February 3, 1780
Litchfield County, Connecticut
Barnett Davenport (19) kills his employer Caleb Mallory, his wife Jane Mallory, and three of their grandchildren
Davenport had been in trouble with the law since childhood; during his confession of the Mallory murders he admitted to committing several crimes as well as frequently battling the urge to kill. He joined the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War at the age of 16 but deserted, and assumed the identity of his brother Nicholas.
In December of 1779, Davenport met Caleb Mallory and explained he was homeless. Caleb invited Davenport to live with and work for him, which Davenport accepted.
Shortly after midnight on February 3, 1880, Davenport rose from his bed and sprinkled pine shavings around the home which he doused with turpentine. He then entered the bedroom where Caleb and Jane slept. Davenport held a “great knotty club of green hickory wood” which he used to beat Mr. and Mrs. Mallory with. He struck each once initially, but continued to beat them to ensure their deaths, “dashing out their brains” in the process. One final attack came as he stabbed each in the throat with a carving knife.
Staying with the Mallory family were their three grandchildren, whose names and ages vary between accounts. The eldest was no more than 8 years old, however, who was in the Mallorys’ bed at the time of the attack and was killed with her grandparents. After the beatings, Davenport barricaded the door to the bedroom where the younger grandchildren slept, stole any valuables he could carry, and set fire to the house. There were no survivors.
Suspicion fell on “Nicholas” Davenport immediately. The real Nicholas was apprehended, though Barnett was found hiding in a cave six days after the murders. He spoke to one of the town’s clergy, leaving a detailed 14-page confession (pictured in part). Barnett was sentenced to 40 lashes and to be by hanged, his sentence carried out on May 8, 1780.
The Independent Chronicle and the Universal Adviser. Boston: Nathaniel Willis, June 1, 1780. Vol. 12, no 614. Accessed: February 3, 2019. https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/21962/lot/77/
Hutson, Nanci G. “New Milford historian unearths account of America’s first mass murder.” News Times. January 30, 2011. Accessed: February 3, 2019. https://www.newstimes.com/local/amp/New-Milford-historian-unearths-account-of-984284.php
Vermilyea, Peter. “Gallows Lane and the Execution of Barnett Davenport.” Connecticut History. Accessed: February 3, 2019. https://connecticuthistory.org/gallows-lane-and-the-execution-of-barnett-davenport/
“Born A Criminal.” Burlington Daily Sentinel. August 15, 1876
“Hartford, May 9.” The Pennsylvania Packet [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania]. May 30, 1780