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et al. Trial of Bathsheba Spooner: 1778

Bathsheba Plots To Kill Her Husband

In March 1777 Ezra Ross came to Brookfield. He was only 16, but had already served for a year in the Revolutionary War in a regiment under George Washington. He was making his way home, on foot, to Linebrook, Massachusetts, a distance of some 240 miles from Washington's encampment. Disease was rampant among the troops and it was a severe winter. Ross was ill, and Bathsheba Spooner took him into her household for several weeks and nursed him back to health. He then continued on his way home. He visited the Spooner household again in July 1777 when on his way back to rejoin the army, and he came back to Brookfield in December after participating in the four-month campaign that culminated with the surrender of the British under General Burgoyne at Saratoga.

During the following two months Ezra Ross came to be on good terms with Joshua Spooner, and began to accompany him on short business trips. He also became Bathsheba's lover, and she apparently began to urge him to poison her husband. In early February when Ezra Ross left with Joshua Spooner on an extended trip to Princeton, he had with him a bottle of nitric acid for that purpose; but he did not use it. Instead of coming back to Brookfield at the conclusion of business in Princeton, he returned home to Linebrook.

From subsequent events it has been inferred that it must have been around the end of January 1778, that Bathsheba Spooner realized she was pregnant, and her behavior became increasingly irrational. It has been generally assumed that Ezra Ross was the father, but this cannot be known with certainty; there are suggestions in the records that she may have had other lovers. In the months following the British surrender, there were many displaced British soldiers at large in the Massachusetts countryside. In mid-February, while her husband and Ezra Ross were in Princeton, Bathsheba invited two, Sergeant James Buchanan (spelled "Buchannon" in some records) and William Brooks, into her house, and according to servants and neighbors, entertained them lavishly. According to their subsequent confessions, Bathsheba discussed her plans for killing her husband with them, and, when he returned, not having been poisoned by Ezra, she began to try to recruit them to assist her. She also wrote to Ezra informing him of these developments, and he returned quickly to Brook-field, arriving on Saturday February 28, the same day that Bathsheba returned from spending two days in Worcester. In the late evening of the following day the three men waited at the house for Joshua Spooner to return home from an evening spent drinking with friends. As he entered the garden William Brooks attacked, beat, and strangled him. When he was either dead or unconscious Buchanan and Ross helped to push him, head down, into the well.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1637 to 1832et al. Trial of Bathsheba Spooner: 1778 - Bathsheba Plots To Kill Her Husband, The Soldiers Are Arrested And Confess