Abuse and Murder on the Frontier: The Trials and Travels of Rebecca Hawkins 1800-1860, by William B. Bundschu


Rebecca Hawkins, a mother of eight children, suffered physical abuse from her husband. She ended his beatings in 1838 when she hired neighbor Henry Garster to murder her husband. Garster paid for his part with his life in the first legal hanging in Jackson County, Missouri in 1839. Rebecca was later tried and acquitted on charges of aiding a murder, but was convicted on charges of poisoning based on additional testimony. The Governor of Missouri pardoned her after receiving requests to do so from hundreds of Jackson County citizens. Rebecca’s story reveals much about the experience of women, slaves and otherwise unknown persons leading quiet, yet often-times desperate lives on the American frontier.

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