This picture from the 1850's shows the Chester 1724 Courthouse. Built in 1724 it is the oldest courthouse in the U.S.
Note: A little flashback to early crimes in Penna. aka Delco. Yes they did have crimes back then
THE FIRST CRIMINAL TRIALS IN PENNA
The first criminal trial which occurs in our annals was at Tinicum, and arose from circumstances which happened in the winter of 1645-6. It was a charge of arson. The inhabitants of the Swedish Colony, over which Col. John Printz acted as governor at that time did not in all number two hundred souls. On the evening of November 25, 1645, between the hours of 10 and 11 o’clock, Fort Guttenburg was discovered to be on fire. The flames spread so rapidly that the sleeping garrison and the people gathered within that structure of “groaner” logs, which Governor Printz had completed only two years before, had barely time to escape “naked and destitute” from the conflagration, which consumed everything in the form of buildings connected with the fort, excepting the dairy. The winter had set in early with unusual severity, the cold was intense and the streams were frozen, while the drifting ice in the river prevented all communication with the main land by boats.
The situation of these people, who were planting the seeds of empire on the Delaware was most distressing, for the report of Governor Printz informs us that “the sharpness of the winter lasted until the middle of March, so that if some rye and corn had not been unthrashed, I, myself, and all the people with e on the island, would have starved to death. But God maintained us with small quantities of provisions until the next harvest.”
No wonder was it that the public mind was highly inflamed against Swen Wass, the gunner, who had set fire to the fort, although the act was accidental and the result of intoxication on the part of the accused. He was tried for the crime, but the nature of the tribunal before which he was arraigned is unknown as is also the procedure that was used on that occasion. We have no further information as to the case save that which appears in Governor Printz’s report dated February 20, 1647, and that day forward by the Golden Shark to Sweden. He states that “the above mentioned incendiary, Swen Wass, I have caused to be brought to court and to be tried and sentenced; so I have sent him home in irons with the vessel, accompanied by the whole record concerning him, submissively committing and referring the execution of the verdict to the pleasure of Her Royal Majesty and Right Honorable Company.”
UNDER HOLLAND’S RULE – When the next important criminal trial, which has been presented to us in official documents, presents itself, the flag of Sweden had been supplanted by the standard of their High Mightiness of Holland and while the case did not in its incidents come within the present commonwealth of Pennsylvania, yet the criminal proceedings were held within the territory which was subsequently known as Pena’s three lower counties.
In 1661 Alexander D’Hinojassa was acting governor of that portion of the present state of Delaware extending from the southern bank of the Cristiana River to Cape Henlopen, he asserting that the City of Amsterdam, by reason of its purchase from the Dutch West Indies Company, had acquired absolute jurisdiction over the territory before designated, hence he stoutly refused to recognize the authority of Governor Stuyvesant in anywise within those boundaries. D’Hinojassa was a rash, impetuous, headstrong man and in would brook no interference on the part of any one with his prerogatives, the particular case to which I am now referring are unusually interesting. A vessel had been wrecked on the coast near the present breakwater and one of the sailors, a Turk, reached the shore where he was taken prisoner by a party of Indians, who sold their captive to Peter Alrichs. Peter among other things was a slave dealer and was chiefly instrumental in fitting out the ship Glide which brought the first cargo of slaves from Africa to the shores of the Delaware.
The unfortunate Turk was sold by Peter to an English planter in Maryland. Subsequently the Turk and four other slaves escaped to Delaware, but, were pursued and captured. While they were being conveyed in a boat to New Castle, when near Bombay Hook, the Turk made a desperate fight for Liberty and during the struggle and before he could be subdued he wounded two Englishmen seriously and a third slightly.
In the confusion which followed, he sprang overboard and succeeded in reaching the shore but he was shortly recaptured and taken to New Castle where he was heavily ironed and imprisoned. D’Hinojassa refused when the application was made to him to deliver the prisoner to the English claimant but declared that as the Turk had committed a crime within the jurisdiction of the City Colony, he must be held on that charge. He thereupon ordered him to be arraigned before Van Sweeringham, who sat as the judge at the trial.
The prisoner, practically ignorant of the language in which he was called to make his defense was convicted of having resisted and wounded his captors. Although the laws of Holland applicable to the colonies provided that in criminal cases where the punishment was capital five judges must actually preside at the trial, the miserable Turk notwithstanding that violation of law was sentenced to be hanged.
On Sunday, October 19, 1662, the sentence was carried into execution. The Turk was hanged at Lewes, his head being afterwards “cut off and placed on a post or stake at Hare Mill.” This incident is also memorable because it is the first case of capital punishment in the Delaware River settlements.
THE LONG FINN – The next case to which I shall call attention is that of the “Long Finn.” At that time the red crossed banner of St. George had supplanted the colors of Holland, as the symbol of soverenty in the Delaware River colonies. This was a charge of treason against the government of His Majesty – King Charles II of England, and the chief actor was Marcus Jacobson, alias John Brinckson, etc., but better known as the “Long Finn,” because of his lofty stature.
