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(cover page) Sketches of the Life of Joseph Mountain
(title page) Sketches of the Life of Joseph Mountain, a Negro, Who Was Executed at New-Haven on the 20th Day of October, 1790, For a Rape, Committed on the 26th Day of May Last [The Writer of This History Has Directed That the Money Arising From the Sales Thereof, After Deducting the Expence of Printing, &c. Be Given to the Unhappy Girl, Whose Life Is Rendered Wretched by the Crime of the Malefactor.]
Joseph Mountain, 1758-1790
David Daggett, 1764-1851 19,  p.
Printed and Sold by T. & S. Green.
Call number JWJ Zan M864 790S (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University)
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[Title Page Image]
I JOSEPH MOUNTAIN, was born on the 7th day of July, A. D. 1758, in the house of Samuel Mifflin, Esq. of Philadelphia, father of the present Governor of Pennsylvania. My father, Fling Mountain, is a Molatto, and now lives at Philadelphia. My mother is a Negro and was a slave till she was twenty-one years of age.--She now lives at Reading, in Pennsylvania.
The first seventeen years of my life were spent in Mr. Mifflin's family.--As a servant in the house I acquired the reputation of unusual sprightliness and activity. My master was industrious to instruct me in the Presbyterian religion which he professed, teach me to read and write, and impress my mind with sentiments of virtue. How grossly these opportunities have been neglected, the following story will too fully evince.
In the 17th year of my age, on the 17th of
One day, at an ale-house in London, I accidentally became acquainted with one Francis Hyde, originally from Middlesex, and one Thomas Wilson, of Staffordshire in England. They were travelling the country, with a hand organ and various other musical instruments, pretending to great art in numerous performances, and
really possessing surprizing knowledge in every species of juggling. This was their employment in the day time, for the purpose of executing more effectually the principal business of their lives, viz.* * The reader will note, that when we use the term
foot-pad, we mean him who robs on foot only; highway-man intends one who robs on horse back.
* The reader will note, that when we use the term
We were on the spot at the hour agreed upon, and disguised ourselves for the adventure. Hyde and Wilson were dressed in white frocks and boots, with their faces painted yellow to resemble Molattoes. Mountain was dressed in the same manner, with the addition of a large tail wig, white gloves and a black mask over his face. When the stage arrived, I started, and caught the leading horses by their bridles, while Hyde and Wilson each presented a brace of pistols in at the coach window, and demanded of the passengers their money. There were four gentlemen and one lady in the coach. They denied having any money. Wilson said, "Deliver, or death." They then gave us a bank note of 501. one other of 201. and about 60 guineas in cash. We then retired to an unfrequented place, shifted our dresses, and prepared to prosecute our journey to Chatham in the county of Kent.
In the day time, Hyde and Wilson commonly played upon their instruments, and performed various seats of slight of hand, as tho' that was their sole occupation. We were also very particular in making observations upon
all travellers, to learn if they might be touched; (for that was our word for
In four days after the former robbery, we met a Capt. Hill at the foot of Rochester bridge near Chatham--He was a captain of the marines, and we had seen him in the day time at Brumpton barracks, about half a mile from the bridge. We walked directly before his horse. Wilson asked him the time of night. He made no reply. Hyde then caught the bridle. I, his left hand, and Wilson presented a pistol to his breast, and said, "Deliver, or death." He assured us that he had no money worth taking. Wilson said, "then give us your watch," which he did. The watch was gold, and valued at 50 guineas. We then walked off about 300 rods towards Graves-end, and immediately tacked for Rochester, where we lodged at the mariner's inn. There was a great
hue and cry for us; but the pursuers, supposing from Capt. Hill's information, we had gone for Graves-end, entirely mistook our rout. The next morning we took post-chaise for London, where we arrived about 6 o'clock in the evening. Our booty was delivered to a broker whom we constantly employed. He was a Jew, and lived in St. Katherine's Row, near Tower-Hill, and his name was William Moses. There were also other brokers in different parts of England, with whom we had constant communication, and who were perfectly acquainted with our modes of acquiring property. After such a jaunt we thought it adviseable to recruit ourselves by rioting on our spoils.
In a few days, it was concluded that I should go alone, and attempt to "touch" some gentlemen who frequented the plays at Covent Garden; this, considering my age and inexperience, was thought rather a bold stroke. Being villain enough to attempt any thing, I did not hesitate; but posted myself agreeably to direction. My efforts, however, were wholly unsuccessful, and I returned empty. The next night I was placed at London bridge, while Hyde stood at Black-fryars, and Wilson at Westminster.
At half past 11 o'clock I met a Captain Duffield, and asked him the time of night. He told me. I said, "You know my profession; deliver or death." He stepped back to strike me with his cane; I cocked my pistol, and told him to deliver instantly, or death should be his portion. He then threw me his purse, which contained about 10 guineas, and a silver watch, which was valued by our broker at 6l. Hyde, the same night, obtained about 40 guineas of Sir John Griffing. Wilson about 30 of a Mr. Burke; and each a watch, one gold, the other pinchbeck. The next day we saw advertisements, describing the robberies, and offering rewards for the perpetrators.
