Hoosick Falls is no stranger to murder and mystery and on October 24th, listen to three such tales by the fire on the lawn at the museum. In the meantime, here’s an examination of one such crime still echoing through the valley of the owls more than 221 years later.
It was October 15th, 1799. Phebe Paine Bentley was quietly packing, with plans in motion to leave her abusive husband, William. William was a former Baptist minister, but despite this, he had a jealous temper spurring concern from Phebe’s son. Phebe had secretly agreed to meet her son later that afternoon, to be taken back to the protection of his farm just 14 miles away.
However, Phebe’s son would not find his mother waiting for him as he had anticipated. Instead, his worst fears were realized when he arrived at the farm to discover a most horrific scene.
Earlier that day, William had gotten word of his wife’s plans to leave him and in a fit of rage, struck her repeatedly with a shoemaker’s hammer. As the poor woman fled the house for the road in search of help, Bentley caught up with her again, this time with an ax. She survived long enough to identify her killer and her body was taken back to the house, where her son would later discover her amid a crowd of distraught neighbors.
Bentley was pursued, caught, and later found guilty of the crime of murder. He was sentenced to be hung October 10th of the following year, but killed himself just two days shy of the execution.
Mapletown Road is now a winding path bathed in Autumn splendor; the haunting and horrific scene from that day parted from recent memory. Today, Phebe rests in a place unknown beneath glade and grass, but her story remains. And though we do not know much about the woman behind the grisly tale, we do know this… That our stories survive us and hold us above any notion of resoluteness. And in this, we might take some hint of solace in our drive through this Autumn splendor.