1842: Getting Away With Murder in Bath New Hampshire

On September 9, 1842, Adaline (Tenney) Comings, wife of William F., and mother of Emeline and Adaline Comings was found dead at the foot of her bed.  Around her neck was her own handkerchief, tied in a “halter knot.” The other end of the handkerchief was tied to the bed. Her head was dangling less than three feet from the floor.

Her husband William admitted that Adeline knew he had been unfaithful to her, and she was depressed. He said he had woken from a sound sleep and found her already dead.  The Court of Inquest ruled that Adeline Comings had committed suicide. But even so the townspeople did not offer him jobs, and his former lover wrote to him saying their affair was over.

And so, with no reason to stay in Bath, and more not to, William Comings moved to Rensselaerville, New York.  He did not attempt to hide his move there. Not long after, on 21 February 1843, he was arrested there, and returned for trial in New Hampshire.

In 1843 a Grand Jury at Plymouth NH indicted William Comings of strangling his wife, of hanging her with her own handkerchief, and of beating her. The country doctors called in to testify gave conflicting testimony–stating there were marks on Adaline’s body, while others  testified to the absence of marks or injuries. The jury eventually found Comings guilty of murder in the first degree.

For the following year William Comings appealed his case unsuccessfully. In 1844 when he went before a judge for sentencing, he again claimed his innocence. He was sentenced to be hanged. At this time in New Hampshire, the continuance of the death penalty was in question. The bill to abolish capital punishment was stuck in committee.  And so carrying out the death sentence was delayed.

By June 1853, after being in prison for nine years, William Comings was finally pardoned by the executive authority of the State of New Hampshire.  Mr. Comings went on to marry a second time, and he moved “out west.”

Did William Comings get away with murder?  Or in a strange twist of fate, did his wife truly commit suicide in a way that implicated her husband?



Samuel-5 Cummings, (John-4, John-3, John-2, Isaac-1) married 2 Oct 1741 Sarah Spalding, dau of Dea. Andrew & Abigail Spalding of Westford MA. She b. 9 June 1723. He died in Cornish NH 6 June 1796 and she died in the same town 20 Nov 1801. The two oldest children were born in Westford MA, the remaining probably in Dunstable MA. In 1773 he bought land in Cornish NH not far from the Connecticut River.  He is buried in the old burying ground in Cornish NH.
Children of Samuel & Sarah (Spalding) Cummings:
1. Samuel Cummings, b. 18 Nov 1742 Westford MA
2. Abigail Cummings, b. 23 June 1744; possibly the Abigail who m. 2 Nov 1769 Thaddeus Cummings
3. Sarah Cummings, b. 18 May 1747 in Dunstable MA
4. Benjamin Cummings, b. 25/28 Dec 1749, d. 2 Oct 1754
5. Betsy Cummings, b. 28 June 1752 Dunstable MA; m. William Farris. She d. 22 Nov 1810
6. +Benjamin Cummings 2nd, b. 28/29 March 1755
7. Mary Cummings, b. 16 Dec 1757 in Dunstable MA; m. Ebenezer Fletcher. She d. 26 Feb 1812.
8. Andrew Cummings, b. 16 Feb 1761 Dunstable MA; d. 1 Oct 1775, unmarried
9. Warren Cummings, b. 16 Oct 1768 Dunstable MA

