MURDER OF WIDOW ANNA AYER BY DANIEL DAVIS FARMER--POISONING OF SALLY FOSTER BLAISDELL AND BENJAMIN E. BLAISDEL--FREDERICK G. MERRIL--ASSAULT UPON DANIEL O. FLYNN--A MURDER AND SUICIDE OF MRS. BLANCRETTE AND JOSEPH BLANCHETTE
Account of the murder of the Widow Anna Ayer and subsequent circumstances connected with the trial and execution of Daniel Davis Farmer:
On the morning of the 5th of April, 1821, the inhabitants of the easterly part of Goffstown were thrown into intense excitement on account of an attempted murder, the previous evening, of Widow Anna Ayer and her daughter, Anna, who resided in a small house about one-half mile easterly of what is known as the Henry B. Stearns place, by Daniel Davis Farmer; the buildings long since gone, the site is hardly discernible, and is known only by a hole in the ground, which was formerly the cellar.
Daniel Davis Farmer was born in Derryfield, now Manchester, March 28,1793, of humble parentage who were in low circumstances. He resided with his parents until he was 14 years of age, when he went to live with John Keyes of Goffstown, where he remained six months. The next season he worked for John Keyes and Joshua Ayer, husband of Anna Ayer, one-half the time for each. For the next six years he labored in different places in Goffstown, principally in the eastern part.
In the spring of 1814 he purchased about twenty (20) acres of wild land in Goffstown of Joseph Poore for $50, upon which he erected a small house and barn, south of the present residence of Irad Poore and known as Simmons B. Cilley place, the house being burned about 1912, and August 10 of the same year he married Abigail Hackett of Dunbarton, and as a result of the union four children were born. In 1820 he disposed of his real estate in Goffstown and moved to Manchester in the month of December. It appears that he had a little trouble with Widow Ayer in the summer of 1820, relative to the cutting of the grass upon her place, which all passed over.
In January, 1821, she accused him of being the father of a prospective child, which she was liable to have, and he was arrested and at the trial pleaded not guilty. On the evening of April 4, Farmer went to William P. Riddle's store in what was then the village of Piscataquog, and purchased a pint of rum and a few crackers, and then proceeded to the residence of Widow Ayer, arriving at her house between eight and nine o'clock in the evening, where and when he attempted to take the life of the widow and her daughter, a girl 14 years of age, by pounding them over the head with a maple club until they were both insensible, and, leaving them there in the house in that condition, set fire to the same and departed, thinking that the house and their bodies would be consumed. The wounded parties regained consciousness, and the daughter extinguished the fire. The mother died upon the 12th of April, and the daughter after some time recovered. Farmer was arrested, and on the 21st day of April, 1821, was indicted for the murder at the Superior Court holden at Hopkinton, county of Hillsborough.
The prisoner was brought into court, arraigned upon the indictment and pleaded not guilty. Richard Fletcher and Parker Noyes were assigned as counsel for the prisoner. The trial was postponed to the October term of court at Amherst, on account of the daughter not having sufficiently recovered to appear as a witness. Farmer was remanded to jail at Amherst, where he remained until the 10th day of October, when he was brought into court.
A large number of people were in attendance and the trial was held in the meeting-house; many witnesses were summoned both by the state and the defendant, principally from the easterly part of Goffstown. At a late hour the case was given into the hands of the jury, who were absent about an hour, when they brought in their verdict of guilty. This was near the hour of midnight. The next day the sentence was pronounced by Justice Levi Woodbury, which was very affecting and pathetic, closing with these words: "These reflections on your deplorable destiny excite such commiseration in us as almost to disarm my tongue from its duty. But the great interests of Society, whose peace you have disturbed, whose laws you have invaded and profaned, and whose future tranquility you endanger are not to be betrayed.
