James W. Lent: Testimony

Tuesday, April 1, 1800

—On the 2d of January last, I together with Mr. Page, had some business to do in breaking a horse, and we went up to Andrew Blancks, and we dined there: Blanck insisted upon it. While we were dining two persons, Mr. Watkins and Mr. Elias Ring, came there to get hooks and poles to sound the Manhattan well for the body of a young woman who was supposed to be drowned. We got the poles and nails and went all together to the well, which we uncovered. Page took the pole first and said he thought he felt her; I took hold then and thought I felt her too. Watkins drove in the nails, I took the pole and hooked the nail in her clothes and drew her up carefully to the top of the water: as soon as Mr. Ring saw her callico gown he said it was she, he knew the gown. She was so heavy now we could not draw her out by the nail and the little boy went for a rope to the next house, while I held her still. I put the rope under her and drew her up gently, she slew’d round but there was not a thread of her clothes which touched either side of the well. When she was drawn up we laid her on a plank, and she appeared in such a situation as if she had been murdered.

Counsel for the prisoner. You are to tell what you saw, not what conclusion you made—That is for the Jury.

Proceed—Her hat was off, her gown torn open just above the waist, her shawl was off, and her handkerchief and shoes were gone; her hair hung over her head. In lifting her up I found her head fell forward and when we lifted her a little back her head fell back again, and again it fell to the right, which caused me to suppose her neck was broke. She had a white dimity petticoat on. I discovered on her right hand something like a kick, there was the scraches of sand upon her skin, some of which was knocked off and seemed to have been drove forward. Her stockings were, torn at the toes; the right foot was bare and somewhat scratched; the scratches were on the upper part of the foot, as if she had been dragged on the ground.

Q. (by the Court.) Did you examine her body?

A. I did not—the stockings, as far as could be seen without lifting up the petticoat, was whole and good.

Q. Were there any bruises upon the face?

A. I do not recollect, there might have been.

Q. Might you not have injured the head with the pole?

A. Not at all—the pole did not touch her head: I was particularly tender with it—I hooked her in the skirt of her gown.

Q. Were her limbs stiff?

A. Her arms were—her legs were strait, but her neck was remarkably limber.

Q. How did her countenance appear?

A. It looked like a person who had been walking against the wind—flush, but not so much so as she appeared a few days after. Her appearance was horrid enough—her hat and cap off, her hair hanging all over her head, her comb was yet hanging in her hair, tied with a white ribbon; her shawl was off; her gown was torn open with great violence, and her shoes were off.

Q. Was the string of her gown broke or the collar torn?

A. I did not discover that they were—It appeared as if the knot by which they had been tied, had somehow slipped.

Q. (by one of the Jury) Were the fingers bruised?

A. They seemed jambed, like a kick.

Q. Did you see sand, and what kind of sand?

A. I did not see any sand, but the marks of sand as it seemed.

Q. by Prisoner’s Counsel. How do you know the scratches were made up or down?

A. It only appeared so to me. I went to the Police, and then with the officer to find the prisoner; we staid a little back till we saw the officer tap him on the shoulder; I then went up to him, he stood in the door; I says, is this the young man? he replies, yes. I told him I was very sorry for his situation—I felt affected—I expressed it to him—he turned about and said, It is too hard, and he dropped his head and said Is it the Manhattan well she was found in? I said I knew not what well she was found in; I did not then know the Manhattan–well—this was about half past three in the afternoon; however, I dont know exactly the time but by calculation. I suppose the body was found about 15 minutes after we had left Blanck’s house.

Q. (by one of the Jury.) Was there any mention made of the Manhattan well, in the presence of the prisoner before he asked the question?

A. I did not hear any, I dont believe there was.

Q. Was you present when he first saw the body—what did he say?

[An objection was made by the prisoner’s counsel, as to the propriety of this kind of evidence, but was over ruled by the Court.]

A. In proceeding to the well he asked for his brother as counsel for him—when we came there, we found a great number of people collected—I stepped before him, and said—Weeks, do you know that young woman that lies there a corpse? He said, I think I know the gown. My young friend, said I that is not the question I ask you—Is there no marks in that countenance you know? he turn’d himself and said, I think there is.

Q. Was she not a natural corpse?

A. It seemed so—she looked as if she was asleep, seemingly—I never saw her alive.

Q. by one of the Jury. How long after he was taken before he asked if she was found in the Manhattan well?

A. I don’t exactly know how many minutes.

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