Rank(s): Ordinary Seaman
Dates of Service: -
Death Date: 12/15/1824
John Love was probably born in Bath, England about the year 1790. As one account said, “he was an Englishman and apparently wasn’t glad of it.”
Love came to America sometime during the first decade of the nineteenth century, after “many adventures.” He clearly served some time at sea, but whether this was in the merchant service or the navy is not known.
John Love joined Constitution’s crew as an ordinary seaman on 3 July 1812 at Annapolis, MD. He left the ship sometime after its return to Boston in February 1813.
Life on Board
Among the enlisted men, ordinary seamen stood in the middle of the lower-deck hierarchy. These men had typically sailed one or two voyages and knew basic seamanship. Like the able seamen, they too could “hand, reef, and steer,” but some of the more complicated maneuvers were foreign to them. Many ordinary seamen would have been numbered among the topmen, the young and agile crewmembers who were responsible for working aloft on the masts and yards. The ordinary seaman made $10.00 per month.
Battles and Engagements
Love served on board during the battles with HMS Guerriere on 19 August 1812 and with HMS Java on 29 December 1812. During the second battle, he was one of a chain of men who passed powder cartridges from the main magazine to the main hatch on the gun deck.
After his discharge, Love came to Buffalo to “traffick” along the lakes with some money he had laid by. Great Lakes trader Joseph Bennett “found and hired a small, wiry Scotsman [sic] by the name of John Love, a man who claimed to have been at sea since running away from home at the age of 10. Love told young Bennett that he had served aboard the US frigate Constitution in its famous action s against the HMS Guerriere and HMS Java during the past war. Joseph took him aboard gladly and was pleased to find that he was indeed an excellent seaman.” With the money he had amassed (some of it no doubt prize money from the captures of Guerriere and Java) Love began lending money to various individuals in upstate New York. Three of the people to whom he lent a considerable sum were the Thayer brothers of Boston, NY- Israel, Isaac, and Nelson. By the middle of December 1824, Mr. Love decided that it was high time they start paying back the loan. He made a visit to the Thayers and that was the last time anyone saw him alive.
As it later was discovered, the brothers had welcomed Love into their house, seated him before the fire, and then left the room outside under various pretexts. As Love warded off the chill, one Thayer brother shot him in the back of the head through the window, and another rushed in and finished him off with an axe. They then dragged the body outside behind the house and buried it in a shallow grave beneath a fallen log. The Thayer brothers might have gotten away with it, had they not been foolish. A few days later, Israel was seen riding Love’s horse, while it was discovered soon after that Isaac had Love’s papers in his hands, and was trying to collect debts in Love’s name. The brothers swore that Love had admitted to murdering a man in Pennsylvania or had been forging currency, and had fled to Canada to avoid the law. This made the neighbors suspicious and the authorities moved in to search the Thayer property. They quickly found Love’s body, and the brothers were arrested, tried, found guilty, and hanged in Niagara Square, Buffalo in June 1825. It was a sensational trial and execution covered by papers around the country, and as one pamphlet gleefully announced, it was the only triple hanging ever carried out in New York.