The Betty Pallet Story
Remember that girl the Sarchets found on the side of the road during the Epic four month long journey? Betty Pallet. Well, as the Sarchets were building their second cabin in Cambridge, they needed everyone that was capable of working helping with the cabin. So they had Betty babysitting the kids while the woman in the family helped with manufacturing the new home. When the group returned home one evening finished with the days work, they found that a sack of gold coins was missing from one of their chests. With no one –other than Betty and the children–coming in or out of the cabin throughout the day they accused Betty of placing the gold where no one but her would know the golds whereabouts.
Suspecting Betty, she was not let out of anyone’s sight for days. They looked in tree stumps, rolled over logs, and all around trees but could not find the gold. With a theft having apparently happened they made John Beatty and Jacob Gomber aware of the criminal act. They apprehended Betty and put her into a sweat box; a sweat box was exactly what it sounds like. A small box they used to put people in solitary confinement. The goal was often to get them to admit to a crime they were being accused of committing. The sweat box is more known in popular culture as a form of punishment for slaves, however in the pioneer days, it was not just slaves who were subject to cruel forms of punishment.
Despite this Betty continued to plead she was innocent. A few days later, the gold coins were found by a water well. It was then figured that Betty had made a trip to the well stocking enough water so that no one would need to goto the well anytime soon. When she did this she placed the coins nearby with the intention of coming back and running off with the gold. She was not able to do this when the group grew suspicous of her and placed her under twenty-four hour surveillance. When confronted with this scenario, Betty succumbed to the pressure and admitted her guilt. In her admission she did not reveal where she had planned on running off. With the town and Muskingum County–Cambridge was a part of Muskingum County until Guernsey County was officially formed in 1810– not having any organization, justice of peace, or jail; John Beatty and Jacob Gomber used a recent punishment given in Zanesville to some counterfeiters as precedent. The counterfeiters were sentenced to public lashing.
A statement was made by John and Jacob stating they were acting as a court, going on to say Betty had betrayed people who befriended her in a time of need. She was sentenced to lashing on the bare back and told to leave town afterwards. Peter Sarchet was appointed to do the lashing with a “hickory” rod. When he was finished Betty ran off into the woods assumingly crying in physical pain and shame for her actions. Betty and her whereabouts become the subject of much conversation and gossip in the future. One rumor placed her in a Catholic home in Perry County, Ohio.
Let’s try and visualize this moment in Guernsey County History.
John Beatty and Jacob Gomber enter the town square where a small crowd is awaiting them. With them is a young woman walking alongside Jacob with her face towards the ground in humiliation;. John Beatty has a paper in his pocket which he pulls out and unfolds. The crowd is made up of the Sarchet family, many members of the town, and new settlers to the area and they know they are here to witness justice served to the young lady for being a thief.
Beatty holds the paper up to his face and states,
“Do to the lack of incorporation hitherto, before God and with you all as witness; myself John Beatty and Jacob Gomber will be acting as prosecutor and court on behalf of the citizens of Cambridge, Ohio. It has been brought to our attention that Betty Pallet has confessed to the stealing and concealing of gold coins from the Sarchet family cabin. Due to the lack of a justice of peace, and no jail herein Muskingum County, we take it upon ourselves to look at precedent in order to find and make a judgement on this matter.
Let the record show, that Betty Pallet, having betrayed the trust committed to her by those who had befriended her and provided protection to her in an extreme time of need, should be whipped on bareback and driven out of the camp and town. Similar and recent events in Muskingum County give us the authority to declare the punishment–of public lashing–as sufficient and fit consequences for such dishonest behavior as the defendant–Betty Pallet–has displayed. If anyone has any objection to this ruling now is your time to speak. Does anyone here today object to this judgement?
A long silence is broke only by the wind passing through the town square. The crowd has no objection.
“Given the Sarchet family is the sole victim of Betty’s actions, I call upon Peter Sarchet to give out the whippings with a hickory rod prepared and brought here today. Are there any objections to this appointment?”
With no objections made and as Peter comes forward; Jacob Gomber is pulling Betty Pallet closer to the tree she is to stand over. The crowd watches her as she whines and cries: the Sarchet women in attendance gaze at her in disappointment as some had grew to love her as their own, some are looking at her as if every step she takes she loses her humanity and is turning into a monster before their eyes, and others in the crowd are gawking at her like she is some kind of weird grotesque monstrosity they had never seen the likes of before. She is mortified knowing a grown man will soon unleash a weapon with all his brute force onto her bareback.
Peter Sarchet meets Jacob and Betty Pallet at the tree in the town square. Betty is instructed to reveal her bareback by pulling the top of her dress down to her waist. This makes the event even more humiliating to the young girl as she is undressing half her body in front of the entire town. She’s then told by Gomber to put both hands onto the tree in front of her and Gomber then hands Peter the hickory rod typically used for whipping horses or other live stock.
Peter raises the rod to the heavens and swings his arm downwards in motion with all his strength. The rod hisses through the air and hits her back.
The sound echoes through the wilderness and the crowd watches in awe.
He quickly raises his hand up and comes back down again with all the speed and power his strong arms and frame can muster. He systematically repeats the process, the strikes rip through the skin on her back causing her to yelp as she begins to bleed. When Peter gains momentum with his movements the slashes become more harsh and alongside the blood on her back, welts begin to swell and reveal themselves. One whip after another, almost making a sound that resembles firecrackers being let off one at a time.
When Peter is finished, Betty quickly pulls her dress back up to her shoulders. She has never been so overwhelmed with humiliation and physical pain before and it’s likely she never does afterwards. Not wanting to look the townspeople in the eyes, she takes off running to the nearby woods never to be seen or heard of again by the people of Guernsey County.
I will finish this article with another excerpt from Col. C.P.B. Sarchet (Cyrus Parkinson Beatty Sarchet)–who I have not mentioned, was a grandson to both the Sarchet and the Beatty families–that describes his uncle thinking of Betty Pallet and Guernsey Counties first criminal proceedings many, many, many years later.
I was seated at the bedside of a dying uncle, who was twelve years old at the time of the whipping and witnessed it. He turned over in the bed and said,: “I do wonder what became of little Betty Pallet.” I remarked, “Who was Betty Pallet.” Then he related the story as above, and of Betty being found wandering- in the mountains. Is it any wonder that that old Christian man, eighty-four years old, who died the next day, should turn back in thought to that boyhood scene in the wilderness, seeing Betty’s bare back, the welts and the blood? Certainly it seemed to him barbarous and in-human treatment, as it would to us, yet such treatment was lawful punishment for crime in those days of Ohio.