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John Colt

Death: November 18, 1842 (32)
New York, Kings County, New York, United States (Colt was sentenced to death by hanging for murder)
Immediate Family:

Son of Christopher Colt and Sarah Colt
Husband of Caroline Colt
Brother of Colonel Samuel Colt; Christopher Colt; Sarah Ann Colt; Margaret Collier Colt; James Benjamin Colt and 1 other

Managed by: Private User
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About John Colt

Colt historian William Edwards wrote that Samuel Colt had married Caroline Henshaw (who later married his brother, John) in Scotland in 1838, and that the son she bore later was Samuel Colt's and not his brother John's.[62] In a 1953 biography about Samuel Colt based largely on family letters, Edwards wrote that John Colt's marriage to Caroline in 1841 was a way to legitimize her unborn son as the real father, Samuel Colt, felt she was not fit to be the wife of an industrialist and divorce was a social stigma at the time.[62]

After John's death, Samuel Colt took care of the child, named Samuel Caldwell Colt, financially with a large allowance and paid for his tuition in what were described as "the finest private schools." In correspondence to and about his namesake, Samuel Colt referred to him as his "nephew" in quotes. Historians such as Edwards and Harold Schechter have said this was the elder Colt's way of letting the world know that the boy was his own son without directly saying so.[63]

After Colt's death in 1862, he left the boy $2 million by 2010 standards. Colt's widow, Elizabeth Jarvis Colt, and her brother, Richard Jarvis contested this. In probate Caroline's son Sam produced a valid marriage license showing that Caroline and Samuel Colt were married in Scotland in 1838 and that this document made him a rightful heir to part of Colt's estate, if not to the Colt Manufacturing Company

In 1842 Colt was convicted of the murder of a printer named Samuel Adams, to whom Colt owed money over the publication of a bookkeeping textbook. Colt killed Adams with a hatchet the previous year in what he claimed was self-defense, but afterwards covered up the crime by disposing of the body. When the body was discovered, Colt was the first suspect. The trial became a sensation in the New York press, because of his family connections, the manner of disposal and his somewhat arrogant demeanor in the courtroom. Colt was found guilty and sentenced to hang in 1842, but committed suicide on the morning of his execution.

On September 28, 1842, after exhausting his final appeal, Colt was sentenced to death by hanging and remanded to New York City's infamous prison, the Tombs. His sentence was to be carried out on November 14, 1842. Colt asked that he be allowed to marry Caroline Henshaw on the morning of his hanging. While imprisoned, Colt lived luxuriously in his prison cell, receiving daily visits from friends and family, smoking Cuban cigars, sleeping in an actual bed instead of a mound of straw and wearing silk dressing gowns inside and a seal skin overcoat for his daily walks in the prison yard. His cell contained the latest novels, a gilded bird cage with a canary and fresh flowers brought to him every day by Henshaw.[45][46] He dined on meals from local hotels such as quail on toast, game pates, reed birds, and ortolans.[46] Several attempts were made to break him out of the prison by dressing him in women's clothing but all these efforts were foiled.[47][48] A doctor was hired who claimed he could resuscitate Colt from the hanging, providing the body did not remain suspended long, as he believed Colt's neck to be of such thickness that strangulation would be impossible.[47] Colt's friends put the doctor up in the Shakespeare Hotel on the morning of the scheduled hanging and planned to bring the body there from the Tombs for resuscitation.[47]

On the morning of November 14, 1842, Colt and Henshaw were married in the prison at a small ceremony conducted by Rev Henry Anthon, an Episcopal Minister, and witnessed by Samuel Colt and John Howard Payne. After the ceremony and a few hours before the scheduled execution, a fire broke out in the Tombs. After the fire was extinguished, Colt's body was found in his cell. He had stabbed himself in the heart with a clasp knife, believed to have been smuggled to him by a family member.[49] His body was taken by Rev Anthon and buried in the churchyard of St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery

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John Colt's Timeline

March 10, 1810
November 18, 1842
Age 32
New York, Kings County, New York, United States