The Witchcraft Delusion In Colonial Connecticut (1647-1697)
John M. Taylor
Part 2 out of 3
oxen one of wch spoyled at our stile before our doore, with blows upon
the backe and side, so bruised that he was altogether unserviceable;
about a fortnight or three weeks after the former, we had a cow spoyled,
her back broke and two of her ribs, nextly I had a heifer in my barne
yard, my ear mark of wch was cutt out and other ear marks set on;
nextly I had a sow that had young pigs ear marked (in the stie) after
the same manner; nextly I had a cow at the side of my yard, her jaw bone
broke and one of her hoofs and a hole bored in her side, nextly I had a
three yeare old heifer in the meadow stuck with knife or some weapon and
wounded to death; nextly I had a cow in the street wounded in the bag as
she stood before my door, in the street, nextly I had a sow went out
into the woods, came home with ears luged and one of her hind legs cutt
offe, lastly my corne in Mile Meadow much damnified with horses, they
being staked upon it; it was wheat; All wch injurys, as they do sauor of
enemy so I hope they will be looked upon by this honored court according
to their natuer and judged according to there demerit, that so your poor
suppliant may find some redrese; who is bold to subscribe."
"Your servant and supplyant,
"Postscript. I had my horse wounded in the night, as he was in my
pasture no creature save thre calves with him: More I had one two yeare
old steer the back of it broke, in the barne yard, more I had a matter
of 30 poles of hops cutt and spoyled; all wch things have hapened since
my husband death, wch was last August was two yeare. There is wittnes to
the oxen Jonathan & Josiah Gillert; to the cows being spoyled, Enoch
Buck, Josiah Gilbert; to the cow that had her jaw bone broke, Dan, Rose,
John, Bronson: to the heifer, one of widdow Stodder sons, and Willia
Taylor; to the corne John Beckly; to the wound of the horse Anthony
Wright, Goodman Higby; to the hops cutting, Goodwife Standish and Mary
Wright; wch things being added, and left to your serious consideration,
I make bold again to subscribe.
At a special court of assistants held May 20, 1670, to which the General
Assembly had referred the matter with power, the court having considered
the verdict of the jury could not concur with them so as to sentence her
to death, but dismissed her from her imprisonment, she paying her just
fees; willing her to mind the fulfilment of removing from Wethersfield,
"which is that will tend most to her own safety & the contentment of the
people who are her neighbors."
In the same year, having paid the expenses of her trials and
imprisonment, she removed to Westchester, New York. Being under
suspicion of witchcraft, her presence was unwelcome to the inhabitants
there and complaint was made to Governor Lovelace. She gave security for
her civil carriage and good behavior, and at the General Court of
Assizes held in New York in October, 1670, in the case of Katherine
Harrison, widow, who was bound to the good behavior upon complaint of
some of the inhabitants of Westchester, it was ordered, "that in regard
there is nothing appears against her deserving the continuance of that
obligation she is to be released from it, & hath liberty to remain in
the town of Westchester where she now resides, or anywhere else in the
government during her pleasure."
"Although our fathers cannot be charged with having regarded the Devil
in his respectful and deferential light, it must be acknowledged, that
they gave him a conspicuous and distinguished--we might almost say a
dignified--agency in the affairs of life and the government of the
world: they were prone to confess, if not to revere, his presence, in
all scenes and at all times. He occupied a wide space, not merely in
their theology and philosophy, but in their daily and familiar
thoughts." UPHAM'S _Salem Witchcraft_.
"There are in every community those who for one cause or another
unfortunately incur the dislike and suspicion of the neighbors, and when
belief in witchcraft prevailed such persons were easily believed to have
familiarity with the evil one." _A Case of Witchcraft in Hartford_
(Connecticut Magazine, November, 1899), HOADLEY.
Witchcraft in the Connecticut towns reached its climax in 1692--the
fateful year at Salem, Massachusetts--and the chief center of its
activity was in the border settlements at Fairfield. There, several
women early in the year were accused of the crime, and among them Mercy
Disborough. The testimonies against her were unique, and yet so typical
that they are given in part as the second illustration.
MERCY (DISBRO) DISBOROUGH
A special court, presided over by Robert Treat, Governor, was held at
Fairfield by order of the General Court, to try the witch cases, and
September 14, 1692, a true bill was exhibited against Mercy Disborough,
wife of Thomas Disborough of Compo in Fairfield, in these words:
"Mercy Disborough is complayned of & accused as guilty of witchcraft for
that on the 25t of Aprill 1692 & in the 4th year of their Maties reigne
& at sundry other times she hath by the instigation & help of the diuill
in a preternaturall way afflicted & don harme to the bodyes & estates of
sundry of their Maties subjects or to some of them contrary to the law
of God, the peace of our soueraigne lord & lady the King & Queen their
crowne & dignity."
Others were indicted and tried, at this session of the court and its
adjournments, notably Elizabeth Clawson. Many depositions were taken in
Fairfield and elsewhere, some of the defendants were discharged and
others convicted, but Mercy Disborough's case was the most noted one in
the tests applied, and in the conclusions to which it led. The whole
case with its singular incidents is worthy of careful study. Some of the
testimony is given here.
EDWARD JESOP--_The roast pig--"The place of Scripture"--The bewitched
"cannoe"--The old cart horse--Optical illusions_
"Edward Jesop aged about 29 years testifieth that being at The:
Disburrows house at Compoh sometime in ye beginning of last winter in ye
evening he asked me to tarry & sup with him, & their I saw a pigg
roasting that looked verry well, but when it came to ye table (where we
had a very good lite) it seemed to me to have no skin upon it & looked
very strangly, but when ye sd Disburrow began to cut it ye skin (to my
apprehension) came againe upon it, & it seemed to be as it was when upon
ye spit, at which strange alteration of ye pig I was much concerned
however fearing to displease his wife by refusing to eat, I did eat some
of ye pig, & at ye same time Isaac Sherwood being there & Disburrows
wife & hee discoursing concerning a certain place of scripture, & I
being of ye same mind that Sherwood was concerning yt place of scripture
& Sherwood telling her where ye place was she brought a bible (that was
of very large print) to me to read ye particular scripture, but tho I
had a good light & looked ernestly upon ye book I could not see one
letter but looking upon it againe when in her hand after she had turned
over a few leaves I could see to read it above a yard of. Ye same night
going home & coming to Compoh it seemed to be high water whereupon I
went to a cannoe that was about ten rods of (which lay upon such a bank
as ordinarily I could have shoved it into ye creek with ease) & though I
lifted with all my might & lifted one end very high from ye ground I
could by no means push it into ye creek & then ye water seemed to be so
loe yt I might ride over, whereupon I went againe to ye water side but
then it appeared as at first very high & then going to ye cannoe againe
& finding that I could not get it into ye creek I thought to ride round
where I had often been & knew ye way as well as before my own dore & had
my old cart hors yet I could not keep him in ye road do what I could but
he often turned aside into ye bushes and then went backwards so that tho
I keep upon my hors & did my best indeauour to get home I was ye
greatest part of ye night wandering before I got home altho I was not
much more than two miles."
"Fairfield Septembr 15th 1692.
"Sworn in Court Septr 15 1692. Attests John Allyn, Secry."
JOHN BARLOW--_Mesmeric influence--Light and darkness--The falling out_
"John Barlow eaged 24 years or thairabout saieth and sd testifieth that
soumtime this last year that as I was in bedd in the hous that Mead
Jesuop then liuied in that Marsey Desbory came to me and layed hold on
my fett and pinshed them (and) looked wishley in my feass and I strouff
to rise and cold not and too speek and cold not. All the time that she
was with me it was light as day as it semed to me--but when shee uanicht
it was darck and I arose and hade a paine in my feet and leags some time
after an our or too it remained. Sometime before this aforesd Marcey and
I had a falling out and shee sayed that if shee had but strength shee
would teer me in peses."
"Sworn in court Septr 19, 92. Attests John Allyn."
BENJAMIN DUNING--_"Cast into ye watter"--Vindication of innocence--Mercy
not to be hanged alone_
"A Speciall Cort held in Fairfield this 2d of June 1692.
"Marcy Disbrow ye wife of Thomas Disbrow of Fairfield was sometimes
lately accused by Catren Branch servant to Daniell Wescoat off
tormenting her whereupon sd Mercy being sent for to Stanford and ther
examined upon suspecion of witchcraft before athaurity and fro thnce
conueyed to ye county jaile and sd Mercy ernestly desireing to be tryed
by being cast into ye watter yesterday wch was done this day being
examind what speciall reason she had to be so desiring of such a triall
her answer was yt it was to vindicate her innocency allso she sd Mercy
being asked if she did not say since she was duckt yt if she was hanged
shee would not be hanged alone her answer was yt she did say to Benje
Duning do you think yt I would be such a fooll as to be hanged allone.
Sd Benj. Duning aged aboue sixteen years testifies yt he heard sd Mercy
say yesterday that if she was hanged she would not be hanged allone wch
was sd upon her being urged to bring out others that wear suspected for
"Sept 15 1692 Sworn in Court by Benj. Duning attest John Allyn Secy
"Joseph Stirg aged about 38 declares that he wth Benj. Duning being at
prison discoursing with the prisoner now at the bar he heard her say if
she were hanged she would not be hanged alone. He tould her she
implicitly owned herself a witch."
"Sworn in Court Sept. 15, atests John Allyn, Secry."
THOMAS HALLIBERCH--_A poor creature "damd"--Torment--A lost
"Thomas Halliberch ye jayle keeper aged 41 testifieth and saith yt this
morning ye date aboue Samull Smith junr. came to his house and sad
somthing to his wife somthing concerning Mercy and his wifes answer was
Oh poor creature upon yt Mercy mad answer & sd poor creature indeed & sd
shee had been tormented all night. Sd Halliberch answered her yt it was
ye devill her answer was she did beleue it was and allso yt she sed to
it in ye name of ye Father Son and Holy Gost also sd Halliberch saith
yt sd Mercy sd that her soul was damd for yesterdays worke. Mercy owned
before this court yt she did say to sd Halliberch that it was reuealled
to her yt shee wisht she had not damd her soule for yesterdays work and
also sad before this cort she belieued that there was a deuination in
all her trouble."
"Owned by the prisoner in court Sept. 15, 1692. attest John Allyn, Secy"
THOMAS BENIT, ELIZABETH BENIT--"_A birds taile"--A family
difference--"Ye Scripture words"--The lost "calues and lams_"
"Thos. Benit aged aboute 50 yrs testifieth yt Mercy Disbrow tould him yt
shee would make him as bare as a birds taile, which he saith was about
two or three yrs sine wch was before he lost any of his creatures."
"Elizabeth Benit aged about 20 yrs testifieth yt Mercy Disbrow did say
that it should be prest heeped and running ouer to her sd Elizabth; wch
was somtime last winter after som difference yt was aboute a sow of
"Mercy Disbrow owns yt she did say those words to sd Elizabeth & yt she
did tell her yt it was ye scripture words & named ye place of scripture
which was about a day after."
