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  • Writer's pictureLawrence Lore

Aaron Shaw, State's Attorney for Elizabeth Reed's Trial

Aaron Shaw was born December 19, 1811 near Goshen, New York. He attended Montgomery Academy in New York and studied law at Goshen. Shaw was admitted to the bar in 1833 and began practicing law in Lawrenceville, Illinois. He is listed in the court papers as being the State's Attorney for Lawrence County during the Elizabeth Reed trial which resulted in the first hanging of a woman in Illinois in 1844.

In the 1860 census Aaron lived in Lawrenceville with his wife Mary and his four daughters Dora age 12, Mary age 8, Rachel age 4, and Ella age 2. One servant and two other people lived with the family. At a time when most people's real estate was listed under $10,000, Mr. Shaw listed his real estate as totaling $60,000 and his personal property as $12,000. Ten years earlier in the 1850 census his real estate was only valued at $3000. In 1870 and 1880, the family was living in Olney, Richland County.

Shaw served as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives in 1850. He was then elected as a Democrat to the 35th Congress serving from March 4, 1857 to March 3, 1859. He was not a candidate for re-nomination in 1858 but was once again a member of the Illinois House of Representatives in 1860. From 1863 to 1869 Shaw served as Circuit Judge of the Fourth Judicial District in Illinois. He was again elected to the House of Representatives from 1883 to 1885 (7th District 1857-59, 16th District 1883-85) During this later time period, Shaw missed 220 of 333 recorded or roll call votes (66.0%) for unknown reasons.

Aaron Shaw died January 7, 1887 and is buried at Haven Hill Cemetery in Olney, Illinois.

Editor's Note: If you have always heard about the story of Elizabeth Reed but want to know the facts, then you need to buy our book,"A Documentary Record of the First Woman Hanged in Illinois". Our researchers have found the original court records, and transcribed them, as well as provided profiles of the jurors, and even the probate file of Elizabeth's husband who she allegedly poisoned. I say "allegedly" because even though she was hanged by a jury of her peers (all men), after you read the evidence, or lack thereof, you might "beg to differ" with that jury. click here to buy a copy.

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