Hezekiah Smith: The last Danish convict from the Danish West Indies

On September 15, 1923, King Christian X pardoned a prisoner at the Horsens state penitentiary. Pardons were not unusual but this pardoned prisoner was the last convict in Denmark who had been sentenced in the Danish West Indies.
Hezekiah Smith fremstillet i Frederiksted Ekstra Kriminalret.
Hezekiah Smith, alias William Smith, alias Queen Mary’s Son, fremstillet i Frederiksted Ekstra Kriminalret, hvor han den 14. december 1904 blev dømt til døden. I dommersædet sad Anders Jensen Langkjær. Fotografiet blev taget af Emilie Langkjær (1874-1960).

The prisoner who upon his pardon was immediately deported and permanently banned from the realm was called Hezekiah Smith. Almost 20 years before, he was in court on St. Croix and convicted of killing his girlfriend Consuela from the plantation Betty’s Hope. He was given the punishment as prescribed in the Danish Law of King Christian V of 1683: “to lose one’s neck and have his head mounted on a stake”.

Avoided decapitation

They had actually stopped decapitating even killers in the Danish West Indies. Thus, Hezekiah petitioned the King for a pardon to a life sentence instead. Hezekiah escaped decapitation but was instead sentenced to life imprisonment. However, Hezekiah did not want to wait for that pardon. He picked the lock of his cell door at Frederiksfort with a nail and climbed over a fence to freedom. A warrant for his arrest was issued but he was nowhere to be found – even with the promise of a reward of 20 dollars.

New prison sentence in Baltimore

Hezekiah had stolen a row boat and went to sea with a bottle of water and six coconuts. Nine days later he reached Puerto Rico. Here he worked for a while as a day laborer on the docks. Then Hezekiah signed on an American schooner bound for Baltimore. He went ashore and found a new girlfriend.

This relationship was not exactly perfect either. Thus, Hezekiah ended up in prison in January 1908 in Baltimore, convicted of a murderous attack on his girlfriend Minnie Smith. In prison, he was recognized as the notorious murderer of St. Croix, and Hezekiah was extradited to Denmark and Horsens state penitentiary.

Pardon in Denmark and sent to Trinidad

The first years in prison he was a restless prisoner who was punished on several occasions. In 1919, however, he had been on good behavior for so long that the warden of Horsens state penitentiary recommended him for a pardon. But the – now American – West Indies would not take Hezekiah back under any circumstances. Upon transfer of the islands to the U.S. in 1917, Hezekiah no longer had an address on the islands, nor had he requested to keep his Danish citizenship. Thus, his lengthy stay in prison had rendered him stateless. This ended up costing him an additional four years in Horsens. In 1923, however, a solution was found: to put Hezekiah on a Polish schooner bound for Trinidad.

And thus ends the story of Hezekiah. However, it should be noted that he originally was wanted under the name “Hezekiah Smith, aka William Smith, aka Queen Mary’s son”. He was in fact the son of another prominent West Indian: the rebel leader Queen Mary, who in her day served several years at the women’s prison in Christianshavn.