that no woman since has been executed in the state of Massachusetts.
        Most provocative of all are the unanswered questions and speculation surrounding Bathsheba Spooner.  Her silence has been well kept over the 200 years since her execution, and all that remains are the few descriptions gleaned from contemporary sources.  How could a woman, described by her staunchly puritan confessor as of "behavior to all very polite and complaisant...a person naturally of a kind obliging, generous disposition" commit, in the words of the Rev. Mark Fisk upon the occasion of Joshua Spooner's burial, "premeditated murder (which) argues not only an unfeeling heart, but a ferocious and diabolical disposition"?
        33 years before her hanging, Bathsheba Spooner was born Bathsheba Ruggles in the town of Hardwick, Massachusetts.  She was raised genteelly with all available benefits -- wealth, education and social position.  Her father, Timothy Ruggles, was a Harvard graduate, lawyer, and had distinguished himself as an officer in the French and Indian War.  He was also an adamant Loyalist at a time when such political views were unacceptable in Massachusetts.  General Ruggles, aware of the Revolutionary bias against Loyalists, decided to secure comfortable situations for his children and then leave for Canada before he lost his property and/or his life.  He arranged a marriage for Bathsheba, age 20, with Joshua Spooner, a fairly wealthy gentleman and patriot of Brookfield.  Though Spooner was considerably older than Bathsheba, and reportedly a sour, unpleasant person, he was politically and financially secure.  Or perhaps his overriding advantage was merely his availability.  Shortly after the marriage General Ruggles did leave for Nova Scotia, as did thousands of other Loyalists before and during the Revolution; his property was confiscated and he died in Canada a lonely and broken man.
        Bathsheba was left behind, abandoned by circumstances to a man whom she never loved.  Though she bore him three children, "she professed that her match was not agreeable to her.  Domestic dissensions soon took place, and went on from step to step, till she conceived an utter aversion to him."  She had lived with Joshua Spooner for 13 years in this state of unrelieved marital bitterness when in 1777 Ezra Ross happened into her life, and proved a catalyst for subsequent tragic events.
        Ezra Ross, age 18 and born in Ipswich, Massachusetts, was a young Continental soldier discharged from Washington's army for severe illness.  On his way home, he fetched up on the Spooner doorstep and collapses there.  Bathsheba, though herself an ardent and outspoken a Loyalist as her father, took him in and nursed him back to health.  It is easy to see how this woman, by all accounts beautiful and intelligent, and trapped in years of dreary marriage, could fall in love with the young and handsome soldier in her care.  The attraction was mutual, for though Ross left the Spooner farm after his recovery, he returned to Bathsheba shortly.  They were reportedly seen riding horseback together through the autumn countryside around Brookfield, and drinking together evenings in local pubs.
        It is not recorded whether Joshua was aware of the liaison; probably not, as another account mentions that Joshua and Ezra Ross travelled together.  It has been suggested that Spooner kept a mistress on the premises himself; at any rate, communication between husband and wife perhaps by this time had ceased all together.
        Around January of 1778 Bathsheba became pregnant with Ross's child, and from then on, the romantic idyll deteriorated.  Pregnancy, like murder will out, and we can safely assume on the evidence of Bathsheba's utter aversion to her husband, that Joshua would know that the child was not his.  Divorces were not often granted, and Bathsheba, rendered an outcast by her Loyalist views and more so by her soon to be revealed adultery, would not have received the court's sympathy in a divorce action.  As she confided to Thaddeus Maccarty "at length she meditated his (her husband's) destruction, laid several plans, and never gave over till the fatal act was committed."
        Apparently Bathsheba could not bring herself to act upon her intentions, nor was Ross much help.  Growing more desperate daily (probably thinking the sooner Joshua was killed,the sooner she could decently marry Ross and give the baby its rightful father's name) she enlisted the aid of two British soldiers passing through Brookfield on their way to Canada after Burgoyne's defeat at Saratoga.
        William Brooks was an illiterate enlisted man, and James Buchanan a sergeant in the British army, educated and well-spoken.  It is he who speaks for the three male prisoners in the Dying Declaration (the confession published by Isaiah Thomas).  According to his story, one of the Spooner servants, aware of his mistress's Royalist loyalties, invited Buchanan and Brooks for a meal.  They spoke with Bathsheba who bid them stay on as the weather was bad.
