PORTLAND, Maine — Ebenezer Ball, they mentioned, knew earn cash — actually.
The suspected backwoods counterfeiter lived on the New Brunswick border at a time when the worldwide boundary was nonetheless wild and unsettled. Recognized to be armed wherever he went, Ball shot the chief of an unlawful posse who got here to arrest him in 1811.
Ball swore it was an accident, that his gun went off by likelihood and he wasn’t even aiming it.
However a sworn jury, the native paper and a hometown minister all declared him responsible. Ball was hanged on Halloween that yr, the seventeenth particular person executed by a authorities in Maine.
Born in 1779 in Spencer, Massachusetts, Ball ran away from residence when he was 12, making it so far as New London, Connecticut. Returned to his household, Ball’s father apprenticed the boy to a blacksmith, then a hatter.
He took to neither commerce.
By 1800, Ball had made his technique to Deer Isle, working as a laborer and marrying an area lady — his second spouse.
“[He] was famous for profane language and for carrying a brace of pistols,” wrote Jonathan Fisher, a Blue Hill parson who printed a poem and temporary biographical sketch about Ball after his execution. “He left one illegitimate little one and one by every of his wives.”
In 1811, Ball was dwelling even farther Down East, in Robbinston, simply throughout the St. Croix River from New Brunswick, then British territory.
“The boundary area was a hotbed of unlawful actions,” wrote William L. Welch in a 2010 subject of Maine Historical past. “In 1807, when President Thomas Jefferson tried to guard American ships from European harassment by imposing a commerce embargo, American retailers merely shipped
their pork and flour downeast, swelling the circulation of illicit commerce over the border.”
Together with all of the illicit items flowing backward and forward went copious quantities of international and home foreign money. American cash mingling with their British and Spanish counterparts. Including to the lawless milieu, there have been no close by banks and no consultants to inform the true stuff from the faux.
Enterprising criminals have been recognized to maneuver bogus “shineys,” because the faux cash have been referred to as, throughout the border into Canada in change for hard-to-come-by British items. Then, they’d smuggle the precious merchandise into Maine, promoting it for actual cash.
Ball was considered a part of considered one of these operations.
A person named Samuel Jones swore to native authorities that Ball and some cronies have been melting down reliable gold and silver cash, then reminting them in better numbers, after mixing in a whole lot of nugatory lead and pewter.
Speak about stretching a greenback.
A neighborhood Calais decide signed an arrest warrant for Ball primarily based on the criticism. However there was an issue. There was no police pressure accessible to go and nab him.
As an alternative, the decide licensed outstanding citizen John Tileston Downes to kind a posse and arrest Ball. When Downes discovered him on Jan. 26, 1811, the presumed unlawful cash producer went quietly.
Nonetheless, Jones didn’t present as much as give his testimony, and Ball was instantly let loose. The subsequent day, Jones appeared, and the decide despatched Downes again out to arrest Ball a second time.
The decide by no means signed a second arrest warrant, however no person appeared to care.
This time, when Downes and his males approached Ball’s cabin, they discovered him strolling down the highway, armed with a rifle, pistol and bayonet. Ball then turned down a wooded path with the posse following.
Instantly, he wheeled round, going through his pursuers along with his unaimed rifle at his waist. The lengthy gun then went off with a thundering crack and billow of thick smoke.
When the fumes cleared away, Downes lay on the bottom, dying.
Ball vanished into the woods with a number of males from the posse on his tail. Then, he turned on them once more, brandishing his pistol. They backed off and let him go.
Downes died the following day.
Ball might have run for the border, however he didn’t and turned himself in to authorities a pair days later.
Along with his trial scheduled for June, Ball was first held in Castine after which Augusta. On the lengthy journey to central Maine and again once more, he was held in shackles and displayed each evening at roadside inns as “the assassin of poor Downes.”
At trial, Ball’s protection attorneys tried to poke holes in contradictory tales instructed by the prosecution’s witnesses. In addition they claimed their consumer’s gun went off accidentally, subsequently, the worst Ball could possibly be responsible of was manslaughter, not homicide.
The protection methods weren’t profitable. Ball was convicted of homicide and sentenced to hold in September.
His attorneys appealed straight to the Massachusetts governor and argued a number of technical factors. They succeeded in shopping for Ball a while however solely a little bit.
His authorized sources exhausted, Ball was hanged in Castine on Oct. 31, 1811.
The occasion drew at the least 1,500 spectators. The native inns stuffed, some folks from out of city camped beside the highway.
Carrying a veil over his head that day, Ball was marched to the scaffold on a close-by hill.
“The sheriff gave him a fabric, and instructed him to throw it when he was prepared,” Fisher wrote. “He held it a minute, then dropped it. He fell about 5 toes, and died with hardly a battle.”
Although he maintained his innocence to the top, most locals believed Ball was responsible.
“He died an unrelenting sinner, [an] terrible occasion of the destroying character of sin and a frightful monument of justice,” learn the native paper, the Castine Eagle.
Fisher additionally believed within the sinner analysis. He’d tried repeatedly to get Ball to repent his sins whereas in jail however was rebuffed.
“When warned of the hazard of falling into hell, he mentioned there was no hell however what was on this world,” Fisher wrote of Ball. “As he lived, so he died.”
Ball was by no means tried for counterfeiting, however the reverend went on to make some cash, publishing a broadside poem in regards to the condemned man. Printed in two editions and offered for $.06 a duplicate, it additionally included a woodcut by Fisher, displaying Ball dangling from a rope in entrance of a giant crowd.
An unique copy can now be bought for nearly $10,000 from one native Maine vintage supplier.
“Take warning, then, O my pricey buddies, let me advise you all,” it nonetheless reads, “Pray shun all vice — oh! don’t die Like Ebenezer Ball.”
This story is a part of an ongoing collection analyzing Maine’s historic use of the demise penalty.