Day 1331


August 22nd, 2015

The patriarch of the Hallett family in Queens was William Hallett. Born in England in 1616, William arrived in America during the 1630s or 1640s and eventually acquired some 2,200 acres that included all of what is now Astoria.

Many of William's descendants were laid to rest in a little family graveyard near the modern-day intersection of Astoria Boulevard and Main Avenue, where the earliest documented headstone was dated 1724. In 1905, the contents of these graves were transferred to this lot in Mount Olivet Cemetery. Here's a look at the site of the old Hallett burial ground today.

While we're on the subject of deceased Halletts, I should mention the grisly demise of William Jr. (William the patriarch's grandson), his pregnant wife, and all five of their children, who were axe-murdered one night in 1708, allegedly by two of their slaves (specifically by one male slave at the urging of his female counterpart).

After the slaves were found guilty and sentenced to death, "the woman was burnt at the stake; her accomplice was hung in gibbets, and placed astride a sharp iron, in which condition he lived some time, and in a state of delirium which ensued, believing himself to be on horseback, would urge forward his supposed animal with the frightful impetuosity of a maniac, while the blood oozing from his lascerated flesh streamed from his feet to the ground."

The preceding account was taken from a history of Newtown, Queens, published in 1852. After retelling the story, the author went on to comment: "How rude the age which could inflict such tortures, however great the crime committed."

The slaying of the Halletts led the New York provincial assembly to pass, later in 1708, "An Act for preventing the Conspiracy of Slaves". The murders also served as part of the backdrop for the slave revolt of 1712, "a violent insurrection of slaves in New York City that resulted in brutal executions and the enactment of harsher slave codes."

One Comment

  1. Gregg Levine says:

    Did you by chance walk along Vernon Blvd yet? There’s a Cover named for them, by the Ferry Landing. I confess I did not know about that rather grisly affair until now. However, I was indeed familiar with the circumstances regarding the cove’s naming.

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