Portrait of Barnett Davenport
On February 3, 1780, Barnett Davenport murders Caleb Mallory, his wife, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren in rural Connecticut. Davenport was born in 1760; he enlisted in the American army as a teenager and had served at Valley Forge and Fort Ticonderoga. In the waning days of the Revolutionary War he took a job with Caleb Mallory, a farmer who operated a grist mill in Washington. Mallory and his wife Jane had two daughters who lived in the area.
One of the daughters had three children – a daughter Charlotte, 9, and sons John and Sherman, 6 and 4. In February 1780, Davenport convinced Caleb’s two daughters to go on a trip. With the two away from the house, Davenport entered the home on the night of February 3rd, and beat Caleb, Jane and Charlotte to death. Looting the house of its valuables, he set it ablaze as he left, killing John and Sherman. Davenport escaped on foot and hid out in a cave in Cornwall for six days. Captured, he was brought to Litchfield where he was arraigned and gave a full confession, likely to Reverend Judah Champion of Litchfield’s Congregational Church. He was put on trial, which was presided over by Roger Sherman, who previously had served on the committee that wrote the Declaration of Independence. Sherman sentenced Davenport to forty lashes and then to be hanged. The execution took place at Gallows Hill on May 8, 1780. Many books were written about the crime, and the perception of murderers began to change in America. Until then, crime was most often seen as the result of common sinners losing their way. Today, Davenport's crime might be ascribed to post-traumatic stress disorder.
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