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Wickham murders exhibit
Photo courtesy of the Southold Historical Society

One of the North Fork’s most infamous murder cases has become the subject of a new exhibit in Southold.

The Southold Historical Society’s “Wickham Murders” exhibit chronicles the mid-nineteenth century killings of wealthy Cutchogue farmer James Wickham and his wife, Frances.

Legend has it that Mr. Wickham got into an argument with one of his workers, Nicholas Behan, who was harassing another employee who refused to marry him. Several days after Mr. Behan’s dismissal, he returned to the home and butchered the Wickham’s with an ax. Mr. Behan fled to a nearby swamp inciting a manhunt.  He was later captured, tried, convicted and, on December 15, 1854, became one of the last people to be hanged in Suffolk County.

The exhibit is based on a new book “Murder on Long Island: A Nineteenth Century Tale of Tragedy & Revenge,” that was written by society director Geoffrey K. Fleming and the society Collections Manager, Amy Kasuga Folk.

It features reproductions of maps, drawings, and photographs related to the people who were involved in the murder and the following trial and the original murder weapon—a post. It will be the first time the weapon will be on public display within Southold Town, where Cutchogue is located and where the murder took place.

Other objects on display will be the original lock from the Suffolk County Jail where Nicholas Behan was held, and the bible on which all the witnesses at the trial swore their oaths.

Another item on view is a small model of the old counter-weight gallows that Suffolk County used during the 19th century to carry out death sentences.

This exhibit opens on July 13 at 1 p.m. and will be on display at the Mayne Gallery of the Ann Currie-Bell House, located at 55200 Main Road in Southold, Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. through October 12.