Taking the Trade
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What follows is a reconstruction of the chronology of events in the Grosvenor-Sessions courtship between Pomfret residents Amasa Sessions and Sarah Grosvenor, the actions that led to young Sarah’s death, and the legal proceedings that commenced in 1745 after a mysterious 3-year gap. Note that the dates appearing in square brackets are conjectural or inferred—based on Cornelia Dayton’s careful reading of the surviving documents.

Jump to: 1742, 1745, 1746, 1747

Month Day Event
February to mid-March
Conception of the illegitimate child of Sarah Grosvenor and Amasa Sessions (the conflicting evidence suggests that conception could have occurred anytime from early January to early May)
Mid to late May
Sarah Grosvenor concludes she is pregnant, tells Amasa Sessions, and starts taking the trade [estimated timing]
July [17] Zerviah is suspicious that Sarah is pregnant, though Sarah denies it; this was possibly about 8 weeks after Sarah had started taking the trade. In early or mid July, Sarah Grosvenor admitted she was pregnant to Hannah Grosvenor
July [19] Sarah becomes sick; her stepmother and sister Zerviah recommend that Dr. Hallowell (who is in the neighborhood) be called; Dr. Hallowell interviews Sarah in private, and then suggests she go to her cousin John Grosvenor's house for the rest of the day

The same day, Zerviah goes on horseback to inform Amasa Sessions of these events; he comes to John Grosvenor's and spends all night there with Dr. Hallowell and Sarah; Sarah is "very poor"

on about this day and for the next two weeks, Sarah feels life in the child.
July [20] Sarah comes home in the morning, accompanied by Zerviah and their cousin Hannah
July [24] Sarah admits to Zerviah that she is pregnant and that she has been taking the trade

(same day?) Amasa visits and admits that the child is his; on Zerviah's urging, Amasa and Sarah agree to marry and have the banns published that Saturday at the Pomfret meetinghouse
July Sunday [30] no banns are posted; in the evening Amasa visits the Leicester Grosvenor house and gives Sarah more trade to take, in the form of powder
August [2] Dr. Hallowell comes to John Grosvenor's house and sends one of John's little children to fetch Sarah; Hallowell attempts a manual abortion, asking Zerviah Grosvenor and Hannah Grosvenor (both unawares) to be in the room to aid him (e.g., bring water, hold drops, etc.); Hallowell does not succeed in removing the fetus

same day before sunset, Sarah returns to her father's house; Amasa visits and sends to Hallowell for advice
August [4] Sarah has an "ague fit" and miscarries in her father's chamber; apparently, only Zerviah is present; she calls Hannah Grosvenor after the miscarriage; Zerviah and Hannah wrap the body and bury it in the woods; the evidence given in later varies as to whether the child was half the size of a full-term baby or a "perfect" child
August Saturday [5] Zerviah comes to the house of Alexander and Silence Sessions in Pomfret, and in a hurry and frenzied manner tells Silence that Sarah has had an untimely birth
August Week of 7th Sarah is comfortable for a few days; Hannah finds her working in the lower rooms of the Leicester Grosvenor house
August [14] Sarah suffers from violent pains and develops a malignant fever; she is sick for the next month and she is visited by Dr. Parker Morse of Woodstock and a Dr. Coker; Amasa brings John Hallowell to attend her also
September 14 Sarah Grosvenor dies; her gravestone, erected later, and carved by Gideon Allen of Rhode Island, reads: "Here Lies ye Body of Mrs. Sarah Grosvenor Daughter of Licester Grosvenor Esq. & Mrs. Mary his Wife Who Died September 14th 1742 in ye 20th Year of her life"

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Month Day Event
November 1 Warrant for the arrest of Amasa Sessions, Zerviah Grosvenor, Hannah Grosvenor, and John Hallowell on charges of the murder of Sarah Grosvenor and her child in the summer of 1742; summons of witnesses
November 5 & 6 Hearing before an Inferior Court at the Pomfret meetinghouse; on the bench are Jonathan Trumbull, Assistant, and Ebenezer West, Justice of the Peace

the judges examine 3 of the accused (Hallowell is in jail for debt in Rhode Island) and the witnesses and conclude: that Hallowell as a physician in the summer of 1742 did give Sarah Grosvenor "sundry medicines with design to Cause an Abortion of" her child, and he did at the house of John Grosvenor "in the Latter End of July or Beginning of August...by force, Violence, and Manual Operation make an Attempt on the Body of said Sarah to take the Child of which she was Then pregnant away from her"; by means of which she was later "delivered of a female child, still born,...hurt and decaying; And then Sarah Languished six weeks and then Died, so that Hallowell is Guilty of murdering Sarah." And the Court is of the further Opinion that Amasa Sessions "did advise, council and assist in the giving the Medicines and performing the force of the Sd Doctr John Hallowell" and is Accessary to the Murder of Sarah. And the Court further finds that Hannah Grosvenor was "aiding and assisting to the sd Doctr Hallowell" at the time of the manual operation "& tho called in through Surprise, yet ded conceal & keep secret & undiscovered The sd. Force, & violence Comitted on" Sarah, and so is Accessary to said Murder. And finally the Court finds the same facts against Zerviah Grosvenor as it found against Hannah.