Benjamin-6 Comings,  b 28/29 March 1755;  married Mary Cooper. She was born 20 July 1753 He died 13/14 Apr 1813. She d. December 1843. They resided in Cornish NH, having received from his father a gift of land in that town.
Children of Benjamin & Mary (Cooper) Comings:
1. Peninnah Comings, b. 20 June 1777; m. 14 Dec 1800, Chester Weld. Had issue.
2. Samuel Comings, b 3 Nov 1778
3. Polly Comings, b. 17 Feb 1781; m. 1 March 1801 Luther Bingham, eldest son of Elias & Vashti (Elderkin) Bingham. He b. 5 Apr 1778 and d. 10 Dec 1846. She d. 30 Aug 1847. They resided in Morristown VT; had issue
4. Sherman Comings, b. 9 Jan 1783
5. Andrew Comings, b. 6 May 1785
6. +Fenno Comings, b. 21 March 1787
7. Benjamin Comings, b. 15 Apr 1789
8. Betty Comings, b. 3 Apr 1791; m. Moody Smith; She d. 17 Aug 1869; no children
9. Susan Comings, b. 14 Apr 1793; m. James Sperry, and his 2nd wife. She d. Dec 1863; had issue
10. boy, b. 13 Oct 1795, died same day
11. boy, b. 13 Oct 1795, died same day
12. Julia Robigne, b. 12 Apr 1799; m. 1817 Jacob Newell. She d. 2 May 1858. He was born in Jaffrey NH in 1792, a carpenter by trade, at Plattsburg NY; in the war of 1812 was a drum major and received a wound in his cheek. On account of ill health of Julia, the children were sent to be cared for by friends. [more in Cummings Memorial book]

Deacon Fenno-7 Comings, born 21 March 1787;  married 22 Nov 1810 to Rebecca Smart. She was b. 26 July 1788, dau of Caleb Smart who was b 3 May 1760 in New Market NH, and Catharine Black, born 7 Oct 1762 in Meredith NH. He was of Crydon NH and he died 24 Jan 1830. She married 2nd) Jan 1833 Rev. Jonathan Kinney of Plainfield VT who died 7 May 1838. She died in Berlin VT 10 Oct 1865.  Fenno Comings was a tanner and currier, who worked with his brother, Sherman Comings in Cornish NH, and Plainfield VT from after his marriage until 1815. He then continued in the same business in Berlin VT until he died.  During a sickness of several months, he and his family had the sympathy of the entire community.
Children of Deacon Fenno & Rebecca (Smart) Comings:
1. Peninnah Comings, b. 1 Dec 1811; d. 17 Apr 1813
2. a son b 31 Jan 1813, d. 1 Feb 1813
3. +William Freeman Comings, b. Jan 18, 1814
4. Mary Louisa Comings, b. 19 Jan 1816; m. 25 Sep 1836 Harry Hovey Dewey, a farmer in Berlin VT, b. 30 Dec 1809, son of Israel & Nancy (Hovey) Dewey, and a descendant of Thomas Dewey of Dorchester MA, 1633. Children: Lucia Louisa, Anna, Henry Harrison, John Calvin, Ursula Frances, Orrel Farris, Ednah, Fenno Lafayette, Erasmus Darwin, son dy, Hiram Smart,

*William Freeman-8 Comings*  b. 18 Jan 1814; m. May 1835 Adaline Tenney, daughter of John and Lucinda Tenney, born May 26, 1814 of Hanover NH, who died Sept. 9, 1842.  He married 2nd) 1852, Emaretta Humphrey of Croydon NH, dau of Nathaniel & Polly (Smart) Humphrey. By 1880 he was boarding in Argyle, Washington Co. NY, a widow.
Children of William F. &  Adaline (Tenney) Comings:
1. +Emeline Perley Comings, b. 28 Nov 1838 in Hanover NH
2. +Adaline Lucinda Comings, b. 22 Feb 1842 in Bath NH