        "The first or second day she told us when by ourselves that she and her husband did not agree...(Mr. Spooner) was gone a journey to Princetown, and...would not be home soon...we stayed from day to day...Mrs. Spooner getting very free in discourse with me one day told me that she never expected Mr. Spooner to return , as there was a Mr. Ross gone with him, who had an ounce of poison, which he had promised her he would give to Mr. Spooner the first convenient opportunity."
        At this point Bathsheba appears distracted by desperation, as it was certainly dangerous to confide such a plan to strangers.  Eventually Joshua returned unpoisoned, Bathsheba offered Buchanan and Brooks property and money to murder her husband, and kept them on at the Spooner farm by lavishing food and drink, suggesting different plans daily and urging them to get on with it.  Buchanan and Brooks seemed much more interested in the Spooner hospitality than in murdering Joshua, but finally, braced with considerable rum, Brooks dealt Joshua a blow with a log.  Ross and Buchanan joined in to rob the body of money, shoes and watch, and then not knowing what else to do, they stuffed the body down the well.
        While the murder was taking place, Bathsheba waited inside the kitchen.  Buchanan's confession continued, "I went into the house and met Mrs. Spooner...she seemed vastly confused."  Bathsheba later described her confusion to Rev. Maccarty, "though I had planned the matter, yet I never thought it would be executed."  Perhaps at first glance her explanation sounds like a lame excuse, but accounts of her behavior before and after the murder indicate that she truly meant it.  She obviously felt herself backed against the wall by the imminent disclosure of her pregnancy.  Ross was no help, so she turned to murder as the only way out of a disastrous predicament.  Her obsessive planning, changing of plans, numerous and pointless meetings with the conspirators beforehand (as detailed in the Dying Declaration) clearly dramatize her agitated state and also show that it was by no means a rationally planned -- in the true sense of the word -- premeditated murder.  Nor did her own and the others' behavior afterward indicate realistic planning.  She broke open Joshua's money box, and passed money and articles of his clothing indiscriminately.  She visited a neighbor the next morning pretending to be looking for Joshua, expecting that when he was found in the well, it would be thought that he fell in while getting a drink of water.  But she did nothing about the tell-tale bloodstains and footprints in the snow where Joshua had been beaten.  The three conspirators were equally bungling.  They whiled away the night in Brown's tavern in Worcester attempting to drink away their horror of the deed.  Brooks became so drunk he began bragging of the silver buckles on his shoes initialed J.S.; very quickly the three men and Bathsheba were hustled into jail, where they were relieved to confess the murder.  According to Maccarty, "such was the horror of their (the men's) consciences that they prayed, repented...justified God and man in their condemnation, sang songs and hymns and read and conversed in scriptures."  They were model repentant sinners, and in his execution sermon, Maccarty stressed that though by the heinousness of their crime, they risked eternal damnation, their repentance and signs of faith boded well for their chances of divine forgiveness.
        He was somewhat less enthusiastic about Bathsheba's chances for salvation.  Though she readily admitted her part and acknowledged full responsibility for instigating the crime, she would not confess publicly "it being a fixed principle with her that confession of her faults be only to her Maker, not to man."  Maccarty wrote, "seldom a day passed but I visited her...hoping to observe symptoms of true penitence, appearances of this were from time to time discouraging...she was a person of uncommon fortitude of mind...though she did not appear to be affected, she would sometimes say she felt more than she did or could express."
        At least her silence spared her the indignity of seeing her dying confession hawked in the streets upon the occasion of her hanging, though it prevents us, 200 years later, from knowing for certain what drove Bathsheba Spooner to the awful final solution of her husband's  and her own life.  Today, since we know more than the vagaries of behavior under stress, judgment would probably be tempered with mercy; under the same circumstances it is not likely that she would be executed.  A beautiful, intelligent and passionate woman, it is a tragedy that her gifts were so wasted on a bad marriage and poor love affair.  Her confessor said of her that "she was unhappy -- in her first setting out in the world, and so left it a fatal capital crime."  It is no wonder that she spoke of her hanging as the happiest day of her life.