"The abousd Thos. Benit saith yt after ye sd Mercy had expressed herself
as above, he lost a couple of two yr old calues in a creek running by
Halls Islande, which catle he followed by ye track & founde them one
against a coue of ice & ye other about high water marke, & yt they went
into ye creek som distance from ye road where ye other catle went not, &
also yt he lost 30 lams wthin about a fortnights time after ye sd two
catle died som of sd lams about a week old & som a fortnight & in good
liueing case & allso saith yt som time after ye sd lams died he lost two
calues yt he fectht up ouer night & seemed to be well & wear dead before
ye next morning one of them about a fortnight old ye one a sucker & ye
HENRY GREY--_The roaring calfe--The mired cow--The heifer and cart
whip--Hard words--"Creeses in ye cetle"_
"The said Henry saith yt aboute a year agou or somthing more yt he had a
calfe very strangly taken and acted things yt are very unwonted, it
roared very strangly for ye space of near six or seven howers & allso
scowered extraordinarily all which after an unwonted maner; & also saith
he had a lame after a very strange maner it being well and ded in about
an houre and when it was skined it lookt as if it had been bruised or
pinched on ye shoulders and allso saith yt about two or three months
agou he and Thos Disbrow & sd Disbroughs wife was makeing a bargaine
about a cetle yt sd Henry was to haue & had of sd Disbrough so in time
they not agreeing sd Henry carried ye cetle to them againe & then sd
Dibroughs wife was very angry and many hard words pased & yt som time
since about two months he lost a cow which was mired in a swampe and was
hanged by one leg in mire op to ye gambrill and her nose in the water
and sd cow was in good case & saith he had as he judged about 8 pound of
tallow out of sd cow & allso yt he had a thre yr old heifer came home
about three weeks since & seemed to ale somthing she lay downe & would
haue cast herself but he pruented her & he cut a piece of her eare &
still shee seemed to be allmost dead & then he sent for his cart whip &
gave ye cow a stroak wth it & she arose suddenly and ran from him & he
followed her & struck her sundry times and yt wthin about one hour he
judges she was well & chewed her cud allso sd Henry saith yt ye ketle he
had of sd Disbrow loockt like a new ketle the hamer stroakes and creeses
was plaine to be seen in ye cetle, from ye time he had it untill a short
time before he carried it home & then in about a quarter of an hour, the
cetle changed its looks & seemed to be an old cetle yt had been used
about 20 years and yt sundry nailes appeared which he could not see
before and allso saith yt somtime lately he being at his brother Jacob
Grays house & Mercy Disbrough being there she begane to descorse about
ye kitle yt because he would not haue ye cetle shee had said that it
should cost him two cows which he tould her he could prove she had sed &
her answer was Aye: & then was silent, & he went home & when he com home
he heard Thomas Benit say he had a cow strangly taken yt day & he sent
for his cart whip & whipye cow & shee was soon well againe & as near as
he could com at it was about ye same time yt he tould Mercy he could
prove what shee sad about ye two cows and allso saith yt as soon as he
came home ye same time his wife tould him yt while Thos Benit had ye
cart whip one of sd Henrys calues was taken strangly & yt she sent for
ye whip & before ye whip came ye calf was well."
JOHN GRUMMON--_A sick child--Its unbewitching--Benit's
"John Grummon senr saith yt about six year agou he being at Compo with
his wife & child & ye child being very well as to ye outward vew and it
being suddenly taken very ill & so remained a little while upon wch he
being much troubled went out & heard young Thomas Benit threaten Mercy
Disbrow & bad her unbewitch his uncles child whereupon she came ouer to
ye child & ye child was well.
"Thomas Benit junr aged 27 years testifieth yt at ye same time of ye
above sd childs illness he came into ye house wher it was & he spoke to
sd John Gruman to go & scould at Mercy & tould him if he sd Gruman would
not he would wherupon he sd Benit went out and called to Mercy & bad her
come and unbewitch his unkle Grumans child or else he would beat her
hart out then sd mercy imediatly came ouer and stroaked ye child & sd
God forbad she should hurt ye child and imediately after ye child was
ANN GODFREE--_The frisky oxen--Neighborly interest--The "beer out of
ye barrill"--Mixed theology--The onbewitched sow_
"Ann Godfree aged 27 years testifieth yt she came to Thos Disbrows house
ye next morning after it was sd yt Henry Grey whipt his cow and sd
Disbrows wife lay on ye bed & stretcht out her arme & sd to her oh! Ann
I am allmost kild; & further saith yt about a year & eleven months agou
she went to sd Disbrows house wth young Thos Benits wife & told Mercy
Disbrow yt Henry Greys wife sed she had bewitcht his her husbands oxen
& made y jump ouer ye fence & made ye beer jump out of ye barrill &
Mercy answered yt there was a woman came to her & reuiled her & asked
what shee was doing she told her she was praying to her God, then she
asked her who was her god allso tould her yt her god was ye deuill; &
Mercy said she bad ye woman go home & pray to her god & she went home
but shee knew not whether she did pray or not; but she sed God had met
wth her for she had died a hard death for reuileing on her & yt when ye
sd Thos Benits wife & she came away sd Benits wife tould her yt woman yt
was spoaken of was her sister and allso sed yt shee had heard those
words which Mercy had related to her pas between Mercy and her sister.
Upon yt sd An saith she would haue gon back & haue talked againe to
Mercy & Thomas Benit senr bad her she should not for she would do her
som mischief and yt night following shee sd Ann saith she could not
sleep & shee heard a noyse about ye house & allso heard a noyse like as
tho a beast wear knoct with an axe & in ye morning their was a heifer of
theirs lay ded near ye door. Allso sd An saith yt last summer she had a
sow very sick and sd Mercy cam bye & she called to her & bad her
on-bewitch her sow & tould her yt folks talked of ducking her but if she
would not onbewitch her sow she should need no ducking & soon after yt
her sow was well and eat her meat." That both what is on this side & the
other is sworne in court.
"Sept 15, 92. Attests, John Allyn Secy"
"It has been heretofore noted that during her trial--from the records of
which the foregoing testimony has been taken--the prisoner Mercy
Disborough was subjected to a search for witch marks by a committee of
women, faithfully sworn narrowly and truly to inspect and search. This
indignity was repeated, and the women agreed "that there is found on her
boddy as before they found, and nothing else." But the accused in order
to her further detection was subjected to another test of English
parentage, recommended by the authorities and embodied in the criminal
codes. It was the notorious water test, or ordeal by water. September
15, 1692, this test was made, chiefly on the testimony of a young girl
subject to epileptic fits and hysterics, who was carried into the
meetinghouse where the examination was being held. Thus runs the record:
_Daniel Westcott's "gerle"--Scenes in the meeting house--"Ye
girl"--Mercy's voice--Usual paroxisme_
"The afflicted person being carried into ye meeting house & Mercy
Disbrow being under examination by ye honable court & whilst she was
speaking ye girl came to her sences, & sd she heard Mercy Disbrow saying
withall where is she, endeavoring to raise herself, with her masters
help got almost up, in ye open view of present, & Mercy Disbrow looking
about on her, she immediately fel down into a fit again. A 2d time she
came to herself whilst in ye meeting house, & askd whers Mercy, I hear
her voice, & with that turned about her head (she lying with her face
from her) & lookd on her, then laying herself down in like posture as
before sd tis she, Ime sure tis she, & presently fell into a like
paroxisme or fit as she usually is troubled with."
Mercy Disborough, and another woman on trial at the same time
(Elizabeth Clauson), were put to the test together, and two eyewitnesses
of the sorry exhibition of cruelty and delusion made oath that they saw
Mercy and Elizabeth bound hand and foot and put into the water, and that
they swam upon the water like a cork, and when one labored to press them
into the water they buoyed up like cork.[G]
[Footnote G: Depositions of Abram Adams and Jonathan Squire, September
At the close of the trial the jury disagreed and the prisoner was
committed "to the common goale there to be kept in safe custody till a
return may be made to the General Court for further direction what shall
be don in this matter;" and the gentlemen of the jury were also to be
ready, when further called by direction of the General Court, to perfect
their verdict. The General Court ordered the Special Court to meet again
"to put an issue to those former matters."
October 28, 1692, this entry appears of record:
"The jury being called to make a return of their indictment that had
been committed to them concerning Mercy Disborough, they return that
they find the prisoner guilty according to the indictment of familiarity
with Satan. The jury being sent forth upon a second consideration of
their verdict returned that they saw no reason to alter their verdict,
but to find her guilty as before. The court approved of their verdict
and the Governor passed sentence of death upon her."
The hesitation of the jury to agree upon a verdict, the reference to the
General Court for more specific authority to act, all point to serious
question of the evidence, the motives of witnesses, the value of the
traditional and lawful tests of the guilt of the accused.
In the search for facts which the old records certify to at this late
day, one is deeply impressed by the wisdom and potency of the sober
afterthought and conclusions of some of the clergy, lawyers, and men of
affairs, who sat as judges and jurors in the witch trials, which led
them to weigh and analyze the evidence, spectral and otherwise, and so
call a halt in the prosecutions and convictions.
What some of the Massachusetts men did and said in the contemporaneous
outbreak at Salem has been shown, but nowhere is the reaction there more
clearly illustrated than in the statement of Reverend John
Hale--great-grandsire of Nathan Hale, the revolutionary hero--the long
time pastor at Beverly Farms, who from personal experience became
convinced of the grave errors at the Salem trials, and in his _Modest
Inquiry_ in 1697 said:
"Such was the darkness of that day, the tortures and lamentations of the
afflicted, and the power of former precedents, that we walked in the
clouds and could not see our way.... observing the events of that sad
catastrophe,--Anno 1692,--I was brought to a more strict scanning of the
principles I had imbibed, and by scanning to question, and by
questioning at length to reject many of them." _Nathan Hale_ (p. 10),
But no utterance takes higher rank, or deserves more consideration in
its appeal to sanity, justice, and humanity, than the declaration of
certain ministers and laymen of Connecticut, in giving their advice and
"reasons" for a cessation of the prosecutions for witchcraft in the
colonial courts, and for reprieving Mercy Disborough under sentence of
death. This is the remarkable document:
"Filed: The ministers aduice about the witches in Fayrfield, 1692.
"As to ye evidences left to our consideration respecting ye two women
suspected of witchcraft at Fairfield we offer
"1. That we cannot but give our concurrance with ye generallity of
divines that ye endeavour of conviction of witchcraft by swimming is
unlawful and sinfull & therefore it cannot afford any evidence.
"2. That ye unusuall excresencies found upon their bodies ought not to
be allowed as evidence against them without ye approbation of some able
"3. Respecting ye evidence of ye afflicted maid we find some things
testifyed carrying a suspition of her counterfeiting; Others that
plainly intimate her trouble from ye mother which improved by craft may
produce ye most of those strange & unusuall effects affirmed of her; &
of those things that by some may be thought to be diabolical or effects
of witchcraft. We apprehend her applying of them to these persons merely
from ye appearance of their spectres to her to be very uncertain and
failable from ye easy deception of her senses & subtile devices of ye
devill, wherefore cannot think her a sufficient witnesse; yet we think
that her affliction being something strange it well deserves a farther
"4. As to ye other strange accidents as ye dying of cattle &c., we
apprehend ye applying of them to these women as matters of witchcraft
to be upon very slender & uncertain grounds.
"Hartford JOSEPH ELIOT
"Octobr 1692 TIMOTHY WOODBRIDGE."
"The rest of ye ministers gave their approbation to ye sum of what
is ... above written tho this could not be drawen up before their
(Above in handwriting of Rev. Timothy Woodbridge.)
"Filed: Reasons of Repreuing Mercy Desbrough.
"To the Honrd Gen: Assembly of Connecticut Colony sitting in Hartford.
Reasons of repreuing Mercy Disbrough from being put to death until this
Court had cognizance of her case.
"First, because wee that repreued her had power by the law so to do.
Secondly, because we had and haue sattisfying reasons that the sentence
of death passed against her ought not to be executed which reasons we
give to this Court to be judge of
"1st. The jury that brought her in guilty (which uerdict was the ground
of her condemnation) was not the same jury who were first charged with
this prisoners deliuerance and who had it in charg many weeks. Mr.
Knowles was on the jury first sworn to try this woman and he was at or
about York when the Court sate the second time and when the uerdict was
given, the jury was altered and another man sworn.
