The Most Mysterious of All the Cases Which Have Baptized Connecticut in Blood: Trial Reports in the 1800s

Poor Mary Stannard!
A Full and Thrilling Story
of the
Circumstances Connected With Her Murder
History of the Monstrous Madison Crime
The Most Mysterious of All the Cases Which Have Baptized Connecticut in Blood

This is the title of a trial report published in New Haven in 1879, telling the story of Mary Stannard, who had been found murdered in a field in North Madison.  A local minister, for whom she worked and who may have gotten her pregnant, was accused of the murder.

Trials reports as a genre began appearing in New England around 1800. After 1830, with the development of cheap urban papers, coverage of crimes and trials increased and reached more readers.  Trial reports were often published in serial form as extras to the newspapers. Their titles were sensational, broadcasting the usually salacious details to be found within.  For example, the story of the murderer Lucian Hall promised readers a “representation of his wounded and bloody right hand.”

The reports generally followed the structure of the trial itself, but varied in length and detail. Some were pamphlets containing a synopsis only, and some were transcriptions of entire trials, running hundreds of pages. Many trial reports focused on the sensational details of the crime, but others took a moral or religious point of view, presenting the event as a cautionary tale.

Trial reports varied in quality, with some catering to laypersons interested in the details of the crime, and some catering to lawyers and judges, who were interested in the legal and procedural aspects of the case. The majority of trial reports dealt with crimes, but there were some, such as the Thompsonville Carpet Weavers case, that described civil proceedings.

The State Library has a number of trial reports about Connecticut cases in our print and digital collections, such as:

Beautiful Victim of the Elm City: Being a Full, Fair, and Impartial Narrative of All That is Known of the Terrible Fate of the Trusting and Unfortunate Jennie E. Cramer, published in 1881. 

Report of the Proceedings on the Petition of Mrs. Sarah M. Jarvis for a Divorce from her Husband, Rev. Samuel F. Jarvis, D.D., L.L.D. Before a Committee of the Legislature of Connecticut, published in 1839. 

Confessions of Two Malefactors, Teller & Reynolds, Who Were Executed at Hartford, Connecticut, on the Sixth of September, 1822, for the Murder of Ezra Hoskins, published in 1833. 

History of the Barn Burning in Thompson, CT, published in 1874. Digital collection.

From our subscription database Making of Modern Law: Trials 1620-1926

Poor Mary Stannard!

The Mysterious Stranger, or Memoirs of Henry More Smith, Who is Now Confined to Simsbury Mines, in Connecticut, for the Crime of Burglary, 1817.


Daniel A. Cohen, Pillars of Salt, Monuments of Grace: New England Crime Literature and the Origins of American Popular Culture, 1674-1860 (1993).