The Hanging of Elizabeth Wilson

At the corner of Edgmont and Providence Avenues in Chester, PA, lies the site of Delaware County's original Gallows Hill. In more modern times, this location has been the site of a Howard Johnson's restaurant in which numerous strange events have been reported. One young woman who worked there had told a co-worker the she had been able to communicate with one of the spirits that appeared to haunt the old restaurant. She described the spirit as a young girl who was very sad because she had killed her babies. As is often the case, there is a story from long ago that has a direct tie to the present.

Elizabeth Wilson was the daughter of a staunch Tory farmer of East Bradford township in Chester County, PA. As a young woman, Elizabeth visited Philadelphia, staying for a time at the old Indian Queen Inn, which at the time was run by a relative of hers. She returned to the Inn several years later, this time seeking employment as the excitement of city life was far more attractive to her than her father's farm. It was then that she attracted the attention of a young man who was currently a boarder at the Inn. They became involved with each other and her relatives in Philadelphia believed that a marriage announcement would soon be made. After some time, young Elizabeth became pregnant and her relatives felt they had no choice but to ask her to leave the Inn, so Elizabeth returned to her father's farm, where her children, two sons, were born.

After she regained her strength following the birth of her sons, Elizabeth made her way back to Philadelphia, seeking the father, who agreed to meet with her and the children at Newtown Square so they could be married. They met as planned but the wedding was not to be. Instead, Elizabeth's intended husband seized the children from her and crushed the infants to death beneath his heavy boot and compelled Elizabeth to remain silent concerning the matter. Hours later, Elizabeth returned to the Indian Queen, appearing to be in a very agitated state.

Several days later, the bodies of the infants were found and Elizabeth was charged with their murder. During later questioning at the trial, she held her silence and Judge William A. Atlee was left with no choice but to sentence her to death, the execution scheduled to take place at Gallows Hill a few days later.

By this point, Elizabeth's brother William, living in Lancaster County, had discovered her plight and after learning the real details from his sister in the presence of several witnesses, made a valiant attempt to save his sister from the gallows. In order to do so, he needed to access the Executive Council for a stay of execution, which he managed to do, but time was running short.

It was winter time and the roads were in terrible shape, making William's trip far more dangerous and time-consuming than it should have been. Though he made excellent time, in spite of the conditions, poor William arrived too late to save Elizabeth - just moments before he arrived, her execution had taken place.