the judges orders the three defendants present to be bound over in bonds of L-500 each to appear at the March 1746 Windham Superior Court [the Connecticut court with jurisdiction over felonies]; witnesses are bound over also

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Month Day Event
March 26 John Hallowell was brought before Ebenezer West, jp, who orders Hallowell be held in custody in the Windham County jail until witnesses could be gathered; the examination of Hallowell is adjourned twice--until April 17
April 17 At an Inferior Court held before Trumbull and West, the judges find Hallowell suspiciously guilty of the murder of Sarah Grosvenor and her child, and they commit him to the jail "without Bail or Mainprize" to await trial before the September Superior court
September 4 [evidently no joint indictment was drawn up against the original 4 defendants, although some of the witnesses summoned to the Sept. court were notified to testify in the case against those 4]

an Indictment against Hallowell for the murder of Sarah Grosvenor (see Document #11) is considered by the county Grand Jury and endorsed "Ignoramus"
September 20 an Indictment against Hallowell and Amasa Sessions for conspiring to destroy Sarah Grosvenor's health and her unborn child is returned a true bill by the Grand Jury

Hallowell is granted bail of L-500 to appear at the trial on this charge at a special November Windham Superior Court; witnesses are also bound over
November 18 At the special Superior Court session, two attorneys (Aplin and Stedman) for the defendants enter pleas arguing on 5 points that the Indictment should be quashed (their reasons include the indictment's lack of specificity as to place, and the fact that the crime alledgedly committed was said to have occurred "more than one year...before the Indictment was found")
November 18 the Superior Court hears the defendants' pleas and rules that the pleas are sufficient, and the indictment is quashed

the King's Attorney for the county, Joseph Fowler, advises the Court that "on further and more careful Examination ...of certain papers [in the case]" there appear reasons vehemently to suspect Hallowell and Sessions to have been guilty of Sundry Heinous Offenses and Misdemeanors at Pomfret about 4 years ago relating to Sarah Grosvenor, and Fowler moves that Hallowell and Sessions be held or bound over to appear to answer charges at the March 1747 Windham Superior Court; the Court ordered the

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Month Day Event
the Grand Jury considers a bill of indictment against Amasa Sessions, and endorses it "Ignoramus"
March 20 the Grand Jury returns a true bill of indictment against John Hallowell only, declaring that he "did wilfully, wickedly and Malliciously Counsel, advise, and contrive and by actual force and violence attempt and endeavour ye health & Soundness of ye sd Sarah to destroy and ye fruit of her womb to destroy & cause to perish...all of which is an hainious & highhanded Misdemeanour & offence against ye peace..."

at the trial, Hallowell pleads Not Guilty; the case goes to the jury, who return a verdict of Guilty; the Court sentences Hallowell to remain in jail until 1 April and on that day be set in the gallows in a public place for 2 hours with a rope visibly hanging about his neck, and then be whipt "on the naked back" 29 lashes, and be remanded back into prison to be held until the September session of the Court for further orders

soon after, before the sentence is executed, Hallowell escapes from jail and flees to Providence, Rhode Island
the General Assembly of Connecticut receives a petition from Hallowell claiming that he was induced to escape by "the Law of Self Preservation" and he has lived "in Exile, Destitute of Every thing but Want and Misery" since the previous March. He concedes the Superior Court which sat over his trial was impartial, but argues that some of the witnesses against him were "by their Own Confession Guilty of the Same Offense in a greater Degree," and that others offered only hearsay evidence. Further, he argues that the laws of Connecticut warrant no corporal punishment for a misdemeanor conviction. He asks the legislature to reduce his sentence to a fine, in a sum Hallowell is able to pay, so that he can "return to an Unhappy wife and Seven Unfortunate Children who tho thay did not participate of the Guild have too Deeply tasted of the punishment."

14 male inhabitants of Providence send a joint petition on Hallowell's behalf to the same General Assembly, seconding all of his points and emphasizing the "Numbers" of Connecticut and Rhode Island residents who have "happily experienced" Hallowell's care as a physician and their current "Want [of] his Assistance."

the General Assembly does not grant Hallowell's petition, and Connecticut town and church records contain no further trace of him

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Page Created: May 18, 2007
Last Modified: December 30, 2008

Questions? Comments? Contact Professor Cornelia Dayton (cornelia.dayton@uconn.edu).