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Chapter 17: heresy and witchcraft.

  • Antinomians.
  • -- Baptists. -- Quakers. -- Elizabeth Hooton and other disturbers of the peace. -- Benanuel Bowers, and his family. -- witchcraft. -- Rebecca Jacobs. -- petition of Rebecca Fox. -- Mrs. Kendall. -- a man troubled by cats or the devil. -- Winifred Holman, and her daughter Mary Holman. -- testimony. -- verdict
    At the present time, almost every principal sect into which the Christian Church is divided has its representatives in Cambridge; and the introduction of a new sect produces comparatively little commotion. But in the beginning it was not so. For a few years after the settlement of New England by the Puritans, the churches had rest; but in 1636, ‘the country was miserably distracted by a storm of Antinomian and Famalistical opinions then raised.’1 So violent became the controversy, and so great was the apparent danger of civil strife, that many of the heretical party, in Boston, Salem, Newbury, Roxbury, Ipswich, and Charlestown, were disarmed.2 The Cambridge church, however, seems to have escaped infection; and none of its members were included among the disaffected and supposed dangerous class. ‘The vigilancy of Mr. Shepard was blessed ..... for the preservation of his own congregation from the rot of these opinions.’3

    Nearly twenty years later, his successor, Mr. Mitchell, was sorely tried by the defection of President Dunster from the established faith, as related in chapter XVI. Great excitement followed, both in church and in state; and, as Dunster would neither renounce nor conceal his opposition to infant baptism, he was removed from office as head of the College (designed to be the school of the prophets), and fell under censure of the civil magistrates. Both consequences were natural, and apparently unavoidable. The governors of the College could not reasonably be expected to retain in office a President who persisted in teaching what they regarded as ‘damnable heresy,’ and thus poisoning the minds of his students, and unfitting them to become preachers of the truth; and the civil magistrate was bound to take notice of open violations of the law. It does not [345] appear, however, that Dunster had many adherents in his opposition to the ordinances of the church, notwithstanding the general respect entertained for his scholarship, and the warm affection cherished for him as a man. Indeed, it is doubtful whether any of the congregation at Cambridge openly avowed similar sentiments, except his kinsman Benanuel Bowers,4 and the members of his family. The Middlesex County Court Records show that, on the 19th of June, 1656, ‘Benanuel Bower, being presented by the Grand Jury for ordinary absenting himself from the ordinance of baptism, was admonished and convicted of his evil therein by the court.’5

    In the same year, 1656, ‘an accursed and pernicious sect of heretics lately risen up in the world who are commonly called Quakers’ appeared in Boston. Severe measures were adopted for their suppression, but in vain. Neither fines, imprisonment, nor scourging, would turn them aside from their purpose; and they even submitted to death, rather than to depart, or to forbear disturbing the public peace. ‘Some at Salem, Hampton, Newbury, and other places, for disorderly behaviour, putting people in terror, coming into the congregations and calling to the minister in the time of public worship, declaring their preaching, &c., to be an abomination to the Lord, and other breaches of the peace, were ordered to be whipped by the authority of the county courts or particular magistrates. At Boston one George Wilson, and at Cambridge Elizabeth Horton, went crying through the streets that the Lord was coming with fire and sword to plead with them. Thomas Newhouse went into the meeting-house at Boston with a couple of glass bottles and broke them before the congregation, and threatened, “ thus will the Lord break you in pieces.” Another time M. Brewster came in with her face smeared and black as a coal. Deborah Wilson went through the streets of Salem naked as she came into the world, for which she was well whipped. For these and such like disturbances they might be deemed proper subjects either of a mad-house or house of correction, and it is to be lamented that any greater severities [346] were made use of.’6 Some of these events are painted in Quaker colors by George Bishop, in a work entitled ‘New England judged by the Spirit of the Lord.’ Elizabeth, wife of Eliakim Wardel of Hampton, being called before the church at Newbury, ‘as a sign to them she went in (though it was exceeding hard to her modest and shamefaced disposition) naked amongst them, which put them into such a rage, instead of consideration, that they soon laid hands on her and to the next court at Ipswich had her’ etc.7 For this offence she received ‘twenty or thirty cruel stripes, being tyed to the fence post.’8 ‘Amongst the rest, one Deborah Wilson, who, bearing a great burthen for your hardheartedness and cruelty, being under a deep sense thereof, was constrained, being a young woman of a very modest and retired life, and of sober conversation, as were her parents, to go through your town of Salem naked, as a sign; which she having in part performed, after she had gone through some part thereof, as aforesaid, she was soon laid hands on, and brought before old Hathorne, who ordered her to appear at the next Court of Salem, at which your wicked rulers sentenced her to be whipped.’9 ‘After this at Cambridge, as she [Elizabeth Hooton, called Horton by Hutchinson] returned, she crying Repentance through some part of that town, where no Friend had been before (as she heard of) she was there laid hold of by a blood-thirsty crew, and early in the morning had before Thomas Danfort and Daniel Goggings, (two wicked and bloody magistrates of yours, of whom I have elsewhere spoken, and their wickedness), who committed her, and whose jaylor thrust her into a noisome, stinking dungeon, where there was nothing to lie down or sit on, and kept there two days and two nights, without helping her to bread or water; and because one Benanuel Bower (a tender Friend) brought her a little milk in this her great distress, wherein she was like to have perished, they cast him into prison for entertaining a stranger, and fined him five pounds.’10 ‘They ordered her to be sent out of their coasts towards Rhode Island, and to be whipped at three towns, ten stripes at each, by the way.’11 She returned to Cambridge, was imprisoned, and whipped there and at two other towns, as before. ‘This was the entertainment they received at Cambridge, (their University of Wickedness), and from Thomas Danfort and Daniel Goggin, magistrates, who (viz. Goggin) [347] desired his brother Hathorne to send some Quakers that way, that he might see them lashed, as is mentioned elsewhere in this treatise.’12

