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Charlotte JONES





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery - To get enough money with which to be married
Number of victims: 2
Date of murder: April 30, 1857
Date of birth: 1823
Victim profile: George Wilson and Elizabeth McMasters (her uncle and aunt)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife - Beating with a poker
Location: Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA
Status: Executed by hanging in Pittsburgh  on February 12, 1858

February 12, 1858 - 35 year old Charlotte Jones (white) was hanged in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania alongside Henry Fife, for murdering her uncle and aunt, George Wilson and Elizabeth McMasters, in 1857. On the gallows, Charlotte kissed Henry before collapsing. She had to be supported on the trap while the final preparations were made.


Charlotte Jones 

Glassport holds the dubious distinction of being the location of the crime for which the first woman in Allegheny county and the second in Pennsylvania, was hanged. Charlotte Jones was convicted, along with Henry Fife, of murdering her uncle and aunt, George Wilson and Elizabeth McMasters, in 1857.

The murder occured in an old log cabin located near what is now Harrison street alongside of a run at the foot of the hill below the present "Red Row."  Charlotte and Henry killed the old couple, brother and sister, in order to get enough money with which to be married.

The story goes that Fife did the killing, slaying the man with a dirk and beating the woman to death with a poker. They were hanged at Pittsburgh February 12, 1858, Charlotte collapsing after kissing her sweetheart, and Fife going stoically to his death with the words: "Remember, gentlemen, I die game."

The murder occurred April 30, 1857. Charlotte is supposed to have knocked at the door that night and gained entrance, after which she summoned Fife by whistling.


Eyewitness 1858: Woman who killed for love, money faces the hangman

By Len Barcousky - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

May 18, 2008

The double-murder case that led Charlotte Jones to the gallows has as many twists and turns as a legal thriller by John Grisham.

Jones was the first woman executed in Allegheny County when she and her lover, Henry Fife, were hanged on Feb. 12, 1858, in the courtyard of the county's second courthouse. Ruined by fire in 1882, it stood on the site of the current courthouse.

The pair had confessed to murdering Jones' elderly uncle and aunt, George Wilson and his sister, Elizabeth McMasters, on April 30, 1857. The victims lived in a log cabin across the river from McKeesport. Wilson was stabbed and his sister was beaten to death with a poker.

"The reason why I did this was the great love I have for Henry Fife, and in order to get money to go to housekeeping with him," Jones dictated in what the Pittsburgh Gazette called her dying declaration.

Jones was illiterate and her statement was read by Mr. Williamson, described in the Feb. 13 edition of the newspaper as "an English gentleman who has taken a great interest in Fife ..."

The competing Pittsburgh Post in that same day's edition had words of praise for county Sheriff Rody Patterson, who "in the performance yesterday of his most painful duty ... followed strictly both the letter and the spirit of the law."

The sheriff had issued attendance cards to 24 witnesses -- 12 for each prisoner -- to observe the execution.

Allegheny County Commissioners, however, had more ambitious plans. They had issued "a large number of tickets" admitting people to the Court House, where "many of the windows ... overlook the sides of the jailyard where the execution took place," the Post said. "These tickets, however, were refused at the avenues of entrance and considerable disturbance arose of this accord."

One of Patterson's deputies quickly got an order from county Judge Charles Shaler, confirming the sheriff's decision to exclude gawkers. "The Commissioners had no authority over the public grounds and premises on this occasion, and hence the tickets of that board were rejected and the holders of them excluded."

While reporters were to have been among those excluded, both the Post and the Gazette had what read like eyewitness accounts in their next-day editions.

"And, oh, how often I have wished I could restore George Wilson and his sister back to life," Fife said in the statement he read from the gallows, according to the Gazette. "Maddened by a thirst for gold and stimulated by drink I gave them the fatal blow that robbed them of life and sent their souls, without warning, to the bar of God."

Fife and Jones said they had planned their crime together, and they both swore that a third suspect, Monroe Stewart, was innocent.

