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(title page) The Last Words and Dying Speech of Edmund Fortis, a Negro Man, Who appeared to be between thirty and forty years of age, but very ignorant. He was executed at Dresden, on Kennebeck River, on Thursday the twenty-fifth day of September, 1794, for a Rape and Murder, committed on the body of Pamela Tilton, a young Girl of about Fourteen years of age, daughter of Mr. Tilton of Vassalborough, in the County of Lincoln.
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I WAS born in the back parts of Virginia, where I lived by the name of Peter, till I arrived to the age of manhood. My master was called Lawyer Jones, who treated me like a slave. I began early to take things from my master, &c. when I was found out, he whipped me, or ordered the negro driver to do it; but still I continued stealing, and lying to hide it. At length I ran away from my master, and kept in the woods by day, and by night stole bread, meat, and other things from the neighbours. I was caught & whipped several times. I then went to another county, where I continued near a year, living with Mr. William Scott, as a waiter. Here, I followed my old practice of stealing, and kept a woman. Disobeying my master, he threatened to
whip me, but I ran away, and went to Mr. William M'Donald's in Dumphries county, where I continued my practice of taking things and lying with women. Thence I went to Louden county, changing my name every time I changed my place. Here I went by the name of Shadrach, and hired myself to Mr. Abraham Milton, a waggoner. I continued in this county about 3 or 4 years, taking things that were not my own, and lying with women, by whom I had children. From thence I went to Alexandria, and shipped by the name of Edmund, with Samuel Love, and Hugh Stuart, merchants, for Liverpool in England. While the ship was unloading, some flour was missing, and I being suspected and threatened punishment, tho' innocent of the crime, ran away and engaged on board an English ship, went to Greenland, and thence came to Wilcassett. On the passage I took things, but was not found out. At Wilcassett I stole
bread &c. out of the ship, which I sold, and was detected. I ran away from the ship and was caught; but running away a second time, I went to Swan Island on Kenebeck river, and thence to Hallowell, where I stroled about from place to place, having no home or employment for some time. Here I stole wheat and some meat from Col. Dutton, and frequently stole from the neighbours. About this time I married Lydia, and lived in Hallowell on the cast side of Kenebeck river. Now my life was dreadful--Drinking, stealing and gaming.
After about a year I moved to Vassalborough, where I continued my wicked courses for more than a year longer, until I committed the last horrid crimes against God, upon that poor PAMELA TILTON.--On Sunday, the 18ht of May, the sun about two hours high in the afternoon, I began to carry some of my stuff to a house to which I had before designed
to move, and seeing the track of a girl, as I supposed, thought that if I could meet with her, I would have my will of her. I soon saw her in a place where two ways met, and stept aside till she came near; then throwing myself into the way or road, spoke and said how do you do, let me lie with you: She answered, "no I was not brought up to such things." I then took her by the arm and carried her into the woods: She screamed and to prevent her noise, I took hold of her throat, threw her down and committed a crime against her innocence. She then asked me to shew her the way home, or out of the woods: After I had my will of her the second time, she begged me to carry her to her father's bars. To this I consented, if she would not bring me out, but I carried her the wrong way. When she saw an opening (for it began to be dark) she asked me if it were her father's and said "I am afraid you are going to carry me into the wilderness
to destroy me." I promised that I would not hurt her, though I soon after attempted to put her to death, but did not accomplish it. I told her that I would shew her the way home, if she would not expose me: She said that she would not; but fearful that she would discover my crime, I took her by the throat, strangled her, and endeavoured to hide the body under a log, by covering it with some bark and rotten wood. But how shall I describe my feelings on my return home! Oh how dreadful they were! I could not rest all night. The next morning I went to the place where I had hidden her body, in order to conceal it better; and as it was not far from the road I travelled in to move my goods, I could not help looking that way towards the body and thought if she should be found, the neighbours would mistrust me.--Search being made, the body was found on the next Tuesday: I was near and went to the place where the
body lay: and being suspected, was immediately seized and bound. At first I denied that I knew any thing about the matter, but my guilt obliged me to confess, and I was committed to goal. I attempted every means to escape from prison, and had like to have got out.
On Friday, a little more than a week before I was araigned at the bar, I was in great distress of mind; and though I tried to sleep I could not; my distress of mind seemed to parch me up. I thought the Lord had forsaken me; that there was no mercy for me, who was so guilty; then I believe I got into a drowsiness, and it seemed as if my breath was taken from me, and when I came to myself, it seemed as if my spirit would fly away, and the Devil was with me and said "if you had killed your wife, I should have had you." I answered no? Then I thought I heard a voice, saying "the Lord will have mercy." I tried to pray, but all my prayers
rather made me worse than better. I continued striving to pray, and as I used to mock folks, and make games at them, so I thought I was mocking God. For some time the thought the Lord would have this mercy on me, who had no mercy for my fellow creature that was better than I, and as it was near day I thought I would lie down and try to sleep, but I could not rest, there was no comfort or peace for me: I tho't no person was so bad as I, my whole life filled with sin, stealing, lying, whoring and drinking, and now murder. At length I got up, and endeavoured to pray, but my heart was hard as a stone, and it seemed bound up; still I thought I would keep praying to the Lord whether he had mercy on me or not.
On Saturday morning it seemed as if I had more desire to pray and plead with God than before; and in the afternoon it seemed as if my heart was in some degree melted, and there was
some hope. I heard something like a voice, saying "verily, verily give him a new heart," and it seemed as if a man was in me working downward, and clearing or cleaning my heart. I thought I could breathe out my heart to God, and could see a light shining from heaven, brighter than snow, and in the light it seemed as though a great many angels were singing, which drowned my groans and prayers; and I cried O Lord! and looked up, and I saw in a corner of the prison something red like fire, and thought it was the Devil. I found I had another feeling, and I cried to the Lord. I now felt relieved; but was doubtful whether it could be true that the Lord had mercy on me, and wanted to see the light again.
On Lord's day morning I felt more contented; but could hardly believe what I saw, and felt. I looked out of the grates, and all things looked strange, as if in another place; the
birds seemed to come near the Goal and sing. Putting myself in the same place where I first saw the light, I prayed, and said, O Lord, for thy dear Son Jesus' sake, who died for sinners, have mercy on me! And immediately the same angels began to sing again; and I believed in the Lord, and loved every body. I felt cool and calm; all the dread and fear which I had suffered were gone.
When I was brought to the bar, a gentleman spoke to me, and advised me to plead not guilty: Oh! I thought he wanted me to lie against God; and I considered how dreadful it was for a man that could read to give such advice. When the indictment was read, and the judge asked me whether I was guilty or not guilty, I felt very calm, and answered, guilty. And when I was brought the next day to hear my sentence, I felt perfectly resigned and thankful to the court, God knows their sentence was just. I now wait for the last stroke
of death. I can trust my soul in the hands of the Lord, and am willing to do, or suffer any thing God shall lay upon me; and if he should cast me off, it will be right for I deserve it.
And now, as a dying man, I recommend to the charity of Christian neighbours, my distressed wife Lydia, whom I leave with two small children, destitute of every thing to help themselves with, and she big with child. And I desire the prayers of all good people to God for them and myself.
EDMUND [his X] FORTIS.