On This Day: Tragedy in 1780 and 1959

calendar-Feb3On February 3, 1780, a shocking mass murder took place in rural Connecticut.  A Revolutionary War veteran, Barnett Davenport, murdered the family he was boarding with – admittedly without reason or provocation.

Davenport was born in 1760 and at the age of nine his father sent him away to apprentice with a Mr. Stillwell.  In his 1780 confession he related that he once conceived a plan to murder Mr. Stillwell but his heart had not hardened enough to execute his plan.

Instead, he stole Mr. Stillwell’s horse and joined the Massachusetts Regiment commanded by Colonel Brewer.  At one point he was furloughed because of sickness but instead of returning to his unit he began to steal.  He later joined another company of soldiers and tried to desert again.  When his service was finally over he returned to Connecticut to board at the home of Caleb Mallory.  His confession:

Just at the close of January, 1780, about 5 or 6 days before my perpetuating the blackest crime that evil mortals committed, I determined upon the murder of Mr. Mallory and his family at the first opportunity; and this merely for the sake of plundering his houses with the least provocation or prejudice against any of them.

He went on to describe in meticulous detail his heinous crime.  He plundered and burned the Mallory home and fled to a hideout about eight miles away.  When he left the hideout a few days later, he burned it too so that authorities would think he died in that fire.  He was captured one night at an inn, confessed to the crime and also claimed an accomplice (which he later recanted).  Justice was swift.  He was arraigned on April 25 and pled guilty to the crime of murder.  On April 27 he received a death sentence and wrote:

Upon the 8th of May next, I am to be executed.  O that others may take warning by my dreadful example and fearful end!  And avoid those sins which I have committed and which by a series of wickedness have led me to the most awful crimes that were ever perpetrated in this land and for which I must suffer a violent death and I greatly fear, everlasting burning horror and despair.

On May 8, 1780, Barnett Davenport was hanged for his crime.  His crime would be eerily similar to a crime committed in 1959 in Kansas which became the basis for Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

Davenport’s crime shocked the fledgling nation and shifted the perceptions of why a person would commit such a heinous crime from attributing it to one’s sin nature to one of inherent evil.  Perhaps Barnett Davenport was a sociopath?

February 3, 1959

ThatLLBeTheDayOn this date in 1959, Buddy Holly died tragically in a plane crash in Iowa, along with J.P. Richardson (Big Bopper), Ritchie Valens and their pilot.  Some Buddy Holly facts and trivia:

According to Rolling Stone Magazine, the Beatles got the idea to name their band after an insect, like Buddy Holly’s band, the Crickets.  But instead of “Beetles” they changed the spelling to be a pun on musical beats.  John Lennon and George Harrison learned to play the guitar by listening to Buddy Holly records.

Waylon Jennings, who had traveled with Holly and his band to play in Surf City, Iowa as part of the Winter Dance Party tour, gave up his seat on the plane (which only held the pilot and three passengers).  Holly jokingly derided Jennings for not taking the plane ride with them, “I hope your ol’ bus freezes up.”  Jennings fired back, “I hope your plane crashes”.  It is said that remark haunted Jennings for years.

TourPosterHis birth name was Charles Hardin Holley.  In the first recording contract of his career, his name was misspelled – thereafter he dropped the “e”.  On his gravestone, however, is the correct spelling of his surname.

BuddyHollyGraveAt the time of the crash investigation and coroner’s report, there was no mention of Holly’s signature glasses.  The violence of the crash ripped them off his face, embedded in snow and not to be found until April 7.  The glasses were put in an envelope and sealed until March 1, 1980.  The glasses were returned to his widow and are now on exhibit in the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock, Texas.

His glasses were picked out for him by his Lubbock optometrist, Dr. J. David Armistead.  Years later, Dr. Armistead would comment:

“Buddy was trying to wear the least conspicuous frames he could find, wrote Dr. Armistead nearly 40 years after writing Holly’s last prescription. “Personally, I was not happy with the frame styles we had been using. I did not think they contributed anything to a distinct personality that a performer needs.”

While on vacation in Mexico, Dr. Armistead found the frames he thought would give Buddy Holly a distinct look, and thus the one most responsible for the “geek chic” look which everyone associates with Buddy Holly.

In August of 1958, just two months after meeting her, Buddy married Maria Elena Santiago, a receptionist at a music publishing company in New York City.  He was immediately smitten, asked her out for a date and proposed on that first date.  Maria would reminisce years later:

I’d never had a boyfriend in my life. I’d never been on a date before. But when I saw Buddy, it was like magic. We had something special: love at first sight. It was like we were made for each other. He came into my life when I needed him, and I came into his.

Maria Elena was pregnant at the time of her husband’s death.  The news hit the airwaves and family members found out the shocking news by radio.  The day after learning of his death, Maria miscarried their child.  According to Time Magazine, “in the months following the crash, authorities would adopt a policy against releasing victims’ names until after the families had been notified.”

Buddy Holly was a member of Tabernacle Baptist Church.  According to Time Magazine, his family never approved of his music – and none of it was played at his funeral.  His widow did not attend the service and has never visited his grave site.

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2014.

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