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Rape Trial

October 8, 1793 — Court of Oyer and Terminer and Gaol Delivery of the City and County of New-York, New-York City


LANAH SAWYER, who, being sworn, testified, that on a Sunday evening, the latter end of August, she was going through Broadway, and received several insults from some Frenchmen, whose language she could not understand; and that the Prisoner came up — res­cued her, and then attended her home to her father’s house in Gold-Street —. That he told her his name was lawyer Smith. On the Sunday following, she met him again — he accosted her — they entered into conversa­tion; in the course of which, he asked her if she would take a walk with him on the battery the following evening; she replied, she was engaged; he then mentioned Tuesday evening; she told him she was also en­gaged; he said, surely you are not engaged on every evening — you can certainly go on, Wednesday; to which she told him she was not then engaged. He conveyed her home, and departed. In the morning, a Mr. Hone, who lived opposite to her, observed what a smart Beau she had got. She told him it was a lawyer Smith; but Mr. Hone said it was not, for it was Harry Bedlow, a very great rake; she said it could not be, as he had said his name was lawyer Smith. On the Wednesday evening following, being the 4th of Sep­tember, she was sitting on her father’s stoop, and the Prisoner came up to her, asked her to take a walk, and told her that Miss Steddiford (whom she had before mentioned to him to be a young lady of her acquaint­ance) would, with another gentleman, accompany them. That she went with the prisoner to the house of Mr. Steddiford, but found his daughter out; that Bedlow suggested they had gone to the battery. She accord­ingly went with him towards that place, down Broad­way. They stop’d at Corre’s, and took some ice cream, and afterwards proceeded to the Battery, round which they walked twice.  During this time she heard the clock strike, and counted twelve; this alarmed her, she mentioned her fears to the Prisoner, but he quieted them by telling her it was only ten. They then re­turned, and going into Broadway, met three watch­men, who, upon being asked by Bedlow, told them it was one o’clock. They then went on to John-Street, where she was going to turn down, but the Prisoner would not let her. He kept his arm around her, and brought her on to Ann-Street, which he wanted her to turn down, but she would not, as she knew there were vacant lots there — had heard the street was filled with bad people, and thought it improper for a young girl to go down there. He kept tight hold of her; — she screamed, and he stopt her mouth. She then, for the first time, began to suspect his intentions. He then dragged her along to opposite the Brick-Meeting-house, with-one arm round her, the other having both her hands; he then knocked with his stick at the door of Mrs. Cary. Mrs. Cary opened the window; he de­fered; admittance; she refused, saying, that her doors were locked — that her husband was out of town, and she could not open them.

The Prosecutrix, during this, escaped from the Prisoner, and run near to the corner of Nassau-Street; Bedlow dragged her back again; she again escaped, and fled quite to the corner; he forcibly made her return, she again ran away, al­most exhausted, and not knowing, what she did, run upwards; the Prisoner followed her; told her she should not go back again, and keeping tight hold of her, bro’t her to Ann-Street, she resisting; he carried her down there, took her through a vacant lot, keeping fast hold of her arms, and going backwards himself, drew her through a passage, pushed open a gate, led her thro’ a garden, where they were obstructed by bushes — then came to a back door, at which he knocked and demanded admittance; the door was opened by Mrs. Cary, who said, “there is a room;” the Prisoner drag­ged her into it; she screamed; he called for a candle, which was afterwards put in at the door by Mrs. Cary, and the door was then shut. Bedlow then pull­ed off his coat and waistcoat, during which, the Pro­secutrix screamed and endeavored to escape, that he then seized her, stopped her mouth, and laughed loud to prevent her screams from being heard; he then threw off her hat, tore the pins out of her gown, and placing her before him, drew it off her shoulders; he asked her consent three or four times, which she re­fused, calling him a brute, a dog, and a villain; he next asked her consent to put out the candle, which she likewise refused, and he put it out without; afterwards he tore the strings of her petticoats, and kicked them off with his feet; upon this he throw her down on the bed, and pulled off his own cloaths, during which, she tried to effect an escape, but was prevented by him. He then threw himself upon her, laid his left arm across her throat, so that she was almost choaked; and did not suppose she could live many minutes, and had his ends of her. These words were explained by leading questi­ons, (the answers to which thro’ delicacy we omit; but they announced to proof of the fact.) She did not feel his right arm at all, nor knew what he did with it; afterwards he turned his back and went to sleep; she then arose to look for the door, but came across the window, tried to open it, but could not; she next found the door, felt a latch but could not open it; felt all over for bolts and found one; Bedlow hearing her, got up and forced her to bed again, but did not offer any new violence. He went to sleep again; she again get up and tried at the window; but was not able to get out, set down in a chair, the room being very dark and impossible to distinguish any day light, that Bedlow again got up and made her lie down; after some time he arose, opened the shutter, and she discovered it to be broad day; he dressed himself, told her to do the same, and to make haste, as he supposed Mrs. Cary wished them to be gone; that he went away; she said, dress­ed herself, and coming out into the passage, was met by Mrs. Cary, who said, “deary, you may go out at the back or the front door, as I have looked out and there is nobody in the street”; the prosecutrix replied she would go out at the front door, and did not care if the first man she met was her father, or some relation or acquaintance. About […] in the morning she went out, turned up near Broadway, and as she came near Ann-Street, she saw Bed­low puss her. Being much distressed and fearful left her father should […]eat her before he heard her story, and being desirous of acquainting her mother with it first, she went to the bathing-house near the north river, and sat down by the river side; a gentleman came up with two little boys, spoke to her, asked her why she looked so dejected, she refused to tell him; […]he again importuned her and not with a like refusal […] h […]s then asked her if she had left her lover; if he had gone to sea, and whether she intended to thrown […]; he then wrote something on paper, and told her that he would show it her, if she would disclose the cause of her grief; at last he went away, and the Prosecutrix walked to a Mrs. Bruce’s near the battery, where an aged aunt of hers lived; here she stayed the afternoon, drank tea, and went away about seven o’clock.

