Gallow’s Hill – Albany’s Last Public Execution

On August 24,1827- between 30,000 and 40,000 people came to see Albany’s last public execution when Jesse Strang was hanged at Gallows Hills near the Ruttenkill for an infamous murder.

( We guess you packed a picnic lunch and bought souvenirs. for the kids.)

Jesse Strang, of Putnam County deserted his wife and children in the belief that his wife was unfaithful. He became a drifter and went to Ohio but shortly after returned to New York in 1826. The scandalous nature of his separation might have stopped then if there had not been a baggage problem that caused him to seek a job in Albany.
Strang met Elsie Whipple in a tavern in Albany. Elsie was the daughter of Abraham Lansing and Elsie Van Rensselaer and wife of John Whipple. Strang fell in love with Elsie and took a job as a handyman under the name of Joseph Orton in Cherry Hill, the Van Rensselaers’ residence. Elsie fell in love with him. Elsie tended to be grumpy, irksome, and prone to hysterics and violent shouting fits. She felt domineered and controlled by her husband. The lovers kept in touch with the help of members of the household who passed letters between them.
Elsie decided that the best thing for them to do was to kill John and run away. Elsie conspired with a reluctant Jesse to poison John’s tea with arsenic so they could elope, but their attempt failed.
John Whipple became suspicious and kept a loaded gun. In May 1827, Elsie stole the bullet and gave it to Strang, and once more insisted that Strang kill her husband. Strang climbed onto the roof of the shed one night and used his rifle to shoot and kill Whipple. Strang then immediately ran towards a local store to secure an alibi. He then returned to Cherry Hill and helped a doctor remove the bullet from Whipple’s body.
Later, however, the police ruled that he could have traveled the mile from Cherry Hill to the store and detained Whipple on suspicion of the murder. Upon capture, a fearful Strang, hoping for a lighter sentence, confessed and blamed Elsie for conception of the plan. This led to the incarceration of Elsie. Whenever they communicated in jail, Elsie reminded him that had he not confessed, the two might have gotten off scot-free in Montreal, as they had been planning to escape there.
Believing Elsie would be given a lighter sentence as she was a woman, Jesse asked his lawyer, Calvin Pepper, to plant documents at Cherry Hill incriminating Elsie as the mastermind behind the plan as he had burned the letters she sent him. Pepper refused and told him he would not receive a lighter sentence whatever he did.
As Jesse suspected, Elsie was said to be the victim, but she had purchased the rifle, she removed the curtain in John’s room so Jesse could shoot John.
At Strang’s trial, the district attorney was Edward Livingston, a relative of the Van Rensselaers and Lansings’ who told Jesse to his face, “You are guilty, you must be convicted, you must die!” Presiding Judge Duer called him a “serpent” and a “fiend”. When the judge asked the jury for a verdict, the jury deliberated for less than 15 minutes before pronouncing him guilty of murder.
Three days after Strang’s trial, Elsie Whipple stood trial for aiding and abetting the murder of her husband. In four days, Elsie was pronounced not guilty and cleared of charges. After Strang finished testifying on the stand at Elsie’s trial, he was sentenced to death by hanging.

Thanks to Paula Lemire for remembering the date and photos of Gallows Hill and to Wiki for synopsis of the murder.

Cherry Hill is open to the public; you should visit:

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