--Sharon Fehr

Bathsheba Ruggles Spooner was convicted of planning the murder of her husband, Joshua Spooner, after having an affair with a soldier that resulted in pregnancy. She was the first woman executed in the newly formed United States.

Bathsheba Ruggles Spooner (February 15, 1746 – July 2, 1778) was the first woman to be executed in the United States by Americans rather than the British.

The daughter of a prominent Colonial American lawyer, justice and military officer, Bathsheba Ruggles had an arranged marriage to a wealthy farmer, Joshua Spooner, prior to her father's banishment from Massachusetts in 1774, due to his British Loyalist stance. Reportedly growing unhappy in the marriage, she confessed to an "aversion" to her husband. After meeting and becoming lovers with a young soldier from the Continental Army, Ezra Ross, Spooner became pregnant and attempted to involve her reluctant lover and two servants in a plan to murder her husband. Finally she enlisted the assistance of two British soldiers escaped from General Burgoyne's captive troops. On the night of March 1, 1778, one of the soldiers beat Joshua Spooner to death in his dooryard, and the body was put in the Spooner well. Bathsheba Spooner and the three men were tried and convicted of the crime and sentenced to death. The 3 men were Ezra Ross, Williams Brooks and James Buchanon.

Subsequent issues arose concerning Spooner's petition for a delay in sentence because of her pregnancy, which was first denied and then supported by some members of a group of "examiners." The four were executed anyway, and a post-mortem examination requested by Spooner revealed that she was, indeed, five months pregnant. Historians have pointed out that the trial and speedy execution may have been hastened by anti-Loyalist sentiment, and also that the person who signed Spooner's death warrant was Joshua Spooner's stepbrother.

Bathsheba Ruggles Spooner was the daughter of Brigadier General Timothy Ruggles, a lawyer who had served as chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas in Worcester, Massachusetts, from 1762 to 1764, and founder and most eminent citizen of the town of Hardwick, Massachusetts. He married Bathsheba Bourne of Sandwich, Massachusetts on September 18, 1736. Timothy Ruggles was a strong-willed and determined man, qualities he shared with his daughter, although such were considered unbecoming in a woman.[3] Timothy Ruggles was an avowed Loyalist or Tory, who threatened to raise an army to protect his and other Loyalist farms and livestock against Patriot attacks. He was ultimately banished from Massachusetts for joining forces with the British Army in Boston and ultimately Staten Island, New York. After the war he was given a stipend and extensive land grant in Wilmot, Nova Scotia by King George III.

Under public censure for his refusal to sign the Stamp Act protest as Massachusetts representative to the 1765 Stamp Act Congress, Ruggles might have arranged the marriage on January 15, 1766, for his daughter to Joshua Spooner, but no documentation has yet turned up to explain why Bathsheba Ruggles married a man she very soon came to hate. The son of a wealthy Boston merchant, Spooner was a well-to-do Brookfield farmer, later described as an abusive man for whom his wife, Bathsheba developed "an utter aversion." The Spooners had their first child, Elizabeth, on April 8, 1767, Three more followed between 1770 and 1775; Joshua (February 21, 1770-September 18, 1801), who died in London, England and daughter Bathsheba Spooner (January 17, 1775–1858). A second son, John, was born on February 26, 1773 and died on March 19, 1773. The Spooners lived in relative affluence in a two-story house in Brookfield.

When Ezra Ross first met Bathsheba Spooner in the Spring of 1777, he was a sixteen-year-old soldier in the Continental Army, who had already served in the American Revolution under George Washington for a year.[5] Ross was walking north from Washington's winter camp in Morristown, New Jersey, on his way home to Linebrook, Massachusetts, when he fell ill and was nursed to health by Bathsheba Spooner before heading on to his home. He visited the Spooner home on his way back to rejoin the northern army in July 1777, and again in December after the four-month campaign that ended with the surrender of the British under General Burgoyne and his entire army at Saratoga, New York on October 17, 1777.

Ross stayed on at the Spooner house through Christmas and into the new year, travelling with Joshua Spooner on business trips, as well as carrying on an illicit affair with Bathsheba Spooner.[5] Bathsheba Spooner became pregnant mid-January and began urging Ross to dispose of her husband[5] before her condition would prove that she had committed adultery.[3] In February, 1778, Ross once again accompanied Joshua Spooner, this time on an extended trip to Princeton, Massachusetts, where Spooner owned a potash business. Ross brought along a bottle of nitric acid, given to him by Bathsheba, which he planned to use to poison Spooner.[5] Ross backed out of the plan and returned to his home in Linebrook at the end of the trip rather than accompany Spooner to Brookfield.

