Taking the Trade: Indictments

Here you will find two criminal bills of indictments drawn up sequentially by prosecutors in September 1746. (An indictment is a formal criminal accusation; in popular discourse, we often use the phrase “the charges.”) The first indictment, against John Hallowell for the capital crime of murder, was presented to the Windham County Superior Court grand jury early in the month: after hearing the initial evidence, the grand jurors signaled they were unwilling to have the murder case proceed to trial; they did this by signing the indictment “Ignoramus” (Latin for ‘we are ignorant’). The second indictment charged two men, Hallowell and Sarah’s lover, Amasa Sessions, with a lesser offense. This time, the grand jury endorsed the indictment “Billa Vera” (a true bill), meaning the two men would be tried.

As the Timeline shows, at the November 1746 trial, the defense attorneys successfully persuaded the court to quash the indictment due to technical deficiencies. There was a pause until March 1747, when the Superior Court (riding circuit) again met in Windham County. A third indictment, against Sessions alone, was not successful, but a fourth indictment, against Hallowell alone, went forward to trial.

These transcripts were made by Cornelia H. Dayton. They largely replicate the capitalization, punctuation, and abbreviations used in the original, handwritten documents. Square brackets indicate the transcriber’s interpolations or explanations.

Readers should be aware of the following, standard 18th-century abbreviations used in these documents: ye =the, yt = that, yy = they, sd. = said (meaning previously mentioned), wn = when, wch = which, wh & wth = with, tho’t = thought, acco = account, Ms. or Mrs.= Mistress, Ans. = Answer, &c = etcetera. Remember that spellings had not been standardized by the 1740s; educated folk might spell idiosyncratically, inconsistently, or phonetically at times.

Document Source: Windham County Superior Court Files (1726-1908), Box 172; and Superior Court Record Book 12; all in Record Group 3, Archives, History, and Genealogy Unit, Connecticut State Library, Hartford, CT.

(1) against John Hallowell for the murder of Sarah Grosvenor

(2) against John Hallowell and Amasa Sessions for conspiring to destroy the health of Sarah Grosvenor and to destroy the fruit of her body


(1) First indictment brought in this case: against John Hallowell for the murder of Sarah Grosvenor

  • dated 4 September 1746
  • endorsed by the grand jury “Ignoramus”

[The indictment begins by citing the murder clause of the Connecticut statute Against Capital Offenders and goes on to declare that John Hallowell in the summer of 1742 not having the fear of God before his eyes and instigated by the Devil did make an assault on the body of Sarah Grosvenor] under Color & pretext of administering to her as a Physician, [and did] give, administer unto and persuade her to take (She then being pregnant) Sundry Dangerous & Destructive Medicines and did allso further as well with his own hands as with a certain Instrument of Iron by him then used…violently Lacerate and ^grievously wound ye body of ye sd Sarah whereby the Child whereof she was then pregnant was caused to Perish and immaturely to Depart from her, upon which said medicinal applications and manual force & violence she…Languished for about Six Days & was then of sd Child Delivered as aforesd and from yt time…[for about three weeks] further languished and…Dyed. [thus the Jurors say that John Hallowell] by his Wicked and Diabolical practice [did feloniously murther said Sarah Grosvenor]


(2) Second indictment brought in the case: against John Hallowell and Amasa Sessions for conspiring to destroy the health of Sarah Grosvenor and to destroy the fruit of her body

  • dated September 20, 1746
  • endorsed “Billa Vera”
  • the following are excerpts from an amalgam of the filed original indictment and the summary of it in the Superior Court Record Book

[The Grand Jury present that] one Sarah Grosvenor, late of Pomfret in Windham County, now Deceased, being in ye Summer Season 1742 [was found pregnant and about four or five months gone with child, and] Sarah being in full life & health & free from all bodily Unsoundness or Disorder in Such her Pregnancy [one Amasa Sessions did apply to one John Hallowell now of Providence &c and with him advise] concerning Such Medicines…as might most Effectually procure an Abortion and immature ye sd fruit of her womb from her….That said John Hallowell did him therein advise &–therewith accordingly to sd purpose supply…that he said Sessions did thereupon soon after importune ye sd Sarah to take & She did accordingly take and use said Medicines at Sundry times– That soon after he ye said John Hallowell did allso repair to ye said Sarah in said Pomfret and with force and arms and by a violent manual opperation endavour to cause her ye said Sarahs Child to depart from her and yt he sd Sessions was there to[o] privy and Consenting [that 2 days after said operation, the Child was born without life, and three weeks later Sarah,] taken with gratte pain and feaver [died. Therefore John Hallowell and Amasa Sessions not having the fear of God before their Eyes and Instigated by the Devil did] Maliciously Council, Advise, Contrive and together Conspire the Health and Soundness of ye said Sarah to Distroy and ye sd fruit of her body to Distroy and cause to Perish…against the Peace….


Page Created: May 18, 2007
Last Modified: December 31, 2008