    Thomas Danfort, a magistrate of Cambridge, one whose cruelties were exceeding great to the innocent, mentioned before; he laid his hand on Wenlock Christison's shoulder, in your Governor's house at Boston, and said to him, Wenlock, I am a mortal man, and die I must, and that ere long, and I must appear at the tribunal-seat of Christ, and must give an account for my deeds in the body; and I believe it will be my greatest glory in that day, that I have given my vote for thee to be soundly whipped at this time.13

    Making due allowance for extravagance and embellishment, it appears by Bishop's account, that no Quaker missionaries visited Cambridge before 1662;14 that when they did appear, Gookin and Danforth were ready to enforce the law against them; and that Benanuel Bowers, who had formerly suffered as a Baptist, had become a Quaker, and subject to fine and imprisonment. His wife, Elizabeth, and his daughters Barbara and Elizabeth, shared his faith and his sufferings.15 At the County Court, October 6, 1663, ‘Benanuel Bowers appearing before the court, and being convicted of absenting himself from the public ordinances of Christ on the Lord's days, by his own confession, for about a quarter of a year past, and of entertaining Quakers into his family two several times; on his examination he affirmed that the Spirit of God was a Christian rule, and that David had no need of the word, nor never contradicted it, and that he speaks of no other law but that which was in his heart. The court fined him, for his absenting himself from the public ordinances, twenty shillings; and for twice entertaining the Quakers, four pounds, and costs three shillings to the witnesses.’ For the next twenty years he was called to account, almost every year, and fined for the absence of himself and his wife from the public ordinances.16 Notably was this the fact, October 3, 1676, when he was fined forty [348] shillings for his own absence, and twenty shillings for the absence of his wife, with costs of court, and was ordered to stand committed until payment should be made. He refused to pay, and was committed to prison, where he remained more than a year; during which time he offered several petitions and addresses to the County Court and to the General Court, some of which are yet preserved on file, and refer to facts which do not elsewhere appear on record. For example: ‘To the Court now held in Cambridge. I have been kept in prison this six months upon account of my not attending the public worship of God. I desire the Court to consider of my condition and the condition of my family; and if it be just and necessary that you should relieve us in this case, I desire you to do it. I leave it with you to act as you think meet. 3 April, 1677. Benanuell Bower. From prison in Cambridge.’ The Court replied: ‘The Court understands that you are imprisoned for not paying a fine duly imposed upon you according to law; and therefore if yourself or any for you will pay it, or tender goods to the officer that he may take it, you may be discharged, paying also the prison charges; which is all the favor that the Court can show you.’17 He then presented to the higher court a long address, commencing thus: ‘To the General Court, whom I honor in the Lord, and whose laws I am bound to obey by doing or suffering for conscience sake, and that not of constraint, but willingly. I am kept in prison this eight months, because I refuse to attend the publick meetings to hear the ministers preach in order to the public worship of God, or pay the sum of three pounds ten shillings according to law. It seems if I will either give money or lie constantly in prison, I may be left to my liberty whether I will worship God according to your law or be of any use in the Commonwealth, contrary to the law in nature,—a large liberty! And I told the Court then, and do now tell you, that I did attend God's worship according to my faith and conscience, and according to Scripture which saith, where two or three are assembled together in Christ's name he is in the midst of them. And this I can prove by those that assaulted us (on the first day of the week) when we were met to worship God. At that very instant, because I would not obey men's commands and leave the worship of God, though I told them if they would forbear whilst we had done, I did not know but I might attend their order. They would not forbear, but violently hauled me out of [349] the room down a pair of stairs by the heels into the open street, and carried me in a wheelbarrow to prison; and was whipped (as I have been at several courts), which is no shame for me to tell of, though I am sure 'tis a shame for some to hear of. I am about sixty years of age, thirty of which I have dwelt within about a mile of Cambridge town. What my life and conversation hath been amongst them, and what I have suffered this fifteen years for not going to the public meeting is well known to many of my neighbors.’ He then appealed for relief. Dated, ‘From Cambridge Prison the 24th 3d mo., 1677,’ and signed ‘Benanuel Bower.’18 This address, like the former, is not an autograph except the signature. ‘In answer to the petition of Benanuell Bowers, the Court judgeth meet to refer the consideration thereof to the next County Court in Middlesex for answer.’19 At the session of the County Court, Oct. 2, 1677, ‘The remonstrance exhibited by Benanuel Bowers to the General Court in May last being, by order of said Court referred unto the consideration of this Court for answer,—this Court sent for the said Bowers, and gave him liberty to declare what he had to say, and no just exception appearing against the sentence of the Court that committed him unto prison, but on the contrary he manifesting much perverseness and peremptory obstinacy against the laws and government here established, making his appeal to England: the Court declared unto him that they judged his sentence to be just, and his imprisonment just, and that it was the pride and perverseness of his own spirit that was the cause and ground of his suffering by his imprisonment.’20 He had now been in prison a year, and he again appealed to the General Court, which Court summarily settled the whole matter, Oct. 22, 1677: ‘In answer to a paper signed by Benanuel Bower, it is ordered that the marshal general do forthwith levy upon the estate of the said Bowers such fine or fines as have been laid on him according to law by the County Court of Cambridge, and that thereupon he be discharged the prison.’21