The next night, with little difficulty, I robbed Hugh Lindsly of 16 guineas, and a gold ring. Hyde, on the same evening, took from Lord John Cavendish about 20 guineas, and Wilson robbed William Burke of 11 guineas.
We now concluded to remain in London for a while, as gentlemen of pleasure.--The repeated robberies had furnished us with cash in abundance, and we indulged in every species of debauchery. We gambled very deeply at dice, cards and billiards. Hyde and Wilson were very expert at this business, and would almost invariably swindle a stranger out of his money.
In March 1776, we went to the city of York, about 200 miles from London. Here we continued several weeks, waiting some favourable opportunities to rob at the plays; but none presented. We went from York to New-Market, to attend the famous races which took place about the first of June. There we found Lord Gore of Richmond, and Lord Tufton of Sheffield in Yorkshire: We were much perplexed to invent the most advantageous made of "touching" them. It was at length concluded to attack them at their lodgings, which were at an inn very large and greatly frequented by various classes of people. About 7 o'clock in the evening, while the attendants of those gentlemen were in the kitchens and stables, we entered the front door, and having bribed
the porter with a few guineas, were immediately let into the room. Lords Gore and Tufton were sitting over a table at a dish of coffee, and reading news-papers. We instantly presented our pistols, and demanded their money, Lord Tufton delivered us one bank note of 100l. and three others of 50l. each. Lord Gore delivered us about 100 guineas, and two gold mourning rings. We quitted New-Market next morning, and went in the stage to York, where Wilson presented his bills for payment. Unfortunately for us, Lord Tufton, immediately after the robbery, dispatched his servant to the bank, with orders to stop those bills, if offered. The bills were accordingly stopped, and Wilson arrested, and sent to New-Market to be examined before a justice of the peace. Upon his examination he procured Hyde to swear that he was riding from New-Market to York with Wilson, and that he saw him pick up a pocket book containing those bills. The coachman, having been previously bribed, swore to the same fact. Upon this testimony, Wilson was acquitted. I was not sent for as a witness at this examination, as I understood Lord Robert Manners was then in New-Market, and would probably attend the trial. The reason why I did not wish to meet his Lordship's eye, was, that on the night before we left London, I made a most daring attack upon him. He was walking unarmed, near Hounslow Heath, attended by his foot-man. I met him, presented my pistol, and he gave me 75 guineas, two gold watches, and two gold rings.--Hyde and Wilson were near at hand; but they did not discover themselves, leaving me "to play the hero alone."
In the latter end of June we again met at the old rendezvous in London and divided our plunder. The property which I then had on hand enabled me to live very freely for some months. My time was spent in that round of dissipation which was the necessary attendant upon so vicious a character, and which was tolerably well supported by the stock of cash in my own possession, and that of my broker.
I now resolved to quit this course of life which I had hitherto pursued with so much success. Accordingly I entered on board the brig Sally, as Cook, and made two voyages in her to Lisbon. Upon my return, after exhausting my pay, I made another voyage, in the Fanny, Capt. Sinclair, to Kingston, in Jamaica; which being finished in nine months, I again visited London, and concluded to relinquish the seafaring business for the present. At the old place of resort I became acquainted with one Haynes and Jones, both of Yorkshire. They were partially initiated in the science of foot-pads. They soon proposed that I should resume my profession, and join them. My former mode of life, tho' singularly vicious, yet possessed many charms in my view. I therefore complied with their request; at the same time doubting, if they were possessed of sufficient courage and skill for companions to one who had served under experienced masters, and who considered himself at the head of the profession. Our first object was to assail the Newcastle stage, which would be in Tottenham-Court road at 8 o'clock in the evening. We were on the spot in season, and Mountain addressed them thus: "My lads, 'tis a hazardous attempt--for God's sake make a bold stroke." Upon the arrival of the coach at half past 7 o'clock, four miles from London, I seized the bridles of the two foremost horses. Jones and Haynes went to the coach door, and said, "Deliver or death." Lord Garnick and several others were passengers: His Lordship said, "Yes, yes, I'll deliver," and instantly discharged a pistol at Jones, the contents of which entered his left shoulder: upon which he and Haynes made their escape. The coachman was then directed to "drive on"--He replied, "There is a man who yet holds the leading horses."--Lord Garnick then fired at me, but without damage; upon which I discharged my pistol at the coach, but without effect. Jones was so badly wounded, that Haynes and I were obliged to carry him into London upon our shoulders. We were soon overtaken by two highway
men, who had assaulted Lord Garnick about 15 minutes before our engagement, one of whom was badly wounded. The next day we saw an advertisement offering a reward of 60 guineas for the detection of the robbers, and informing, that it was supposed three were killed. This specimen of the enterprize of my new associates convinced me, that they were not adepts in their occupation, and induced me to quit their society.