While Ross and Joshua Spooner were in Princeton, Bathsheba Spooner had invited two runaway British prisoners of war, Private Williams Brooks and Sergeant James Buchanan, to stay at the Spooner home. She discussed ideas for killing her husband with the pair, and when Joshua Spooner returned home, alive, well and without Ross, she recruited them to assist her. She also wrote to Ross to inform him of the developments, and he returned to Brookfield on Saturday February 28.[5] When Spooner walked home from a local tavern the following evening, March 1, 1778, Brooks committed the murder and Buchanan and Ross helped hide the body down the well. Bathsheba Spooner distributed paper money from her husband's lock box and articles of his clothing to the three men, who then took one of the Spooner horses to Worcester, 14 miles distant

The murder was discovered and the group was arrested in Worcester within 24 hours. Brooks and Buchanan had spent the remainder of the night drinking, and next morning Brooks showed off Joshua Spooner's silver shoe buckles that were engraved with Spooner’s initials. Ezra Ross was discovered hiding in the attic of the same tavern and immediately asked for a confessor. The trio implicated Bathsheba Spooner and three of her household servants, Sarah Stratton, her son Jesse Parker, and Alexander Cummings. Brooks was charged with the assault on Joshua Spooner, Buchanan and Ross were charged with aiding and abetting in the murder, and Bathsheba Spooner was charged with inciting, abetting, and procuring the manner and form of the murder. All were arraigned and pleaded not guilty.

During the trial, which took place on April 24, 1778, the household servants, Sarah Stratton, Jesse Parker, and Alexander Cummings, testified for the prosecution, conducted by Robert Treat Paine (later to become Massachusetts' first Attorney General). Levi Lincoln, who would become the United States Attorney General under Thomas Jefferson, was assigned to defend the accused. There was little Lincoln could do to defend Brooks or Buchanan because they (with Ezra Ross) had dictated and signed a lengthy written confession to the crime, but Lincoln did mount a credible defence in support of Ezra Ross and Bathsheba Spooner. He argued that Ross had no intention of harming Joshua Spooner and was not aware of the plan until a few hours before the murder, had not assisted in the murder, and pretended to support it to stay on good terms with his lover. He argued that Bathsheba Spooner had a "disordered mind," her actions were irrational, that the plan was poorly conceived with no plans for the perpetrators to escape.

This was the first capital case in the newly created United States and the verdict came in the next day. All were sentenced to death and execution was set for June 4, 1778. Spooner petitioned for a postponement citing the extenuating circumstances of her pregnancy, based on common law which protected the life of a fetus if it had quickened.[7] Spooner was examined by a panel of 12 women and two male midwives,[8] who all swore that she was not "quick with child." [7] A second examination occurred after Spooner and her confessor, the Reverend Thaddeus Maccarty, protested the midwives’ report, and four of the examiners joined by another midwife and Spooner’s brother-in-law, Dr. John Green, conducted a second examination and supported the claim of pregnancy.[7] The findings were not accepted and Spooner was hanged alongside Ross, Brooks and Buchanan on July 2, before a crowd of 5000 spectators in Worcester's Washington Square.

A post-mortem examination, done at Spooner's request, showed that she was in fact pregnant, with "a perfect male fetus of the growth of five months." Historians have questioned the motivation and validity of the opinions of the panel who examined Spooner for pregnancy, as well as the motivation of the Massachusetts Executive Council, suggesting that Spooner was executed based on the hostility in the community against her father's British Loyalist stance.[4][6][7] Further, the deputy secretary and leader of the Massachusetts Executive Council, who signed Spooner's death warrant, John Avery Jr., was part of a group of Patriots called “The Loyal Nine” (the innermost circle of the Sons of Liberty) who opposed Timothy Ruggles. and all Loyalists John Avery, Jr. was a close relation of the murder victim, Joshua Spooner's stepbrother

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Bathsheba Ruggles Spooner, Executed's Timeline

February 15, 1746
Sandwich, Massachusetts, United States
April 8, 1767
Age 21
Brookfield, Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
February 21, 1770
Age 24
Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States
February 26, 1773
Age 27
Brookfield, Massachusetts, United States
January 17, 1775
Age 28
Brookfield, Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
July 2, 1778
Age 32
Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
Worcester, Massachusetts, United States