Stewart had been convicted and sentenced to death in the case. In her gallows statement, Jones said she had sought to implicate Stewart out of malice, because he had sought to persuade Fife to leave her.

The Rev. John Brown "then offered up a feeling and appropriate prayer, during which Charlotte and Fife both knelt and seemed to be fervently repeating every world that was uttered by the minister," the Post reported.

"Two glasses containing liquor were then brought to the prisoners. Fife drank all out of the glass given to him; Charlotte merely tasted hers, and then handed it to Fife, who swallowed the remainder.

"Fife then kissed Charlotte affectionately.

"The last words of Fife were: 'Remember, gentlemen, I die game.'

"The last words of Charlotte were a prayer to God for her salvation and a declaration of her love for Fife ..."

When Sheriff Patterson stepped upon a lever that activated the gallows, "the drop fell and the two unfortunate creatures were suspended in the air."

It was not a clean execution. When the bodies of the two were taken down 30 minutes later, doctors found that their necks hadn't been broken by their initial falls, meaning both had strangled.

The final twist in the story came 22 years later, according to a New York Times story published June 19, 1880.

Wilson and McMasters had been killed for the gold and silver coins they had kept at their cabin, according to the Times.

When two McKeesport youths found coins buried on the banks of the Youghiogheny River, the Times reported that "the treasure uncovered by the two boys is believed to be a portion of the wealth the possession of which was so fatal" to its elderly owners.

The boys, however, did not benefit from their find. They told police their newly found cache was taken from them by a menacing red-bearded, red-haired stranger.

"No trace of him has yet been found," the Times said.


Charlotte Jones and Henry Fife

Source: Spirit of Democracy May 13, 1857

Horrible Murder -- Late Saturday night we received an extra slip from the Washington, Pa., Tribune office, announcing that a most horrible double murder had been committed in Allegheny county, by a person or persons from the vicinity of Washington. One of the persons was named Jones, and had recently broke jail at Washington. The persons murdered were GEORGE WILSON, an old man, and his sister.

From what we could learn, on Friday, it appears that a farmer, a native we believe of that township, named George Wilson, aged over seventy years, resided in a log house on “Gamble’s place,” near the river, with his sister, ELIZABETH McMASTER, a very aged widow woman. On Friday morning they were found in the house brutally murdered -- the man have been stabbed some half-dozen times in the abdomen and breast, apparently as he was getting out of bed -- the woman lay on the floor, her skull crushed in with a club or other heavy weapon, and her brains scattered about the room.

Mr. Wilson was a respectable man, but known as close and economical in his expenditures, and was supposed to have had some money -- from six to twelve hundred dollars -- in the house, which was taken by the robbers.

The first news of the murder was brought to McKeesport by a woman named Charlotte Jones, a niece of the murdered persons, who came there early in the morning in a skiff, and stated she had visited the house and seen the bodies. Many persons went up to the house at once -- and the woman Jones left this city after, on the steamer Bayard; she got off, however, at Port Perry, but a few miles below, and went up the river to Monongahela city, within an hour afterwards, on the steamer Luzerne. Why she should be thus eccentric in her travels, we cannot understand.

These circumstances and reports, added to her reputation, and her sudden flight, render it important she should be secured -- especially as it is believed the murder was committed by the same gang who so recently murdered Mr. Samuel H. White, in Washington County, under circumstances so similar.

This Charlotte Jones has since been arrested, and has implicated other persons.

Later -- It is now the opinion that Bill Jones & Co., the murderers of George Wilson and sister, are likewise the murderers of Samuel H. White. Charlotte Jones has made some two or three confessions, and in her last asseverates emphatically that her brother was the murderer in both cases. The very latest item is the following from the Washington (Pa.) Reporter:

William Jones returned home from the neighborhood of Hickory on Monday morning after the murder of Mr. White, and that his clothes were all bloody; that he concealed them in the house for a few days, and then burnt them in a brush heap above the house.

From all that we have read in the confessions or rather recitals of Charlotte Jones, we gather that she is a woman of the worst possible character, and a very heavy discount, is allowable on what she states.