"It is so inuiolable a practice in law that the indiudual jurors and
jury that is charged with the deliuerance of a prisoner in a capital
case and on whom the prisoner puts himself or herself to be tryed must
try it and they only that al the presidents in Old England and New
confirm it and not euer heard of til this time to be inouated. And yet
not only president but the nature of the thing inforces it for to these
juors the law gaue this power vested it in them they had it in right of
law and it is incompatible and impossible that it should be uested in
these and in others too for then two juries may haue the same power in
the same case one man altered the jury is altered.
"Tis the birthright of the Kings' subjects so and no otherwise to be
tryed and they must not be despoyled of it.
"Due form of law is that alone wherein the ualidity of verdicts and
judgments in such cases stands and if a real and apparent murtherer be
condemned and executed out of due form of law it is inditable against
them that do it for in such case the law is superseded by arbitrary
"What the Court accepts and the prisoner accepts differing from the law
is nothing what the law admitts is al in the case.
"If one jury may be changed two, ten, the whole may be so, and solemn
oathe made uain.
"Wee durst not but dissent from and declare against such alterations by
our repreueing therefore the said prisoner when ye were informed of this
business about her jury, and we pray this honored Court to take heed
what they do in it now it is roled to their doore and that at least they
be well sattisfied from able lawyers that such a chang is in law
alowable ere this prisoner be executed least they bring themselues into
inextricable troubles and the whole country. Blood is a great thing and
we cannot but open our mouths for the dumb in the cause of one appointed
to die by such a uerdict.
"2dly. We had a good accompt of the euidences giuen against her that
none of them amounted to what Mr. Perkins, Mr. Bernard and Mr. Mather
with others state as sufficiently conuictiue of witchcraft, namely 1st
Confession (this there was none of) 2dly two good wittnesses proueing
som act or acts done by the person which could not be but by help of the
deuill, this is the summe of what they center in as thair books show as
for the common things of spectral euidence il euents after quarels or
threates, teates, water tryalls and the like with suspitious words they
are al discarded and som of them abominated by the most judicious as to
be conuictiue of witchcraft and the miserable toyl they are in the Bay
for adhereing to these last mentioned litigious things is warning enof,
those that will make witchcraft of such things will make hanging work
apace and we are informed of no other but such as these brought against
"These in brief are our reasons for repreueing this prisoner.
May 12th, 1693.
"The Court may please to consider also how farr these
proceedings do put a difficulty on any further tryal of
All honor to Joseph Elliot, Timothy Woodbridge and their ministerial
associates; to Samuel Willis, Pitkin and Nath. Stanly, level-headed men
of affairs, all friends of the court called upon for advice and
counsel--who gave it in full scriptural measure.[H]
[Footnote H: Mercy Disborough was pardoned, as the records show that she
was living in 1707.]
"Old Matthew Maule was executed for the crime of witchcraft. He was one
of the martyrs to that terrible delusion, which should teach us, among
its other morals, that the influential classes, and those who take upon
themselves to be leaders of the people, are fully liable to all the
passionate error that has ever characterized the maddest mob."
"Clergymen, judges, statesmen--the wisest, calmest, holiest persons of
their day--stood in the inner circle round about the gallows, loudest to
applaud the work of blood, latest to confess themselves miserably
"This old reprobate was one of the sufferers when Cotton Mather, and his
brother ministers, and the learned judges, and other wise men, and Sir
William Phipps, the sagacious governor, made such laudable efforts to
weaken the great enemy of souls by sending a multitude of his adherents
up the rocky pathway of Gallows Hill." _The House of the Seven Gables_
(20: 225), HAWTHORNE.
"Then, too, the belief in witchcraft was general. Striking coincidences,
personal eccentricities, unusual events and mysterious diseases seemed
to find an easy explanation in an unholy compact with the devil. A
witticism attributed to Judge Sewall, one of the judges in these trials,
may help us to understand the common panic: 'We know who's who but not
which is witch.' That was the difficulty. At a time when every one
believed in witchcraft it was easy to suspect one's neighbor. It was a
characteristic superstition of the century and should be classed with
the barbarous punishments and religious intolerance of the age." _N.E.
Hist. Towns_.--LATIMER'S--_Salem_ (150).
Multiplication of these witchcraft testimonies, quaint and curious,
vulgar and commonplace, evil and pathetic, voices all of a strange
superstition, understandable only as through them alone can one gain a
clear perspective of the spirit of the time and place, would prove
wearisome. They may well remain in the ancient records until they find
publicity in detail in some accurate and complete history of the
beginnings of the commonwealth--including this strange chapter in its
It will, however, serve a present necessary purpose, and lead to a more
exact conception of the reign of unreason, if glimpses be taken here and
there of a few of the statements made on oath in some of the other
Daniell Gabbett and Margaret Garrett--_The mess of parsnips--Hains' "hodg
"The testimony of Daniell Garrett senior and the testimony of Margarett
Garrett. Goodwife Gaarrett saith that goodwife Seager said there was a
day kept at Mr. Willis in reference to An Coale; and she further said
she was in great trouble euen in agony of spirit, the ground as follows
that she sent her owne daughtr Eliza Seager to goodwife Hosmer to carry
her a mess a parsnips. Goodwife Hosmer was not home. She was at Mr.
Willis at the fast. Goodm Hosmer and his son was at home. Goodm Hosmer
bid the child carry the parsnips home againe he would not receiue them
and if her mother desired a reason, bid her send her father and he would
tell him the reason. Goodwife Seager upon the return of the parsnips
was much troubled and sent for her husband and sent him up to Goodm
Hosmer to know the reason why he would not reciue the parsnips, and he
told goodman Seager it was because An Coale at the fast at Mr. Willis
cryed out against his wife as being a witch and he would not receiue
the parsnips least he should be brought in hereaftr as a testimony
against his wife. Then goodwif Seager sd that Mr. Hains had writt a
great deal of hodg podg that An Coale had sd that she was under
suspicion for a witch, and then she went to prayer, and did adventure to
bid Satan go and tell them she was no witch. This deponent after she had
a little paused said, who did you say, then goodw Seger sd againe she
had sent Satan to tell them she was no witch. This deponent asked her
why she made use of Satan to tell them, why she did not besech God to
tell them she was no witch. She answered because Satan knew she was no
witch. Goodman Garrett testifies that before him and his wife, Goodwife
Seager said that she sent Satan to tell them she was no witch."
ROBERT STERNE, STEPHEN HART, JOSIAH WILLARD AND DANIEL PRATT--_Four
women--Two black creatures--A kettle and a dance--"That place in the
Acts about the 7 sons"_
"Robert Sterne testifieth as followeth.
"I saw this woman goodwife Seager in ye woods wth three more women and
with them I saw two black creaures like two Indians but taller. I saw
likewise a kettle there over a fire. I saw the women dance round these
black creatures and whiles I looked upon them one of the women G:
Greensmith said looke who is yonder and then they ran away up the hill.
I stood still and ye black things came towards mee and then I turned to
come away. He further saith I knew the psons by their habits or clothes
haueing observed such clothes on them not long before."
"Wee underwritten do testifie, that goodwife Seager said, (upon the
relateing of goodwife Garrett testimony, in reference to Seager sending
Satan,) that the reason why she sent Satan, was because he knew she was
no witch, we say Seager said Dame you can remember part of what I said,
but you do not speak of the whole you say nothing of what I brought to
prove that Satan knew that I was no witch. I brought that place in the
Acts, about the 7 sons that spake to the euill spirits in the name of
Jesus whom Paul preacheth I have forgot there names.
MRS. MIGAT--_A warm greeting, "how doe yow"--"god was naught"--"Hell
need not be feared, for she should not burn in ye fire"--The ghost
"Mrs. Migat sayth she went out to give her calues meat, about fiue
weekes since, & goodwif Segr came to her and shaked her by ye arme, & sd
she how doe yow, how doe yow, Mrs. Migatt.
"2d Mrs. Migatt alsoe saith: a second time goodwife Segr came her
towerds ye little riuer, a litle below ye house wch she now dweleth in,
and told her, that god was naught, god was naught, it was uery good to
be a witch and desired her to be one, she should not ned fare going to
hell, for she should not burne in ye fire Mrs. Migat said to her at this
time that she did not loue her; she was very naught, and goodwif Segr
shaked her by ye hands and bid her farwell, and desired her, not to tell
any body what shee had said unto her.
"3d Time. Mrs. Migat affirmeth yt goodwife Segr came to her at ye hedge
corner belonging to their house lot, and their spake to her but what she
could not tell, wch caused Mrs. Migatt (as she sayth) to (turn) away wth
"Mrs. Migat sayth a little before ye floud this spring, goodwife Segr
came into thaire house, on a mone shining night, and took her by ye hand
and stracke her on ye face as she was in beed wth her husband, whome she
could wake, and then goodwife Segr went away, and Mrs. Migat went to ye
dore but darst not looke out after her.
"These pticulers Mrs. Migat charged goodwife Segr wth being face to
face, at Mr. Migats now dwelling house."
_Staggerings of the jury--"Shuffing"--"Grinding teeth"--Seager's
"Janur 16 1662
"The causes why half the jury ore more did in their vote cast gooddy
Seger (and the rest of the jury were deeply suspitious, and were at a
great loss and staggeringe whereby they were sometimes likely to com up
in their judgments to the rest, whereby she was allmost gone and cast as
the foreman expressed to her at giuing in of the verdict) are these
"First it did apeare by legall euidence that she had intimat
familliarity with such as had been wiches, viz goody Sanford and goody
Ayrs. 2ly this she did in open court stoutly denie saing the witnesses
were preiudiced persons, and that she had now more intimacy then they
themselves, and when the witneses questioned with her about frequent
being there she said she went to lerne to knitt; this also she stoutly
denied, and said of the witneses they belie me, then when Mr. John Allen
sd did she not teach you to knitt, she answered sturdily and sayd, I do
not know that I am bound to tell you & at another time being pressed to
answ she sayd, nay I will hould what I have if I must die, yet after
this she confessed that she had so much intimacy with one of ym as that
they did change woorke one with another. 3ly she having sd that she did
hate goody Aiers it did appear that she bore her great yea more than
ordinarily good will as apeared by releeuing her in her truble, and was
couert way, and was trubled that is was discouered; likewise when goody
Aiers said in court, this will take away my liffe, goody Seger shuffed
her with her hand & sd hould your tongue wt grinding teeth Mr. John
Allen being one wittnes hearto when he had spoken, she sd they seek my
innocent blood; the magistrats replied, who she sd euery body. 4ly being
spoken to about triall by swiming, she sagd the diuill that caused me to
com heare can keep me up.
"About the buisnes of fliing the most part thought it was not legally
"Lastly the woman and Robert Stern being boath upon oath their wittnes
was judged legall testimony ore evidence only som in the jury because
Sternes first words upon his oath were, I saw these women and as I take
it goody Seger was there though after that he sayd, I saw her there, I
knew her well I know God will require her blood at my hands if I should
testifie falsly. Allso bec he sd he saw her kittle, there being at so
great a distance, they doubted that these things did not only weaken &
blemish his testimony, but also in a great measure disable it for
standing to take away liffe."
Elizabeth Seager was acquitted.
Of all the women who set the communities ablaze with their witcheries,
none in fertility of invention and performance surpassed Elizabeth
Godman of New Haven--a member of the household of Stephen Goodyear, the
Deputy Governor. Reverend John Davenport said, in a sermon of the time,
"that a froward discontented frame of spirit was a subject fitt for ye
Devill," and Elizabeth was accused by Goodwife Larremore and others of
being in "such a frame of spirit," and of practicing the black arts.
She promptly haled her accusers before a court of magistrates, August 4,
1653, with Governor Theophilus Eaton and Deputy Governor Stephen
Goodyear present; and when asked what she charged them with, she desired
that "a wrighting might be read--wch was taken in way of examination
before ye magistrate," in May, 1653. The "wrighting" did not prove
helpful to Elizabeth's case. The statements of witnesses and of the
accused are in some respects unique, and of a decided personal quality.
