Hangings In Berks County, Pa.

The following were hung for crimes in Penn's Common, which is now our City Park, unless other wise stated.


The first execution in the county was a British soldier during the Revolutionary War. His name was Krouch.

He and several other soldiers went to the house of Jacob Hechler in Exeter Township for the purpose of robbing him

Krouch and other soldiers went upstairs to where Hechler was in the house. Another soldier remained downstairs. He fired his musket and the buckshot went through the floor and killed Hechler and wounded Krouch in the arm. Krouch was jailed in Reading, Pa. The exact date of execution is not known.

Samuel Peeves

A Negro, was the next to be hung. He had been working on a farm of George Ritter in Exeter, Pa. He came to Reading, near where Aulenach's Cemetery is now located, where he met a white woman named Mary Sepley and committed an outrage with her. He was arrested and in August 1792 was hanged.

Benjamin Bailey

The third hanging was of Benjamin Bailey, who murdered a peddler named Folhower. He was tried November 11, 1797 and hanged.

Susanna Cox

Susanna Cox was the 4th person to be hung. You can read her story on my Berks County Legends page.

John Schildt

John Schildt was executed on the 30th day of January, 1813. He lived in Alsace Township, 6 miles from Reading, Pa.

On the 13th day of August, 1812, John Schildt sent for the Rev. Pauli, stating he wished to take communion. The Rev. went to the house and found Mr. Schildt was not at home. After waiting a long time, he left.

Mr. Schildt returned home and not finding the Rev., went into a rage, breaking up the furniture with an axe.

His 65 year old father tried to disarm him. Mr. Schildt struck his father in the breast with the axe. The old man ran from the house and was struck on his head with the axe that killed him.

Mr. Schildts' 65 year old mother was knocked down with the axe, cutting the back part of her head off. He cut her open and took out part of her entraila, which he threw into the bake oven, containing fire.

Mr. Schildts' brother attempted to arrest him. Mr. Schildt tried to set the family dog on him, when the dog did not obey, he threw the dog in the bake oven.

Mr. Schildt set the barn on fire with the year long harvest inside. His wife and 4 children escaped to the woods where they spent the night.

Nicholas Reinhart

Was the 6th person to be hung in the county for the murder of Conrad Christ on June 9th, 1841.

Reinhart and John F. Oshman went to the home of Conrad Christ in Bern Township. They robbed him of his hard earned saving of $500 to $600 then brutality murdered him. Christ's body was not found until the following Friday.

After committing the murder, the men left for Ohio but was followed by David Renno and Mr. Bentz. They were arrested near Dayton. They were returned to Berks County, Pa. to stand trail.

While in jail, Reinhart got a file and got lose from his leg irons. He escaped and recaptured 3 miles from Reading, Pa. He refused to surrender and was shot in his arm and thigh. Reinhart was hung on Friday, April 1st, 1842 in the yard of the old jail at 5th and Washington Streets in Reading, Pa. Oshman was acquitted on January 1842.

Zachary M. Snyder

On May 13, 1870, Zachary M. Snyder, AKA John P. Deall, was hanged for the murder of Richard M. Harlan, aged 30.

Snyder sent several terms in the penitentiary on charges of theft and committing assaults on defenseless women.

Harlan was frequently arrested for minor charges.

Two days after Snyder's release from prison, he met Harlan and they left for Schuyikill County stopping in Lessport to buy a hatchet.

About a mile from Leesport, Snyder fractured Harlen's skull with the hatchet, threw his body in the creek and proceeded to Schuyilkill county.

Near Orwisburg, Pa. he tried to assault a woman and was arrested and taken to the Pottsville jail. Harlan's body was found and the crime was connected to Snyder. He was tried and convicted and hung on the gallows until dead. His body hung for 10 minutes after his death. His dying words were, "I am in full hope of being encircled in the arms of my Savior."

He was the seventh person executed in Berks County, Pa.

Pietro Buccieri

On Thursday, June 29th, 1893, Pietro Buccieri was hanged for the murder of Sister Mary Hildaberta. He was 37 years old.

Born in St. Peter's Calabra, Italy, he came to this country at the age of 24. He had a shoemakers shop on Willow Street in Reading, Pa.

On February of 1892, Mr. Buccieri entered St. Joseph's Hospital in Reading, Pa. He killed his nurse, Sister Mary on June 23rd. 1892. He suffered from a badly burned arm. The burns refused to heal, and extended almost to the bone. The doctors were going to do skin grafts.

Mr. Buccieri borrowed a knife from his room mate. When the sister was handing him milk, he sprang up and followed her into the corridor and stabbed her in her side. She ran screaming into the kitchen where he stabbed her in her abdomen. She died the following day.

Sister Mary's real name before entering the Order was Tillie Shannon. She was 23 years of age. She was buried in the cemetery of the Order to which is belonged. Glen Riddle in Delaware County.

Buccieri was the 8th person hanged. The handcuffs used were very old and had to be removed by a locksmith in the morgue. Mr. Buccieri's brain was removed before burial for fear his grave would be desecrated. The rope use in his hanging was cut into small pieces and taken as souvenirs.

Picture by Ed Wolf.

Taken in part for the Reading Eagle Newspaper, 1893.

Elizabeth Learch Grauel

The first woman to be hanged on March 10, 1759 about 11 years after the twon of Reading was founded.

Documents found stated she was hanged for murdering her illegitimate baby. Newly found documents found on March, 16, 2002 at the Berks County Historical Society states Elizabeth was held in the Berks County jail for "many months, and while there gave birth to an illegitimate daughter."

The article also states, "A letter written by Conrad Weiser and Jonas Seely, at the behest of the King of England, instructed the poor directors of the "Town of Reading and the Township of Alsace and thier successors" to care for the child as a "parishioner" until she should become old enough to be bound out of service."

I visited the Records Department of the Berks County Court House and was told their records only go back as far as 1768.

The crime for which Elizabeth was charged is unknown. The article listed her as a "Widow."

The second woman to be hanged was Catharine Kreps for Infanticide, died December 19, 1767.