"Listen, therefore, and reflect with solemnity the sword of human justice trembles over you; the dread sentence must be speedily executed, and then you launch into an unknown world; the fate of your immortal soul is sealed forever. Let me therefore exhort, crc you stand at the eternal bar of Christ, that you seize upon the salvation by his cross. I can say no more except to pronounce the judgment of the law, which is: that you be taken hence to prison, from prison to the place of execution and there hung by the neck until you are dead, and may the God of Compassion have mercy upon your soul."
The 3rd day of December was assigned for the execution. A reprieve of one month was granted by Governor Bell. After his sentence he carried on quite a correspondence with his relatives and friends, writing tender and affectionate letters to his wife, mother and sister, also quite an extended correspondence between himself and John Gould of Dunbarton, in all of which he seems to have met with a wonderful change of heart and perfectly resigned to meet death. His spiritual advisor during his imprisonment and execution was Rev. Nathan Lord, then pastor of the Congregational Church at Amherst, afterwards President of Dartmouth College until 1863.
The execution took place Thursday, January 3,1822, at about 2.30 o'clock in the afternoon. The gallows was erected a little south of the Common, on the spot now occupied by what is known as the Barnabas B. David residence, and in order to show the method of execution, and the morbid curiosity of people, we give an account of the same:
Although the day was intensely cold, ten thousand people at least were present to view the ceremony; every available space including the roofs of nearby buildings was occupied, and to such an extent was one roof loaded that it collapsed, The following was the order from the jail to the execution:First, four deputy sheriffs on horseback; second, Benjamin Pierce, high sheriff of the county; third, the prisoner accompanied by Reverends Messrs. Lord and Chever with two deputies, one on each side of the prisoner, in a double sleigh; fourth, the coffin on a sleigh bottom; fifth, the mourners; sixth, clergy attending; seventh, four deputies on horseback on the right and left of the prisoner; eighth, four deputies on horseback in the rear.
On arriving at the gallows, Farmer ascended the stage upon which the platform was erected, the death warrant was read, and prayer was offered by Rev. Mr. Lord, in which the prisoner joined. He then ascended the platform and the fatal rope was placed about his neck.
At that time he seemed to be suffering severely from the effects of the cold; Rev. Mr. Lord stepped forward, and taking his cloak from his shoulders placed it over him. A handkerchief was given him with the directions to drop it when he was ready. He uttered a silent prayer, closed in a firm and audible voice, gave the signal, and the drop fell. He hung about twenty minutes, and by the surgeons present was pronounced dead. His remains were taken down and delivered to his brother, who conveyed them to Manchester, where they were buried on the following Sunday. A large audience attended his funeral, and a sermon was delivered by Rev. Mr. Paige, from Psalms XCIII, 1, "The Lord Reigneth."
Benjamin F. Blaisdell moved from the easterly part of Goffstown to New Boston Village, purchasing the farm now owned by Charles Shedd, and engaged in mercantile pursuits. His family consisted of himself, wife, and four children, also his mother, Mrs. Sally Foster Blaisdell, widow of the late Henry Blaisdell.
On the 13th of January, 1849, Letitia S. Blaisdell, an adopted daughter of the late Henry and Sally Foster Blaisdell, came to New Boston to visit in the family. At her own request, the night after her arrival, she slept with her adopted mother. The next morning the old lady was taken sick, soon became insensible, lingered through the day and the next night, and died on the morning of the 15th. New Bos-ton history has the following in regard to the affair:
"After the death of Mrs. Blaisdell, Letitia went to Wentworth, spent four weeks and returned February 16. The next day after her return, Benjamin E., a boy two years and a half old, was taken sick and after twelve hours of suffering died, the physicians affirming that the child must have been poisoned.