Still later -- The Pittsburg papers of yesterday furnish us something more about the recent murders. Two of the party implicated, Henry Fife and Monroe Stewart, had a hearing before Mayor Weaver. The evidence of a Mr. Wolff, proprietor of the McKeesport Hotel, corroborated that of Charlotte Jones in almost every point:

Concerning the White Murder, we find the following new theory:

Sometime during the day upon which Mr. White was murdered in his house near Cross Creek, Washington county, though the fact was not bruited abroad at the time, a man named Levi Baldwin, of Washington county, was arrested near the residence of Judge McKeever, about seven or eight miles from White’s residence, by two gentlemen -- Major Hanna and James Loonts -- having been suspected of having been implicated in the murder, from several suspicious circumstances at the time.

He was taken to the town of Washington, but the authorities found no grounds of suspicion sufficient to hold him in custody, and he was discharged. Some women who were washing clothes in the vicinity where he was arrested, observed him a short time previously near a stump not far from Judge McKeever’s, apparently concealing something. Nothing was thought of the matter at the time, however, and here it rested until last Sunday, when, as we learn from a gentleman who arrived from Washington yesterday, a little boy while playing near the stump referred to, found underneath a shirt which was stained with blood. He conveyed it to the house of his parents where it was examined. It appeared as though there had been an attempt made to burn it as it was singed in different places. It was afterwards recognized by a Mrs. Cheever, who had made it, as the property of Levi Baldwin, and it was identified as belonging to him by a woman who washed his clothes.

We learn that Baldwin was again taken into custody, and will soon have a hearing.

The very latest -- Charlotte Jones, Henry Fife and Monroe Stewart charged with the murder of the Wilsons, had a final hearing on Thursday afternoon. Five witnesses were examined, but nothing new or important was elicted [sic]. The parties were committed for trial.


Wilson, George Wilson

White, Samuel H. White

Source: Spirit of Democracy May 20, 1857

The Murderers in Washington County, Pa.

Very little has yet transpired in relation to the recent murderers in Washington county, in addition to what we have already published. Williams is yet at large and nothing is known of his whereabouts. The Washington Reporter, received last night, thinks there can be but little doubt, out that there is sufficient evidence to convict Charlotte Jones, Wm. Stewart and Henry Fife, now in the Pittsburgh jail, of the murder of their uncle and aunt, but whether sufficient evidence can be produced to convict William Jones of the murder of White remains yet to be developed. Much material evidence against him is kept from the public, and will only be brought out at the proper time.

Source: Spirit of Democracy July 22, 1857

Conviction of three Murderers

Our readers are familiar with the horrible murder, committed some months ago near Pittsburg, of an old man and his sister. Three persons - Henry Fife, Monroe Stewart, and Charlotte Jones - were convicted of the offence. The Pittsburg Union, in noticing the conviction, says:

The prisoners were immediately remanded into the custody of the Sheriff, and they left the dock with that seeming unconcern and carelessness which has characterized their conduct throughout this lengthy and remarkable trial. Every eye was riveted upon them, and all seemed utterly amazed at their stoical indifference. Fife and Stewart did not move a muscle, while Charlotte did not even change color. The verdict evidently did not take either of them by surprise, which may account for the manner in which they received it. After the prisoners were returned to their cells, we are informed that Fife asserted frankly that the jury had done no more than their duty. He was free, easy and lively as ever in his manner. Stewart seemed restless and dissatisfied. He solemnly protested his innocence of the crime for which he stood convicted. -- Charlotte was somewhat depressed, and gave vent to her feelings in tears.

Thus has ended one the most remarkable and exciting trials ever conducted in Allegheny County -- and we hope that in all time to come the people may never be aroused by another such horrible tragedy.

Source: Spirit of Democracy August 5, 1857

Murderers Sentenced - Pittsburg, Saturday, July 25

Charlotte Jones, Henry Fife and Monroe Stewart, recently convicted of murder at McKeesport, were sentenced to day to be hung.



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