_"Hobbamocke"--The "swonding fitt"--Lying--Evil communications--The
Indian's statement--"Ye boyes sickness"--"Verey strang fitts"--"Figgs"--
"Pease porridge"--"A sweate"--Mrs. Goodyeare's opinion--Absorption--
Contradictions--Goodwife Thorp's chickens--"Water and wormes"_
"Mris. Godman was told she hath warned to the court diuers psons, vizd:
Mr. Goodyeare, Mris. Goodyeare, Mr. Hooke, Mris. Hooke, Mris. Atwater,
Hanah & Elizabeth Lamberton, goodwife Larremore, goodwife Thorpe, &c.,
and was asked what she had to charge them wth, she said they had given
out speeches that made folkes thinke she was a witch, and first she
charged Mris. Atwater to be ye cause of all, and to cleere things
desired a wrighting might be read wch was taken in way of examination
before ye magistrate, (and in here after entred,) wherein sundrie things
concerning Mris. Atwater is specifyed wch we now more fully spoken to,
and she further said that Mris. Atwater had said that she thought she
was a witch and that Hobbamocke was her husband, but could proue
nothing, though she was told that she was beforehand warned to prepare
her witnesses ready, wch she hath not done, if she haue any. After
sundrie of the passages in ye wrighting were read, she was asked if
these things did not giue just ground of suspition to all that heard
them that she was a witch. She confessed they did, but said if she spake
such things as is in Mr. Hookes relation she was not herselfe.... Beside
what is in the papr, Mris. Godman was remembred of a passage spoken of
at the gouernors aboute Mr. Goodyeare's falling into a swonding fitt
after hee had spoken something one night in the exposition of a chapter,
wch she (being present) liked not but said it was against her, and as
soone as Mr. Goodyeare had done duties she flung out of the roome in a
discontented way and cast a fierce looke vpon Mr. Goodyeare as she went
out, and imediately Mr. Goodyeare (though well before) fell into a
swond, and beside her notorious lying in this buisnes, for being asked
how she came to know this, she said she was present, yet Mr. Goodyeare,
Mris. Goodyeare, Hanah and Elizabeth Lamberton all affirme she was not
in ye roome but gone vp into the chamber."
"The examination of Elizabeth Godman, May 12th, 1653.
"Elizabeth Godman made complainte of Mr. Goodyeare, Mris. Goodyeare, Mr.
Hooke, Mris. Hooke, Mris. Bishop, Mris. Atwater, Hanah & Elizabeth
Lamberton, and Mary Miles, Mris. Atwaters maide, that they haue
suspected her for a witch; she was now asked what she had against Mr.
Hooke and Mris. Hooke; she said she heard they had something against her
aboute their soone. Mr. Hooke said hee was not wthout feares, and hee
had reasons for it; first he said it wrought suspition in his minde
because shee was shut out at Mr. Atwaters vpon suspition, and hee was
troubled in his sleepe aboute witches when his boye, was sicke, wch was
in a verey strang manner, and hee looked vpon her as a mallitious one,
and prepared to that mischiefe, and she would be often speaking aboute
witches and rather justifye them then condemne them; she said why doe
they provoake them, why doe they not let them come into the church.
Another time she was speaking of witches wthout any occasion giuen her,
and said if they accused her for a witch she would haue them to the
gouernor, she would trounce them. Another time she was saying she had
some thoughts, what if the Devill should come to sucke her, and she
resolued he should not sucke her.... Time, Mr. Hookes Indian, said in
church meeting time she would goe out and come in againe and tell them
what was done at meeting. Time asking her who told, she answered plainly
she would not tell, then Time said did not ye Devill tell you.... Time
said she heard her one time talking to herselfe, and she said to her,
who talke you too, she said, to you; Time said you talke to ye Devill,
but she made nothing of it. Mr. Hooke further said, that he hath heard
that they that are adicted that way would hardly be kept away from ye
houses where they doe mischiefe, and so it was wth her when his boy was
sicke, she would not be kept away from him, nor gott away when she was
there, and one time Mris. Hooke bid her goe away, and thrust her from ye
boye, but she turned againe and said she would looke on him. Mris.
Goodyeare said that one time she questioned wth Elizabeth Godmand aboute
ye boyes sickness, and said what thinke you of him, is he not strangly
handled, she replyed, what, doe you thinke hee is bewitched; Mris.
Goodyeare said nay I will keepe my thoughts to myselfe, but in time God
will discouer ...
"Mr. Hooke further said, that when Mr. Bishop was married, Mris. Godman
came to his house much troubled, so as he thought it might be from some
affection to him, and he asked her, she said yes; now it is suspitious
that so soone as they were contracted Mris. Byshop fell into verey
strang fitts wch hath continewed at times euer since, and much suspition
there is that she hath bine the cause of the loss of Mris. Byshops
chilldren, for she could tell when Mris. Bishop was to be brought to
bedd, and hath giuen out that she kills her chilldren wth longing,
because she longs for every thing she sees, wch Mris. Bishop denies....
Another thing suspitious is, that she could tell Mris. Atwater had figgs
in her pocket when she saw none of them; to that she answered she smelt
them, and could smell figgs if she came in the roome, nere them that had
them; yet at this time Mris. Atwater had figgs in her pocket and came
neere her, yet she smelt them not; also Mris. Atwater said that Mris.
Godman could tell that they one time had pease porridge, when they could
none of them tell how she came to know, and beeing asked she saith she
see ym on the table, and another time she saith she was there in ye
morning when the maide set them on. Further Mris. Atwater saith, that
that night the figgs was spoken of they had strangers to supper, and
Mris. Godman was at their house, she cutt a sopp and put in pann; Betty
Brewster called the maide to tell her & said she was aboute her workes
of darkness, and was suspitious of Mris. Godman, and spake to her of it,
and that night Betty Brewster was in a most misserable case, heareing a
most dreadfull noise wch put her in great feare and trembling, wch put
her into such a sweate as she was all on a water when Mary Miles came to
goe to bed, who had fallen into a sleepe by the fire wch vsed not to
doe, and in ye morning she looked as one yt had bine allmost dead....
"Mris. Godman accused Mr. Goodyeare for calling her downe when Mris.
Bishop was in a sore fitt, to looke vpon her, and said he doubted all
was not well wth her, and that hee feared she was a witch, but Mr.
Goodyeare denyed that; vpon this Mris. Godman was exceeding angrie and
would haue the servants called to witnes, and bid George the Scochman
goe aske his master who bewitched her for she was not well, and vpon
this presently Hanah Lamberton (being in ye roome) fell into a verey
sore fitt in a verey strang maner....
"Another time Mris. Goodyeare said to her, Mris. Elzebeth what thinke
you of my daughters case; she replyed what, doe you thinke I haue
bewitched her; Mris. Goodyeare said if you be the ptie looke to it, for
they intend to haue such as is suspected before the magistrate.
"Mris. Godman charged Hanah Lamberton that she said she lay for somewhat
to sucke her, when she came in hott one day and put of some cloathes and
lay vpon the bed in her chamber. Hanah said she and her sister Elizabeth
went vp into the garet aboue her roome, and looked downe & said, looke
how she lies, she lyes as if som bodey was sucking her, & vpon that she
arose and said, yes, yes, so there is; after said Hanah, she hath
something there, for so there seemed as if something was vnder the
cloathes; Elizabeth said what haue you there, she said nothing but the
cloathes, and both Hanah & Eliza. say that Mris. Godman threatened
Hanah, and said let her looke to it for God will bring it vpon her owne
head, and about two dayes after, Hanahs fitts began, and one night
especially had a dreadfull fitt, and was pinched, and heard a hedious
noise, and was in a strang manner sweating and burning, and some time
cold and full of paine yt she shriked out.
"Elizabeth Lamberton saith that one time ye chilldren came downe & said
Mris. Godman was talking to herselfe and they were afraide, then she
went vp softly and heard her talke, what, will you fetch me some beare,
will you goe, will you goe, and ye like, and one morning aboute breake
of day Henry Boutele said he heard her talke to herselfe, as if some
body had laine wth her....
"Mris. Goodyeare said when Mr. Atwaters kinswoman was married Mris.
Bishop was there, and the roome being hott she was something fainte,
vpon that Mris. Godman said she would haue many of these fainting fitts
after she was married, but she saith she remembers it not....
"Goodwife Thorp complained that Mris. Godman came to her house and asked
to buy some chickens, she said she had none to sell, Mris. Godman said
will you giue them all, so she went away, and she thought then that if
this woman was naught as folkes suspect, may be she will smite my
chickens, and quickly after one chicken dyed, and she remembred she had
heard if they were bewitched they would consume wthin, and she opened it
and it was consumed in ye gisard to water & wormes, and divers others of
them droped, and now they are missing and it is likely dead, and she
neuer saw either hen or chicken that was so consumed wthin wth wormes.
Mris. Godman said goodwife Tichenor had a whole brood so, and Mris.
Hooke had some so, but for Mris. Hookes it was contradicted presently.
This goodwife Thorp thought good to declare that it may be considered
wth other things."
The court decided that Elizabeth's carriage and confession rendered her
"suspitious" of witchcraft, and admonished her that "if further proofe
come these passages will not be forgotten."
The further proof came forth promptly, since in August, 1655, Elizabeth
was again called before the court for witchcraft, and the witnesses
certified to "the doing of strange things."
_The Governor's quandary--Elizabeth's "spirituall armour"--"The
jumbling at the chamber dore"--The lost grapes--The tethered
"At a court held at Newhaven the 7th of August 1655.
"Elizabeth Godman was again called before the Court, and told that she
lies under suspition for witchcraft, as she knowes, the grounds of which
were examined in a former court, and by herselfe confessed to be just
grounds of suspition, wch passages were now read, and to these some more
are since added, wch are now to be declared.
"Mr. Goodyeare said that the last winter, upon occasion of Gods
afflicting hand upon the plantation by sickness, the private meeting
whereof he is had appointed to set a day apart to seeke God: Elizabeth
Godman desired she might be there; he told her she was under suspition,
and it would be offensive; she said she had great need of it, for she
was exercised wth many temptations, and saw strange appearitions, and
lights aboute her bed, and strange sights wch affrighted her; some of
his family said if she was affraide they would worke wth her in the day
and lye with her in the night, but she refused and was angry and said
she would haue none to be wth her for she had her spirituall armour
aboute her. She was asked the reason of this; she answered, she said so
to Mr. Goodyeare, but it was her fancy troubled her, and she would haue
none lye wth her because her bed was weake; she was told that might haue
been mended; then she said she was not willing to haue any of them wth
her, for if any thing had fallen ill wth them they would haue said that
she had bine the cause."
Mr. Goodyeare further declared that aboute three weekes agoe he had a
verey great disturbance in his family in the night (Eliza: Godman hauing
bine the day before much discontented because Mr. Goodyeare warned her
to provide another place to live in) his daughter Sellevant, Hanah
Goodyeare, and Desire Lamberton lying together in the chamber under
Eliza: Godman; after they were in bed they heard her walke up and downe
and talk aloude; but could not tell what she said; then they heard her
go downe the staires and come up againe; they fell asleep, but were
after awakened wth a great jumbling at the chamber dore, and something
came into the chamber wch jumbled at the other end of the roome and
aboute the trunke and amonge the shooes and at the beds head; it came
nearer the bed and Hanah was affraid and called father, but he heard
not, wch made her more affraide; then cloathes were pulled of their bed
by something, two or three times; they held and something pulled, wch
frighted them so that Hanah Goodyeare called her father so loude as was
thought might be heard to the meetinghouse, but the noise was heard to
Mr. Samuell Eatons by them that watched wth her; so after a while Mr.