"Soon after the burial of the child Mr. Blaisdell and his wife were taken sick with every symptom of poison, but by timely aid were relieved. Suspicions now began to rest on Letitia, and she soon confessed; admitted that she had administered morphine to the aged mother and the child, and put the same in the tea which Mr. and Mrs. Blaisdell drank, and that she had provided herself with strychnine if the morphine failed. She held a forged note against Mr. Blaisdell and intended to destroy the whole family. This was undertaken from no ill will towards any member of the family, but evidently with the impression she could gain possession of the property. To this crime she affirmed she had been impelled by the assistance of another person."
She was arrested and indicted for murder, and Franklin Pierce, afterwards President of the United States, and David Steele were assigned as counsel.
April 24,1849, was the day set for the trial. The house was filled with interested spectators; the indictment was read, and in an audible voice she pleaded guilty, and she was sentenced to be hung on the 30th of August, 1849, but this sentence was commuted to imprisonment for life, and in 1861 she was pardoned by Governor Goodwin, and subsequently married a man who had likewise served in the same prison. The person whom she charged with impelling her in this nefarious crime was never afterwards held in very high esteem by the people of Goffstown.
Soon after this Mr. Blaisdell returned to Goffstown, purchasing what was known as the Dr. Gove place in Goffstown Village, where Dr. Charles F. George resided at the time of his decease. Here he continued to reside during the remainder of his life, engaged in trade and manufacturing.
Frederick G. Merrill, son of Stephen and Lydia Short Merrill, a resident of Parkers Village, was missing from his home the last of October, 1872. No diligent search was made for him, but there were suspicions of foul play on the part of some, and accidental death by others. During the last days of March, when the ice in the Piscataquog River was breaking up, mingled with the floe, the body of a man in state of nudity was discovered about 6 o'clock in the afternoon as it went over the dam, at what is now the gristmill and bobbin shop.
The next forenoon the water having somewhat subsided, the body was found on the bank of the river below Grasmere, and brought back to Goffstown. It proved to be the body of Frederick G. Merrill with head and face shaven and somewhat disfigured on account of time and exposure, it being universally conceded that he had been dead some time. A coroner's jury was impannelled which convened at Man-chester, several days occupied hearing the evidence in the ease, but no indictment was ever returned and the matter was dropped.
Upon the 30th day of October, 1875, what appeared to be an attempt at murder occurred at the home of John G. Dodge, upon the north Uncanoonuc Mountain. Upon the morning of the day above named one Daniel O'Flynn, a boy about 18 years of age living in the family, was found to have been seriously wounded during the previous night by successive blows upon the head with a club. Adaline P. Dodge was arrested, and at the following session of the Grand Jury was indicted, and at the January term of court holden at Manchester in 1876, she pleaded not guilty.
After a somewhat lengthy trial she was found guilty and sentenced to state prison for the term of eight years, but was pardoned by Governor Cheney during the last days of his administration after serving less than two years.
Joseph Blanchette, of French descent, and his family, consisting of his wife and several children, resided for some years in Goffstown Village in one of the cottages upon the south side of the railroad southerly of Kendall, Hadley & Co.'s shop.
In the early part of the season of 1906, on account of some dissatisfaction in the family, his wife and children moved into what is commonly known as the John Whistle house in the outskirts of Riverdale within the limits of New Boston, and a short distance westerly of Goffstown line, on the road leading from Parkers to Riverdale.
Blanchette continued to reside in Goffstown where he was employed. Upon the last of December or first days of January he visited the city of Manchester and purchased a revolver. Upon the 8th day of January, 1907, in the afternoon, he went to Riverdale and called upon his wife and family. A short time after his arrival and after a brief exchange of conversation he drew the revolver from his pocket and deliberately shot his wife, who shortly after expired.
The children realizing the enormity of the crime hastily fled to the store and briefly related the occurrence, and immediately, accompanied by other persons, returned to the house, where they found that during their absence he had turned the revolver upon himself and inflicted a fatal wound, from the effects of which he died in the evening.
The sorrow-stricken family of children beheld the gruesome and frightful sight of father and mother, the murderer and murdered in the agonies of death, which soon put an end to their sufferings.