April 12, 1881: Samuel Fryer Found "Not Guilty" with a Little Help from His Friends


By Margaret Leidy Harner from her book One Day at a Time: A Social History of Boyertown, PA.

April 12, 1881: The jury has found Samuel Fryer “not guilty” of the charge of assault to kill Alexander Sassaman in a brawl at a political rally in Boyertown on November 1, 1880, when Fryer attacked Sassaman and whacked off part of his skull, causing a deep gash into his brain, for shouting “Hurrah for Hancock,” the Democratic candidate for President in the upcoming election.

At the trial, Fryer’s counsel had lined up an impressive list of witnesses, all of whom testified to the good character of the defendant. The speaker at the rally related that Sassaman had been drunk and was trying to start a disturbance. Another witness said that Sassaman had called the speaker a “liar” and that he drew a pistol from his pocket. A third stated that Sassaman had shouted “I’ll shoot you.” Other prominent and well-known citizens from Pottstown all attested to the excellent character of the defendant. It was believed that it was difficult for the jury to ignore the testimony of some very important men who appeared for the defense and to vote for Fryer’s guilt.

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