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The Hanging of Eliphalet Green

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser





On Christmas Eve, December 24, 1823, two men - William Wright and Eliphalet Green - were working as laborers in the distillery of Abel Moore near the Wood River Creek, which ran near Moore’s property. Moore’s homestead was located along Rt. 140, just east of the Alton State Hospital. A quarrel began between the two men which ended in a fist fight. Green was badly beaten. He became furious with rage. Green, who was thought of as “half-witted,” got his gun, loaded it with a charge of gunpowder and one lead bullet, and deliberately shot William Wright as he was retreating to the house. Wright was struck in the right side, and died immediately thereafter. Green went to Edwardsville to the office of Squire William Ogle and gave himself up. After hearing Green’s story, Ogle committed him to the jail, where Sheriff Nathaniel Buckmaster took charge of him.

Sheriff Nathaniel BuckmasterLetter from Sheriff Nathaniel Buckmaster to Judge Reynolds.
Judge Reynolds:
“Dear Sir, Painful as it is to me, it becomes my duty to inform you that there was committed to the common prison of this county, on the 25th of December, a man by the name of Eliphalet Green, charged of having committed a murder on the body of one William Wright. I take this opportunity of making the facts known to you, and should you think proper to order a special court, give timely notice and I will govern myself accordingly. It will be for your consideration whether a speedy trial will be to the interest of the country or not. Yours respectfully, Nathaniel Buckmaster, Sheriff.”

A trial was held on January 13, 1824 in the courthouse in Edwardsville, which had been erected in 1817. The jurors were: Emmanuel J. West, foreman; Lyman Gillet, Ephraim Wood, Matthew B. Torrence, William Hinch, John Gonterman, Julius Barnsback, John Good, Caleb Gonterman, Guy Paddock, Jacoby Judy, John T. Lusk, Low Jackson, James Watts, Oliver Balster, James Tunnell, Erastus Brown, and John C. Barnett. John Reynolds, Justice of the Supreme Court of Illinois, heard the case.

The following were witnesses at the trial: Squire William Ogle, James Dabs, Susannah Bradley, Amos Bradley, Polly Bradley, George Debaum, and Abel and Mary Moore.

The Trial. From the “History of Madison County, 1882.”
At a special term of the circuit court, begun and held for the county of Madison aforesaid, in the courthouse in the town of Edwardsville, inJudge John Reynolds said county, on the 13th day of January 1824, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-four. The Grand Jurors of the people of the State of Illinois, residents and good and lawful men of the county of Madison aforesaid, impaneled, sworn and charged to inquire for the body of the county of Madison aforesaid, in the name and by the authority of the people of the State of Illinois, upon their oath, present that one Eliphalet Green, late of said county of Madison, yeoman, not having the fear of God before his eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil, on the twenty-fourth day of December, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-three, in the county of Madison aforesaid, with force and arms feloniously, willfully, and of his malice aforethought, did make an assault upon the body of one William Wright, in the peace of God, then and there being, and the said Eliphalet Green, a certain gun of the value of twenty dollars, then and there charged with gunpowder and one leaden bullet, which gun so loaded and charged as aforesaid, he, the said Eliphalet Green, in both his hands, then and there had and held to, against and upon the said William Wright, then and there, feloniously, willfully, and of his malice aforethought, did shoot and discharge and the said Eliphalet Green, with the leaden bullet aforesaid, out of the gun aforesaid, then and there by force of the gunpowder, shot, discharged, and sent forth as aforesaid, the aforesaid William Wright in and upon the right side of him, the said William Wright, near the right pap of the right side of him, the said William Wright, then and there, with the leaden bullet aforesaid, out of the gun aforesaid, by the said Eliphalet Green, so as aforesaid, shot, discharged and sent forth, feloniously, willfully, and of his malice aforethought, did strike, penetrate and wound, giving to the said William Wright, with the leaden bullet aforesaid, so as aforesaid shot, discharged, and sent forth out of the gun aforesaid by the said Eliphalet Green, in and upon the right side of him, the said William Wright, near the right pap of him, the said William Wright, one mortal wound, of the depth of four inches and of the breadth of two inches, of which said mortal wound the said William Wright then and there instantly died, and so the jurors aforesaid, upon their oath aforesaid, do say, that the said Eliphalet Green feloniously, willfully, and of his malice aforethought, him, the said William Wright, then and there in manner and form aforesaid, did kill and murder, to the great displeasure of Almighty God, to the evil example of all others in like cases offending, contrary to the form of the statute in such cases made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the same people of the State of Illinois.
Signed, James Turner, Attorney.

