Sunday, 3 June 2012

Witch Trials of Connecticut

Part Four

Read Part One, Part Two, and Part Three

 In my final installment of the witch trials of Connecticut, I begin with Katharine Harrison. In 1669, she was indicted for not having the fear of God as well as a familiarity with Satan. Neighbors testified about her herding cattle "with greate violence," bees swarming, a sick child that later died, "an ugly shaped thing like a dog" that had the head of Katharine, and telling fortunes. The jury found Katharine guilty, but the magistrates had doubts. They called upon ministers for counsel.

 The court refused to sentence her to death or imprison her. Instead, she was banished from Connecticut and moved to New York. Because she had been accused of witchcraft, she wasn't welcomed in her new community, but due to good behavior, she was allowed to remain.

Witch trials reached their peak in 1692, the same year as the infamous Salem trials. Fortunately, for the inhabitants of Fairfield, the craze of executions had passed in Connecticut. Mercy Disborough was accused of bewitching a canoe and numerous livestock. Allegedly, she made a child sick. She was searched for witch marks by a group of women.

A young girl, subject to epilepsy and hysterics, was carried into the meeting house. Upon seeing Mercy, she "fel[l] down into a fit again." Elizabeth Clawson was on trial at the same time. Both women were bound hand and foot and put into the water (witch ducking). Both swam, rather than sinking. Mercy was found guilty but later reprieved.

Elizabeth Clawson had been indicted for "not having the fear of God" in her eyes and a "familiarity" with Satan. A maid had seizures, and a black cat came to her in a hen house. She claimed the devil had come to her in the shape of three women, Mercy, Elizabeth, and Goody Miller. Many neighbors testified on the bewitching events. Goody Miller was merely accused, and Elizabeth was found not guilty.

In 1693, Hugh Crotia was indicted for the familiar charge of not having the fear of God in his eyes. Apparently, he afflicted a girl on the road near Fairfield and was "rendered" under suspicion of Satan. He admitted to having a contract with the devil. Hugh was ordered to pay the "Master of the Gaol" some fees.

In 1697, a mother and daughter by the same names of Winifred Benham were indicted. Both were acquitted but excommunicated. A couple of cases were tried in the 18th century with one being as late as 1768, but for the most part the witch trials had concluded by the end of the 17th century in Connecticut.

Kim Murphy

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