February 3: The First Mass Homicide in U.S. History

  One of the darkest days in Connecticut history occurred today in 1780, as 19-year-old Revolutionary War deserter Barnett Davenport brutally murdered his employer and his entire family in what many historians recognize as the first documented mass murder in American history. Born in New Milford in 1760, young Barnett was a troubled youth who,…

December 22: Newgate Prison Jails Its First Inmate. But Not For Long.

  Today in 1773, Newgate Prison, the first penal institution to open in Connecticut, received its very first prisoner: 20-year-old John Hinson, who had been convicted of burglary and sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment. Newgate Prison was built on the site of a former copper mine in East Granby which had opened in 1705…

December 20: The Youngest Person Ever Executed in America.

  Today in 1786, in the town of New London, 12-year-old Hannah Occuish was hanged after being found guilty of murdering a six-year-old girl. Hannah’s execution marked the tragic end to a short life full of trials and tribulations. Born in 1774 to a Pequot mother and father of unknown ethnicity, Hannah was orphaned at…

December 18: “The Devil Made Him Do It”

  Today in 1981, the sentencing of Arne Cheyenne Johnson in a Danbury courtroom marked the end of one of the most bizarre court cases in Connecticut history. For the first and only time in U.S. history, a defendant on trial for murder argued that he could not be held responsible for his actions because…

December 9: Rocker Jim Morrison Arrested in New Haven

  On this night in 1967, The Doors, a psychedelic rock band, were scheduled to headline a show at the New Haven Arena. What should have been an ordinary night of music and revelry turned into something more memorable for everyone who attended, thanks to the antics of Doors’ lead singer and frontman Jim Morrison….

November 10: The Tong Wars Come to Connecticut

  In the late 19th century and early 20th century, as Chinese immigrants flocked to American shores in increasing numbers, insular Chinese-American communities known as “Chinatowns” sprang up in large coastal cities like San Francisco and New York. Here, recent immigrants could more freely speak their native language and observe Chinese customs while adapting to…

October 18: They Stopped The Man, But His Truth Went Marching On

  Connecticut-born radical abolitionist John Brown was already a nationally polarizing figure by the time he staged his infamous raid on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia in 1859. Born in Torrington in 1800, Brown’s adult life was characterized by failed business ventures, repeated moves across the country, and an increasingly fanatical devotion to…

August 8: Who Put The Body in the Shoebox?

  Today in 1886, three men on a logging road near Wallingford noticed a large wooden shoe box nestled under some bushes, unwittingly breaking open one of the strangest and most gruesome murder mysteries in Connecticut history. Joseph Samson, Edward Terrill and Joseph Terrill first noticed the box, about 30 inches long and a foot…

August 2: Connecticut’s Last Public Hanging

  In 2012, Connecticut became the 17th state to outlaw the death penalty. For the first 200 years of Connecticut’s history as colony and state,however, public executions with large crowds attending were viewed as an effective deterrent of serious crimes. They were major community events, attracting hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of onlookers to watch the…

July 20: Mass-Marriage-Minded “Moonies” Minister Moves Into Danbury Prison.

  Sun Myung Moon, the late 20th century Korean evangelist whose Unification Church once claimed over three million members worldwide, was a figure dogged by controversy throughout his life. Born in occupied North Korea in 1920, Moon developed strong anti-Communist views as an adult and founded the Unification Church in Seoul, South Korea. The church’s…

July 1: Concerns Over Prison Unrest Produce the State Department of Correction

  Today in 1968, the Connecticut General Assembly voted in favor of consolidating the state’s prisons into a single organization, creating the State Department of Correction. Previously, every prison in the state had been independently managed, with its own Board of Directors, administrative staff, and policies for inmate behavior and rehabilitation. This sweeping reform of…

June 21: “Poor Judgment” Costs a Governor His Job

  “I acknowledge that my poor judgment brought us here,” said John Rowland to a sea of reporters standing on the back lawn of the Connecticut Governor’s Mansion in Hartford. The date was June 21, 2004, and Rowland was announcing his resignation amid a federal corruption investigation and impeachment inquiry. His Lieutenant Governor, M. Jodi…