Jonathan Hoppe

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Works in Progress

A continuing work which has taken years thus far and indeed promises many more years of research and writing is my planned three-volume set “Capital Punishment in Chester County, Pennsylvania.” Contrary to its rather morbid subject matter, this work as written is more of a study of groups underrepresented in the historical record — women, African Americans, immigrants, and the economically disadvantaged.

Jabez Boyd was executed in 1845 for the brutal 1844 murder of teenager Wesley Patton on his family farm in West Goshen. Boyd suffered a  terrible amount of abuse in his life, as did his ancestors. The horrific cycle of violence did not end with him; his nephew George Pharaoh would be executed in 1851 for another brutal murder.

Jabez Boyd was executed in 1845 for the brutal 1844 murder of teenager Wesley Patton on his family farm in West Goshen. Boyd suffered a terrible amount of abuse in his life, as did his ancestors. The horrific cycle of violence did not end with him; his nephew George Pharaoh would be executed in 1851 for another brutal murder.

Unfortunately, at least in Chester County, these murder cases offer some of the most detailed glimpses into ways of life almost wholly overlooked in published histories, and through them we can again give a voice to those people who can no longer speak for themselves.

George Pharaoh was executed in 1851 for the murder of schoolteacher Rachel Sharpless at Rocky HIll, East Goshen township. His brother Richard later married into my family.

George Pharaoh was executed in 1851 for the murder of schoolteacher Rachel Sharpless at Rocky HIll, East Goshen township. His brother Richard later married into my family.

And strangely enough, though very local in nature, many of these cases have had impacts far beyond the borders of Chester County. From the horrific execution of Edward Williams in 1830 that prompted a change in law, to the followers that met “Mother Rebecca” Jackson at the Chester County Prison as she preached to a condemned man in 1834, to the role of photography in life that the infamous Udderzook case would precipitate, these cases have affected us all.

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