    Imprisonment for more than a year, however, was not the full measure of punishment endured by Mr. Bowers. Naturally impatient of confinement, he gave vent to his feelings in some doggerel poetry, which he sent by his wife to Mr. Danforth, whom he seems to have regarded as his chief opposer. For this he was convented before the General Court, convicted and punished. The official record appears in ‘Mass. Col. Rec.,’ v. 153. [350] The original papers, never before printed, are preserved in the files of the Middlesex County Court, 1677, and are here inserted22:—

    To Thomas Danforth, Maggistrate.

    It is nigh hard this fifteene years since first oure war begun
    And yet the feild I have not lost nor thou the conquest wunn
    Against thy power I have ingaged which of us twoo shall conquer
    I am resolvd if God assist to put it to the venter
    Both my person and estate for truth Isle sacrafise
    And all I have Ile leave at stake Ile venter winn or loose
    He that from his cullors runs and leaves his captaine in the feild
    By the law of armes he ought to dy and reason good shoud yeald
    Unwise art thou against the streame to strive
    For in thy enterprise thouart not like to thrive
    Thy forces are to weake thou art not like to conquer
    For with a power thou hast ingagd that will thy forces scatter
    Of him thats wise thou counsell didst not take
    Thy teachers like unto thyself Ime sorry for thy sake
    Though of Christianity profession thou dost make
    And yet thy neighbor doest oppress only for conscience sake
    Tho art as blind as Bonner was that burnt the martyrs at the stake
    To the proud belongs the fall he surely shall comm downe
    Out of his throne be brought he shall mans pride must come to th
    Abomminable if be his deed soe in the end heas like to speed
    Dread belongs to the evell Almighty God will recompence23

    From Cambridge Prison March 3, 1677.
    Benanuell Bower.

    I do attest that on ye5th of March last Elizabeth ye wife of Benll Bowers came to my house & put a printed book & this abovewritten paper into my hand; the book I perceiving by the frontispeace it was a Quakers work I caused it at the same time to be burnt; this paper I tore it imediately before her face & did after a time peice it again as above.24 Also I do assert yt according to ye knowledge yt one man may have of another's hand it have been written by Benll Bowers owne hand. By mee,

    Tho. Danforth.
    Sworn to by Mr. Danforth in Court, 30th of May, 1677. E. R. S.25


    The Deputyes haveing read a paper of scurilous verses presented & subscribed by Benanel Bower, now in Cambridge prison, wherein the honord Mr. Danforth by name & others are defamed, they judge it no less than duty to call the sd Bower to give an account thereof, & to that end that a warrant be issued out from this Court to the Marshall Genll to bring or cause to be brought the sd Bower before this Court on the morrow by four of the clock, & not to fayle, & desire or honord Magists consent thereto.

    30th May, 1677.
    William Torrey, Cleric.

    The Magist. consent, so it be 4 of the clock in the afternoon.

    Edwd. Rawson, Secrt.

    The magistrates on further consideration doe judge meet that Benanull Bowers be severely whipt wth twenty stripes, or pay the fine of five pounds mony. The Magists have past this wth reference to their brethren the Deputies hereto consenting. 7 of June 1677.

    Edwd. Rawson, Secrt. Consented to by the Deputies. William Torrey, Cleric.

    Smarting under this sharp discipline, Mr. Bowers publicly denounced Mr. Danforth in presence of the congregation, about a fortnight afterwards. The deposition of witnesses is still preserved in the county court files:—

    I, John Danforth,26 aged about 16 years, testify that on the 24th of June last past, being Sabbath day, after the pronunciation of the blessing in conclusion of that day's exercise, Benanuel Bowers, standing forth upon one of the benches in public view of the assembly, began to speak unto them. Then the Reverend Mr. Oakes interrupted him and told him that if he had any exception to make against what himself had delivered he should give him liberty so to do, provided he did it on a week day and not on the Sabbath, alleging that it was not the custom of the church. This notwithstanding, the said Benanuel proceeded in his speech. Whereupon the constables were required to carry him the said Bowers out of the Assembly by the worshipful Major Gookin, and he the said Bowers commanded silence. Nevertheless he proceeded in his speech, saying that he was very grievously oppressed and slandered by Magistrate Danforth, and desired the church to take notice thereof and single out such of themselves as might take cognizance of his great affliction, using that for a motive, that he that did him the wrong was a member [352] of the church. Many other words did he utter to the like purpose in the audience of the abovesaid assembly. The above written being truth for substance, and the very words that he then uttered as near as I can remember. 9, 5th, 77.

