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5732 13th Court | National or State Registers Record | Wisconsin Historical Society

National or State Registers Record

5732 13th Court

National or State Register of Historic Places
5732 13th Court | National or State Registers Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
Historic Name:McCaffary, John, House
Reference Number:78000110
Location (Address):5732 13th Court
The John and Bridget McCaffary House
5732 13th Court, Kenosha, Kenosha County
Date of Construction: 1842

On July 23, 1850 in a simple, unassuming house, John McCaffary strangled his wife Bridget and then, while she was still breathing, stuffed her into a large barrel filled with dirty water. Needless to say, Bridget drowned in over a foot of sludge, and her husband would soon suffer the consequences.

In May 1851, with anti-capital punishment fervor at an all-time high throughout the state, McCaffary was sentenced to death. While many Wisconsin citizens and journalists expressed outrage at the sentence, McCaffary, convinced that his dead wife was haunting him, feverishly turned to religion in his last months. However, it was too late.

On August 21, 1851, county officials and the Kenosha City Guard accompanied McCaffary to the scaffold. In front of a raucous crowd of 2,000-3,000, McCaffary publicly confessed and the sheriff tipped the spring. It took McCaffary nearly 20 gruesome minutes to die.

Using the horrible execution to incite the public against the death penalty, Kenosha journalist Christopher Latham Sholes condemned the murder in his newspaper the Kenosha Telegraph and then decided to run for assembly. After Sholes won, he and Senator Marvin Bovee crafted and rallied for a bill that abolished the death penalty in 1853. McCaffary's execution was not only the first and last execution supported by the State of Wisconsin, but also played a key role in the campaign to abolish the death penalty in Wisconsin.

More information about the case may be found on the Wisconsin Historical Society website.

Period of Significance:1850-1874
Area of Significance:Law
Area of Significance:Social History
Applicable Criteria:Person
Applicable Criteria:Event
Historic Use:Domestic: Single Dwelling
Architectural Style:No Style Listed
Resource Type:Building
Historic Status:Listed in the National Register
Historic Status:Listed in the State Register
National Register Listing Date:01/31/1978
State Register Listing Date:01/01/1989
Number of Contributing Buildings:1
Number of Contributing Sites:0
Number of Contributing Structures:0
Number of Contributing Objects:0
Number of Non-Contributing Sites:0
Number of Non-Contributing Structures:0
Number of Non-Contributing Objects:0
National Register and State Register of Historic Places, State Historic Preservation Office, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

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