Book Talk & Signing: Paul Caranci, The Hanging & Redemption of John Gordon: The True Story of Rhode Island's Last Execution

Thursday, December 5, 2013

7:00 PM-8:15 PM

Cost: Free & Open to the Public

Providence Public Library
150 Empire Street
Providence, RI 02903

Meeting Room (3rd Floor)

Thu, 2013-12-05 19:00 - 20:15


Local Historian Inks Final Chapter of the John Gordon Saga

Irish-Catholic Immigrant Falsely Accused of the Murder of Amasa Sprague Was Hanged in State’s Last Execution

 Almost 170 years following the grisly slaying of a wealthy and politically powerful Cranston industrialist, the murder still remains unresolved.  Yet, just one day after Amasa Sprague’s body was found lying near the foot bridge over the Pocasset River separating Cranston from Johnston two Irish Catholic immigrants were arrested for their part in committing the deed.  Within three days, nearly the entire Gordon family, including the family dog, was arrested. Three brothers were formally charged with the murder and, in a trial remembered for the actions of a corrupt judge and a bigoted society, one was found guilty. 

Sentenced to death, 29 year old John Gordon was hanged on February 14, 1845 in the prison yard - the very spot where today, tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders visit, not in reverence to the violent execution of an innocent man, but rather to shop in the Providence Place Mall which was built on the site of the former prison complex where Gordon was hanged.  In 1843, Gordon was a victim of societal hatred, bigotry and injustice.  Today he is thought of as an innocent man, an Irish Catholic martyr who, more than any other single person or event is responsible for the end of the death penalty in Rhode Island.

Now, Rhode Island historian and Deputy Secretary of State Paul F. Caranci, has written the final chapter of the Gordon Saga bringing the case to life in dramatic fashion. 

About the Author

RI Deputy Secretary of State Paul Caranci is responsible for directing the policy and programs of the Secretary’s office. On behalf of Secretary A. Ralph Mollis, Paul serves as the legislative and executive lobbyist, and assists in developing the Secretary’s legislative agenda.

Paul received a BA in Political Science from Providence College with a degree in Political Science in May 1977. He is currently enrolled in the Roger Williams University MPA Program, expecting to earn his degree in 2015. In 2012, Paul published his first book, on the history of North Providence. His second book, The Hanging & Redemption of John Gordon: The True Story of Rhode Island’s Last Execution was published in April, 2013.

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