    No immediate action seems to have been had by the court. But on the 20th of November, after Bowers was discharged from prison in accordance with the order of the General Court before mentioned, the foregoing deposition was substantially confirmed by the oaths of five witnesses, and the court rendered judgment Dec. 18, 1677: ‘Benanuel Bowers and Elizabeth Bowers his wife appearing before the Court to answer the presentment of the Grand Jury for reproaching and slandering Thomas Danforth, and by their own confession convicted thereof, the Court sentenced them to be openly whipped fifteen stripes apiece, unless they pay five pounds apiece in money; and to stand committed until the sentence of the Court be executed.’

    Quakerism obtained no firm establishment in Cambridge; there is no evidence within my knowledge that it extended beyond the family of Mr. Bowers. Whether he held fast the faith through life or renounced it, and whether he maintained perpetual warfare or made his peace with the civil and ecclesiastical rulers, does not appear.27 It may be hoped, however, that the closing years of his life were peaceful. It is certain that the witnesses of his will (dated Oct. 5, 1693, and proved May 28, 1698), were John Leverett, H. C. 1680, William Brattle, H. C. 1680, Isaac Chauncy, H. C. 1693, and Joseph Baxter, H. C. 1693; of whom the first was afterwards President of Harvard College, and all the others became orthodox ministers. This fact justifies the presumption that he did not regard them as persecutors, and that they did not consider him to be an arch heretic.

    Early in 1692, a strange infatuation seized the inhabitants of Salem village, and soon spread widely. It was imagined that Satan was making a deadly assault on men through the intervention of witches. I do not propose to enter upon the general history of that tragedy;28 but as one of the victims was a child [353] of Cambridge, a brief notice of her case may be proper. Rebecca, daughter of Thomas and Rebecca Andrew, was born here, April 18, 1646, and married John Frost, June 26, 1666; he died in 1672, and she married George Jacobs, Jr., of Salem. The father of her second husband and her own daughter had already been imprisoned, and her husband had fled to escape a similar fate, when she was arrested on suspicion of witchcraft. She was long confined in prison, leaving four young children, one of them an infant, to the tender mercies of her neighbors. What made her case the more deplorable was, that she had long been partially deranged. During her confinement, her mother29 presented a petition to the court in her behalf, on account of her mental infirmity, but in vain. She then addressed to the Governor and Council a petition which is still preserved in the archives of the Commonwealth, and which deserves insertion here:—

    To his Excellency Sir William Phips, Knt., Governor, and the honorable Council now sitting in Boston, the humble petition of Rebeccah Fox of Cambridge sheweth,—

    That whereas Rebecah Jacobs (daughter of your humble petitioner) has a long time, even many months now lyen in prison for Witchcraft, and is well known to be a person crazed, distracted, and broken in mind, your humble petitioner does most humbly and earnestly seek unto your Excellency and to your Honors for relief in this case. Your petitioner, who knows well the condition of her poor daughter, together with several others of good repute and credit, are ready to offer their oaths that the said Jacobs is a woman crazed, distracted, and broken in her mind; and that she has been so these twelve years and upwards. However, for (I think) above this half year the said Jacobs has lyen in prison, and yet remains there, attended with many sore difficulties. Christianity and nature do each of them oblige your petitioner to be very solicitous in this matter; and although many weighty cases do exercise your thoughts, yet your petitioner can have no rest in her mind till such time as she has offered this her address on behalf of her daughter. Some have died already in prison, and others have been dangerously sick, and how soon others, and [354] among them my poor child, by the difficulties of this confinement, may be sick and die, God only knows. She is uncapable of making that shift for herself that others can do; and such are her circumstances on other accounts, that your petitioner, who is her tender mother, has many great sorrows and almost overcoming burthens on her mind upon her account; but in the midst of all her perplexities and troubles (next to supplicating to a good and merciful God), your petitioner has no way for help but to make this her afflicted condition known unto you. So, not doubting but your Excellency and your Honors will readily hear the cries and groans of a poor distressed woman, and grant what help and enlargement you may, your petitioner heartily begs God's gracious presence with you, and subscribes herself in all humble manner your sorrowful and distressed petitioner,