The arrogance of the Englishmen in authority, had aroused a spirit of restlessness among the Swedish settlers, hence when the “Long Finn” toward the middle of the year 1669 began to whisper among those people, a project looking to the overthrow of English authority in the colony, he found little difficulty in imposing on the credulity of his hearers. By birth he was a Swede, who had found his way to England, where, for some crime committed by him there, he had been convicted and sentenced to transportation to the Maryland plantations, where he was sold for a term of years.
Escaping from servitude he made his way, it is believed to Upland, now Chester, and located in the town or its neighborhood. Here he represented himself as the son of Count Konnigsmack, a noted general of Sweden, and in interviews with the Swedish settlers, he informed them that a fleet of Swedish vessels of war had already been dispatched to the Delaware and were actually then lying in the bay, under instructions at the proper time to wrest the province from the British crown. He had, he also told them, been commissioned to go among the Swedish people and encourage them to aid in the effort to shake off the foreign yoke, to rise in arms and stay the hated English as soon as the Swedish armed vessels made their appearance in the river.
PLOTTING A REBELLION – Among those he enlisted to his proposed rebellion was Henry Coleman, a wealthy Finn, who it is conjectured, resided in the neighborhood of Marcus Hook. He also persuaded Armgard Papagoya, the daughter of Governor Printz, who then resided at Printzdorp, facing Chester Creek and the river, an estate she subsequently sold to Robert Wade, in whose house Penn made his first stop in this Province of Pennsylvania, to look with approval on his project. Rev. Lawrence Lack the former Swedish chaplain, then resided in the old house which his heirs subsequently sold to David Lloyd. The original building was destroyed by fire on a first day, while Lloyd and his wife were in attendance at meeting, compelling the Chief Justice to erect, in 1721, the dwelling known to us a the Porter mansion, which was destroyed by an explosion on Friday, February 17, 1882, accompanied with a frightful loss of life. The Rev. Lack was the ancient document tells us, designated to play, “the trumpeter to the disorder.”
Powder, shot and other munitions of war were procured for the outbreak and then a supper was announced to which most of the Swedes within reach were invited. After the guests had eaten their fill and liquor had done its part, the “long Finn” made an address to the men recalling the injustices that had been practiced upon them by the English; how partly by force and partly by fraud large tracts of land had been illegally taken from the Swedish owners, ending finally by demanding whether under those conditions, their allegiance was due to the Swedish or the English crown.
Peter Kock, who subsequently figured prominently in our annals, saw through the design of the demagogue and declared that inasmuch as the King of Sweden had surrendered the province to the English monarch he proposed to hold allegiance to the latter’s rule. Thereupon Kock hurriedly opened the door of the house, there seems to have been only one, went out, and closed it, holding it firmly shut, while he called for assistance to arrest the Long Finn. The latter from within vainly strove to pull or push the door open and succeeded in forcing his hand between the door and the jamb. Knock, knowing that the strength of his opponent would succeed ultimately, unless he was made to let go his hold, with his knife hacked the fingers of the Long Finn until the latter was compelled to relinquish his grip. A moment after, however, with a sudden burst the Long Finn forced the door open and succeeded in making his escape for the time being. Subsequently he was apprehended and by order of Governor Lovelace he has heavily ironed and imprisoned at New Castle.
Henry Coleman, the wealthy Finn, who appears to have contributed largely to the proposed rebellion, when he learned that a warrant had been issued for his arrest, abandoned all his holdings on the Delaware and fled for protection to the Indiana, with whom he was very friendly and influential and was never heard from more.
Governor Lovelace appointed commissioners to try the case, who sat at New Castle, December 6, 1669, and, as expected, the jury rendered a verdict of guilty as against Jacobson the Long Finn. The sentence, which was prepared by Governor Lovelace before the case was brought to trial reads as follows:
THE FINN’S SENTENCE – ‘Long Finn deserves to die for the same, yet in regard that many involved be in the same premunitee, if the vigor of the law should be extended, and amongst them divers simple and ignorant people it is thought fit and ordered that the said Long Finn shall be publicly and severely whipped and stigmatized or branded in the face with the letter R. with an inscription written in great letters and put upon his breast; that he receive the punishment for attempted rebellion, after which he be secured until he can be sent and sold to the Barbados or some other remote plantations.”
On January 25, 1670, the Long Finn was put on board the ship Fort Albany for transportation to the West Indies after which all record of him, so far as we now have information, ceased. His accomplices were sentenced to forfeit to the king one-half of all their goods and chattels, while a small fine was imposed on those of lesser note who had taken active part in the proposed insurrection. The case of the Long Finn will always be of interest for therein is the first recorded trial of a criminal charge under English procedure on the Delaware, in which a prisoner was formally indicted, arraigned and a jury of twelve men empaneled, subject to challenge by the prisoner, and charged to render a verdict in accordance with the evidence.