Whilst paging through the abstracts of the Hunterdon Republican by Bill Hartman, I came across this wonderful bit of news from the February 18, 1869 issue:
“Complicated Thefts! over a period since August 1868. Primarily Delaware Township, but also in Lambertville. The primary thief: Justus L. Hammett, who stated: “ I stole because I could not sleep good nights; I done it for a pastime.”; also implicated: Albertus Hammett; Peter Young and Hiram Young; the Young’s lived in East Amwell, no location for the Hammett’s, although Justus stashed some of his loot at Hiram’s house. List of Property stolen:
11 water melons from Edmund Holcombe;
3 hives of honey from Elizabeth Naylor;
2 hives of honey from Henry F. Trout, of Delaware;
2 turkeys from Joshua Primmer, of Sergeantsville;
2 turkeys from Ira Moore;
6 or 7 turkeys from Henry Quick, Sergeantsville;
7 or 8 turkeys from Robert Holcombe, Delaware;
6 from Sylvester Rooks;
1 from Samuel Higgins, Sergeantsville;
some from Amos Holcombe, Ringoes;
4 of William Parks;
7 from Elisha Holcombe, Lambertville;
6 or 7 from Henry F. Trout;
1 from Bray Johnson;
a number of chickens from: Theodore Housel, Lambertville; Solomon Holcombe, Jr. and John Lambert, Jr., Lambertville.
Then, 15 bushels of wheat and a heifer from John Lambert, Jr.;
A load of wood from the Belvidere Delaware R. R. Co. and a load of rails from along the Flemington R. R.
A pot of butter of about 18 lbs. from Abraham Hagaman, near Sandy Ridge.
2 sheep from William H. Barber, Delaware.
Then on to Lambertville where:
boots stolen from the store of William H. Slack;
a wheelbarrow from the store of Risler & Livezey;
a bucket from the Hotel of John Corson;
A quantity of buckwheat from Abraham Hagaman;
a horse blanket from the hotel shed of Amos Moore.
Then a buffalo robe from a carriage belonging to Horace Runkle.
4 Sheep and a shovel from Pierson R. Niece, of Raven Rock;
Feed and milk pans from Lambert Melick;
an axe from the wood pile of George Gaddis, Lambertville.”
It seems that turkeys were very popular in 1869. One wonders what Hammett and friends did with all these ill-gotten items. There must have been quite an uproar about all these thefts. A look at the original newspapers seems in order.
UPDATE, 1/23/2014: Some interest was expressed in the outcome of this string of robberies. Here is what the Hunterdon Republican tells us, courtesy again of Bill Hartman:
April 22, 1869: Grand Jury indictments. Nineteen bills of indictments were charged against the four persons involved with the Delaware Township depredations: Hiram Young; Peter Young; Justus L.Hammett and Albertus Hammett. The trial of Hiram Young for stealing a heifer from John Lambert, ended in a verdict of guilty. The next was for taking a pot of butter from Abraham Hagaman. The trial was in session as the newspaper went to press.
June 3, 1869: The trial of the indictments against Hiram Young and Peter Young, for stealing turkeys, was finished with a verdict of guilty. They both received 2 years imprisonment at hard labor in the State Prison. Both Justus L. Hammett and Albertus Hammett, were sentenced to three months in the county jail.
It appears that Henry and Peter Young were considered more at fault than the Hammett brothers, which is surprising since the paper had previously identified Justus Hammett as “the primary thief.”
The census records tell us a little about the Hammett family. As Helen has noted (in the comments), they were still at home when the 1870 census was taken. By 1880, Justus/Justice Hammett had married and moved away to Middletown, Susquehanna Co., PA. His parents, Nicholas Hammett and Sarah Ann Godown went with him. He was 73 and Sarah was 65 that year. Albertus G. Hammett had also moved, first to Scranton, PA, and eventually Union, Broome Co., NY where he died in 1916.
I have no information on Henry and Peter Young.
January 22, 2014 @ 1:05 pm
This is comical how this guy got away with so much and not have gotten himself shot! Everyone else must have had no trouble sleeping since they didn’t hear the turkeys making a fuss on a stranger in their pen.
January 22, 2014 @ 1:51 pm
I checked the 1870 census to see how old these young men were. Justus, 21, and Albertus, 17, were still living with their parents in 1870 (in Delaware Twp.), so presumably in 1868, as well. Just what did they do with well over 40 turkeys that didn’t wave red flags much earlier? Playing Robin Hood, maybe?
January 22, 2014 @ 2:50 pm
Great story! At least they spread the wealth… uh, theft.
January 22, 2014 @ 4:53 pm
Every day was Thanksgiving for the young miscreants of Hunterdon County!
January 22, 2014 @ 6:05 pm
Marfy, this is so funny! What on earth did they do with all those turkeys and chickens? Did they just do this because they couldn’t sleep, or did they sell this stuff?
Thanks for the historical entertainment!
January 23, 2014 @ 8:12 am
I’m curious what level of Hunterdon justice was served these youngsters.
January 23, 2014 @ 10:44 am
Marfy, Thanks for the news of yesteryear! It does my heart good to see that putting the Hunterdon Republican newspaper onto the Internet reaps some benefit for genealogists and historians like you.
January 23, 2014 @ 11:13 am
Mr. Bill, If it weren’t for your work on Hunterdon newspapers, my articles would be not half as interesting. The thanks go to you.
January 23, 2014 @ 1:27 pm
Very sensible of him to steal a shovel along with the 4 sheep from Mr. Niece.
William Honachefsky Jr
January 23, 2014 @ 3:01 pm
Well done, Marfy!