Vs     Indictment for murder of John Oneale (his master)
Negro Jacob

Nathan Trail a witnefs on the part of the profecution proved that John Oneale deceased had been during the whole of the afternoon of the twenty second of April 1817 at his house (a tavern at Bunkers Hill) and left the tavern about midnight quite drunk.  That it was raining and very dark. (1) That Jacob (the accused) remained with his master at the tavern until he left it and then rode off with him towards the house of the deceased.  That the horse rode by the deceased had been recently wicked, his tail yet sore and tyed up to the saddle in such a manner as to give the horse pain.  That after the deceased had started he returned & got a bottle of whiskey that he could not make his horse approach near enough to the door to take the bottle from the hands of the witnefs but it was received by Jacob and they again went off together.  That before this circumstance he never heard any thing discreditable to Jacob.  Arnold T. Winsor & Doctor Brewer witnefs called on the part of the preccution proved with some slight circumstances of variance in their statements, the confefsion of Jacob that when he got to a particular point of the road he was ordered by his master to go on to old Wm Oneales that on his return early in the morning he found his master thrown from his horse & lying on the ground bleeding from the head, in a lane about one hundred & fifty yards from his house. That he Jacob, was still under the influence of the liquor he had drank & with a stone weighing five or six pounds gave the deceased one blow but that before he gave him this blow he went to the house told a negro woman named Esther in what condition he had found his master, with his head mashed and as he supposed beyond the profibility of recovery Easther advised Jacob to return & finish him in consequence of which

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the blow just spoken of was given - which he would not have done but for the operation of the liquor which liquor it was proven  he had been furnished by his master and in no confefsion did he say that he intended to kill his master but denys any intention of the sort.  Doctor Brewer proved that Jacob came in great haste to procure medical aid for his master, he sent him back but when he arrived at the place where Oneale lay there was nobody there - he found the stone with which Jacob is said to have struck Oneale lying loose unbedded & permeated with blood & hair. That there appeared to be three (3) wounds on the head of Oneale & the top of the head entirely marshed in.  That if Jacob gave the deceased but one blow that must have been in the front of the head and he thought it improbable the three wounds could have procceded from one blow and he could not tell of which wound he died.  Doct Brewer discovered an uncommon backwardnefs on the part of all Oneales negros to render afsistance to him.  There was no proof of any confefsion on the part of Jacob before the one made to the Sherrif while he was in gaol and in Irons.  The Evidence of Harry a negro who was a witnefs against the accused was entirely destroyed & discredited by the testimony of Mr Dennis Lackland a respectable gentleman of this County.  Jacobs character was proven to have been good heretofore----There was a stake as stated by Dr. Brewer which was bloody but appeared to be so from having had something wiped upon it and he observed no blood upon Jacob

The above is as correct a statement of the evidence as can be had---

B Forrest Councel for the accused

James Boyle for the State.

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(1)     Author's Note: On April 22, 1817 the moon was in the first quarter phase, a waxing crescent 26.3% full and was not visible above the horizon at midnight. Statements later in the testimony also state that it was raining. No starlight and/or moonlight would have made for a very dark night indeed. This, combined with the fact that it was raining would make the ground very slippery. Combine this with the statement that John had been drinking all afternoon and that his horse was unable to navigate without pain and it’s not so difficult to believe that John indeed fell from his horse and struck his head on a rock.



To His Excellency

Charles Ridgely of Hampton



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State of Maryland Montgomery County ________
At a county court begun and held at the courthouse
In and for the county aforesaid on the first Monday of March
Anno Domini One Thousand eight hundred and seventeen and
Continued by Adjournment to the first Monday of August
One Thousand eight hundred and seventeen

Were Present     |      Jeremiah S Chase, Esqr, Chief Judge

            The Honorable    |                                                                       

                                 |     Richard Ridgely, Esquire, Afsociate Judge

Arnold T Winsor, Esquire, Sheriff=====Upton Beall, Clk.

In the record and the proceedings of the same county in the following

To wit

State of Maryland


Negro Jacob

State of Maryland Montgomery County

To wit

The Grand Jurors for the body of Montgomery County Upon their oath, do present, that Jacob, Late of   Montgomery County, Slave, the property of Solomon Davis, Administrator of all and singular, the goods and chattels, rights and Credits, which were of John O’Neale, deceased, late of Montgomery County, yeoman, not having the fear of God before his eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigations of the Devil, on the twenty third day of April in the year of our Lord, One Thousand eight hundred and seventeen, with force and arms at the county aforesaid, in and upon One John O’Neale, in the peace of God, and the State of Maryland, then and there being feloniously, willfully and of his malice aforethought did make an afsault; And that the said Jacob, with a certain stone of no value, which he the said Jacob, in his right hand

