Tag Archives: John Snow

“As innocent … as an unborn child”


MARCH 22, 1834 

Richard Snow was baptized on March 22, 1834 at the Old Catholic Chapel on Henry Street. His mother sat in prision – she would be hung for killing her husband,

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.






Jury Declares Catherine Snow Innocent


(St. John’s, Newfoundlandand and Labrador– March 30, 2012)  A very cold case was reopened last night in St. John’s,Newfoundland by the Newfoundland Historical Society to re-examine the murder trial of Catherine Mandeville Snow, the last woman executed in Newfoundland.

The case has fascinated historians for decades. In 1833, Catherine Mandeville Snow was tried along with Tobias Mandeville and Arthur Spring in connection with the murder of Snow’s husband, John. He had gone missing in August, which led to an inquiry that discovered dried blood on his fishing stage. It was determined that John Snow had been murdered, but his body was never recovered.

No direct evidence linking Catherine Snow to the murder was ever presented in court, but she was found guilty and sentenced to hang along with her co-conspirators. Her execution was delayed because she was pregnant at the time with her eighth child.

She gave birth to the child, baptized Richard Snow, nursed him for three months in her prison cell from where she was taken and hanged in July 1834 from the court house in St. John’s.

The case garnered a great deal of public sympathy for Snow, including the sympathy of the local Catholic Bishop – Michael Anthony Fleming a native of Carrick on Suir –  who took over guardianship of her seven children. Carrick was also the home town of the Mandeville family.

Her hanging in St. John’s drew a huge crowd. Her final words were:

I was a wretched woman, but I am as innocent  any participation in the crime of murder as an unborn child.”

A panel including two Supreme Court Justices from Newfoundland and Labrador,  Carl Thompson and Seamus O’Regan, along with defence lawyer Rosellen Sullivan examined how the  two hundred year old case.  An audience of 460  (who also served as the jury) listened intently as the evidence was explored.

The jury has spoken.  Catherine Snow is an innocent woman.

200 Undecided, a hung jury

250 Not Proven (= Not Guilty)

10 – Guilty