Week 9 – At the courthouse

Guilty or Not guilty?

Jørgen Wipenz, a farmer from the country, was accused of murder!

This is an entry in the 1787 census for Slagelse, Sorø Amt. The building at Torvet 1, which I assume to be the jail, was occupied by the bailiff, his wife and four children. In addition, there were three prisoners, a vagrant, a horseman from the Sealand Calvary Regiment and Jørgen (Wipenz/Wincentzen).

Name: Jørgen Wincentzen
Birth: 28/11/1748 – Skafterup, Fyrendal, Øster Flakkebjerg, Sorø
Marriage: 13/9/1778 – Hyllested, Vester Flakkebjerg, Sorø
Spouse: Anne Pedersdatter
Death: 1/10/1819 – Høve, Vester Flakkebjerg, Sorø

Jørgen Wincentzen is the brother of my 4th Great Grandfather.

The year Jørgen turned 30, two important things happened in his life. He signed a contract to lease a farm from Holsteinborg Estate in Eggeslevmagle and he married Anne. Together they and had five children, but only three survived infancy. In 1800, their eldest surviving daughter Karen Jørgensdatter and her husband took over the farm contract.

Beginning few lines of the farm contract

Did Jørgen really commit murder?

In the 1965 Yearbook of the Sorø Amt’s Historical Society, is a transcript of the Holsteinborg Birk’s court proceedings and judgement with respect to Jørgen Wincentzen .

The incident occurred on Friday the 1st of December 1786. Jørgen Wincentzen, Morten Povlsen and Lars Jørgensen had delivered wheat to Korsør as per their contract with Holsteinborg. Once the business was completed they returned separately to Eggeslevmagle. However, Morten was badly hurt and covered in blood when he arrived home and died a week later from his injuries.

The previous year Morten and Jørgen had had a dispute about some land, a fact, which was common knowledge in the village. Rumours were now circulating that Jørgen had been the attacker. Anyone who came to visit Morten, including the vicar, was told by a very ill and severely deranged man that ‘Jørgen did it’.

Jørgen was called to give evidence. He said he had passed Morten on the way home, as he was driving too slowly, but had not seen him thereafter. When asked why he had not visited Morten on his deathbed, he replied he had no reason to do so as Morten had accused him of assault.

Lars had completed a couple of errands before heading home and caught up with Morten along the way. Lars reported that Morten hadn’t made much sense and his head was bloodied and swollen. Lars managed to get him onto his wagon and took him home to his wife. He had not seen Jørgen on the road nor had he noticed any animosity between the two.

A farmhand from across the paddock, had seen two wagons stop on the road. The driver of one had run up to the other and beat him so hard on the head that he fell backwards in the wagon. More bashing followed before the attacker returned to his wagon and moved on. The farmhand had been too scared to confront the men, but later went over to have a look. When he saw all the blood and heard the man moaning he immediately left being too frightened to even talk. He did not know Jørgen and could therefore not say if he had been the attacker, however, from his posture he felt it could have been Jørgen.

Dømt for Rett: – Judgement

The decision was handed down on the 3rd of August 1787 after Jørgen had been in jail for 7-8 months. The judge was assisted by 8 other men – a jury?

The Judgement: Jørgen Wincentzen must swear that he did not cause the injuries to Morten Povlsen from which he died. If he cannot do that, he shall be beheaded by sword and the body shall be buried in the cemetery without ceremonies. In addition he will lose his farm, pay the Prosecution and Defence plus an amount of 10 ‘Daler’ to the court.

Jørgen must have sworn to the court, as he lived for a further 32 years.

Was he guilty – or not?