A public execution in the East Village, 1824

In the early 19th century, the East Village of today had a country feel. The city had just adopted the street grid, and large portions of Peter Stuyvesant’s Bouwerie (in the sketch below) had yet to be parceled out and developed.

 Which made it the perfect site for a public execution in April 1824. Second Avenue and 13th Street is considered the actual corner where a man was hanged in front of 50,000 spectators.

The story is simple: John Johnson ran a boarding house at 65 Front Street. In 1823, he invited a sailor named James Murray to stay at his home. 

Murray had money on him—which Johnson wanted. So in the middle of the night, he bludgeoned Murray in his bed and tossed his body in a nearby alley.

Eventually Johnson confessed to the murder. After a quick trial, he was sentenced to die. On April 2nd, he was brought to an open field near where the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary is today and hanged.

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5 Responses to “A public execution in the East Village, 1824”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Can’t imagine it once looked like that…compared to the ugly building towering over the sight now. Does anyone recall the fire which knocked out telephone service for weeks on end in the late 70s?

  2. Nabe News: March 15 - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle Says:

    […] public execution that transpired at the corner of Second Avenue and Thirteenth Street in 1824 [Ephemeral […]

  3. remark Says:

    I remember well the fire in the telephone company building on 2nd Avenue that knocked out phone service for weeks inside of the apartment buildings and businesses for weeks. The phone company installed many public phones in the neighborhood and when the the phones began to work again the phone company had a major glitch and did not bill for any long distance calls—UNTIL about a year later–what a mess and many hundreds of dollars to be figured out–divvied up between my several roommates and paid off over several months!!!!!

  4. Ilene Says:

    I worked for the phone company in phone repair in Harlem (one of the first women) and they sent some of us down there after the fire. We worked 11-hour days, six days a week for quite a while. I remember it well!

  5. Lovely houses and lush front yards on 18th Street | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] the East Side went from countryside to part of the city In the 18th and 19th centuries his heirs sold off land that once featured […]

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