Emeline Perley-9 Comings, (William Freeman-8, Fenno-7, Benjamin-6, Samuel-5, John-4, John-3, John-2, Isaac-1) b. 28 Nov 1838 in Hanover NH; m. 27 June 1858 Joel Eddy of Chester, Warren Co NY, and had dau. Florence.  In 1860 Joel S. Eddy (age 22 farmer, b. VT), Emelin P. Eddy (age 21, housewife, b. NH) and Florence E. Eddy (age 1, b. NY) were living in Chester, Warren Co. NY. She married 2d) Andrew Bailey, son of Capt. Cyrus and Hannah Bailey, born June 29, 1822 of Berlin VT. In 1880 Andrew and Emeline were living in Berlin, Washington Co. VT, he was a laborer, and she a dressmaker. Children of Joel & Emeline P. (Comings) Eddy:
1. +Florence Eddy, b. 23 March 1859 NY; m. Arthur L. Hewitt
Children of Andrew & Emeline P. (Comings) Bailey:
2. Ida Anosima Bailey, b. 10 Feb 1863 VT; m. 21 Oct 1891 in Berlin VT to Edward Martin McIntosh. He b. 1 May 1860 in Berlin VT and d. 1 March 1934 in Waitsfield VT. Had son Theron William McIntosh, b. 18 May 1899 in Northfield Vermont
3. Susan Francis Bailey, b. 24 Dec 1869 VT
4. Ada May Bailey, b. 21 Feb 1874 VT
5. Mary Emma “Myrtie” Bailey, b. 29 Feb 1880 VT

Florence-10 EDDY, (Emeline Perley-9 COMINGS, (William Freeman-8, Fenno-7, Benjamin-6, Samuel-5, John-4, John-3, John-2, Isaac-1), b. 23 March 1859 NY; m. Arthur L. Hewitt, he b. 24 Nov 1851 in Barre, Middlesex VT, son of Daniel and Mary H. (Wentworth) Hewitt. He was a teacher in Berlin VT, and in 1884 a member of the Vermont legislature. He was also the town clerk, and the superintendent of schools. Florence was still living in 1930 when she was living with her daughter Ethel and family.
Census > U.S. Census > 1900 United States Federal Census > Vermont > Washington > Berlin > District 220
Hewitt, Arthur L. Head W M Nov 1851 48 married 21 yrs VT VT VT Farmer [m abt 1879]
Hewitt, Florence wife W F June 1859 40 married 21 yrs 5 ch 5 living NY VT VT
Hewitt, Arthur W. son W M June 1883 16 single VT VT NY at school
Hewitt, Harold R. son W M Nov 1888 11 single VT VT NY at school
Hewitt, Joel E. son W M Jan 1892 8 single VT VT NY at school
Hewitt, Ethel J. daughter W F July 1896 3 single VT VT NY at school
Children of Arthur L. & Florence (Eddy) Hewitt:
1.?Daniel Denslow Hewitt, prob. b. between 1879-1882 in Berlin VT [b. 2 Feb 1881] [unverified, census states Florence had 5 children, Daniel may be the 5th].
2. Arthur Wentworth Hewitt, b. 22 June 1883 Berlin, Washington Co. VT; in 1910 living in Plainfield, Washington Co. VT with wife Nina L. (age 30 b VT). They married about 1908. Clergyman and author. In 1921 living in Plainfield VT and a member of the Vermont State
Board of Education; he died November 1971 in Riverton, Washingto Co. VT
3. Harold Rupert Hewitt, b. 6 Nov 1888 Berlin VT; d. May 1973 in Montpelier, Washington Co. VT; insurance clerk for National Life Insurance Co. in Montpelier VT; he married Ruby? Dors. In 1920 living in Montpelier VT with his wife, mother-in-law Flora Dors, and brother-in-law James Dors [in that census his name is mis-transcribed as Hewett]. His WWII Registration Card shows next of kin, Irene M. Hewitt. During WWI He was inducted on 15 July 1918 in Montpelier VT, in Tank Corps June 1917, overseas 9 Aug 1919, discharged 14 Aug 1919.
4. Joel E. Hewitt, b. Jan 1892 Berlin VT
5. Ethel J. Hewitt, b. July 1896 Berlin VT; m. John J. Clifford. He was b. 10 Nov 1890 in
Boston MA; They had children: Lena M., Florence E., Esther H., Madeline.

