November 9, 1805: A horse with saddle askew is discovered in a Wilbraham
pasture, near the Boston-Albany turnpike.
November 10: By now, foul play is suspected. Search parties scour the area for the
man seen riding the horse. That evening, the body of Marcus Lyon, age 22, is found
in the shallows of the nearby Chicopee River, shot and bludgeoned to death, victim of
an apparent ambush and robbery. Lyon was on his way home to Woodstock, CT after
an eight-month visit to family in upstate New York. 13 year-old Laertes Fuller, whose
family collects tolls on the pike, somewhat belatedly comes forward and says he saw
two Irishmen with Lyon’s horse the day of the murder.
November 12: A reward is offered for the two men, and a posse sets out to track
November 15: Dominic Daley (age 34) and James Halligan (age 27) are
apprehended in Cos Cob, CT. They had been traveling from Boston to points south.
They are brought to Northampton jail (today, the site of Roberto’s Restaurant) and
held for murder. They steadfastly profess their innocence.
April 1806: Murder trial of Daley and Halligan, held in First Church, Northampton to
accommodate large crowds. Daley and Halligan’s court-appointed lawyers are given
less than a week to prepare. The state’s evidence is highly circumstantial, with the
exception of Laertes Fuller’s damning testimony. In their charge, the two judges all
but direct the jury to find the men guilty. After one hour of deliberation, the jury
does so. The men are sentenced to hang, and their bodies to be dissected and
June 5, 1806: Daley and Halligan are hanged in Northampton’s “Pancake Plain” (near current location of Ray Ellerbrook Field) before a crowd of 15,000. Father Jean-Louis Lefebvre de Cheverus, a prominent Boston priest, ministers to the men and gives the “funeral oration” normally delivered by a Protestant minister. From the gallows, the men maintain their innocence.
1810: Cheverus consecrated as first bishop of Boston.
1800s: Local lore (unsubstantiated) has it that Laertes Fuller’s uncle makes a
deathbed confession to the murder. By end of century, Daley and Halligan are
embraced by Massachusetts’s growing Irish-American community as the “Irish
1984: Governor Michael Dukakis exonerates Daley and Halligan, declaring that “any
stigma and disgrace associated with their names…is hereby removed.”
2005: Michael C. White publishes historical novel The Garden of Martyrs, with
Cheverus as protagonist. In addition to dramatizing historical figures (Cheverus,
Sullivan), White invents characters such as Finola, and fleshes out Daley and
Halligan, about whom little is known.
2013: World premiere of opera adaptation of The Garden of Martyrs.