    This petition availed nothing, except perhaps to delay the trial. The poor demented woman was kept in prison until the next January, when she was indicted, tried, and acquitted. Before this January Court, a great change had occurred in the public opinion. A principal reason for such a change is mentioned by Hutchinson: ‘Ordinarily, persons of the lowest rank in life have had the misfortune to be charged with witchcrafts; and although many such had suffered, yet there remained in prison a number of women, of as respectable families as any in the towns where they lived, and several persons, of still superior rank, were hinted at by the pretended bewitched, or by the confessing witches. Some had been publicly named. Dudley Bradstreet, a justice of the peace, who had been appointed one of President Dudley's Council, and who was son to the worthy old governor, then living, found it necessary to abscond. Having been remiss in prosecuting, he had been charged by some of the afflicted as a confederate. His brother, John Bradstreet, was forced to fly also. Calef says it was intimated that Sir William Phips's lady was among the accused. It is certain that one who pretended to be bewitched at Boston, where the infection was beginning to spread, charged the Secretary of the colony of Connecticut. Mrs. Hale, wife to the minister of Beverly, was accused also; which caused her husband to alter his judgment, and to be less active in prosecutions than he had been.’31 [355]

    A few years afterwards, Mr. Hale published ‘A Modest Enquiry into the Nature of Witchcraft,’ etc., wherein he gave the reasons for his change of opinion. In this book reference is made to two cases of suspected witchcraft in Cambridge, one of which had a tragical result: ‘Another suffering in this kind was a woman of Cambridge, against whom a principal evidence was a Watertown nurse, who testified that the said Kendal32 (so was the accused called) did bewitch to death a child of Goodman Genings33 of Watertown; for the said Kendall did make much of the child, and then the child was well, but quickly changed its color and dyed in a few hours. The court took this evidence among others, the said Genings not knowing of it. But after Kendal was executed (who also denyed her guilt to the death), Mr. Rich. Brown, knowing better things of Kendall, asked said Genings if they suspected her to bewitch their child; they answered, No. But they judged the true cause of the child's death to be thus; viz., the nurse had the night before carryed out the child and kept it abroad in the cold a long time, when the red gum was come out upon it, and the cold had struck in the red gum, and this they judged the cause of the child's death. And that said Kendal did come in that day and make much of the child, but they apprehended no wrong to come to the child by her. After this the said nurse was put into prison for adultery, and there delivered of her base child; and Mr. Brown went to her, and told her it was just with God to leave her to this wickedness as a punishment for murdering Goody Kendal by her false witness bearing. But the nurse dyed in prison, and so the matter was not further inquired into.’34 ‘Another instance was at Cambridge about forty years since;35 There was a man much troubled in the night with cats, or the devil in their likeness, haunting of him; whereupon he kept a light burning, and a [356] sword by him as he lay in bed; for he suspected a widow woman to send these cats or imps by witchcraft to bewitch him. And one night as he lay in bed, a cat or imp came within his reach, and he struck her on the back; and upon inquiry heard this widow had a sore back; this confirmed his suspicion of the widow, he supposing that it came from the wound he gave the cat. But Mr. Day, the widow's chyrurgeon, cleared the matter, saying this widow came to him and complained of a sore in her back, and because she could not see it desired his help; and he found it to be a boyl, and ripened and healed it as he used to do other boyls. But while this was in cure, the supposed cat was wounded as already rehearsed.’36

    Although we are not certain to whom Mr. Hale refers in the foregoing instances of supposed witchcraft, yet one case did occur, about forty years before he wrote his ‘Modest Enquiry,’ in regard to which a circumstantial account has been preserved. William Holman resided on the northeasterly corner of Garden and Linnaean Streets (where the Botanic Garden now is); he died Jan. 8, 1652-3, aged 59, leaving a widow, Winifred, and several children, among whom was an unmarried daughter, named Mary. On the opposite side of Garden Street, and extending to Sparks Street, was an estate of six acres belonging to John Gibson, whose house was within plain view from Mrs. Holman's. Some ‘root of bitterness’ sprung up between these neighbors, and troubled them, until Mr. Gibson entered a complaint against Mrs. Holman and her daughter as witches, and a warrant of peculiar form was issued for their arrest: ‘To the Constable of Cambridge. You are required forthwith to apprehend the persons of Widow Holman and her daughter Mary, and immediately bring them before the County Court now sitting at Charlestowne, to be examined on several accusations presented, on suspicion of witchcraft; and for witnesses John Gipson and his wife; you are forthwith to bring them away, and not suffer them to speak one with another after their knowledge of this warrant, and hereof you are not to fayle at your perill. Dat. 21 (4) 1659. Thomas Danforth, R. It will be convenient that you charge some meet person to bring away the mayd first, and then you may acquaint the mother also with this warrant respecting her also.’37

    No notice of this action appears on the Records of the Court; [357] from which it may be inferred that the evidence submitted to the grand jury was not sufficient to justify an indictment. Nine months afterwards the Holmans sought legal redress for the wrongs they had suffered. This warrant was issued: ‘To the Constable of Cambridge, or his Deputy. You are hereby required to attach the goods or in want thereof the person of John Gibson Junr. of Cambridge, and take bond of him to the value of twenty pounds, with sufficient surety or suretyes for his appearance at the next County Court holden at Cambridge upon the 3 day of April next, then and there to answer the complaint of Mary Holman of Cambridge, in an action of defamation and slaunder; and so make a true return hereof under your hand. Dated this 26 of March, 16 59/60. By the court, Samuel Green.’38 Similar warrants were issued March 28, 1660, requiring John Gibson, Sen., his wife, and his daughter Rebecca, wife of Charles Stearns, to make answer to the widow Winifred Holman. Both cases seem to have been tried together. A mass of testimony is still preserved in the files of the County Court, apparently prepared by John Gibson, Sen., to be used in this trial, as a justification of the charge formerly made against Mrs. Holman and her daughter. A recital of this testimony is tedious, but it may be excused inasmuch as it shows on what frivolous grounds the charge of witchcraft was made two hundred years ago:—

