Site Navigation

A sad segment of Jennings County History
Contributed to Jennings County INGenWeb by Sherri Abromavage

The following pages were found in a folder titled "Jennings county, Indiana Newspapers" located in the Jennings county Indiana Public Library. The pages in the folder are typed copies of articles found in newspapers. I have retyped the pages exactly as they read--spelling, grammar, and so forth. I haven't tried to find the original newspaper articles. My only addition to the typed copies is to indicate the page number as they were placed in the folder. This article was found on pages 32-36 of the folder. Sherri Abromavage 

[source V. M. Sage ]

The parents of George Washington SAGE were John SAGE and Margaret McCARTNEY

Siblings of this George Washington Sage:
Mary Jane (1820) Miriam (1822) Martha (1825) Sarah Ann (1827) Rosanna (1828) Amanda (1829) Maud (1831, twin to GW?) James (1835) William (1837) John A (1841) Alexander (1843) Rachael (1852).

Parents of GW were: John Sage and Margaret McCartney
Parents of John Sage were William Sage,Sr. (born 1762, Virginia) and Mary Ann Long
Parents of William Sage, Sr. were William Sage (born 1740, England) and Mary
Father of William Sage was John William Sage born 1718 in England

[source Robert Sage]

G.W.Sage married R. A. Ledbetter on 17 Dec 1861 Fayette Co. IL

John SAGE (b.1794) married Margaret McCartney, 4 Nov, 1819 Jefferson Co, IN.

-page 32-

Jennings County, Indiana Newspapers
The Vernon Banner
Thursday May 31, 1866


The morning of the 25th of May dawned with a beauty and lovliness seldom exceeded in the gentle tide of Spring. The sun shone upon the hill around our quiet village, and the morning songsters warbled their music in sweet harmony with the loveliness and the quiet of surrounding nature. But soon the scene was changed. Nature as if from a sympathy with the terrible but just avenger of Gods broken law, put on her morning gard. At seven o'clock the heavens were overspread with dark and lowering clouds, and the rain decended in a slow and cheerless manner.

The streets that were but yesterday quiet, now were filled with anxious spectators. For more than two hours the rain continued, but with it came the crowds of people. On foot, on horseback, in buggies, wagons, and by rail they continued to come until noon. The enclosure-in which the scaffold was built-was an object to be inspected by all. And well was the duty performed. From early morn till noon the crowd pressed around it, each expressing his opinion as to whether it was "good enough", or, he "would have made it so and so." Before noon the guard called for the occasion was formed, and placed around the enclosure, extending as far as the jail. They were placed in a skillful manner, and good order prevailed, throughout the day.

The last services were had at the jail for the benefit of the doomed and degraded man, shortly after noon and were conducted by Revs. E.L. Dolph and James B. Swincher. Sage appeared unmoved by the services that were being offered for his benefit. The parting scene between Sage and his wife was most affecting; her heartfelt and piercing shrieks would have melted the feeling of any who was possessed of a single feeling akin to humanity. When the Sheriff announced that the time for final parting was at hand, the scene was one that none could look upon, without a tear of sympathy diming the eye. Sage wept and sobbed, and this wife shrieked, moaned, and agonized in a manner that is impossible to portray on paper-to be understood it must have been witnessed. The father of the prisoner was there at this last scene, but his manner was very different from that of the devoted and heart-broken wife. He moved amid the crowd and seemed to regard it as a rather unfortunate affair, but one that could not now be avoided.

At twenty minutes before two the prisoner was brought out from his cell, with his arms pinioned from behind. His general appearance and demeanor was very similar to what it was during his trial, his complexion perhaps more sallow, and somewhat reduced in flesh. He walked with a firm step, and on entering the enclosure he mounted the steps and ascended the scaffold with, apparently, but little assistance from the Sheriff and his deputy, who accompanied him.


