1851 – John McCaffrey Executed

On this date John McCaffrey was executed, the to be carried out under Wisconsin law. McCaffrey received the death penalty for murdering his wife, Bridget McCaffrey. McCaffrey was tried in the county court in May 1851. The jury found him guilty of first-degree murder. This murder trial was the first major trial to be held in Kenosha. 3,000 citizens turned out to witness McCaffrey’s execution by hanging. The restraints that bound him on the gallows ultimately found their way into the Society’s Museum collection. McCaffrey’s execution revived a strong statewide campaign to abolish the death penalty. Two years later, in 1853, the Death Penalty Repeal Act was signed into law.