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The Story of Samuel Casey, the Silversmith Who Escaped the Gallows

graphic silversmith work that reads,

South County has a colorful history, and there are countless stories to be told of this region that is at the forefront of early American history.

One such story is that of Samuel Casey, a popular Silversmith who was born in Newport in 1723, worked in Exeter, and finally settled in present-day Kingston, which at the time was called Little Rest.

Casey ended up being sentenced to death for some crimes he committed but was involved in a dramatic escape thanks to a group of local supporters.

Here is the story of Samuel Casey, the silversmith who was able to escape his death sentence in South County, Rhode Island.

Who Was Samuel Casey?

While historical records are a little difficult to come by, it is believed Samuel Casey was born in 1723 or 1724 in Newport, Rhode Island. 

Later on, Casey moved to Boston, where he apprenticed under Jacob Hurd, who was a well-known silversmith in the area. In 1745, Casey relocated to Exeter, which is where he rose to local fame as an accomplished silversmith, creating teapots, drawer pulls, bottles, and porringers.

By 1750, Casey had moved to Kingston, where we opened a merchant shop and is believed to have accumulated a notable amount of wealth. 

The good times would not last, however, and Casey would soon find himself in some trouble.

Samuel Casey's Downfall

Everything was going great for Casey until September of 1764 when his house and merchant shop burned to the ground. Samuel lost nearly everything, as his shop was full of furniture, goods imported from Europe, and medicines. 

This tragedy ended up being Casey's fault, as he was stoking a flame that got so hot, it caused a beam behind his chimney to catch fire.

In total, Casey lost about 2,000 Pounds Sterling in goods and cash, which is the equivalent of about $380,000 US today.

This financial loss ended Samuel Casey's time as a merchant, causing him to switch his focus to a new career that soon landed him in hot water with the law.

Why He Ended Up in Jail

Casey's legal troubles started in 1765, as he couldn't afford to repay the debts he had taken on while expanding his merchant and silversmith business. 

He ended up in court multiple times between 1765 and 1768 for debt-related issues, ultimately leading to him coming up with a new way of creating wealth.

Samuel Casey was a skilled silversmith who could make fine goods from raw materials, so somewhere before 1770, he started making counterfeit coins. 

It's unclear how long he got away with this practice for, but he and his brother were indicted on charges of felony counterfeiting in September of 1770.

Samuel had a bit of a profile at this point in this life and, therefore, the story garnered attention throughout New England.

Casey's trial started the following month and lasted for an entire day. The jury then deliberated until 4:00 AM, and ultimately came back with a not guilty verdict.

The judge, however, refused to accept this verdict, a practice that was perfectly legal at the time, directing the jurors to overturn their decision and find Casey guilty. The judge then took things a step further, and the following week, ruled for Casey to be hanged.

Casey was granted an appeal of his sentence, but things didn't get better for him, as while he was awaiting his next trial, tools and materials for making counterfeit coins and belonging to him were discovered hidden in a field.

All of the evidence pointed to Casey being guilty, and it wasn't looking as though his appeal would go in his favor.

Casey's Escape

This entire case was high-profile at the time, and the judge's decision angered many locals. As a result, a group of people showed up at the jail where Casey was being held one night and stormed its doors.

This gang knocked the main jail door down and then broke the locks inside, releasing Samuel Casey and four other inmates

Where Casey Went

After his escape from jail, Casey completely disappeared, and likely never set foot in Washington County again. It is believed that he ended up in New York City, taking on a new identity. 

It's suspected also suspected that he died in 1773 while living in New York, although we'll probably never know if either of those beliefs is accurate.

His Lasting Legacy

Any work done by Samuel Casey is highly sought after, with many items being found in museums throughout the United States, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Delaware's Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, the Yale University Art Gallery, and the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College. He is also a member of the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame.

This story of Samuel Casey is yet another example of South County's quirky past, and living in this part of Rhode Island puts you in the heart of one of colonial America's foremost locations.

Published December 13, 2019 in Local Information, Did You Know?