On January 13th, 1874 two black men from the Sourland Mountain area of East Amwell were taken into custody for the murder of Theodore Cruse, Jr., also black. Israel Morocco and George Thompson, were charged with the stomping on the abdomen of Ted Cruse and then puncturing this windpipe which caused him to slowing die in the arms of his wife.
A number of blacks were partying at the home of Deborah and Ted Cruse Sr. near today’s Lindbergh and Zion Roads when a quarrel broke out. Samuel Hubbard testified that Ted Cruse Jr. and Amos Congo had too much to drink and got into a fight. Israel Morocco tried to break up the fracas not once but twice. Hubbard testified that he too tried to break up the fight to no avail. In the may lay, Morocco’s mother got hit on the head with a club, slapped in the face and accidentally cut by Ted Cruse which cause her to start bleeding. Cruse fled the house, fleeing to his home about 15 minutes away. Israel Morocco said “he has killed my mother and I will kill him”. Grabbing his friend George Thompson they set off in pursuit of Cruse. Catching up to him they proceeded to beat him, stomp him with their feet and Morocco punctured Cruse’s windpipe with a knife. As Cruse crawled home, Israel Morocco went back to the party and announced to everyone that he had killed Ted Cruse. Both John Phillips and Hannah Anderson testified that Morocco had admitted to the murder.
The trial began on April 15th, 1874 with the coroner testifying that Cruse had a 3” deep slit in his trachea and serious bruising in the abnormal area and back. Cruse’s wife Sara Ann testified that during his long, agonizing death, Ted Cruse said Israel Morocco was the one that punctured his throat but both he and Thompson stomped on him. The Defense Attorney for both Morocco and Thompson said Morocco was the pillar of Sourland Society. He was practically the only one on the mountain who had legitimately married. Everyone else lived in open adultery and fornication! He further went on to say that most Negroes on the mountain lived in sad and deplorable conditions and many actually lived “like savages and heathens”, where revelry was the order of the day.
The trial lasted for four days with many people testifying that Morocco and Thompson were responsible for Ted Cruse’s death. The jury retired and after only one hour of deliberation rendered a verdict of “Not Guilty”. Everyone in the courtroom was stunned and amazed, including the defendants who cheerfully left the Courthouse, back to the Sourlands.
East Amwell Historian