Witchcraft in Connecticut
Murder may be the surest ticket to the death chamber in Connecticut today, but 350 years ago, witchcraft was the crime most likely to result in a death sentence. Connecticut made witchcraft a capital offense as far back as 1642.
Between 1647, when Alice Young of Windsor was hanged for witchcraft, to 1663, when the state’s taste for executing suspected witches began to wane, Connecticut convicted and executed more witches than anywhere else in colonial America. At least seven suspected witches were executed during that time.
The Year: 1638
Image: Sarah Kiersted Translating for Lenape chief Oratam
Painting depicts Sarah Kiersted, a Dutch woman in New Netherlands who learned the Lenape language and served Chief Oratam as a translator in his negotiations with Dutch colonists. She was rewarded by him in 1666 with a gift of 2260 acres of land on the Hackensack River.
The Lenape Nation
When Verrazano sailed into Delaware Bay in 1524, and when Henry Hudson cast anchor at Sandy Hook in 1609, the land was occupied by Native Americans. The Lenape Nation lived throughout what would become New Jersey. They were farmers, hunters, and fishermen.
The Groton Witch
Elizabeth Knapp was born in Massachusetts in 1655. At age 16, she was a servant in the household of Reverend Samuel Willard of Groton, Massachusetts when she first exhibited signs of being possessed by the Devil.
As her symptoms intensified – she fell into violent fits, complained of being strangled, and attempted to throw herself into the fire – Reverend Willard observed that she began to “carry herself in a strange and unwonted manner,” saw apparitions, and experienced violent “fits” over a period of three months.
Women of New Amsterdam and New Netherland
For more than forty years, the women living in New Amsterdam (New York City) experienced more autonomy, more rights and more income than other colonial women.
Colonists in New Amsterdam and New Netherland lived for the most part under the law as it was in the Netherlands. The orders given to the first settlers by the Dutch West India Company were to establish law and order in the colony as it was in the fatherland. When new situations arose, the Director General and Council enacted appropriate legislation, though still in conformity with the laws of the Netherlands.
The Year: 1656
The segregation of men and women in a Quaker meeting, as shown in this image, was linked to the idea of a role for each.
The early history of attitudes toward gender in the Society of Friends, given the popular name Quakers, is particularly notable for providing for one of the largest and most equitable roles for women in the Christian tradition at the time. Their views of women have always been considered progressive.
The Society of Friends originated in England in the seventeenth century and quickly spread to the English colonies. The most surprising aspect of Quakerism was the fact that ministry – the right to speak during a Quaker meeting – was open to women from the very beginnings of the movement in the 1650s.
The Witch of Hampton
New Englanders in the seventeenth century feared the devil above all else. They believed that natural disasters were caused by a person who was possessed by Old Nick. If their crops failed, if a cow went dry, or if an epidemic struck, they blamed someone in the community, usually an eccentric old person.
William and Eunice Cole first came to New Hampshire as indentured servants from London, England in 1638. They became part of a new colony at Exeter that was being established under the leadership of Reverend John Wheelwright. In 1640, the Coles decided to move to the settlement at nearby Hampton. Wheelwright moved from Exeter to Wells, Maine, but was ousted from there and made a bid for control of Hampton. That left the Coles back under the jurisdiction of the leader they had previously abandoned.
The Year: 1659
The Philipses owned 52,000 acres of land along the Hudson River, where they constructed this lavish estate, clustered with mills, barns and other structures.
Born circa 1630, Margaret Hardenbroeck’s early life in Holland is unclear, but she would have likely received some education. Holland was the only European country in seventeenth-century Europe to provide primary education to females. The Reformed Church urged equality for women, and the Dutch brought their liberal attitudes concerning women’s rights to the New World.
In 1659, Margaret came to New Amsterdam (later New York) as an ambitious twenty-two-year-old with an unusual job—she was a factor for a well-to-do cousin, managing his New World dealings. A factor is an agent employed to sell merchandise for his principal for a commission. A factor may buy and sell in either his own name or his principal’s name. Margaret did both, and she did not stay a factor for long.
Alice Lake was born in England, and immigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony at some point, and settled in Dorchester, Massachusetts. She was the mother of at least five children, all presumably fathered by her only known husband, Henry Lake. In 1651, those children would have been a girl about ten, a boy about seven, a boy about five, a child about three who likely was a boy, and an infant.
In 1651, Alice Lake’s baby died. Later, she told people that she saw the baby. Maybe she did. Or, maybe she grieved so much that her mind allowed her to imagine that she saw her baby to ease her grief. As painful as the death of a loved one is, a mother’s loss of a child is the most difficult.
|Calvert Presents Acts of Toleration to Governer Stone
The Year: 1648
Verlinda Graves was born about 1618 in England. William Stone was born in England around 1603. He came from a well-known merchant family in London. William came to America in1628 with a group of Puritans who settled on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. Verlinda and William were married in the 1630s in Virginia, and they had seven children.
The Stones were successful in the Chesapeake, and respected by their neighbors. William worked as a merchant and planter. He was appointed justice of the peace, and then sheriff in Accomack County, and a burgess in the Virginia Assembly. The settlement thrived there, but eventually came into conflict with Virginia’s established Episcopal Church.
Accused Witch in Boston
It seems that when we think of witches we automatically think of Salem, but colonial Boston experienced a number of witchcraft episodes during the seventeenth century. Witchcraft involves the use of supernatural powers such as clairvoyancy, invisibility, flying, and the ability to kill at a distance. A witch is usually viewed as one who manipulates unexplainable forces through spells and other rituals.
Belief in witchcraft was prevalent in Europe, and scores of people had been convicted and put to death in England during the 1640s. Stories of those proceedings reached the New World, and led the people of Boston to fear for their own safety.