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Over the past few summers I have tackled the National Road, the Oregon Trail, and I've motorcycled to the Arctic Circle (Yukon) and Alaska. In the summer of 2013 I tackled Illinois Route 1. Starting on the south side of Chicago, Illinois 1 is the longest state highway, meandering south until it ends in Cave In Rock, Illinois, on the banks of the Ohio River. Once again, I operated with the assistance of Verizon Wireless, using an Apple iPhone and Nokia Lumia 928 to make all photographs.

Find me the grave of Betsey Reed

Posted: July 23rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: General posts | No Comments »

As Joe Gisondi and I traveled the greater Lawrenceville/Robinson metropolitan area (combined populations just over 13,000), we caught wind of the Hanging of Betsey Reed. Reed would be the first and only women to ever be hanged in Illinois. The fact that it happened 168 years ago and 16 years before the Civil War is a tribute to our journalistic skills and ability to break news.

(Photos below)

In 1845, an estimated 20,000 people reportedly arrived in Lawrenceville, Ill., to view Betsey’s demise.  The circumstance leading up to the crime for which she would get hanged are not clear.  Some reports say a a love-triangle was the cause.  What is clear is that Betsey was found guilty of  poisoning the sassafras tea of her husband, Leonard Reed. Sixteen-year-old Eveline Deal would testify she saw Betsey Reed slip white powder into Leonard’s tea. After her arrest, Reed was taken to the Crawford County jail. The wood structure burned down. The logical conclusion of the locals was that Reed was a witch. Reed was defended by a former State’s Attorney Usher Linder and future Illinois Governor Augustus French. The prosecuting attorney was Aaron Shaw (a future congressman) and the judge was Illinois State Supreme Court Justice William Wilson. Reed did not testify. The trial lasted three days. She was found guilty of murder on April 28, 1845.  She was hanged On May 23, 1845 at noon.  Most reports have her buried under a shallow grave near the gallows.  Her family allegedly dug her up in the middle of the night and moved her body to the Baker Cemetery. This would be the object of our quest.

So with confidence, armed with  a sectional county plat map (marked with three different locations of the alleged cemetery), a standard state of Illinois road map and a GPS we bravely went looking the grave of Betsey Reed.

Within twenty minutes, we were lost, making wrong turns and experiencing some of  the finest gravel roads the great state of Illinois has to offer.

Luckily, we stumbled onto Bob Corell. With his white hat and long main of silver hair, he looked like a guy who knew which way the wind blows — or at least where Baker Cemetery. It turns out we were close enough to be embarrassed, but the route there was so convoluted and hidden we would never have found the cemetery without his help. We pretended to laugh when Bill told us how once when coon hunting in the middle of the night his flashlight lost power in the area of the Reed grave. (This was not the first time we had heart similar stories that morning).

After a few miles of gravel roads, country roads, and small bridges, we found ourselves at a dirt road with a small sign mostly obscured by brush. We turned in, and, after winding past a few thousand yards of tall corn, we found a small wood cemetary. In the very-very back,  we found the grave shaded by huge trees. Strangely, the headstone faced the back of of the cemetery and not toward the front like the rest.   Ironically, Betsey who had died by “death by hanging,” shared the head stone with her “murdered” husband, Leonard.

After twenty minutes in the cemetery, the Noki Lumia 928 and the iPhone 5 cellphones I was using to make photographs and which I had charged the night before, had each lost most of their power. Joe’s iPhone 4s was almost completely out of juice. We left soon after this discovery. At the entrance to the cemetery, a small sign says no trespassing from dusk to dawn.  I won’t be back to break curfew.  If that’s because of my respect for the rule of law, or my respect of the supernatural, that is for you to decide.



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