The Execution that Almost Killed the Death Penalty in Massachusetts (Ep68)

In 1848, a murder case nearly brought an end to the death penalty in Massachusetts.  When a young black man named Washington Goode was convicted of first degree murder that year, there hadn’t been an execution in Boston for 13 years.  White men who had been convicted of the same crime had their sentences commuted to a life in prison, and tens of thousands of petitions poured in asking the governor to do the same thing for Goode.  Yet even so, he was sent to the gallows.  Why?

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The Hermit of Hyde Park (HP150)

This is a very special episode for readers of the Hyde Park Bulletin and fans of Hyde Park 150.  Back in episode 19, we featured the story of James Gately, the Hermit of Hyde Park.  Gately was born in England, and he moved to Boston in 1847.  After a series of mishaps, he became fed up with human society, and walked off into the woods.  The woods he found were right here in Hyde Park, and he spent the rest of his life hunting, fishing, and trapping in our neighborhood.  Listen to his story!

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Classics: Boston Resists the Fugitive Slave Act (Episode 67)

We used our studio time this week to record something special that will air next month. Without a new episode, we didn’t want to leave you without any HUB History this week. Instead, here are three classic episodes honoring black and white abolitionists in 19th Century Boston. Recorded last February, in the wake of President Trump’s attempt to implement a “Muslim Ban,” these episodes focus on Boston’s resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act, which was seen as an unjust law.  

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Episode 66: Cotton Mather REALLY Hated Pirates

This week, we’re talking about the conflict between Puritans and pirates in the late 1600s and early 1700s. Cotton Mather is remembered for his role in the Salem Witch Trials, but he was the childhood minister to Ben Franklin, ultimate symbol of the American Enlightenment, and he died less than fifty years before our Declaration of Independence was signed. In a way, Mather was one of the last Puritans, and some of his most famous sermons are the ones he wrote for mass executions of pirates.  Times were changing, setting up a conflict between rigidly hierarchical Puritan societies and fledgling democracies that could be found on board pirate ships.

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Episode 65: The Boston Strangler

For almost two years in the early 1960s, women in Boston lived in fear of a killer who became known as the Boston Strangler. Thirteen women were killed, and the murders were eventually attributed to Albert DeSalvo, based on his confession, details revealed in court during a separate case, and DNA evidence linking him to the last murder victim. It’s been over fifty years since DeSalvo was imprisoned on unrelated charges, leaving many people to question whether he was really the lone killer.

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Episode 64: Harvard Indian College, Promises Broken… and Kept

There’s an oft forgotten clause written into Harvard’s 1650 charter promising to educate the Native American youth of Massachusetts.  This week’s episode looks at the early, mostly unsuccessful efforts to create an Indian College on the Harvard campus, the abandonment of that plan after King Philip’s War soured the English settlers on their earlier plans for Christianizing local Native American tribes, and how modern scholarship is helping to rediscover this legacy and rededicate Harvard to embracing Native Americans.  

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Episode 63: Puritan UFOs

What did TV character Fox Mulder have in common with John Winthrop, the Puritan founder of Boston? They both recorded strange lights in the sky and other unexplained phenomena in extensive detail. This week, we’re going to explore the close encounters Winthrop described in 1639 and 1644. There were unexplained lights darting around the sky in formation at impossible speeds, ghostly sounds, and witnesses who claimed to have lost time. It’s a scene straight out of the X-Files, except these are considered the first recorded UFO sightings in North America.

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Episode 62: Ten Paces, Fire! Boston’s Hamiltonian Duel

Early in the morning of March 31, 1806, two young men of Boston faced each other across a marshy field outside Providence, Rhode Island.  With the sun beginning to peek above the horizon, they marked out ten paces between themselves, then stood facing one another.  Each had a friend at his right hand, as they coolly leveled their pistols at one another.  Now, one of the friends called out, “Are you ready… Present… Fire!”  And both men squeezed the triggers on their dueling pistols.  

If that sounds an awful lot like the famous duel that Alexander Hamilton fought against Aaron Burr two years earlier, you’re not wrong.  In ways that we’ll examine, it’s even more similar to the duel that Alexander’s son Philip Hamilton fought against a man named George Eacker in 1801.  

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Episode 61: Annexation, Making Boston Bigger for 150 Years

In the latter half of the nineteenth century, Boston transformed itself from a town on a tiny peninsula to a sprawling city.  In part, this was done by creating new land in the Back Bay and South Boston, but the city gained a great amount of area by annexing its neighbors.  The first was Roxbury, which joined the city of Boston 150 years ago this week.  Dorchester, Brighton, West Roxbury, and Charlestown would follow.  Other towns, like Cambridge and Brookline would not.  Find out why in this week’s show.

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Classics: Holidays on the Harbor (Episode 60)

If you’ve been listening to the show for a while, you’ll know that the Boston Harbor Islands are one of our favorite local destinations.  This week, we’re sharing three stories from the Harbor Islands, all of which originally aired within the first 20 episodes of the podcast.  We’ll hear about the zoo shipwreck, a hermit who made her home on the harbor, and the secret Harbor Island base where Nazis were smuggled into the country after World War II.

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