Goodyeare came and found them in a great fright; they lighted a candell
and he went to Eliza: Godmans chamber and asked her why she disturbed
the family; she said no, she was scared also and thought the house had
bine on fire, yet the next day she said in the family that she knew
nothing till Mr. Goodyeare came up, wch she said is true she heard the
noise but knew not the cause till Mr. Goodyeare came; and being asked
why she went downe staires after she was gon up to bed, she said to
light a candell to looke for two grapes she had lost in the flore and
feared the mice would play wth them in the night and disturbe ye family,
wch reason in the Courts apprehension renders her more suspitious.
Allen Ball informed the Court. Another time she came into his yard; his
wife asked what she came for; she said to see her calfe; now they had a
sucking calfe, wch they tyed in the lott to a great post that lay on ye
ground, and the calfe ran away wth that post as if it had bine a fether
and ran amonge Indian corne and pulled up two hills and stood still;
after he tyed the calfe to a long heauy raile, as much as he could well
lift, and one time she came into ye yard and looked on ye calfe and it
set a running and drew the raile after it till it came to a fence and
gaue a great cry in a lowing way and stood still; and in ye winter the
calfe dyed, doe what he could, yet eate its meale well enough.
Some other passages were spoken of aboute Mris. Yale, that one time
there being some words betwixt them, wth wch Eliza: Godman was
unsatisfyed, the night following Mris. Yales things were throwne aboute
the house in a strange manner; and one time being at Goodman Thorpes,
aboute weauing some cloth, in wch something discontented her, and that
night they had a great noise in the house, wch much affrighted them, but
they know not what it was.
These things being declared the Court told Elizabeth Godman that they
haue considered them, wth her former miscarriages, and see cause to
order that she be comitted to prison, ther to abide the Courts pleasure,
but because the matter is of weight, and the crime whereof she is
suspected capitall, therefore she is to answer it at the Court of
Magistrates in October next."
In October, 1655, Elizabeth "was again called before the court and told
that upon grounds formerly declared wch stand upon record, she by her
owne confession remains under suspition for witchcraft, and one more is
now added, and that is, that one time this last summer, comeing to Mr.
Hookes to beg some beare, was at first denyed, but after, she was
offered some by his daughter which stood ready drawne, wch she had, yet
went away in a muttering discontented manner, and after this, that
night, though the beare was good and fresh, yet the next morning was
hott, soure and ill tasted, yea so hott as the barrell was warme wthout
side, and when they opened the bung it steemed forth; they brewed againe
and it was so also, and so continewed foure or fiue times, one after
"She brought diuers psons to the court that they might say something to
cleere her, and much time was spent in hearing ym, but to little
purpose, the grounds of suspition remaining full as strong as before and
she found full of lying, wherfore the court declared vnto her that
though the euidenc is not sufficient as yet to take away her life, yet
the suspitions are cleere and many, wch she cannot by all the meanes she
hath vsed, free herselfe from, therfore she must forbeare from goeing
from house to house to give offenc, and cary it orderly in the family
where she is, wch if she doe not, she will cause the court to comitt her
to prison againe, & that she doe now presently vpon her freedom giue
securitie for her good behauiour; and she did now before the court
ingage fifty pound of her estate that is in Mr. Goodyeers hand, for her
good behauior, wch is further to be cleered next court, when Mr.
Goodyeare is at home."
"She was suffered to dwell in the family of Thomas Johnson, where she
continued till her death, October 9th, 1660." (_New Haven Town Records_,
Vol. ii, pp. 174,179.)
NATHANIEL AND REBECCA GREENSMITH
Nathaniel Greensmith lived in Hartford, south of the little river, in
1661-62, on a lot of about twenty acres, with a house and barn. He also
had other holdings "neer Podunk," and "on ye highway leading to
He was thrifty by divergent and economical methods, since he is credited
in the records of the time with stealing a bushel and a half of wheat,
of stealing a hoe, and of lying to the court, and of battery.
In one way or another he accumulated quite a property for those days,
since the inventory of it filed in the Hartford Probate Office, January
25, 1662, after his execution, carried an appraisal of L137. l4s.
1_d_.--including "2 bibles," "a sword," "a resthead," and a "drachm
cup"--all indicating that Nathaniel judiciously mingled his theology and
patriotism, his recreation and refreshment, with his everyday practical
affairs and opportunities.
But he made one adventure that was most unprofitable. In an evil hour he
took to wife Rebecca, relict of Abraham Elson, and also relict of Jarvis
Mudge, and of whom so good a man as the Rev. John Whiting, minister of
the First Church in Hartford--afterward first pastor of the Second
Church--said that she was "a lewd, ignorant and considerably aged
This triple combination of personal qualities soon elicited the
criticism and animosity of the community, and Nathaniel and Rebecca fell
under the most fatal of all suspicions of that day, that of being
possessed by the evil one.
Gossip and rumor about these unpopular neighbors culminated in a formal
complaint, and December 30, 1662, at a court held at Hartford, both the
Greensmiths were separately indicted in the same formal charge.
"Nathaniel Greensmith thou art here indicted by the name of Nathaniel
Greensmith for not having the fear of God before thine eyes, thou hast
entertained familiarity with Satan, the grand enemy of God and
mankind--and by his help hast acted things in a preternatural way beyond
human abilities in a natural course for which according to the law of
God and the established law of this commonwealth thou deservest to die."
While Rebecca was in prison under suspicion, she was interviewed by two
ministers, Revs. Haynes and Whiting, as to the charges of Ann Cole--a
next door neighbor--which were written down by them, all of which, and
more, she confessed to be true before the court.
(Note. Increase Mather regarded this confession as convictive a proof of
real witchcraft as most single cases he had known.)
THE MINISTERS' ACCOUNT--_Promise to Satan--A merry Christmas
meeting--Stone's lecture--Haynes' plea--The dear Devil--The corvine
"She forthwith and freely confessed those things to be true, that she
(and other persons named in the discourse) had familiarity with the
devil. Being asked whether she had made an express covenant with him,
she answered she had not, only as she promised to go with him when he
called (which she had accordingly done several times). But that the
devil told her that at Christmas they would have a merry meeting, and
then the covenant should be drawn and subscribed. Thereupon the
fore-mentioned Mr. Stone (being then in court) with much weight and
earnestness laid forth the exceeding heinousness and hazard of that
dreadful sin; and therewith solemnly took notice (upon the occasion
given) of the devil's loving Christmas.
"A person at the same time present being desired the next day more
particularly to enquire of her about her guilt, it was accordingly done,
to whom she acknowledged that though when Mr. Haynes began to read she
could have torn him in pieces, and was so much resolved as might be to
deny her guilt (as she had done before) yet after he had read awhile,
she was as if her flesh had been pulled from her bones, (such was her
expression,) and so could not deny any longer. She also declared that
the devil first appeared to her in the form of a deer or fawn, skipping
about her, wherewith she was not much affrighted but by degrees he
contrived talk with her; and that their meetings were frequently at such
a place, (near her own house;) that some of the company came in one
shape and some in another, and one in particular in the shape of a crow
came flying to them. Amongst other things she owned that the devil had
frequent use of her body."
Had Rebecca been content with purging her own conscience, she alone
would have met the fate she had invoked, and probably deserved; but out
of "love to her husband's soul" she made an accusation against him,
which of itself secured his conviction of the same offense, with the
same dire penalty.
THE ACCUSATION--_Nathaniel's plea--"Travaile and labour"--"A red
creature"--- Prenuptial doubts--The weighty logs--Wifely tenderness and
anxiety--Under the greenwood tree--A cat call--Terpsichore and Bacchus_
"Rebecca Greenswith testifieth in Court Janry 8. 62.
"1. That my husband on Friday night last when I came to prison told me
that now thou hast confest against thyself let me alone and say nothing
of me and I wilbe good unto thy children.
"I doe now testifie that formerly when my husband hathe told me of his
great travaile and labour I wondered at it how he did it this he did
before I was married and when I was married I asked him how he did it
and he answered me he had help yt I knew not of.
"3. About three years agoe as I think it; my husband and I were in ye
wood several miles from home and were looking for a sow yt we lost and I
saw a creature a red creature following my husband and when I came to
him I asked him what it was that was with him and he told me it was a
"4. Another time when he and I drove or hogs into ye woods beyond ye
pound yt was to keep yong cattle severall miles of I went before ye hogs
to call them and looking back I saw two creatures like dogs one a little
blacker then ye other, they came after my husband pretty close to him
and one did seem to me to touch him I asked him wt they were he told me
he thought foxes I was stil afraid when I saw anything because I heard
soe much of him before I married him.
"5. I have seen logs that my husband hath brought home in his cart that
I wondered at it that he could get them into ye cart being a man of
little body and weake to my apprhension and ye logs were such that I
thought two men such as he could not have done it.
"I speak all this out of love to my husbands soule and it is much
against my will that I am now necessitate to speake agaynst my husband,
I desire that ye Lord would open his heart to owne and speak ye trueth.
"I also testify that I being in ye wood at a meeting there was wth me
Goody Seager Goodwife Sanford & Goodwife Ayres; and at another time
there was a meeting under a tree in ye green by or house & there was
there James Walkely, Peter Grants wife Goodwife Aires & Henry Palmers
wife of Wethersfield, & Goody Seager, & there we danced, & had a bottle
of sack: it was in ye night & something like a catt cald me out to ye
meeting & I was in Mr. Varlets orcherd wth Mrs. Judeth Varlett & shee
tould me that shee was much troubled wth ye Marshall Jonath: Gilbert &
cried, & she sayd if it lay in her power she would doe him a mischief,
or what hurt shee could."
The Greensmiths were convicted and sentenced to suffer death. In
January, 1662, they were hung on "Gallows Hill," on the bluff a little
north of where Trinity College now stands--"a logical location" one most
learned in the traditions and history of Hartford calls it--as it
afforded an excellent view of the execution to a large crowd on the
meadows to the west, a hanging being then a popular spectacle and
"They shall no more be considered guilty than this woman, whom I now
pronounce to be innocent, and command that she be set at liberty." LORD
CHIEF JUSTICE MANSFIELD.
ELIZABETH (CLAUSON) CLAWSON
"Elizabeth Clawson wife of Stephen Clawson of Standford in the country
of Fayrefeild in the Colony of Connecticutt thou art here indicted by
the name of Elizabeth Clawson that not haueing the fear of God before
thine eyes thou hast had familiarity with Satan the grand enemie of God
& man & that by his instigation & help thou hast in a pretematurall way
afflicted & done harm to the bodyes & estates of sundry of his Maties
subjects or to some of them contrary to the peace of or Soueraigne Lord
the King & Queen their crowne & dignity & that on the 25t of Aprill in
the 4th yeare of theire Maties reigne & at sundry other times for which
by the law of God & the law of the Colony thou deseruest to dye."
JOSEPH GARNEY--_The maid in fits--Joseph's subterfuge--""The black
catt"--"The white dogg"--Witches three_
"Joseph Garney saith yt being at Danil Wescots uppon occation sine he
went to Hartford while he was gone from home Nathanill Wiat being with
me his maid being at work in the yard in her right mind soon after fell
into a fit. I took her up and caried her in & laid her upon the bed it
was intimated by sum that she desembled. Nathanel Wiat said with leaue
he would make triall of that leaue was granted and as soon as she was
laid upon ye bed then Wiat asked me for a sharp knife wch I presently
took into my hand then she imediately came to herself and then went out
of ye room into ye other room & so out into ye hen house then I hard her
presently shreek out I ran presently to her and asked her what is ye
matter, she was in such pain she could not Hue & presently fell into a
fit stiff. We carried her in and laid her upon ye bed and then I got my
kniffe ready and fitting under pretence of doing sum great matter then
presently she came to herselfe & said to me Joseph what are you about to
doe I said I would cutt her & seemed to threten great matters, then she
laid her down upon the bed & said she would confess to us how it was
with her and then said I am possessed with ye deuill and he apeared to
me in ye hen house in ye shape of a black catt & was ernist with her to
be a witch & if she would not he would tear her in pieces, then she
again shreekt out now saith shee I see him & lookt wistly & said there
he is just at this time to my apearance there seemed to dart in at ye
west window a sudden light across ye room wch did startle and amase me
at yt present, then she tould me yt she see ye deuill in ye shape of a
white dogg, she tould me that ye deuill apeared in ye shape of these
three women namly goody Clawson, goody Miller, & ye woman at Compo.
