Since the 1700s, only two women were executed in our state. Others were sentenced to death and executed in other states, but these were the only two where their fates took place in Michigan.

The first was in April 1763 when a female Native American slave, owned by a Mr. Clapham, was hung for murder. The name of this person and details of her crime have been lost to time.

The second one has a more detailed story. Ann Wyley was an African-American slave who teamed up with Jean Countincinau and plotted to rob a local store owned by her slave owners, James Abbott and Thomas Finchley. The store had the items they could re-sell and make a good profit. Ann stole a piece of flannel, a handkerchief, a purse containing some money, and two pairs of women's shoes. Countincinau (and another guy, Charles Landry) stole some beaver, otter, and raccoon pelts. They were taking all they could muster, but were eventually caught and sentenced to hang – but the third member of the looters, Landry, was set free.

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Even though Ann was guilty, an injustice toward her was still waiting in the wings. Chief justice Phillip Dejean was the man who passed the sentence for the two hangings; problem was, there was nobody available to be the hangman for her accomplice, Jean Countincinau. So justice Dejean approached Ann and told her “if you act as hangman for Countincinau, your life will be spared.”

In order to save her own life, Ann agreed to the offer, seeing as Countincinau would be hung anyway...but her 'hanging skills' were less than amateurish. According to, her efforts were “in such clumsy fashion the spectators were horrified at the struggles of the victim”. Not only did she botch the job, but chief justice Dejean broke his promise and hung Ann anyway...that very same day, on March 26 (or 27), 1777.

Since there are obviously no photographs of the above-mentioned people, the gallery below has photos of a few public hangings from over 100 years ago. Public hangings became social events with snacks, refreshments, all kinds of concessions, music, and entertainment until the big moment. Seeing hundreds of people swarming around to get a good look – including children – is definitely morbid by today's standards.

A Time When Public Hangings Were a Social Event


Victor Feguer - Criminal From St. Johns

Silas Doty, One of Michigan's Most Notorious Criminals

Michigan Criminals Who Time Has Forgotten

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