    A relation of the passages between Mrs. Holman and her daughter Mary, and the wife of Charles Stearns,39 now living in Cambridge. The first thing that makes us suspect them is that after she had two extraordinary strange fits, which she never had the like before, Mary Holman asked her why she did not get some help for them, and she answered she could not tell what to do; she had used means by physicians, and could have no help. And the said Mary said that her mother said, if she would put herself into her hands, that she would undertake to cure her with the blessing of God. Our daughter telling us of it, and we not suspecting them, we wished her to go and to see what she would say to her. And she said her daughter was a prating wench and loved to prate; but yet she did prescribe some herbs to her that she should use in the spring. After this my daughter's child grew ill, and Mary Holman coming in often asked her what the child ailed; and she said moreover that her mother and she took [358] notice of it, that the child declined ever since the 5 of January, and will till it come to the grave; but if you will put it into my hands I will undertake to cure it: I cured one at Malden that had the ricketts, and if you will take a fool's counsel, you may; if you will not, choose. She said also the child fell away in the lower parts, and yet she did not see the child opened. She said also that Mr. Metchelles child had the ricketts, and it was easy to be seen, for the face did shine; but since Mr. Metchell sent to Linn for a skilful woman to look on it, and she could not see no such thing. After this, Mary Holman borrowed a skillet of her, and when she brought it home, the child was asleep in the cradle, and a boy a rocking it, and the mother of the child was gone for water; and the boy said that Mary Holman came to the child as it was asleep, and took it by the nose, and made the blood come, and set it a crying, that the mother heard it; and before she came in Mary was gone out over the sill. When she came in and saw the child in such a case, she chode the boy for making the child cry; and he said it was Mary Holman that did it and went away as fast as she could.

    After this, she was taken with her ordinary fits, two nights and two days, and was pretty well again and sensible one day; and then she was taken with a strange raving and marvellous unquiet night and day, for three or four days and nights together, and took no rest; and it was observed that all this time Mrs. Holman was walking about by her rails, stooping down and picking of the ground along as she went, and both of them walking up and down, and to and again, that it was taken notice of by many; and all this time she raged, could not be quiet, till the last day of the week in the afternoon they were gone both from home; and then she was quiet and was fast asleep till she came home, and suddenly she sprung up out of her sleep, and cried out with such rage against Mrs. Holman that she was a witch, and that she must be hanged. Her mother being amazed, she went out and see her a coming towards the house; and the nearer she came the more she raged, and so she continued all night. And in the morning, Mary Holman came in for fire, as she did every morning, and sometimes twice in a day; as soon as she came in she cried out on her that she was a witch, so that we could not still her till my wife shoved her out of door; and when they were out, Mary asked my wife what her daughter ailed, and said she was a quiet woman. Another being by, my wife answered she thought she was bewitched. Then said Mary Holman, [359] my mother said that she was not light-headed, nor her head did not ache; but she continued so still, and crying out to her mother, and said Mrs. Holman she was working wickedness on the Lord's day. With that, my wife looked out and saw Mrs. Holman a pecking by the rails, as she did of other days. When folks were gone to meeting, about half an hour after two of the clock, she went to meeting, that is, Mrs. Holman; and by that time she got to meeting as we guessed, she lay still about half an hour and then fell asleep. And of a sudden, she flings up and cried out of Mrs. Holman. My wife, not thinking they had been come home from meeting, looked out and saw her at home. Anon after, Mary Holman came to the house and said to my wife, your daughter had a sleep, had she not? and she answered her, Why do you ask? and she said, because she slept yesterday afore this time, and so she did,—but how she should come to know it, we cannot tell; for they were both times from home. On the second day in the morning, Mary came for fire; and she cried out on her as before, and continued raging almost all that day. On the third day, Mary Holman was a coming again for fire, and my wife prayed me that, if I saw her come, that I would not let her come in; and so I did; I met with her at the sill, with a bright skillet in her hand, and she asked me how my daughter did, and I said, she is not well, and I asked her whither she went with that; and she said, for fire. But I told her she should not have none here, but bid her go to some other house; upon which we took notice that that day she was very quiet, and there was such a sudden alteration to admiration to all that saw it, and so continued; but after she was more sensible of her weakness.

