Thomas Granger (or Graunger) is believed to have been born circa 1625 and was hanged on September 8, 1642. He has the distinction of being one of the first people hanged in the Plymouth Colony. The honor of being the first goes to John Billington who went to the gallows for murder on September 30, 1630.
Granger also has the distinction of being the first known juvenile to be sentenced to death and executed. Additionally, his crime is the colonies' first recorded act of bestiality.
Granger was a servant to Love Brewster, of Duxbury, in the Plymouth Colony. At the age of 16 or 17, was convicted of "buggery with a mare, a cow, two goats, divers sheepe, two calves, and a turkey," according to court records of 7 September 7, 1642.
Caught red handed in the act, he confessed to his crimes in court privately to local magistrates, and upon indictment, publicly to ministers and the jury and was then sentenced to "death by hanging until he was dead".
He was hanged by John Holmes, Messenger of the Court, on September 8, 1642.
Before Granger's execution, following the laws set down in Leviticus 20:15 ("And if a man shall lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast"), the animals involved were slaughtered before his face and thrown into a large pit dug for their disposal, no use being made of any part of them. An account of Granger's acts is recorded in Gov. William Bradford's diary Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647.
As a sign of changing times, although the legality of sex with animals has been steadily decreasing over the past 20 years in the United States, as of February 10, 2018, 45 states and 2 territories ban sex with animals, while 5 states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized it due to repeal of sodomy laws.
At the 1969 Libertarian Conference a pervert named Murray Rothbard claimed a Neo-Randian group called Students of Objectivism for Rational Bestiality existed. By the logic of these "Bestiality Boys" they promoted "Rational Bestiality.” Their contention was that "bestiality is illegal because humans are irrational animals and that, if humans were rational, citizens would not be arrested and jailed for engaging in sexual acts with the animals they own." What?!
Today, what Granger did would legally be considered a minor offense with, at worst, jail time and a fine, but in those days it was the vilest felony under Massachusetts law. A glimpse of a woman's ankle or the sight of a forearm would trigger perverse desires in any randy lad. And, Puritan Massachusetts was the worst time and place in American history for a fellow to have
primitive urges because of the social mores in this bleak sexual landscape.
No doubt he tried to be careful stealthily confining his sins to barnyards and fields far from the prying eyes of fellow Pilgrams. Who wouldn't? But one day he was caught literally with his pants down. A colonist crossing a remote field stumbled across him sodomizing a mare. The witness headed directly to the colonial authorities and Granger was arrested.
At first, he denied the charges, but when the magistrates persisted, he finally broke and spilled his guts. Not only had he engaged in immoral union with the horse, he freely described dozens of unnatural acts with all manner of animals, a cow, two goats, five sheep, two calves and a turkey. He had been introduced to the practice by a fellow farm worker who had many fond memories of his youth on a farm back in England.
It was so disgusting that one person describing the incident could only pen, “I forebear particulars.”
However, the court insisted that Granger identify his sexual partners. The mare and the cows were easy, but Granger was unable to describe the other animals sufficiently for them to be identified. After his court appearance Granger repeated his confession to a group of ministers.
Sex crimes were not unknown to the Puritans; the previous year two men had paid a heavy fine for raping two young girls. Granger's unnatural act was so grievous that it was worthy of the death penalty.
The colonial leaders were intent on enforcing Leviticus 20:15 to the letter, so the animals that could be identified were were brought before Granger and slaughtered while he watched, thrown into a pit and buried. Immediately afterwards, Granger was hung.
Thirty-two years later another Massachusetts seventeen-year old named Benjamin Gourd shared the same fate. His sentence read “the mare you abused before your execution in your sight shall be knockt [sic] in the head...”
Back to that Billington guy. John Billington was an Englishman who traveled to the New World on the Mayflower and was one of the signers of the Mayflower Compact.
The whole family were troublemakers from the beginning. While aboard the Mayflower his wife, Francis, made squibs and fired a musket while the ship was anchored off Cape Cod. Squibs are a miniature explosive device used in a wide range of industries, from special effects to military applications. It resembles a tiny stick of dynamite, both in appearance and construction, although with considerably less explosive power.
In March 1621, Billington challenged Myles Standish's orders for "contempt of the Captain's lawful command with several speeches" and was punished for it. He would do this many times more.
In May 1621, his son, also named John, became lost in the woods for several days before being returned home by some natives from Nauset Indian tribe on Cape Cod.
In 1624, the old man was implicated in the Oldham-Lyford scandal (a revolt against the rule of the Plymouth church), but insisted he was innocent and was never officially punished.
In 1625 Governor Bradford wrote a letter to a fellow named Robert Cushman saying "Billington still rails against you…he is a knave, and so will live and died."
In 1636, Eleanor had to sit in the stocks and be whipped for slandering one John Doane.