She then went round to a Mr. Jones’s in Dock Street, on an errand, but seeing the door shut, and some Frenchmen on the stoop, was afraid to go in; she missed her glove and returned to Mrs. Bruce’s to find it, but could not; she then pro­ceeded to the house of a Miss Pine, in George Street, in order to get her to go home with her; she saw her standing over her door, and Miss Pine called to her, upon which the Prosecutrix asked her or her sister to go come with her; Miss Pine told her she would, and a Mrs. Towt said her husband should go with them, but the Prosecutrix refused; but Mrs. Towt apprehensive they would not go home; sent her husband with them, on the other side, to see them home: that they went home, but her father and mother were both out; she went over the way to a Mrs. Hone’s and stayed a long time there; […] her mother came and was in a great passion, and a Mrs. Harper, a cousin of hers, said she should go home and stay the night with her, which she accordingly did, and went immediately to bed. In the morning her mother came, to whom for the first time, she related the whole affair. Afterwards her father came, and the story was told to him; that he then made her go with him to Mrs. Cary’s. When they came to the house, he desired her to go in first, which she did; that on seeing Mrs. Cary, her father asked her if she knew that young woman, pointing to the Witness; Mrs. Cary, to repeated questions of this kind, replied she had never seen her before in her life. The father asked the Witness if that was not the house; she told him before Mrs. Cary, it was the house she was dragged into the night-before-last; that Mrs. Cary re­fused her father a fight of the back room.

In the course of the testimony, the gown of the Wit­ness was produced, (a calico, made with a drawn frill round the neck;) two or three strings were torn off — a few, places were torn in the gown, but mended, which the Prosecutrix did the next day, to walk in the streets decently.

On a cross examination, she said she did not know that lawyer Smith was Bedlow, till they got to the corner of Ann-Street, when, from his behavior, suspecting his intentions, she thought she had been deceived, and that he was really Harry Bedlow.

She denied being influ­enced by her father, or any other friends, to bring on this prosecution. It came out, likewise, that there was a child who slept in the corner of the room, boarded off, where they were; and that no noise had awakened him; this child was fetched away by Mrs. Cary, in the morning.

She denied being at Mrs. Cary’s the next night, or at Mr. Bedlow’s house, and did not even know where the latter was. She heard nobody move in the house in the morning.

The first light she saw in the room, was from the Prisoner’s opening the window; she did not stamp in the room with her feet; she saw nobody in the street, after passing the three watchmen.

The Attorney-General then rested the prosecution, for the present.



Source: William Wyche, Report of the Trial of Henry Bedlow, for Committing a Rape on Lanah Sawyer. With the arguments of the counsel on each side: at a Court of Oyer and Terminer, and Goal Delivery for the city and county of New-York, held 8th October, 1793. (New York: Printed according to Act of Congress), M.DCC.XCIII (1793).