[Disborough] I asked her how she knew yt it was ye deuill that appeared
in ye shape of these three women she answered he tould me so. I asked
her if she knew that these three women were witches or no she said she
could not tell they might be honest women for ought she knew or they
might be witches."
Sarah Kecham--_Cateron's seizures--Riding and singing--English and
French--The naked sword_
The testimony of Sarah Kecham. "She saith yt being at Danel Wescots
house Thomas Asten being there Cateron Branch being there in a fit as
they said I asked then how she was they sayth she hath had noe fits she
had bine a riding then I asked her to ride and then she got to riding. I
asked her if her hors had any name & she called out & said Jack; I then
asked her to sing & then she sunge; I asked her yt if she had sung wt
Inglish she could then sing French and then she sung that wch they
called French. Thomas Astin said he knew that she was bewitched I tould
him I did not beleue it, for I said I did not beleue there was any witch
in the town, he said he knew she was for said he I haue hard say that if
a person were bewitched take a naked sword and hould ouer them & they
will laugh themselues to death & with yt he took a sword and held ouer
her and she laughed extremely. Then I spoke sumthing whereby I gaue them
to understand that she did so becase she knew of ye sword, whereupon
Danil made a sine to Thomas Austen to hould ye sword again yt she might
not know of it, wch he did & then she did not laugh at all nor chang her
countenance. Further in discourse I hard Daniel Wescot say yt when he
pleased he could take her out of her fits. John Bates junr being present
at ye same time witnesseth to all ye aboue written.
"Ye testers are redy to giue oath to ye aboue written testimony when
"Staford ye 7th Septembr 1692."
ABIGAIL CROSS AND NATHANIEL CROSS--_The "garles desembling"--Daniel
Wescot's wager--The trick that nobody else could do_
(Kateran Branch, the accuser of the Fairfield women, was a young servant
in Daniel Wescot's household.)
"The testimony of Abigail Cross as followith that upon sum discourse
with Danil Wescot about his garles desembling sd Daniel sd that he would
venture both his cows against a calfe yt she should doe a trick tomorrow
morning that no body else could doe. sd Abigail sd to morrow morning,
can you make her do it when you will; & he said yess when I will I can
make her do it.
"Nathaneel Cross being present at ye same time testifieth ye same with
"The above testers say they are redy to giue oath to ye aboue written
testimony when called to it."
SARAH BATES--_An effective remedy for fits--Burnt feathers--Blood
"The testimony of Mrs. Sarah Bates she saith yt when first ye garl was
taken with strang fits she was sent for to Danil Wescots house & she
found ye garle lieing upon ye bed. She then did apprehend yt the garls
illness might be from sum naturall cause; she therefore aduised them to
burn feathers under her nose & other menes yt had dun good in fainting
fits and then she seemed to be better with it; and so she left her that
night in hops to here she wold be better ye next morning; but in ye
morning Danil Wescot came for her againe and when she came she found ye
garl in bed seemingly senceless & spechless; her eyes half shet but her
pulse seemed to beat after ye ordinary maner her mistres desired she
might be let blud on ye foot in hops it might do her good. Then I said I
thought it could not be dun in ye capassity she was in but she desired a
triall to be made and when euerything was redy & we were agoing to let
her blud ye garl cried; the reson was asked her why she cried; her
answer was she would not be bluded; we asked her why; she said again
because it would hurt her it was said ye hurt would be but small like a
prick of a pin then she put her foot ouer ye bed and was redy to help
about it; this cariag of her seemed to me strang who before seemed to ly
like a dead creature; after she was bluded and had laid a short time she
clapt her hand upon ye couerlid & cried out; and on of ye garls yt stood
by said mother she cried out; and her mistres was so afected with it yt
she cried and said she is bewitched. Upon this ye garl turned her head
from ye folk as if she wold hide it in ye pillar & laughed." The above
written Sarah Bates appeared before me in Stamford this 13th Septembr
1692 & made oath to the above written testimony. Before me Jonat, Bell
Daniel Wescot--_Exchanging yarn--"A quarrill"--The child's nightmare_
"The testimony of Daniel Wescote saith that some years since my wife &
Goodwife Clauson agreed to change their spinning, & instead of half a
pound Goodwife Clawson sent three quarters of a pound I haueing waide
it, carried it to her house & cnvinced her of it yt it was so, & thence
forward she till now took occation upon any frivolous matter to be angry
& pick a quarrill with booth myself & wife, & some short time after this
earning ye flex, my eldest daughter Johannah was taken suddenly in ye
night shrecking& crying out, There is a thing will catch me, uppon which
I got up & lit a candle, & tould her there was nothing, she answerd,
yees there was, there tis, pointing with her finger sometimes to one
place & sometimes to another, & then sd tis run under the pillow. I askd
her wr it was, she sd a sow, & in a like manner continued disturbd a
nights abought ye space of three weeks, insomuch yt we ware forcd to
carry her abroad sometimes into my yard or lot, but for ye most part to
my next neighbours house, to undress her & get her to sleep, &
continually wn she was disturbd shed cry out theres my thing come for
me, whereuppon some neighbours advisd to a removal of her, & having
removd her to Fairfeild it left her, & since yt hath not been disturbd
in like manner."
"The aboue testimony of Daniell Wesocott now read to the wife of sayd
Daniell Shee testifys to the whole verbatum & hath now giuen oath to the
same before us in Standford, Septembr 12th 1692.
"JONATN SELLECK Comissr
"JONOTHAN BELL Commissionr.
"Sworn in Court Septr 15 1692
"As attests John Allyn Secry."
ABIGAIL WESCOT--_Throwing stones--Railing--Twitting of "fine cloths"_
"Abigal Wescot further saith that as she was going along the street
Goody Clauson came out to her and they had some words together and Goody
Clauson took up stone and threw at her; and at another time as she went
along the street before said Clausons dore Goody Clauson caled to me and
asked me what I did in my chamber last Sabbath day night, and I doe
affirme that I was not their that night; and at another time as I was in
her sone Stephens house being neer her one house shee followed me in and
contended with me becase I did not com into her house caling of me proud
slut what ear you proud on your fine cloths and you look to be mistres
but you never shal by me and seuerall other prouoking speeches at that
time and at another time as I was by her house she contended and
quareled with me; and we had many words together and shee twited me of
my fine cloths and of my mufe and also contended with me several other
"Taken upon oath before us Standford Septemr 12th
"JONATN SELLECK Comissionr
"JONOTHAN BELL Comissr."
ABRAHAM FINCH--_The strange light--"Two pry eies"--Cause of the "pricking"_
"Abraham Finch jun aged about 26 years.
"The deponant saith that hee being a waching at with ye French girle at
Daniell Wescoat house in the night I being laid on the bed the girle
fell into a fite and fell crose my feet and then I looking up I sawe a
light abut the bignes of my too hands glance along the sommer of the
house to the harth ward, and afterwards I sawe it noe mor; and when
Dauid Selleck brought a light into the room a littell space after the
French garle cam to hirselfe againe. Wee ascked hir whie shee skreemed
out when shee fell into her fit. Shee answered goodie Clawson cam in
with two firy eies.
"Furdermore the deponant saith that Dauid Selleck was that same night
with him and being laid downe on the bed me nie the garle and I laye by
the bed sid on the chest and Dauid Selleck starte up suddenly and I
asked wt was ye matter with him and hee answered shee pricked mee and
the French garle answered noe shee did not it was goodie Crump and then
shee put her hand ouer the bed sid and said give mee that thing that you
pricked Mr. Selleck with and I cached hold of her hand and found a pin
in it and I took it away from her. The deponant saith that when the garl
put her hand ouer the bed it was open and he looked very well in her
hand and cold see nothing and before shee puled in her hand again shee
had goten yt pin yt hee took from her.
"This aboue written testor is redy when called to giue oath to the aboue
EBENEZER BISHOP--_Kateran calls for somersaults--Fits and spots_
"Ebenezer Bishop aged about 26 years saith on night being at Danill
Wescots house Catern Branch being in on of her fits I sate doen by ye
bed side next to her she then calling ernestly upon goody Clason goody
Clason seueral times now goody Clason turn heels ouer head after this
she had a violent fit and calling again said now they are agoing to kill
me & crieing out very loud that they pincht her on ye neck and calling
out yt they pincht her again I setting by her I took ye light and look
upon her neck & I see a spot look red seeming to me as big as a pece of
eight afterwards it turned blue & blacker then any other part of her
skin and after ye second time of her calling I took ye light & looked
again and she pointed with her hand lower upon her shoulder and I se
another place upon her shoulder look red & blue as I saw upon the other
place before and then after yt she had another fit.
"Stamford 29th August 1692 this aboue written testor is redy when called
to giue oath to ye aboue written testimony.
"Hannah Knapp testifieth the same to the above written and further adeth
that shee saw scraches upon her; and is redy to give oth to it if called
"Both the above sworn in Court Septr 15 1692. Attests John Allyn,
SAMUEL HOLLY--_Singular physiological transformations_
"The testimony of Samuel Holly senour aged aboute fifty years saith that
hee being at ye house of Danell Wescot in ye euning I did see his maid
Cattern Branch in her fit that shee did swell in her brests (as shee lay
on her bed) and they rise as lik bladers and suddenly pased in to her
bely, and in a short time returned to her brest and in a short time her
breasts fell and a great ratling in her throat as if shee would haue
been choked; All this I judge beyond nature.
"Danil Wescot testifieth to ye same aboue written and further addith yt
when she was in those fits ratling in her throat she would put out her
tong to a great extent I consieue beyond nature & I put her tong into
her mouth again & then I looked in her mouth & could se no tong but as
if it were a lump of flesh down her throat and this ofen times.
"The testors, as concerned are ready to giue oath to the above written
testimony if called thereunto.
"Staford 29 April 1692
"Sworn in Court Septr 15 1692.
"Attests JOHN ALLYN, Seer."
"The testimony of Daniell Westcot aged about forty nine years saith that
som time this spring since his maid Catton Branch had fits and with many
other strange actions in her, I see her as shee lay on the bed at her
length in her fit, and at once sprang up to the chamber flore withouts
the helpe of her hands or feete; thats neere six feet and I judge it
beyond nator for any person so to doe.
"Sworn in Court Sept 15 1692.
"Attests JOHN ALLYN Secry."
_Inquiry and search--Visions of the young accuser--The talking cat--The
spread table--The strange woman--"Silk hood and blew apron"--"2
firebrands in her forehead"--"A turn at heels ouer head"_
"Stamford May ye 27th, 1692.
"Uppon ye information & sorrowfull complainte of Sergeant Daniel Wescot
in regard of his maide servant Katherine Branch whome he suspects to be
afflicted of witchcraft, under wch sore affliction she hath now labourd
upwards of five weeks, & in that lamentable state yeat remains. In order
to inquiry & search into (the) matter were then psent Major Nathan
Golde, Capt. John Burr, Capt. Jonothan Selleck, Lieutenant Jonothan
"The manner of her being taken & handled.
