When we think of life in Maine, we normally think of the rugged coastline, thick forests, cool small towns, and great breweries.  We don’t normally think of murders and killings.  While they are rare in the Pine Tree State, sadly, they do happen.

One of the more notable, and chilling, murders to take place in the state actually took place before Maine was a state.

According to Touring Maine History, the Purrington* Massacre took place in the earliest days of the 19th century.  As many know, the State of Maine was actually part of Massachusetts until 1820.

As the story goes, James Purrington, who some people say was a captain, moved his family from Bowdoinham to Augusta in 1805.  They moved to a farm on Belgrade Road that used to be owned by a man named George Cony.  In addition to James, there was his wife (Betsey) and his eight children, who ranged in age from 18 months to 19 years.

Early on the morning of July 9th, 1806, James Purrington reportedly attacked his family with an axe.  Purrinton’s wife and six of the family’s children died that night.  17 year old James was attacked, but recovered and 15 year old Martha survived the night, but died of her wounds several weeks later.  After attacking his family, the father slit his own throat with a razor blade and fell dead at the scene.

Reportedly, teenage son James was able to escape the family home and ran to the home of a neighbor to get help.  Those who visited the scene said that the family members had been mangled by the attack and that it appeared most of them had attempted to put up some kind of fight.

The bodies of the wife and deceased children were taken to the town meeting house.  The body of the father was left on the porch of the meeting house.  Hundreds attended the family’s funeral, which was held the following day.

An inquest was held.  The jury came to the conclusion that James Purrington, acting alone, had murdered his family.  There was much speculation as to what led him to commit such a horrible act.  The leading theory was "hereditary insanity".

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*Depending on who you asked, the family's name is either spelled Purrinton or Purrington.

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