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Community, Identity, and Murder in Dedham, Massachusetts: The Fairbanks Family’s Response to the Jason Fairbanks Trial

Author(s): Travis Parno

Year: 2014

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Summary

In 1801, the town of Dedham, Massachusetts was rocked by the violent death of 19-year-old Elizabeth Fales. The town, and indeed the nation, struggled to comprehend an event that seemed inconceivable in such a close-knit community. When Jason Fairbanks was convicted and executed for Elizabeth’s murder, the Fairbanks family was forced to rebuild and reinvent themselves within the Dedham community. Using documentary, architectural, and archaeological sources, this paper relates the circumstances preceding and following the Jason Fairbanks trial, focusing not on the criminal proceedings, but on the ways in which the remaining members of Fairbanks family banded together in the wake of the calamitous events. Their efforts included improving their home’s physical appearance, restructuring its internal arrangement, and highlighting family members’ compassionate, industrious, and masculine identities in printed pamphlets. I argue that the Fairbanks’ response after losing one of their own to scandal and execution serves as an example that can be applied to similar events in rural communities.


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Community, Identity, and Murder in Dedham, Massachusetts: The Fairbanks Family’s Response to the Jason Fairbanks Trial. Travis Parno. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. 2014 ( tDAR id: 436743)


Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): SYM-18,02

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America