When the body of Walter Sims, son of a prominent Long Island planter, is found smashed in pieces at the bottom of a cliff, in an apparent accident, suspicion soon falls on three plantation slaves, Lydia, Caesar and Cudjoe.
Many of the settlements in the Family Islands, still retain the historical names of their original settlers. Simms, Long Island is one such place. Vast amounts of history lay buried under the limestone rock of these islands.
By June 1835, slavery was almost one year gone, abolished in August of the previous year. It was replaced by the apprenticeship system. Former slaves were not released outright from obligations to their masters. They entered a period of indentured servitude. What is little known about these years was that the apprenticeship contracts were bought and sold, which really means that it was all just slavery by a more austere and palatable title.
In 1835, the family of the Sims for which the area Simms, Long Island came to be called, experienced a tragedy that tore at the heart of the family.
In June 1835, the son of a prominent plantation owner, fell to his death from a cliff on Long Island. His name was Walter Sims. He was 23 years old. His body was found broken in pieces on the jagged rocks below. An apparent and tragic accident. The news of the death, made its way to the British and American newspapers. The family must have been noteworthy for this story to carry as widely as it did.
FROM BAHAMA. — We have been favoured with Bahama papers to the 22d July.
On the 25th of June, Walter Sims, being on the North side of Long Island, in attempting to go over the head of a cliff, the brink gave way, and in a moment he was hurled down and dashed to pieces on the base of the cliff, it being upwards of 60 feet in height. He was in the 23rd year of his age.
Several months later, by November 1835, three slaves now conferred apprenticeship status had been tried and convicted for the murder of their master Walter Sims.
The Chief Justice is said to have conferred the sentence of death by hanging, in a most impressive manner.
As it took some time for despatches to arrive in England via ships, the story only ran months after in February 1836.
(Manchester Gazette February 1836)
NASSAU, Nov. 7.
On Thursday last in the general court, Lydia Sims, Caesar Sims and Cudjoe Sims, who had been tried and convicted on Monday of the murder of Walter Sims, their master’s son, at Long Island , in the month of June last, were brought into Court, and, after being questioned in the usual manner, they only said they were not guilty of the crime of which they were accused.
His Honour the Chief Justice then, in a most solemn and impressive manner, passed sentence of death upon them; that they were to be hung on Friday the 13th instant, in eastern parade.
The sentence has been suspended until his Majesty’s pleasure could be known.