Ancestral Anecdotes: Jason Fairbanks and Elizabeth Fales--Page 1





If Jason Fairbanks and his companions hadn't stopped for breakfast that morning, perhaps they would not have been captured.  The accused murderer and his cohorts had made their way from Dedham, MA through Vermont, and now were near the Canadian border.  Only a ferry ride stood between Jason Fairbanks and freedom.

But he was captured, he was returned to Dedham, and he was hung for the murder of Elizabeth Fales.

We will tell the story of Jason and Elizabeth briefly here, and then send you on your way with some links to much better versions of the tale. Family information is sketchy on both of them, but perhaps you already have made the connection to one subject or the other.

The story:  Jason and Elizabeth were contemporaries in the town of Dedham. It is stated that the couple had been courting a long time. Jason wanted resolution to the courtship, and on May 18, 1801, he remarked to an acquaintance that he was going to reach a 'final determination' once and for all concerning his relationship with Miss Fales, and he set out to meet her near her home. Later that afternoon, Jason appeared at the Fales home, covered with blood, holding a knife, and he announced to the family that Elizabeth had committed suicide and had he not been so infirm, he would have done likewise. (Jason had a defective arm, and was also in the early stages of tuberculosis, although he didn't know that.) The Fales rushed to the scene to find their daughter, but she died shortly after they reached her.

Victorian Flowers

Jason's wounds were serious; he was in no shape to be packed off directly to jail. He was therefore taken into the Fales household, where he received medical treatment. After Elizabeth's funeral on May 20, a jury indicted Jason as an accessory to Elizabeth's death (at the very least), and so Jason was finally carried off to jail. He was found guilty of Elizabeth's murder in August 1801, and was sentenced to death by hanging. Before the execution, however, Jason was 'sprung' by his brother, a cousin, a friend, and a nephew. This party tried to make their way to Canada, but was caught. Jason was taken back to Dedham, and died by hanging on September 10, 1801.

We mention the attempted escape because it appears this event was a catalyst for several sensational published pieces.  News of the murder, trial, conviction, escape, and execution was readily available to the general public in a storm of published works. [Fairbanks/Fales--Page 2