Augusta, (Kennebec) July 11, 1806.
At an early hour on Wednesday morning last, the inhabitants of this town were alarmed with the dreadful information,
that Capt. James Purington, of this place, in cold blood, had murdered his wife, six children, and himself.
His oldest son, with a slight wound, escaped, and his second daughter was found desperately wounded, and probably
supposed dead by the father.
Between the hours of 2 and 3, a near neighbor, Mr. Dean Wyman,
was awakened by the lad who escaped, with an incoherent account of the horrid scene from which he just fled; he, with a Mr.
Ballard, another neighbor, instantly repaired to the fatal spot, and here, after having lighted a candle, a scene was presented
which beggars all description.
In the outer room lay prostrate on his face, and weltering
in his gore, the perpetrator of the dreadful deed, his throat cut in the most shocking manner, and the bloody razor lying
on a table by his side.
In an adjoining bed-room lay Mrs. Purington in her bed, her head
almost severed from her body and near her on the floor, a little daughter about ten years old, who probably hearing the cries
of her mother, ran to her relief from the apartment in which she slept, and was murdered by her side.
In another apartment was found the two oldest and the youngest daughters, the first, aged 19, dreadfully butchered;
the second desperately wounded, reclining her head on the body of the dead infant 18 months old, and in a state of horror
and almost total insensibility.
In the room with the father, lay in bed with their throats
cut, the two youngest sons, the one 8, the other 6 years old. And in another room was found on the hearth, most dreadfully
mangled, the second son, aged 12; he had fallen with his trousers under one arm, with which he had attempted to escape. On
the breastwork over the fireplace, was the distinct impression of a bloody hand, where the unhappy victim probably supported
himself before he fell. The whole house seemed covered with blood, and near the body of the murderer lay the deadly axe. From
the surviving daughter we have no account of this transaction; her dangerous situation prevents any communication, and but
faint expectations are entertained of her recovery.
From the son, aged 17, we learn the
following. That he was awakened by the piercing cries of his mother, and involuntarily shrieking himself, he leapt from his
bed and ran towards the door of his apartment; he was met by his father with an axe in his hand (the moon shone bright) who
struck him, but being so near each other, the axe passed over his shoulder and one corner of it entered his back, making a
slight wound ; his father then struck at him one or twice and missed him; at this moment his younger brother, who slept in
the same bed with him, jump'd from it and attempted to get out at the door; to prevent this the father attacked him, which
gave the eldest an opportunity to escape. During the dread conflict, not a word was uttered. From the appearance of his wounds
generally, it seems to have been the design of Purrington to dissever the heads from the bodies, excepting the two youngest,
whose throats it is supposed were cut with a razor.
The oldest daughter and second son
had several wounds, the probable consequence of their resistance. We have no evidence to lead us satisfactorily to the motives
for this barbarous and unnatural deed. Capt. Purrington was 46 years of age, and had lately removed from Bowdoinham to this
town-- and independent farmer, with a handsome estate, of steady, correct, and industrious habits, and of a good character
and fair reputation, and strongly attached to his family. He had been heard lately to say, that he felt much distressed at
the unpromising appearance of his farm; that he should be destitute of bread for his family, and hay for his cattle, and dreaded
the consequences. The Sunday before his death, it is said, he wrote to his brother, and informed him that on the reception
of the letter he should be dead, and requesting him to take charge of his family. In the letter was a death's head marked
out, and it was sealed with black.
It was found on Monday by his wife, and gave her the
greatest alarm and uneasiness. This her husband perceiving, and learning the cause, he attempted to console her by assurances
that he had no intention of committing suicide, but that he had a presentiment of his approaching death. Capt. Purington was
a warm believer in the doctrine of universal salvation, though it is not said of him, that he was a bigoted maniac or a religious
enthusiast. His whole conduct the day preceding and during the last and bloody scene of his life, seems marked with the utmost
coolness and deliberation. Towards the close of the day he ground the fatal axe, and when the finally retired to bed, he was
reading the bible. The jury of inquest have brought him in guilty of willful murder on hi wife and six children, and that
as a felon he did kill and murder himself.
We do not recollect that the annals of Massachusetts
can furnish a transaction so distressing.
The ways of Providence are dark and mysterious!
Yet God is Just! and man, weak man, must tremble and adore!
After Coroner's Inquest
had executed its office, the Selectmen took chard of the dead. Their remains in eight coffins were conveyed to the Meeting-house.
Mrs. Purrington and her children were placed in the body of the house; Capt. Purington
in the porch.
The public services at the Meeting house were solemn and pertinent--commenced
by a Funeral Anthem--Prayer by Rev. Mr. Stone--Sermon by Rev. Mr. Taylor--a Prayer by Rev. Mr. Merritt.
The bodies of Mrs. Purington and her children were interred in the common burying ground; Capt. Purrington
in the high-way adjoining the fame, and the deadly axe and razor buried with him.
were attended to their graves by a numerous and respectable procession, which was arranged by John Davis, Reuel Williams and
H.W. Fuller, Esqrs. appointed and acting as Marshals on the occasion.
The procession moved
over the bridge and through the principal streets, to the place of interment, in the order following.
The Coroner, and
Rev. Mr. Haskell, Rev. Mr. Stone.
The Corpse of Mrs. Purington,
And her six children, according to their
ages, supported by bearers attended
pall-holders, followed by
The surviving Son.
Sheriff of the County.
Judges of Courts.
A cart bearing the body of Capt. Purington, closed the procession.
The Church service was performed at the grave over the bodies of Mrs. Purington and children
by the Rev. Mr. Haskell, in a very solemn and impressive manner--The procession then returned to the Meeting-house, where
the solemnities of the day were closed by another and an appropriate prayer by the Rev. Mr. Gillet.