Tracking through the swamp

In Chester County in the summer of 1690, John Martin, a weaver and servant to James Brown of Chichester, was indicted for stealing fourteen dressed deer skins from Thomas Brown John.

In the morning that the skins were stolen, Martin seemed to have a great color in his face, and his master James Brown said to him, “Thou are guilty”, to which Martin replied, “If I should confess then I should bring myself to publick shame.” But he seemed to have guilt in his face.

Thomas Brown John had gone to the sheriff George Forman when he discovered the loss and that his house was broken open. Forman gave him a warrant to search through the neighborhood but he found nothing. So Forman suggested that Brown John go back to his house and look for tracks. He went and immediately found a print of a shoe, with nails and clamps in the shoe. Then Forman gathered a search party and they tracked the prints, along the side of the fence and along the swamp until they came upon William Clayton’s new clear field and there in the swamp in a hollow tree they found the dressed skins. Then they went to James Browne’s house and took along with them the measure of the print of the shoe and measured John Martin’s and it seemed to be the very same and Martin seemed to be startled when they took his shoe off.

Francis Chads, the shoemaker, declared that he mended John Martin’s shoes with two nails and two pleats toward the toes.

The jury found Martin guilty and judgment was passed that he was to be sold into another province for eight years, to cover three-fold damages, and also damages to his master James Browne for service due on the indenture to him.

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