Getter's Island

In the middle of the Delaware River in Easton, just a bit north of where the Bushkill Creek enters the main river, lies a little island that was the stage for an execution of a brutal murderer, who is said to still haunt the little island that was named for him. And it appears that his victim may also occasionally be seen in the area.

In early Feburary of 1833, Margaret "Rebecca" Lawall set into motion the actions that would bring up her own demise, though she suspected nothing at the time. The following article from the Gettysburg-based Adams Sentinel tells the sad story:

Gettysburg - The Adams Sentinel -09/16/1833

From the Belvedere Apollo.


Saturday, the 24th ult: a. jury was impaneled at Easton, Pennsylvania, before Judges Mallacy, Cooper and Wagoner, to pass between Charles Getter "and" his country, for the murder of his wife. Last night at 10 o'clock, after a deliberation of ten minutes, that jury returned a verdict of guilty against the prisoner in manner and form as he stood indicted.

The testimony which convicted the prisoner was altogether circumstantial, but those circumstances as detailed by the Commonwealth in their order and "inferences, led irresistibly to the conclusion that Charles Getter, in February last, murdered his wife by manual strangulation.

Rebecca Lawall had been married about ten days to the prisoner, when she was found dead some hundred yards from her residence; her body was discovered in a field a few rods from the public road, lying on the back, the comb crushed to pieces, hair disheveled, eyes and tongue partially protruded, face livid and the indentation of the thumb of a right hand in the throat, and of the fingers of a right hand in the back of the neck. Suspicion rested upon Getter, who was immediately arrested and told by the officer who arrested him, that his "wife was murdered and that he was suspected of the murder.' Getter evinced no emotion, but replied "Is she dead? I have not seen her since day before yesterday."

The marriage of Charles Getter and Rebecca Lawall, as aptly observed by one of the counsel for the Commonwealth "was a union commenced in crime, consummated in tears, and determined in blood". She had charged him as the reputed father of a child, with which she was then in an advanced state of pregnancy, and upon this charge he met her before Esquire Weygandt of Easton, where he was obliged to give security for his appearance at the Session, or be committed to the county jail. To avoid this alternative he married her after an hour's deliberation, in which time he evinced much repugnance to the union.

This repugnance was owing to an engagement he had made to marry one Mary Hummer, a seamstress in the neighborhood of his residence; until that engagement he had been constant in his visits for some months to his wife; the day after the wedding he made inquiry of a justice of the peace 'whether he could get a divorce from his wife,' and was told that he could not. He then told several individuals that 'he never would live with her; that he pitied Mary Hummer so!", and requested a neighbor not to tell her of his marriage, 'that he wished to tell her himself'. To several individuals he said 'he would have Mary Hummer, if he had to walk over pins to get her, he would have her for a wife' cost what it would." To one, he said,'that he would be clear of his wife in less than three weeks;' to another 'that he would be rid of her in one week,' and to another he wished 'that she was dead.'—To a neighbor who was teasing him upon the probability "of his having a family in a short time, he observed "No, I won't be daddy - John, you shall see that I won't be daddy!' These conversations were had in German.

The day before the murder, he evinced much mental agitation, seemed restless and uneasy and shed some tears. About an hour before the murder, he was seen talking with his wife near her residence, (he had apparently become reconciled to his marriage and had persuaded her ti make preparation to move and keep house the next day.) The night, as stated by one of the witnesses, was a bright moonlight, 'almost as light as day'. Getter left his wife and she proceeded to a neighbor's where she stayed about fifteen minutes, talked of the moving next day and expressed much satisfaction 'that Charles was going to live with her.' Her body was found in a contrary direction from the road which led to her home; it was supposed that Getter met her according to her appointment, and persuaded her to turn back and pass the evening at one Bunstein's, where they had frequently visited, and after that they had crossed the fence with that intention, he perpetrated the bloody deed.

The prisoner rested his defense on an alibi, that is that he was at another place at the time of the commission of the murder, at one Piles', but this was rebutted by the testimony if John C. Missell (sp?), of Easton, who returning from Bethlehem in a gig met Getter on foot, in the road leading from his wife's residence to Piles' and accosted him with the inquiry, 'Charles, is that you?', but received no answer.


Several days later, the following article appeared:

Gettysburg - The Adams Sentinel - 10/21/1833

Charles Getter was executed at Easton for the murder-of his wife, on Friday last.- An immense number of spectators witnessed the shocking exhibition. The spot chosen for the execution was a small Island in the Delaware. At the appointed hour the wretched criminal was swung off, but the rope broke and precipitated him to the ground. He was stunned by the fall, but soon recovered and awaited his impending fate with composure for about twenty minutes, when he was again suspended, and expired after a short struggle. Some days previous to his execution he made a full confession of the murder.

Phil. Gazette.


The church records from The Reformed Church in Easton provide little additional information other than to show Rebecca's burial at Dryland on March 2, 1833. She is listed as Rebecca Lawall, aged 31 years and 10 months. Not surprising, there is no mention of her husband at all.