February 15, 1878
Madison, Indiana
John Beavers is executed for bashing a real estate agent’s head with a rock during a transaction

Beavers was convicted of killing real estate agent John Sewell on November 3, 1877. Sewell was beaten with a block of limestone weighing around five or six pounds which was left near his body, covered in blood and hair. His body was found inside a church after neighbors noticed the building was on fire, resting in the middle of the church floor with the fire burning hottest around his head.

Sewell had no identification on his person and the extensive damage from bludgeoning and burning to his face further inhibited police from identifying him. A few days later, John Sewell Jr. made a trip from Indianapolis in search of his father and was able to identify his remains.

In late November, a young teen found a satchel containing papers signed by Sewell, including a paper also signed by Beavers, located around two miles from where Beavers was staying. Suspicion had already landed upon Beavers after he remarked “Someone gave him a hell of a thumping” during the identification of Sewell’s body. He was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to hang.

The night before his execution, Beavers admitted his guilt to the clergyman assigned to him. A friend later revealed Beavers had confided in him as well, and stated Beavers had planned to murder Sewell for a year before the crime, for the purpose of obtaining the deed to some property without payment.

Beavers made no final statement before he was hanged, and was pronounced dead 13 minutes after he dropped through the gallows’ trapdoor.

“Beavers’ Fall.” The Indiana State Sentinel [Indianapolis, Indiana]. February 20, 1878 (image source, via newspapers.com)
“The Trial of Beavers at Madison.” The Cincinnati Inquirer. December 4, 1877
“Sewell’s Satchel.” The Cincinnati Inquirer. November 29, 1877
“Victim of the New Liberty Church Tragedy Identified.” The Cincinnati Inquirer. November 15, 1877

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