The execution of Sage, The Child Murderer

When he entered the enclosure he looked earnestly around and examined the rope that was suspended from the beam above, he glanced hastily at the preparations that had been made for the occasion. His hat was removed and an earnest and heartfelt prayer was offered by Rev. J. B. Swincher on behalf of the wretched man to that God whose law he had offended, and before whose spotless throne of pure justice he must soon stand, there to receive his reward for the deeds done in the body, and there meet the infant spirit of little Willie. After the prayer was concluded he thanked his spiritual advisers-Rev. Dolph and Swincher-and when the Sheriff placed the black cap over his face and adjusted the rope, he shook the Sheriff and his deputy by the hand, wished them well, and said he hoped to meet them in heaven. Up to this time he seemed to stand up remarkable well, even while the Sheriff was adjusting the rope he would move his head to facilitate its adjustment. When informed that his time had come he commenced in a faltering and broken voice praying God to have mercy on his poor soul, which he kept up in a scarcely audible voice until the drop fell. When the rope was adjusted the Sheriff asked the time, and being informed that it lacked 15 minutes to two the axe fell, the drop gave way and Sage was suspended in the air. For two minutes he struggled considerable, and the violent muscular contractions gave unmistakable evidence that he was passing away. When he had hung fourteen minutes the attending physicians, Drs. Green and Wiles examined the body and pronounced life extinct. The last remains of Sage was then placed in a coffin, his eyes and mouth closed in the usual manner, and was then removed from out of the enclosure, where all who desired had the privilege of looking upon all that was mortal of this misguided man.

Although this was the first execution that ever took place in the county, Sheriff Dixon performed his part as minister of the outraged and broken law in a manner that did credit to himself, and satisfaction to his friends. He performed his duty not as an executioner simply, but as a hightoned gentleman and officer discharging his duty toward the public. And this duty he performed with commendable respect for the feelings of the friend of the unfortunate man.

We cannot close our report without referring to the kind attentions paid the prisoner by his ministers, Revs. E. L. Dolph and J. B. Swincher, who have labored earnestly to educate his dark and benighted mind, in the eternal truths of God, and to fit him to stand before His Eternal Throne, of pure and complete Justice; and to love beyond the tomb. Sage acknowledged their kindness, and professed to enjoy the hope of his acceptance and peace with God.

The execution was witnessed by A. W. Lett, Frank Coryell, Col. K. Brown, E.S. Whitcomb, A. J. Ralston, John Sterns, Wm. Todd, Daniel Elliott, Hiram Denton, Thos. Ennis, George Whetzel, and G. W. Anderson being the citizens summonsed to witness the execution. The following gentlemen of the press were admitted. Theo. T. Scribner of the Indianapolis Journal; Jno. A. Crozier of the Madison Courier; Mr. McClannihan of the New York Herald; Mr. North of the Indianapolis Herald; and A. S. Conner of the Plaindealer.

--page 34-
The execution of Sage, The Child Murderer

We mention with pride the fact, that no disturbance occurred during the entire day, although an immense crowd was on the ground, eager to see the execution take place. Yet the best of order prevailed. The fact can be accounted for on the score that the crowd was composed, in chief, of citizens of this county, and all must admit that their behavior reflected credit on our locality.

We will in the connection mention a fact that may not be generally known-a new cure for fits. After the execution had taken place the Sheriff was sought by an M.D. (he don't live in Jennings county, our Drs. use other remedies,) who wished to secure a foot of the rope that Sage was hung with. On being enquired of why he wished to keep such a curiosity-if indeed such it could be termed-informed the Sheriff that he wanted it to cure fits with. The remedy being both novel and new, has led us to make some enquiries on that subject. A Very respectable physician informs us that fifteen or twenty feet of that or any similar rope, properly applied will without doubt, cure fits "or any other man." But on mature deliberation we believe the remedy worse than the disease. We don't want any of it in ours. We learn the Sheriff gave him a piece as desired.

We are indebted to Rev. E. L. Dolph for the following confession which Sage made to him several days prior to his execution, and which he avowed was true. We give it to our readers as made, and leave them to draw their own conclusions. However the day before he was executed he said that he had not told all, but that on the following day he would make a true statement, as God was his Judge. He intimated that he was connected with a band of men, and that some of them had visited him while in prison, for the purpose of giving him weapons. But on the day of the execution he refused to say anything more than was contained in his written statement. We are informed that he was advised by one of his friends-a relative-that "it was not necessary to make confessions to men, that if he had any confession to make it make to his God." This with the seemingly contradictory statements in his written statement will lean many to suspect the sincerety and truth of his words. But whether true or untrue Sage has paid the extreme penalty for trampling under foot the highest law of nature, and of natures God; and prepared or unprepared he has passed the Jordan of Death, and stands before Him who knoweth the every thought of his heart.

After the execution the remains were delivered to his friends, and by them conveyed to Vandalia, Illinois, where Mrs. S's family reside.


"I, George Washington Sage, was born in Smyrna Township, Jefferson county, Indiana, May 29th, 1831. I lived with my father in the vicinity of my birth until 1860. The cause of my removal then may be learned by giving a brief history of an event that occurred about a year previous.