Adaline Lucinda-9 Comings/Cummings, (William Freeman-8, Fenno-7, Benjamin-6, Samuel-5, John-4, John-3, John-2, Isaac-1) b. 22 Feb 1842 in Bath NH; married 22 Nov 1860 Norman J. King, and died near Sheffield IL 19 Feb 1882. Mr. King was b 18 June 1836 in Corinth, Saratoga Co NY. He removed to Dakota 1885. In 1900 census he is living alone in Township 145/146 in Wells Co. North Dakota. He died 13 Apr 1911 in Carrington, North Dakota. He is probably the Norman King who enlisted at Horicon NY (Civil War) on 7 Aug 1862 at the age of 26 in Company D., 118th Infantry Regiment, discharged 27 June 1865 at Fort Monroe VA.
U.S. Census > 1870 United States Federal Census > New York > Essex > Minerva
King, Norman 34 M W Farm Hand 100 New York
King, Adaline 28 F W Keeping House Vermont
King, William 8 M W attend school New York
King, Ada 4 F W New York
U.S.Census > U.S. Census > 1880 United States Federal Census > Illinois > Bureau > Mineral > District 18
King, Norman J. W M 42 Farmer NY VT Mass
King, Adaline W F 38 wife home keeper NH NH VT
King, William W M 18 son farm hand NY NY NH
King, Ada R. W F 13 dau Farm Help NY NY NH
Mooney, Job S. W M 23 boarder Farmer ME VA Ohio
Children of Norman & Adaline L. (Comings) King:
1. William Freeman “Willie” King, b. April 24, 1862 NY; possibly he is the William F. King a lumberjack found in the 1920 and 1930 census of Minnesota married to a Chippewa Indian Lizzie, and with children George, Daniel, Lizebet/Lizzie, Allen, and Malvin/Melvin.
2. Ada R. King, b. Aug 6, 1866 Scroon Lake NY and d. 1947; she m. 22 Nov 1883 in Jamestown, North Dakota to Gustav/Gustaf Willhelm Kallberg. He b. 28 Apr 1863 in Kalsvik Sweden and d. 1942. In 1910 living in Carrington, Foster Co ND with his parents Peter J. & Catherin Kallberg (no ch living with them). In 1920 living in Carrington, Foster Co. North Dakota.

1. The Cummings memorial, by George Mooar; New York; B.F. Cummings, 1903, page 500
2. From Homicide to Slavery: Studies in American Culture, by David Brion Davis; Published 1986, Oxford University Press
3. United States Census Records
4. Photograph taken from “Grappling With the Monster,” by T.S. Arthur, part of the Project
Gutenberg eBook Project

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5 Responses to 1842: Getting Away With Murder in Bath New Hampshire

  1. Tom White says:

    I have a family Bible with many records of this family starting with the marriage of Emelin P. Comings (sic) to Joel S. Eddy in 1858, and later to A. E. Bailey continuing on through the Baileys and related families up to about 1917. Is there any surviving member of this branch of the family with an interest in this information? This is an offer of a gift, not an offer of sale.

    • James Sumner says:

      My Great Grandmother was Florence Hewitt , and Yes we are decendants of the Joel E Eddy & Emiline marriage. We have been involved in doing a lot of work. I would be inebted to you for a copy of the family Bible.
      My contact Info is Jim Sumner, 84 Park Street , Barre Vt 05641

  2. Linda Carlson-Hewitt says:

    Fantastic information and a lot of blanks filled in on the Hewitt family tree that I am working on for the Hewitt clan. Daniel Denslow Hewitt and his first wife Harriet Belle Stickney were my husband’s grandparents. Thank you!

  3. Pingback: Celebrating New Hampshire Women Through History | Cow Hampshire

  4. Carolyn Comings says:

    Greetings. I just found this blog while rummaging around in my own ancestral woodpile. In case anyone is still paying attention, William Freeman Comings, the alleged wife-murderer, is my first cousin 4 times removed. His uncle, Sherman Comings (1783-1845), was my great-great-great grandfather. Anyone looking for info on the Comings/Cummings clan, feel free to reach out. I don’t guarantee I’ll have the answers, of course. 🙂 I can be found at crankybeach at yahoo dot com. Happy hunting!

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