"Being in ye feilds gathering of herbs, she was seizd with a pinching &
pricking at her breast; she being come home fell a crying, was askd ye
reason, gave no answer but wept & immediately fell down on ye flooer wth
her hands claspt, & with like actions continued wth some respite at
times ye space of two days, then sd she saw a cat, was asked what ye cat
sd she answerd ye cat askd her to [go] with her, with a promise of fine
things & yt if she should goe where there ware fine folks; & still was
followed wth like fits, seeming to be much tormented, being askd again
what she saw sd cats, & yt they toulde her they woulde kill her, & wth
this menaceing disquieted her severall dayes; after yt she saw in ye
roome where she lay a table spread wth variety of meats, & they askd her
to eat & at ye table she saw tenn eating, this she positively affirmd
when in her right minde, after this was exceeding much tormentted, her
master askd her what was ye matter, because she as she sd in her fit run
to sundry places to abscoude herselfe, she toulde him twas because she
saw a cat coming to her wth a rat, to fling in her face, after yt she sd
they toulde her they woulde kill her because she tould of it. These sort
of actions continued about 13 days, & then was extremely afflicted with
fits in ye night, to ye number of about 40ty crying out a witch, a
witch, her master runing to her askd her what was ye matter she sd she
felt a hand. Ye next week she saw as she sd a woman stand in ye house
having on a silk hood & a blew apron, after that in ye evening being
well composd going out of dooers run in again & caught her master
abought ye middle, he askd her ye reason, she sd yt she meet an olde
woman at ye dooer, with 2 firebrands in her forehead, he askd her what
kinde of clooths she had on, answered she had two homespun coats, one
tuct up rounde her ye other down. The next day she namd a person calling
her goody Clauson, & sd there she is sitting on a reel, & again sd she
saw her sit on ye pommel of a chair, saying Ime sure you are a witch,
elce you coulde not sit so & sd she saw this person before namd at times
for a week together. One time she sd she saw her and describd her whole
attire, her [master]? went immediately & saw ye woman namd exactly atird
as she was describd of ye person afflicted. Again she sd in her fits
Goody Clauson lets haue a turn at heels ouer head, withall saying shall
you goe first, or shall I. Weel sd she if I do first you shall after, &
wth yt she turnd ouer two or three times heels ouer head, & so lay down,
saying come if you will not Ile beat your head & ye wall together &
haueing ended these words she goot up looking aboute ye house, & sd look
shes gone, & so fell into a fit."
LIDIA PENOIR--_"A lying gairl"_
"The testimony of Lidia Penoir. Shee saith that shee heard her ant
Abigal Wescot say that her seruant gairl Catern Branch was such a lying
gairl that not any boddy could belieue one word what shee said and saith
that shee heard her ant Abigail Wescot say that shee did not belieue
that Mearcy nor goody Miller nor Hannah nor any of these women whome
shee had apeacht was any more witches then shee was and that her husband
would belieue Catern before he would belieue Mr. Bishop or Leiftenat
Bell or herself.
"The testor is ready to giue oath to sd testimony. Standford, Augt 24th
ELEZER SLAWSON--"_A woman for pease"--A good word_
"The testimony of Elezer Slawson aged 51 year.
"He saith yt he liued neare neighbour, to goodwife Clawson many years &
did allways observe her to be a woman for pease and to counsell for
pease & when she hath had prouacations from her neighbours would answer
& say we must liue in pease for we are naibours & would neuer to my
obseruation giue threatning words nor did I look at her as one giuen to
malice; & further saith not
"The above written subscribers declared the aboue written & signed it
with their own hands before me
"JONOTHAN BELL Comissionr."
In closing the citations of testimony in the Clawson case, other
performances of Catherine Branch, the maid servant of Daniel and Abigail
Wescot, are given to emphasize the absurdities which found credence in
the community and brought several women to the bar of justice, to answer
to the charge of a capital offense.
_An epileptic fit--Muscular contortions--"Talkeing to the
appearances"--"Hell fyre to all eternity"--A creature "with a great head
& wings & noe boddy & all black"--Songs and tunes--Secular and
scriptural recitations--" The lock of hayer"_
"June 28th 1692.
"Sergt Daniell Wescott brought his Mayd Katheren Branch to my house to
be examined, which was dune as is within mentioned, & the sd Katheren
Branch being dismised was gott about 40 or 50 rodd from my house, my
Indian girl runeing back sayinge sd Kate was falen downe & looked black
in the face soe my sonn John Selleck & cousen Dauid Selleck went out &
fecht her in, shee being in a stife fitt--& comeing out of that fitt
fell a schrickeing, crying out you kill me, Goody Clawson you kill me,
two or three times shee spoke it & her head was bent downe backwards
allmost to her back; & sometimes her arme would be twisted round the sd
Kate cryeing out you break my arme & with many such fitts following,
that two men could hardly prevent by all their strenth the breaking of
her neck & arme, as was thought by all the standers by; & in this maner
sd Kate continued all the night, & neuer came to her sences but had som
litell respitt betweene those terible fitts & then sd Kate would be
talkeing to the appearances & would answer them & ask questions of them
to manny to be here inserted or remembered. They askt her to be as they
were & then shee should be well & we herd sd Kate saye I will not yeald
to you for you are wiches & yor portion is hell fyre to all eternity &
many such like expressions shee had; telling them that Mr. Bishop had
often tould her that shee must not yield to them, & that that daye
Norwalk minister tould her the same therefore she sayd I hope God will
keep me from yielding to you; sd Kate sayd Goody Clawson why doe you
torment me soe; I neuer did you any harme neather in word nor acction;
sayeing why are you all come now to afflict me. Katherine tould their
names, saying Goody Clawson, Mercy Disbrow, Goody Miller, & a woman & a
gail, five of you. Then she sd Kate spoke to the gail whom she caled
Sarah, & sayd is Sarah Staples your right name; I am aferd you tell me a
lye; tell me your rite name; & soe uged it much; & then stoped & sayd,
tell; yeas I must tell my master & Capt. Selleck if they aske me but Ile
tell noe body els. Soe at last sd Kate sayd, Hanah Haruy once or twice
out is that your name why then did you tell me a lye before; Well then
sayd Kate what is the womans name that comes with you; & soe stoped &
then sayd tell yeas I must tell my master & Capt. Selleok if he askes
me, but Ile tell noeboddy els, & sayd you will not tell me then I will
ask Goody Crumpe;& she sd Gody Crump what is the woemans name yt comes
with Hanah Haruy; & so urged severall times, a then sd Marry Mary what,
& then Mary Haruy; well sayd Kate is Mary Haruy ye mother of Hanah
Haruy; & then sayd now I know it seeming to reioyce, & saying Hanah why
did you not tell me before, sayeing their was more catts come at first &
I shall know all your names; & Kate sayd what creature is that with a
great head & wings & noe boddy & all black, sayeing Hanah is that your
father; I believe it is for you are a wich; & sd Kate sayd Hanah what is
yor fathers name; & have you noe grandfather & grandmother; how come you
to be a witch & then stoped, & sd again a grandmother what is her name &
then stoped, & sd Goody Staples what is her maiden name & then again
fell into terrible fits which much affrighted the standers by, which
were many pesons to behould & here what was sd & dune by Kate. Shee fell
into a fitt singeing songes & then tunes as Kate sd giges for them to
daunce by each takeing their turns; then sd Kate rehersed a great many
verses, which are in some primers, & allsoe ye dialoge between Christ
ye yoong man & the dieull, the Lords prayer, all the comand-ments &
catechism, the creede & severall such good things, & then sayd, Hanah I
will say noe more; let me here you, & sayd why doe I say these things;
you doe not loue them & a great deale more she sayd which I cannot well
remember but what is aboue & on ye other syde was herd and seene by
myselfe & others as I've attest to it.
"Jonahn Selleck Commissioner."
"To add one thing more to my relation as is within of what I saw & herd,
is that som persons atempted to cutt of a lock of the sd Kates hayer,
when shee was in her fitts but could not doe it, for allthough she knew
not what was sayd & dune by them, & let them come neuer soe priuately
behynd her to doe it yeat shee would at once turne about and preuent it;
At last Dauid Waterbery tooks her in his armes to hould her by force;
that a lock of hayer might be cutt; but though at other times a weake &
light gail yeat shee was then soe stronge & soe extreame heauy that he
could not deale with her, not her hayer could not be cutt; & Kate
cryeing out biterly, as if shee had bin beaten all ye time. When sd Kate
come to herself, was askt if she was wileing her hayer should be cutt;
shee answered yeas--we might cutt all of it we would."
Elizabeth Clawson was found not guilty.
HUGH (CROSIA, CROSHER) CROHSAW
A court of Assistants holden at Hartford, May 8th, 1693.
Robert Treat, Esq. Governor
William Joanes, Esq. Dept. Govr.
Samuel Willis, Esq. \
William Pitkin, Esq. |
Col. John Allyn |
Nath. Stanly, Esq. |
Caleb Stanly, Esq. |
Moses Mansfield, Esq. /
Gent. of the Jury are:
Joseph Bull, Nathaneal Loomis, Joseph Wadsworth, Nathanael Bowman,
Jonathan Ashley, Stephen Chester, Daniel Heyden, Samuell Newell, Abraham
Phelps, Joseph North, John Stoughton, Thomas Ward.
And the names of the Grand Jury are:
Bartholomew Barnard, Joseph Mygatt, William Williams, John Marsh, John
Pantry, Joseph Langton, William Gibbons, Stephen Kelsey, Cornelious
Gillett, Samuel Collins, James Steele, Jonathan Loomis.
* * * * *
"Hugh Crotia, Thou Standest here presented by the Name of Hugh Crotia of
Stratford in the Colony of Connecticutt, in New England; for that not
haveing the fear of God before thine Eyes, through the Instigation of
the Devill, thou hast forsaken thy God, & covenanted with the Devill,
and by his help hast in a preternaturall way afflicted the bodys of
Sundry of his Majestie's good subjects, for which according to the Law
of God, and the Law of this Colony, thou deservest to dye."
_The arrest--Satan the accessory--An alibi--The confession--A contract
to serve the devil_
"Fayrfield this 15 Novembor 1692 acording as is Informed that hugh
Crosia is complained of by a gerll at Stratford for aflicting her and
hee being met on ye road going westward from fayrfeild hee being met by
Joseph Stirg and danill bets of norwak and being brought back by them to
athority in fayrfeild and on thare report to sd authority of sum
confesion sd Croshaw mad of such things as rendar him undar suspecion of
familiarity with satan sd Crosha being asked whethar he
sayd he sent ye deuell to hold downe Eben Booths gerll ye gerll above
intended hee answared hee did say so but hee was not thar himself hee
answereth he lyed when he sayd he sent ye deuell as above.
"Sd hugh beeing asked whethar hee did not say hee had made a Contract
with ye deuell five years senc with his heart and signed to ye deuells
book and then seald it with his bloud which Contract was to serve ye
deuell and the deuell to serve him he saith he did say so and sayd he
ded so and wret his name and sealed ye Contract with his bloud and that
he had ever since been practising Eivel against every man: hee also sayd
ye deuell opned ye dore of eben booths hous made it fly open and ye gate
fly open being asked how he could tell he sayd he deuell apeered to him
like a boye and told him hee ded make them fly open and then ye boye
went out of his sight.
"This examination taken and Confessed before authority in fairefeild
before Us Testis the date above
"Jon. Bur, Assist
"Nathan Gold, Asist."
"The Grand Jury upon consideration of this Case re-turnd, Ignoramus....
"This Court do grant to the said Hugh Crotia A Gaol Delivery, he paying
the Master of the Gaol his just fees and dues upon his release and also
all the Charge laid out on him at Fairfield, & in bringing him to
In 1657, when Easthampton, Long Island, was within the jurisdiction of
New York, becoming a few months later a part of Connecticut, two persons
came over from Gardiner's Island and settled in the colony, Joshua
Garlick and Elizabeth his wife--whilom servants of the famous engineer
and colonist Lion Gardiner.
Stories of Elizabeth's practice of witchcraft and other black arts
followed her, and despite her attendance at church she fell under
suspicion, and was arrested, and held by the magistrates for trial after
hearing various witnesses. Credulity offers no better illustrations than
those which fell from the lips of some of the witnesses in this case.