The business which now seemed most alluring to me, was that of highway-men. Considering myself at the head of foot-pads, I aspired for a more honorable employment, and therefore determined to join myself to the gang of highway men, whose rendezvous were at Broad St. Giles's, up Holborne, at the sign of the Hampshire hog, and kept by a William Harrison, a native of the Isle of Man. Harrison was the support, the protector and the landlord of this whole company. The horses and accoutrements were kept and furnished by him, and occasionally supplied to adventurers. He enquired my name, and finding that I was Mountain who was confederate with Hyde and Wilson, he readily admitted me to the fraternity. He asked if I dared take a jaunt alone; and finding me willing for any thing, he quickly furnished me with equipments proper for the expedition. Mounted on a very fleet horse, and prepared with proper changes of dress, I sat out for Coventry, about 90 miles from London. I made great dispatch in travelling, and about 10 o'clock the night after my departure, I met Richard Watts coming out of a lane about two miles from Coventry. I rode up to him, and enquired if he was not afraid of highway-men? He replied, "No, I have no property of value about me." I then told him that I was a man of the profession, and that he must deliver or abide the consequences. Upon this he gave me his gold watch: I insisted on his money, and cocked my pistol, threatening him with instant death. He perceived that resistance and persuasion were equally unavailing, and threw me his purse containing 13 half guineas and some
pocket-pieces. The gold watch was valued at 40 guineas. I then ordered him back down the lane, accompanied him thither, and fled with the greatest haste into an adjacent wood: Here I shifted my own and horse's dress, leaving them in a bye place, rode directly to a neighbouring town, and there put up for the night. Thence I took my course for Newcastle in Devonshire, about 270 miles north of London, and thence to Warrington in Lancastershire. Here about 7 o'clock in the evening I met with a gentleman who appeared an object of plunder. I asked him the time of night; he drew his watch, and told me the hour. I observed "You have a very fine watch." He answered, "Fine enough." "Sir, 'tis too fine for you--you know my profession--deliver." He drew back; I caught his bridle with one hand, presented a pistol with the other, and said, "Deliver, or I'll cool your porridge:" He handed me a purse of 8 guineas, and a gold watch valued at 301. sterling. To compleat the iniquity, and exhibit the extent of my villainy, I then took a prayer-book from my pocket, and ordered him to swear upon the solemnity of God's word, that he would make no discovery in twelve hours: He took the oath: I quitted him, and heard nothing of the matter till the next morning about 10 o'clock, when I saw a particular detail of the transaction in the news-papers.
Liverpool was my next stage. Here I tarried two days making observations for evening adventures. On the night of the second day I robbed Thomas Reevs of 6 guineas, and a gold watch worth about 301. sterling. To insult him in his distress, after committing the fact, I pulled off my hat, made a low bow, wished him good night, and sat out for Lancaster in company with the stage. It occurred to me, that riding as a guard to the stage would secure me against suspicion. Accordingly I accompanied it to Lancaster, and there put up at the "swan and two necks." Here I continued three days, waiting a favourable opportunity to exercise my profession. On the third evening at 8 o'clock, I stopped a Col.
Pritchard, took from him a gold watch valued at 44 guineas, a purse of 30 guineas, 3 gold rings, and a pair of gold knee-buckles worth about 61. The knee-buckles appeared so tempting, I told Pritchard, I could not avoid taking them. At 11 o'clock I left Lancaster, and having rode about one mile from town, I stopped, pulled off my hat, and bid them "good-bye."
My course was now for Manchester, where I put up for about 24 hours at the "bull's-head." The evening following, about 11 miles from Manchester, I "touched" a Quaker. It was nearly 9 o'clock when I met him. I enquired if he was not afraid to ride alone. He answered, No. I asked him his religion; he replied "I am a Friend." I observed, "You are the very man I was looking for--you must deliver your money." He seemed very unwilling, and said, "Thou art very hard with me." I replied, "You must not
thou me." He then gave me his plain gold watch, 6 guineas, and four bank notes of 20l. each. I then presented a prayer-book, and demanded an oath that he would make no discovery in 8 hours: He refused an oath, alledging that it was contrary to his religion, but gave his word that my request should be complied with. I then dismissed him, returning the bank notes, and took a circuitous rout for London. The guineas which I had obtained in this jaunt, I concealed and carried in the soles of my boots, which were calculated for that purpose, and effectually answered it. The mare which I rode was trained for the business: she would put her head in at a coach window with the utmost ease, and stand like a stock against any thing. She would travel also with surprizing speed. Upon my arrival at Harrison's, (having been gone eleven days) I gave a faithful narrative of my transactions, and produced the plunder as undeniable proof. I never shall forget with what joy I was received. The house rang with the praises of Mountain. An elegant supper was provided, and he placed at the head of the table. Notwithstanding the darkness of his complexion, he was complimented
as the first of his profession, and qualified for the most daring enterprizes.
Fatigued with such a jaunt, and fearing left too frequent adventures might expose me, I determined on tarrying a while at home. My horse was given to another, and he directed to seek for prey. After one month's absence he returned with only 16 guineas, and was treated accordingly by the gang. He was inadequate to the business, and was therefore ordered to tarry at home, just to visit the play-houses, &