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Cortland County’s First Murderess

We all know the story of Lizzy Borden, but have you heard the grizzly tale of Lydia Edwards, Cortland County’s first-ever murderess?

Let me set the scene. It was 1845, a dreary April day in Virgil, New York. Mrs. Edwards had been sent out on an errand by her daughter, Lydia. Lydia’s father, Jonathon Edwards, stood shaving before the mirror with his straight razor. His daughter crept up behind him, ax in hand, striking him in the neck several times until he collapsed. Helpless, in a heap on the floor, Lydia then took the straight razor from his hands and slit his throat, ensuring his death. Filled with blood lust, Lydia lied in wait to murder her mother upon return.

However, unbeknownst to Lydia, her mother would return with a local boy in toe. When Lydia attempted to attack her mother with the straight razor, the boy deflected it, and the pair escaped to safety with only minor wounds.

The Edwards had been a prominent family in Virgil at the time, well-liked with many friends. Nonetheless, Mrs. Edwards’ closest friends sensed something very dark in her daughter and warned her “that her daughter might go violent at any time and urged her to be cared for in an asylum.” Mrs. Edwards reportedly would not hear of it. Lydia believed that she and the family had been too long on this earth. She planned to dispatch both of her parents before taking her own life. Lydia was eventually found insane by the courts and was sent to the Lunatic Asylum in Utica for the duration of her short life. She died just eight months later and is buried beside her murdered father in the Pioneer Cemetery of Virgil.

Source: Courthouse Documents, April 9, 1885
Source: Letter from John Sheerar to CCHS dated 1938