The execution of Sage, The Child Murderer

" On a moonlight night, after I had retired to rest, at home, some one knocked on the window where I slept, to which I answered, and on going our found a company of my acquaintances, who said they were going for apples. The company consisted of Henry Vaughn, David Duncan, and the two Dunham boys, one named Henry, the other's name I have forgotten. James McCarty was asleep and as they wished him to go along, I awoke him and he went with us, under the impression that we were going for apples. On our way we stopped for John Low who went with us also.

As we passed Mr. Wiley White's hay stack Vaughn said he was going to burn them when we returned. After getting the apples we came by the hay stacks and Vaughn proceeded to carry out his threats. McCarty and I both done all we could to stop him, but he set them on fire. We were charged with it and arrested, and when McCarty was tried, Vaughn swore that McCarty and myself set fire to them, and McCarty was sent to the penitentiary. Low and I consulted together, and knowing what Vaughn had swore to, feared we might far the same as McCarty, and determined to run away, which we did, Low I think to Kentucky, and I to Kansas.

"This, we learned during the trial, was what they wanted for they were afraid of McCarty, Low, and Myself would tell about their plot to kill Dr. Hall, who then lived at Kent. They had told us all their plans and invited us to go with them but we refused. They then warned us if we ever told on them they would kill us. We tried to get Dr. Hall word, but they waylayed and shot at us and we did not get there. They failed to kill Hall, and then, for fear we would tell, hired McCarty and I to go away. We went as far as Missouri, when we changed our minds, came back and gave the money to the father of the boys concerned in the plot. He had furnished it. They then got up this hay burning and swore it on us to get us out of the way.

I returned from Kansas to Illinois and settled within four of five miles of Vandalia, Fayette county where I married Rebecca Leadbetter. I remained there until 1865. During the time we had two children born to us. The oldest, Mary Elizabeth, who has since died, and the youngest, John Henry, who is still living.

"In the spring of 1865 we moved to near Paris, Jennings county, Indiana, where I lived when arrested for the murder of Mr. Todd's children. I had been working for Mr. Todd some two or three days, for which he paid me when we settled, which was only a few days before the murder was committed. Soon after this settlement, I learned our property in Illinois was about to be sold, and knew of we could get there it could be saved, but had no money to pay our way. I was very much troubled about it, and was thinking every day how I could raise the means to go.

--page 36-
The execution of Sage, The Child Murderer

" On the evening of March 7th, I went over to Mr. Todd's, who lived about a quarter mile from us. When I came to the house, I found the family out, and the children playing in the yard or garden. Having learned while working for him where he kept his money, I was tempted to take it, and at once commenced searching for it. Just as I found it the children came into the house, and knowing who I was, came to me apparently without fear. Something suddenly came over me, and I was so excited that I seemed beside myself. While in this state of mind I determined to kill them. I gathered a piece of brick that lay on the hearth, and at once commenced to carry out my wicked purpose, striking them as they came to me, the oldest first and the youngest last. The last one, which was the youngest, I struck a very light blow. I left immediately, but before I was a great way from the house I heard crying and knew the children were not all dead. I now began to reflect on the great crime I had committed, and suffered intensely in my mind as I thought about it. I would have given all I had in the world, and even died myself, if that would undo what I had done. I did not expect to escape detection, as the children were not all dead, and as they knew me, I supposed they would tell as soon as some one came in.

" I was arrested that same evening by Wm. H. Dixon, and tried before Philip Jones, Esq. who sent me to the county jail to await my trial at the next term of the circuit court.

The rest is known to the public. I understand that reports are circulating that I have been concerned in other disgraceful crimes than the one for which I was convicted. All such reports are false. If I ever took the life of any human being besides William Todd, it was while serving my country three years as a soldier of the 7th Illinois cavalry, from which service I was honorably discharged. But whatever I did as a soldier, I did it in obedience to the orders of my superior officers, and therefore do not feel responsible. Besides that, the foregoing confession contains all my crimes of a public character of which I am guilty. Nearly five years of my time was spent in Illinois, and I am willing my neighbors there should be questioned as to the truth of my statement so far as they know.

"This statement I make with an honest desire to tell the truth, and knowing, too that I must soon answer before the Judge of all men. I still feel truly sorry for all my sins, and have sincerely repented, and believe I have obtained mercy, and enjoy a hope of eternal life."

George Washington Sage (his mark)

Sam M. Dixon
Jacob Clinton


You may use this material for your own personal research, however it may not be used for commercial publications without express written consent of the contributor, INGenWeb, and