The trial ended January 14, 1824, and resulted in the following verdict: “We, the jury, find the prisoner guilty of murder.” Signed by James Mason, Foreman.

The Sentencing. From “The History of Madison County, 1882.”
On January 15, 1824, Eliphalet Green was led again into the courthouse in the custody of Sheriff Nathaniel Buckmaster. Judge John Reynolds asked Green if he had anything to say before sentencing, which Green replied that he had nothing but what he had already said. The Judge passed the sentence of hanging by the neck until dead, and that the sentence was to be carried out February 12, 1824, between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., at some “convenient” place near the town of Edwardsville. It was further ordered that Green pay the cost of the hanging. Judge Reynolds told Green that “it is not I that condemns you, but the jury and the law.” The death warrant of Eliphalet Green was issued on February 11, 1824, signed and sealed by Joseph Conway, clerk of the Circuit Court of Madison County.

Before dawn on February 12, 1824, Green was taken from his cell and was led by Sheriff Nathaniel Buckmaster (who was “agitated” at the thought of hanging Green) to a “convenient” place in the creek bottom near the bridge on the Springfield Road. Spectators came from a distance, and it is related that a number of Indians had assembled to see how civilized people killed their fellow men. Green was led to the gallows, where he sincerely repented of his “wicked deeds.” Some of the leading men “had their sympathies aroused for him.” The opinion of the public was divided in reference to his crime and its penalty. Sheriff Buckmaster hung Eliphalet Green until he was dead. Green, who died like a man, was buried near the place of execution. It is stated that Paris Mason guarded the grave against body snatchers, and caused the corpse to be taken up and re-interred in his (Mason’s) own graveyard. This was the first hanging, or execution, in Madison County, and the second in Illinois.

The cost of the hanging was as follows:
Cash to Watts for making gallows and coffin for Eliphalet Green, $25.50
Paid cash to White for a hook to hang him on, $2.00
Cash to Paris Mason for a rope, $1.50
Cash for a small rope at Pogue’s, $.50
Cash for digging grave and filling it, to Jarrot and Roberts, $3.50
Cash for shroud and cap, $4.18
Cash paid to Jarrot for driving wagon with coffin to place of execution, $.50
Cash to Meeker for nails to make the gallows, $1.40
Total: $39.08

Nathaniel Buckmaster, Sheriff of Madison County at the time of the murder, came to Illinois in 1817 and settled in Edwardsville. He was a brick mason by trade, and also made money in real estate. He served for many years as County Sheriff, and twice as a member of the General Assembly. Buckmaster served during the Black Hawk War (1831-32). He and his family moved to Alton in 1835, where he served as postmaster and Warden of the Alton State Prison.

John Reynolds, who served as Judge during the trial, served on the Illinois Supreme Court from 1818 – 1825. He was also a member of the Illinois House of Representatives (1826-1830; 1834-1837; 1836-1843; 1846-1848; 1852-1854). Reynolds was also the fourth Illinois Governor (1830-1834).

The hanging of Eliphalet Green – the first in Madison County and the second in the State of Illinois – took place at a creek bottom, near a bridge on the Springfield Road. The Springfield Road is located at the north of town, and was near the original town square (where the jail and courthouse were).

Paris Mason, who guarded the gravesite of Eliphalet Green and later had the body reinterred in a different location, was one of three brothers (Hail, James, and Paris or Perez), who were natives of Grafton County, New Hampshire. Their father, Perez Mason Sr., fought during the Revolutionary War. The Mason brothers came to Edwardsville in 1817, when Illinois was still a Territory. James Mason bought the Kirkpatrick property in the original town of Edwardsville (to the north). He later moved to what would be Grafton, Jersey County, Illinois, to established a ferry across the Mississippi. After James’ death, his widow and Paris Mason platted the town of Grafton. He later had a falling out with the family, and moved west of Grafton to Mason Hollow, where he built a home and warehouse, and operated a store at Mason’s Landing (Upper Grafton). His stone house was located at the foot of Springfield Street in Grafton. Hail Mason became a preacher, and was one of the early settlers of Godfrey. He also helped to found Clifton (Terrace).


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