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Then and there had and held, in and upon the top of the head of him, the said John O’Neale, then and there feloniously, willfully and of his malice aforethought did strike and wound, giving to the said John O’Neale, then and there, with the stone aforesaid, in and upon the top of the head of him, the said John O’Neale, One mortal wound of the breadth of two inches and of the depth of two inches of which said mortal wound the said John O’Neale on the said twenty third day of April in the year aforesaid, upon their oath aforesaid at the county aforesaid died: And so the jurors aforesaid, upon their oath aforesaid, do say that the said Jacob, the said John O’Neale, in manner and form aforesaid, feloniously, willfully and of his malice aforethought, did kill and murder against the act of afsembly in such case made and provided, and against the peace, government and dignity of the state

James Boyle, for the state


Whereupon cometh into court house the aforesaid Jacob under the custody of the sheriff of the county aforesaid,  in whose custody in the gaol of the county aforesaid, for the case aforesaid, he has been committed and being to the courthouse in his proper person led, is committed to the sheriff aforesaid, and immediately being asked, how he of the premises aforesaid, in the indictment afore and specified, and above charged upon him, will be acquitted?

The said Jacob saith that he is not guilty thereof, and thereof for good and evil doth put himself upon the county; And James Boyle, Esquire, who for the said state in this behalf doth prosecute in like and manner.

So, wherefore, let a jury thereon appear before the court here immediately by whom eta who ____  eta to recognize eta  Became as well eta who being called came; that is to say Adam Darby, Charles Miles, George L Lackland, Abraham Simmons, John Darby, Robert Edmonton, Ephriam  Etchison, Aquila Lauhaur, Baker Waters, William Huddleston, Robert Loren and Benedict LeAdams, who being elected tried and
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Sworn to say the truth of and upon the premises aforesaid upon their oath do say that the aforesaid Jacob is guilty of the felony and Murder aforesaid above upon him charged in manner and form aforesaid, as by the indictment aforesaid is above supposed against him, And thereupon it is forthwith demanded of the said Jacob if he hath or knoweth any thing to say wherefore the said court have ought not, upon the premises and verdict aforesaid to proceed to judgement and execution against him, who nothing further saith, unless as he before hath said; Whereupon all and singular the premises being seen and by the said court have fully understood, it is therefore conclusion by the Court here that the said Jacob be taken to the gaol of the county aforesaid from where he came, and from there on to the place of execution at such time as shall be duly appointed, and there be hanged by the neck until he be dead; And thereupon he is committed to the custody of the sheriff aforesaid and forth

State of Maryland Montgomery County

By Order of said County Court transmit to His Exellency, the Governor of Maryland, the record of the conviction and judgement of Negro Jacob for felony and murder;
And I do hereby certify that the aforegoing record of the said conviction and judgement is truly and faithfully taken from the Record of Proceedings of the County aforesaid-------

In Testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed the public seal of said county court the 13th  day of August Anno Domini, One thousand Eight hundred and Seventeen

Upton Beall Clerk of Montgomery County Court

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To His Excellency

Charles Ridgely of Hampton –
Gov. of Maryland


State of Maryland


Negro Jacob

Sept. 23, 1817

Death Warrant served

Execution To take place on Friday

Oct 10-1817

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Banjamin L. Forrest

In favour of Negro Jacob

Sentenced to be hung by

Montgomery County Court

RockVille August 18th 1807

To Charles Ridgley of Hampton Esqr

Gov of Maryland

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Without the circumlocution (sic)  of apology for the abfence of a perfonable acquaintance with you I beg leave to addrefs you on a subject of the most solemn character.  During the sefsion of the court for this county in August Jacob a negro man aged 20 years was tried and convicted of the murder of his master John Oneale.  I was appointed by the court to undertake his defence and having failed in it I have thought this last attempt to save his life by an appeal to your justice & mercy with the limit of my duty.  To that end I have made out a statement of the testimony in substance which has been approved by the attorney for the state and forward it to you with this note, that you may be able to judge of the strength & weight of the evidence upon which this man has been doomed to die.  You will see that without the proof of his confefsion he must have been acquitted and in no circumstance of that confefsion has he at any time varied even to me (his counsel).  He has at all times obstinately denied any intention of killing his master but swears that he found him past recovery in a lane, having fallen from his horse, that in this situation he gave him one blo in a moment of intoxication occasioned by the imprudence of his master in furnishing him with a large quantity of whiskey.  I think there were strong circumstances to produce a belief

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that John Oneale came by his death by the fall from the horse rather than the hands of the negro.

I have not attempted to procure from the people of the county any recommendation of Jacob to your mercy, but I am convinced that there does not exist in the county the least necefsity for such an example as is to be made of Jacob.  If his punishment could be commuted I think all the ends of justice would be answered by a confinement in the penitentiary for life, I have now Sir only to crave your pardon for the trouble this note may give you and offer you assurances of my very high respect.

Ben. Hoddort Forrest

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Source Documents:
All the pages regarding the case of Jacob:
Court report,
Nathan Trail witness account & Benj. Forrest for Jacob.  
Governor and Council (Pardon Papers) 1817-1818,
Box 18, folder 5
State of Maryland vs. Negro Jacob
Accession No.: 5401-18 MSA
No.: S1061-18
Location: 2/46/1/18

The above Documents ordered from the Maryland State Archives at Annapolis, Maryland
Transcribed by Bev Crowe and John W. O'Neal, II, 2005