Sunday, 22 April 2012

Witch Trials of Connecticut

Part Three

Read Part One and Part Two

Continuing with the witch trials of Connecticut, I'll begin part three with Nicholas and Margaret Jennings. In 1661, charges of witchcraft were brought against them by George Wood. The exact details are unknown, but they allegedly "had done works above the course of nature" resulting in the loss of lives and other "sorceries." Some reports say the jury was "hung," rather than those accused of being witches. In this particular case, they were a "hung jury," divided as to whether the Jennings were guilty or "strongly suspect." As a result, the Jennings were found not guilty.

Nathaniel and Rebecca Greensmith started the chain of Hartford witch trials. Suspicion fell upon the two when Nathaniel married Rebecca, and a pastor said that she was a "a lewd, ignorant and considerably aged woman." Due to nocturnal gatherings of dancing and merry-making, gossip and rumor turned into formal complaints.

Accusations by a sick child in a delirium, who later died, set off the tragic events. Several people were examined by the magistrates. Goodwife Ayers had been directly accused of bewitching the sick child. Nathaniel Greensmith sued Ayers for the slander of his wife, and as a result he and Rebecca were indicted themselves. Ayers and her husband were found guilty of witchcraft by the water test. The idea behind ducking was that if a person sank, she was innocent, but if she floated, she was guilty. Both escaped prison and fled the colony. Several other residents under suspicion also took flight.

Another resident had strange "fits" and was examined by several ministers. Andrew Sandford was indicted and acquitted. His wife Mary wasn't so lucky. Found guilty, she either disappeared or was hanged. Meanwhile, Nathaniel Greensmith would have likely been acquitted, but Rebecca testified that she spoke "out of love to my husbands soule." She also named others who had met with her in the woods. The Greensmiths were executed in January 1663.

As a result of Rebecca's testimony, Elizabeth Seager and Mary Barnes were indicted. Mary was likely hanged in June, also making her the last to have been executed for witchcraft in Connecticut. Elizabeth was twice acquitted the same year, but was convicted in 1665. The governor reversed the verdict.

So ends the Hartford trials, and I'll conclude the Connecticut witch trials in my next blog.

Kim Murphy


Anonymous said...

Also recommended::" Witchcraft Trials of Connecticut"
by R. G. Tomlinson (First Comprehensive Documented History; Hartford, CT, 1978.

And "The Devil Made Me Do It! Crime & Punishment in
Early New England(Globe Pequot Press, 2011) by Juliet
Haines Mofford (available from Amazon)

Kim Murphy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kim Murphy said...

Thanks for the suggestion.