MARCH 22, 1834
On March 22, 1834 James Kelly and Gera Purcel stood at the baptismal font in the small Roman Catholic Chapel on Henry Street in St. John’s, the baptismal sponsors for a new born child. The child was the talk of Newfoundland. He was little Richard Snow – his father had been murdered a few months previous. His mother Catherine Manderville Snow had been convicted of the murder.
Catherine Mandeville Snow was the last woman hanged in Newfoundland.
Snow as a young woman moved from Harbour Grace to Salmon Cove near Port de Grave where she took up residence with John William Snow, a native of Bareneed. Together they had seven children, and married on October 30, 1828.
It was not a happy union, there were reports of frequent fights. According to reports, Catherine would fight back and throw things at him. On the night of August 31, 1833, John Snow disappeared. The local magistrate launched an investigation. With the discovery of blood on John Snow’s fishing stage, the investigation became a murder investigation.
Murder charges were laid against Catherine and her first cousin Tobias Mandeville (25) and Arthur Springer, (28) one of Snow’s indentured servants.
The twelve hour trial took place at St. John’s on January 10, 1834. The jury returned a guilty verdict after thirty minutes of deliberations for all three.
On January 31, 1834, Arthur Springer and Tobias Mandeville were hanged.
During the trial it was discovered that Catherine Snow was pregnant with her eighth child. The local newspaper the Royal Gazette reported:
“Twelve respectable Matrons should be empanelled to decide on the truth or falsity of the Prisoner’s allegation; (that she was pregnant) the twelve matrons met on Saturday morning, and returned a verdict that the Prisoner was in the situation stated in her plea.”
Many in Newfoundlandwere determined that Catherine Snow should not hang. Bishop Michael Fleming, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Newfoundland made Snow a cause célèbre. The governor, Thomas John Cochrane delayed her hanging until the baby was born.
On July 21, 1834, as crowds gathered on Duckworth Street, Cathwerine Snow walked out on the platform. At her side was Rev. Thomas Waldron the same priest who had baptized her child. The local newspaper The Newfoundlander reported:
“Rev. Mr. Waldron, was unceasing and assiduous in affording her the soothing consolation of religion, and preparing her for the last awful moment.”
Her last words were,
“I was a wretched woman, but I am as innocent of any participation in the crime of murder as an unborn child”
The St. John’snewspaper the Public Ledger reported:
“The unhappy woman, after a few brief struggles, passed into another world.”
Recommended Reading: The local newspapers of the day – The Newfoundlander and Royal Gazette and Newfoundland Advertiser reprinted much of the testimony that can be found on microfilm at the Rooms Provincial Archives Division.
Recommended Reading: (Historical -Fiction) Catherine Snow by Nellie P. Strowbridge, Flanker Press,St. John’s, 2009.