    Some things were forgotten:—that my daughter, before she was taken with her fits, put a pair of stockings to her, and she kept them a great while; and upon the last day of the week at night she sent them home, and she wore them on the Sabbath, and that night she had her fits, being free from them a great while before; and, as was said before, when she had had them two days and two nights, she fell into this strange condition, as before mentioned. And all this time she cried out of Mrs. Holman and her daughter Mary, that they were witches, and they must be found out, and said, you must not suffer a witch to live; and she said Mr. Danford was chosen a magistrate to find out Mrs. Holman. And when my wife went to give her some refreshing, she would not take it in, she was so troubled with Mrs. Holman, that she must be found out, that my wife told her that [360] she would get the magistrate to find her out; and it was taken notice of by my wife and others, that her countenance was changed and did eat. Thus she lay, taking on against Mrs. Holman and Mary to all that came to her, that they were witches and must be hanged; and so she told them to their faces, and could not be stilled. And many times she flung up with such rage and cried out with exceeding earnestness that Mrs. Holman was at the rails, let me go out and I will show you her; and it was so, for my wife and others looked out, and saw her there. It seemed to us very strange; for it was not possible that she could see her, for she was kept so close on her bed, and a covering hanging before her, and another before the window.

    The first great trouble that she had, she was affrighted with Satan, and thought that she saw him stand by the bed's side, so that she cried out with a loud noise, all night, to the Lord, for help, saying Lord, help me, Lord, help me, that she was heard a great way off. The second great trouble she had, she was likewise troubled with Satan appearing to her, that she was set of a great trembling that she shook the bed she lay on; and striving mightily with her body, and fighting with her hands, that two men were fain to hold her. We asked her why she fought so; and she said she fought with the devil. And ever and anon she called out of Mrs. Holman, and would have her sent for; and one that sat by said, what would you say to her? And she said, I will tell her that she is a witch. We then not suspecting her so to be, we reproved her, and wished her not to say so; but the more we forbade her, the more violent she was in so calling her, and crying out of Mrs. Holman's black chest and Mrs. Holman's cake; but what she meant by them, we cannot tell. But this last time, she was troubled with Mrs. Holman and her daughter Mary. And concerning the child, it does decline and fall away daily, according to Mary's words; and yet we cannot perceive that it is sick at all, but will suck and eat; and in the time of the mother's trouble, the child is set quite crooked in the body, which before was a straight, thriving child. Also it was taken notice of that, in the time of my daughter's trouble, that her hands were set crooked, that her husband could not get them open.

    A while after we were at the Court, she had another raging fit, wherein she was carried with rage against her parents, and her brothers and sisters, and we desired one of our brethren to pray with her; and she raged at him, and bade him get him [361] home, or she would throw something at his head; and she was so outrageous that we were fain to tie her hands. And she cried out and said a snake stung her under her arms. And when she was out of her distemper, she said she saw a thing like a great snake come into the house, with a something like a turtle upon the back, and came upon the bed to her. And another time when one of our elders was at prayer, she barked like a dog; and though we held her mouth close with our hands, yet she would speak, saying that Mrs. Holman and Mary Holman were witches, and bewitched her and her child. And sometimes she cried out against blood, that it cried and that it stunk; and we bade her hold her peace; but she said she must speak, and conscience must speak; and at last she said there was a hole of blood by the cradle.......

    The last winter before this, I was afflicted with Mrs. Holman's hens, and could not keep them out of my barn from storying my corn. I being much troubled at it spake of it to my wife; and she said, it may be the poor woman cannot keep them at home. I being thus afflicted with them, I flung a stone at one of them and killed it, and laid it upon a hovel that stood upon the common. When my wife saw it, she sent to Mrs. Holman, to see if it were one of hers, and her daughter fetched it home; and after that they troubled me no more, though they went abroad still, which we wondered at, being so constantly there every day before. After this, my wife had a brood of chickens of fifteen, which were like to do well, and did thrive for the space of one fortnight; and then they were taken with fits, and they would turn their heads upward, and turn round many times, and run about the house as if they were mad; and sometimes picking towards the ground, but not touch the ground, and sometimes they would be pretty well and eat their meat; but they died, two or three at a time, till they came to four. Likewise Mrs. Holman had a white cock, that went a grazing about the common every day in the summer time, between the pond and the house, without any hens with him; and we taking notice of him asked Mary Holman wherefore that cock went so alone; and she said, that the hens did not care for him, nor he cared not for them; and she said, moreover, that he was seven years old. Then we asked her, why they would keep him; and she said, she could not tell; her mother would keep him. And soon after that, we saw him no more. Also there was a bird that was taken notice of, not only of us but of some others; such a one as they nor we ever saw before. [362] It was all milk-white, save only a little gray on the wings. My son, being told of such a bird, did look to see if he could see it, and did see it, and threw stones at it, but could not hit it, although it were very near him. And when it rose up, it would fly to Mrs. Holman's house. So likewise when those that saw it first flung stones at it, it would always fly thither; and sometimes they said they saw it fly into the house. They had taken notice of it a week before we did; and when son and I went to mend up the fence that was before my daughter's house, the bird was skipping about the rails; My son said, here is the devilishest bird that ever I saw in my life; and I asked him why he did so; and he said, I never threw half so often at a bird in his life but he did hit it, but this I cannot hit; and he flung again at it, but could not hit it; and we both of us see it fly to Mrs. Holman's house. The same day my son and the other persons saw it again; and they hunted it about and flung stones at it; and it flying thither again, one of them called out, saying, the bird was gone home; and two of them resolved the next day to get their guns and see if they could shoot it. Mrs. Holman came out of her house, and looked on them, and in likelihood heard what they said, for they were near the house; but since that time the bird have not been seen. In this time, my daughter Starnes, going out of her house within evening, saw this bird under her house-sill. She thought at first it had been a cat; but she, going towards it, perceived it was a white bird, and it did fly along by the house-side, and so away to Mrs. Holman's. It was seen another evening, when it was too late for birds to be abroad, between my daughter's house and the rails.

