Chauncey Judd

The Robbery

Captain Dayton's residence was on the eastern side of the meeting-house Green, about three fourths of a mile south from the present churches in Bethany. At a later period it became the abode of Colonel Elihu Sanford, the father of Elihu and Harvey Sanford, Esqs., long known as among the most respectable citizens of New Haven. On the other sides of the Green were the houses of the pastor, Rev. Mr. Hawley, and the physician, Dr. Hezekiah Hooker.

The party described in the last chapter reached their destination a little before midnight. They were seven in number, viz.: Alexander Graham, their leader; David and Henry Wooster, Jr., Samuel Doolittle, Jesse Cady, Amasa Scott, and Graham's companion from the island, whom we will call Martin, his real name not being known to us. Graham was armed with a pistol; two or three of the others carried muskets. The moon shone brightly, and the newly fallen snow, which covered the ground, rendered the night almost as light as day.

Lights were still visible at the houses across the Green, and it was apparent that the work in hand must be performed as noiselessly as possible, and without permitting any member of the household to escape. It was agreed that entrance should be effected into the bed-room where Dayton would probably be sleeping, and while two of the party remained in charge of him, the rest were to pass directly through into the chambers, and seize upon the men who might be lodged there. These were to be secured at whatever cost, while the women and children of the family should be frightened into silence, but not otherwise hurt.

The attack, as thus planned, was carried into execution. Stationing one of their number outside to give an alarm in case of danger, Graham procured a heavy bludgeon from the wood-pile, and with a single blow dashed in the bed-room window, sashes and all, through which he instantly sprang, followed by the rest. Fortunately for them, neither Captain Dayton nor the other persons supposed to be staying there were at home. The former had gone to Boston on business, and the latter had, a day or two before, removed with their effects to Waterbury. In fact, there was no one in the house at that time but Mrs. Dayton and three young children, one an infant six months old, and two young colored servants, a boy and a girl. The robbers were thus spared the severe, perhaps bloody, struggle which they anticipated.

Graham sprang to the bed, and before Mrs. Dayton could recover from her fright, clapped his hand over her mouth, commanding her to be silent under pain of instant death, at the same time assuring her that if she obeyed no personal violence was intended to her or her children. The rest of the gang, meanwhile, searched the chambers above, but found nobody.

After again charging Mrs. Dayton on her life to give no alarm, Graham retired from the bed-room, to afford her an opportunity to throw on her clothes; but the instinct of fear proved too strong for her prudence, and rushing to the broken window, she shrieked, "Murder! Help!" hoping that her voice might be heard by the neighbors across the Green. It was afterward ascertained that such was the fact, but owing to the distance and the murmur of the rude March wind the sound was not heeded. With a terrible oath, Graham burst again into the room, and seizing the frantic lady by the arm, drew her into the family room, and placed her in a chair; then set David Wooster by her side with a musket pointed at her breast, and orders to fire if she moved or made the least noise again. Her infant child, which had been sleeping by her side, was now awake and crying, to get rid of which he carried it out and deposited it in her arms; then ordering the sheets to be torn into strips, he bound her feet together, and tied her into the chair where she was sitting. The other children and servants were gathered into the same room and placed under Wooster's surveillance, with the assurance that if they did not keep still they should have the sharp bayonet put through them on the spot.

The way was now prepared for work, and right vigorously did they set about it. They were in high spirits at the success they had achieved, and the apparent ease with which the adventure was likely to be completed. From cellar to attic the house was ransacked. Large quantities of goods were found, and the most valuable packed into sacks and bundles. They were mostly manufactured articles of foreign production – coats, cloaks, ladies' gowns, laces, worsted hose, silk handkerchiefs, hollands or linen goods, several pairs of silver shoe-buckles, a spy glass, two muskets with accouterments, four halberds, a sort of pike with a hatchet near the point, etc. Much that they could not take away was destroyed. Diligent search was made for money; chests and closets were broken open, and every place where it seemed likely to be deposited examined. Nor was the search in vain. Between four and five hundred pounds in gold, silver, and copper coin, and two hundred Continental paper dollars were obtained.

Nor was this all. Their fatigue and excitement had given them keen appetites, which they resolved to appease before they left. The servants were ordered to bring upon the table in the kitchen whatever the pantry and the cellar afforded, one of the men accompanying them, to make sure of their obedience and silence. Others, seizing a light, went below to see what they could find. Liquors in abundance were discovered, and what was not wanted was destroyed, the faucets of their casks being opened, so that the earth received their contents.

During their repast a brief consultation was held as to the expediency of setting fire to the house and so completing the work of devastation they had begun. But there were practical difficulties in the way. Graham was hardened enough for any crime, and would not have hesitated to murder the whole family and leave them a prey to the flames. But the rest were less abandoned in villainy than he. Whatever was necessary for the accomplishment of their purpose they would have done, but deliberate and needless cruelty they shrunk from. They concluded, therefore, to leave Mrs. Dayton and the servants securely bound, with one of their number to guard until the remainder, with their heavy luggage, had gone out of sight, when he could follow at a rapid pace and overtake them.

Having at last satisfied their appetites, the robbers shouldered their packages and departed, first charging the lady, with fearful threats, not to attempt giving an alarm, or to leave the house till morning. They did not start in the direction they intended to go, but set off westward, as if bound again for Derby; but after a half mile, they turned northward by a side highway, and soon emerged upon the main road leading to Waterbury.

Meanwhile David Wooster, who had remained to guard Mrs. Dayton, not satisfied with what had already been accomplished, executed a little supplementary plundering on his own account. As she sat bound, in undress, before him, his cupidity was excited by the personal adornments which she wore in rather unusual profusion. He stripped the rings from her fingers, the jewels from her ears, a pair of gold sleeve-buttons from her chemise, and a string of gold beads, with a locket attached, from her neck. The lady was highly indignant at this outrage, which she regarded as a personal insult; but her anger availed no more than her fright. Having accomplished this, and deeming his comrades by this time sufficiently advanced on their way, he bade her good night and hastened onward to overtake them.

It was now past midnight. The air was sharp, the road in some places blocked with snow, and a hard two or three hours' journey was before them. What they most feared was, that they might meet some person on the way, especially as the brightness of the moon would make it impossible to avoid being seen. Two or three times they were thus alarmed; but by keeping a sharp lookout, and hiding in the bushes, or behind a fence, they managed to escape notice. Lights were occasionally visible in the homes they passed, and several times they excited a violent barking from dogs; but silence and speed were their best friends. Passing through the wild gorge of the Beacon Mountain, usually denominated the "Straits," they reached the "bridge" in Judd's Meadow, where they turned westward toward Gunntown, and shortly after met our young friend, Chauncey Judd, on his way homeward from Mr. Webb's, in the manner already related.