_Tuning a psalm--A black thing--A double tongued woman--A doleful
noise--Burning the herbs--The sick child--Gardiner's ox--The dead
ram--Burning "the sow's tale"_
Goodwife Howell, during her illness which hastened Elizabeth's arrest,
"tuned a psalm and screked out several times together very grievously,"
and cried "a witch! a witch! now are you come to torter me because I
spoke two or three words against you," and also said, she saw a black
thing at the beds featte, that Garlick was double-tongued, pinched her
with pins, and stood by the bed ready to tear her in pieces. And William
Russell, in a fit of insomnia or indigestion, before daybreak, "heard a
very doleful noyse on ye backside of ye fire, like ye noyse of a great
stone thrown down among a heap of stones."
Goody Birdsall "declared y't she was in the house of Goody Simons when
Goody Bishop came into the house with ye dockweed and between Goody
Davis and Goody Simons they burned the herbs. Farther, she said y't
formerly dressing flax at Goody Davis's house, Goody Davis saith y't she
had dressed her children in clean linen at the island, and Goody Garlick
came in and said, 'How pretty the child doth look,' and so soon as she
had spoken Goody Garlick said, 'the child is not well, for it groaneth,'
and Goody Davis said her heart did rise, and Goody Davis said, when she
took the child from Goody Garlick, she said she saw death in the face of
it, & her child sickened presently upon it, and lay five daies and 5
nights and never opened the eyes nor dried till it died. Also she saith
as she dothe remember Goody Davis told her upon some difference between
Mr. Gardiner or some of his family, Goodman Garlick gave out some
threateningse speeches, & suddenly after Mr. Gardiner had an ox legge
broke upon Ram Island. Moreover Goody Davis said that Goody Garlick was
a naughtie woman."
Goody Edwards testified: "Y't as Goody Garlick owned, she sent to her
daughter for a little best milk and she had some and presently after,
her daughters milk went away as she thought and as she remembers the
child sickened about y't time." Goody Hand deposed that "she had heard
Goody Davis say that she hoped Goody Garlick would not come to
Eastharapton, because, she said, Goody Garlick was naughty, and there
had many sad things befallen y'm at the Island, as about ye child, and
ye ox, as Goody Birdsall have declared, as also the negro child she said
was taken away, as I understood by her words, in a strange manner, and
also of a ram y't was dead, and this fell out quickly one after another,
and also of a sow y't was fat and lustie and died. She said they did
burn some of the sow's tale and presently Goody Garlick did come in."
The settlers held a town meeting, and wisely questioning whether they
had legal authority to hold a trial in a capital case, they appointed a
committee to go "unto Keniticut to carry up Goodwife Garlick yt she may
be delivered up unto the authoritie there for the trial of the cause of
witchcraft which she is suspected for." The General Court of Connecticut
took jurisdiction of the case, a trial of Goody Garlick was held,
resulting in her acquittal, and she was sent back to Easthampton, to
what end is not told in the records of the day.
"This case is one of the most painful in the entire Connecticut list,
for she impresses one as the best woman; how the just and high minded
old lady had excited hate or suspicion, we cannot know." _Connecticut as
a Colony_ (1: 212), MORGAN.
"Mr. Dauenport gaue in as followeth--That Mr. Ludlow sitting with him
and his wife alone, and discoursing of the passages concerning Knapps
wife, the Witch and her execution, said that she came downe from the
ladder (as he understood it), and desired to speak with him alone, and
told him who was the witch spoken of." _New Haven Colonial Record_
"Shortly after this, a poor simple minded woman living in Fairfield, by
the name of Knap, was suspected of witchcraft. She was tried, condemned
and sentenced to be hanged." SCHENCK'S _History of Fairfield_ (1: 71).
This was one of the most notable of the witchcraft cases. It stands
among the early instances of the infliction of the death penalty in
Connecticut; the victim was presumably a woman of good repute, and not a
common scold, an outcast, or a harridan; it is singularly illustrative
of witchcraft's activities and their grasp on the lives of the best men
and women, of the beliefs that ruled the community, and of the crude and
revolting practices resorted to in the punishments of the condemned, and
especially since in its later developments it involved in controversy
and litigation two of the great characters in colonial history, Rev.
John Davenport, one of the founders of New Haven, and Roger Ludlow,
Deputy Governor of Massachusetts and Connecticut.[I] Goodwife Knapp of
Fairfield was "suspicioned." That was enough to set the villagers agog
with talk and gossip and scandal about the unfortunate woman, which
poisoned the wells of sober thought and charitable purpose, and swiftly
ripened into a formal accusation and indictment.
[Footnote I: Connecticut, through its Commission of Sculpture, in
recognition of his services to the Colony, is to erect a memorial statue
to Ludlow to occupy the western niche on the northern facade of the
Capitol building at Hartford.]
Pending her trial the prisoner was committed to the house of correction
or common jail for the safe keeping of "refractory persons" and
What terrors of mind and spirit must have waited on this "simple minded"
woman, in the cold, gloomy, and comfortless prison, probably built of
rough logs, with a single barred window and massive iron studded door, a
ghost haunted torture chamber, in charge of some harsh wardsmen.
Knapp was duly and truly tried, and sentenced to death by hanging, the
usual mode of execution. _No witch was ever burned in New England._
From the day sentence was pronounced until the hanging took place, out
in Try's field beyond the Indian field, in view of the villagers, whose
curiosity or thirst for horrors or whose duty led them there, this
prisoner of delusion was made the object of rudest treatment, espionage,
and of inhuman attempts to wring from her lips a confession of her own
guilt or an accusation against some other person as a witch.
The very day of her condemnation, a self-constituted committee of
women, with one man on it,--Mistress Thomas Sherwood, Goodwife Odell,
Mistress Pell, and her two daughters, Goody Lockwood, and Goodwife
Purdy,--visited the prison, and pressed her to name any other witch in
town, and so receive such consolation from the minister as would be for
her soul's welfare.
Mistress Pell seems to have been the chief spokeswoman, and each member
of the committee served in some degree as an inquisitor, or exhorter,
not to repentance, but to disclosures. Baited and badgered, warned and
threatened, the hapless prisoner protested she was innocent, denied the
charges made against her, told one of the committee to "take heed the
devile have not you," and also said, "I must not render evil for
evil.... I have sins enough allready, and I will not add this [accusing
another] to my condemnation." And at last in agony of soul she made that
pathetic appeal to one of her relentless tormentors, "neuer, neuer poore
creature was tempted as I am tempted, pray, pray for me."
But even after death on the scaffold, the witch-hunters of the day did
not refrain from their ghoulish work, but desecrated the remains of
Goodwife Knapp at the grave side in their search for witch marks.
All the facts during the imprisonment, execution and burial are set
forth in some of the testimonies herewith given, in a chapter of related
history (the evidence at the trial not being disclosed in any present
record), and all of them marked by a total unconsciousness of their
sinister and revolting character.
No case in the history of the delusion in New England is more replete
in incidents and apt illustrations, due to their fortunate preservation
in the records of a lawsuit involving some of the prominent characters
in that drama of religious insanity.
At a magistrate's court held at New Haven the 29th of May, 1654.
Theophilus Eaton Esqr, Gouernor.
Mr. Stephen Goodyeare, Dept, Gouernor.
Francis Newman \
Mr. William Fowler } Magistrats
Mr. William Leete /
a suit was heard entitled--
Thomas Staplies of Fairfield, plant'.
Mr Rogger Ludlow late of Fairfield, defendt.
It was brought by an aggrieved husband to recover damages for defamation
of the character of his wife. It centered in one of the dramatic
incidents at Knapp's execution. In the last extremity, and in the
presence of immediate death, the prisoner came down from the ladder, and
asking to speak with Ludlow alone, told him that Goodwife Staplies was a
Some time afterward Ludlow, at New Haven, told the Rev. John Davenport
and his wife the story, in confidence, and under the promise of secrecy,
but it spread abroad with inevitable accretions, and when it reached
Fairfield Thomas Staplies went to law, to vindicate his wife's character
in pounds, shillings, and pence. These are some of the statements and
_Attorney Banke's declaration--Ensigne Bryan's answer--Davenport's view
of an oath, Hebrews vi,16--His account and conscientious scruples--Mistress
Davenport's forgetfulness--"A tract of lying"--"Indian gods"--Luce Pell
and Hester Ward's visit to the prison--The "search" of Knapp--"Witches
teates"--Feminine resemblances--Matronly opinions--Post-mortem evidence--
Contradictions--Knapp's ordeal--"Fished wthall in private"--Her denials--
Talk on the road to the "gallowes"_
"John Bankes, atturny for Thomas Staplies, declared, that Mr. Ludlow had
defamed Thomas Staplies wife, in reporting to Mr. Dauenport and Mris.
Dauenport that she had laid herselfe vnder a new suspition of being a
witch, that she had caused Knapps wife to be new searched after she was
hanged, and when she saw the teates, said if they were the markes of a
witch, then she was one, or she had such markes; secondly, Mr. Ludlow
said Knapps wife told him that goodwife Staplies was a witch; thirdly,
that Mr. Ludlow hath slandered goodwife Staplies in saying that she made
a trade of lying, or went on in a tract of lying, &c.
"Ensigne Bryan, atturny for Mr. Ludlow, desired the charge might bee
proued, wch accordingly the plant' did, and first an attestation vnder
Master Dauenports hand, conteyning the testimony of Master and Mistris
Dauenport, was presented and read; but the defendant desired what was
testified and accepted for proofe might be vpon oath, vpon wch Mr.
Dauenport gaue in as followeth, That he hoped the former attestation hee
wrott and sent to the court, being compared wth Mr. Ludlowes letter, and
Mr. Dauenports answer, would haue satisfyed concerning the truth of the
pticulars wthout his oath, but seeing Mr. Ludlowes atturny will not be
so satisfyed, and therefore the court requires his oath, and yt he
lookes at an oath, in a case of necessitie, for confirmation of truth,
to end strife among men, as an ordinance of God, according to Heb: 6,16,
hee therevpon declares as followeth,
"That Mr. Ludlow, sitting wth him & his wife alone, and discoursing of
the passages concerning Knapps wife the witch, and her execution, said
that she came downe from the ladder, (as he vnderstood it,) and desired
to speake wth him alone, and told him who was the witch spoken of; and
so fair as he remembers, he or his wife asked him who it was; he said
she named goodwife Stapleies; Mr. Dauenport replyed that hee beleeued it
was vtterly vntrue and spoken out of malice, or to that purpose; Mr.
Ludlow answered that he hoped better of her, but said she was a foolish
woman, and then told them a further storey, how she tumbled the corpes
of the witch vp & downe after her death, before sundrie women, and spake
to this effect, if these be the markes of a witch I am one, or I haue
such markes. Mr. Dauenport vtterly disliked the speech, not haueing
heard anything from others in that pticular, either for her or against
her, and supposing Mr. Ludlow spake it vpon such intelligenc as
satisfyed him; and whereas Mr. Ludlow saith he required and they
promised secrecy, he doth not remember that either he required or they
pmised it, and he doth rather beleeue the contrary, both because he told
them that some did ouerheare what the witch said to him, and either had
or would spread it abroad, and because he is carefull not to make
vnlawfull promises, and when he hath made a lawfull promise he is,
through the help of Christ, carefull to keepe it.
"Mris. Dauenport saith, that Mr. Ludlow being at their house, and
speakeing aboute the execution of Knapps wife, (he being free in his
speech,) was telling seuerall passages of her, and to the best of her
remembrance said that Knapps wife came downe from the ladder to speake
wth him, and told him that goodwife Staplyes was a witch, and that Mr.
Daueport replyed something on behalfe of goodwife Staplies, but the
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