    My wife have been much troubled with her wheel, when she have set herself to spin, for the necessity of her family. Sometimes she could not make no work of it; she thought at first it might be out of kilter, and we both used what means we could with it; but it was never the better, but was fain to set it away, and go about some other work; and when she took it again, it would go very well, and thus it was very often; and sometimes, when she could make no work with it, she would set it away, and not so much as unband it, and take it again and not alter it at all, and it would go very well. One time amongst the rest, she set herself to work, and was much troubled that she could make no work of it, she began to fear that there might be something that might be the cause of it; she set her wheel away, and went out, and saw Mary Holman at the oak, turning round; and when [363] she saw my wife, she catched up a chip; and that caused her to fear that it might be by their means. Another time she was a spinning, and as it was wont so it did again, that she was so affected with it that she could have cried; and sitting still, with her wheel before her, saying thus to herself, “ Lord, thou hast commanded me to labor, but I am hindered; good Lord, if there be any hand of Satan in it, prevent it;” with some other words, and went to spinning again, and it went as well as ever.

    At another time, when my daughter was not very well, my wife went out and saw Mary Holman sitting on her knees at a hole of water; she took up water in a dish, and held it up a pretty height, and drained into another thing. My wife went presently to her daughter and found her crying so immoderately that the tears fell so fast from her eyes that my wife was fain to stand and wipe them off her face with her apron. And her mother asked her wherefore she cried; and she said she could not tell, but she said she could not forbear it. Concerning what our daughter have seen and felt in the time of her affliction, she can declare, if she be called to it.

    Following this long and tedious statement (with much more to the same purpose), is a recapitulation of the same facts, with the names of the witnesses by whom they might be proved. Their deposition is authenticated by the Recorder of the Court: ‘4 (2) 1660. Jno. Gibson, senr., Rebeccah Gibson, Jno. Gipson, junr., Rebecca Sternes, Martha Belsher, Bethia Michelson, Charles Sternes, Steven ffrances, sworn in Court to their respective evidences; as attests, th. Danforth, R.’

    In defence of her character as an honest, Christian woman, Mrs. Holman submitted two certificates, which yet remain on file, signed by two of the deacons,40 and several members of the church: ‘We, whose names are underwritten, we do here testify that Winifret Holman, we having been acquainted with her this many years, she being near neighbor unto us, and many times have had occasion to have dealings with her, and we have not indeed in the least measure perceived, either by words or deeds, any thing whereby we could have any grounds or reason to suspect her for witchery or any thing thereunto tending. And this is evident unto us that she is diligent in her calling, and frequents public preaching, and gives diligent attention thereunto. John Palfery, Mathew Bridge, Richard Eccles, ffrancis Whitmor, John Greene, Nathaniell Green, William Diksone.’ [364] ‘We, who have here subscribed our names, do testify that we have known this Winnefret Holman, widow, this many years, but never knew any thing in her life concerning witchery. But she hath always been a diligent hearer of and attender to the word of God. Mary Patten, Mary Hall, Jane Willows, Anna Bridge, Elizabeth Bridg, Elizabeth Green, Jeane Diksonne, Elizabeth Winship, Thomas Fox, Ellin Fox, William Towne, Martha Towne, Mary Eccles, Isobell Whittmor, John Bridge, Rebekka Wieth, Gregory Stone, Lidea Stone.’

    The result of the trial is entered on the County Court Records: ‘Winifred Holman, Plt. against John Gibson senr. and his wife, in an action of defamation; the jury having heard their respective pleas and evidences presented in the case do bring in their verdict, finding for the defendants costs of court, fifteen shillings and ten pence.—Winifred Holman, Plt. against Rebecca the wife of Charles Sternes, Deft., in an action of defamation; the jury having heard their respective pleas and evidences presented in the case, and it appearing to the court that the defendant was by God's hand deprived of her natural reason when she expressed those words charged on her, do bring in their verdict for the defendant, costs of court, eight shillings and four pence.’ The decision in the other case I copy from the original verdict, preserved on file, as it is more full and circumstantial than the record: ‘Concerning the case between Marye Holman, plaintive and John Gibson, junr. defendant, we find for the plaintive, that the said John Gibson shall make acknowledgement that he hath wronged and scandalously slandered Marye Holman, by speeches irregularly, rashly, and sudden spoken, for which he desire to be humbled and sorry for the same; and if he refuse to make this acknowledgement in the present court, that then we do enjoin John Gibson to pay to the plaintive the full sum of five pounds; and we also give the plaintive cost of court.’ To which the Recorder appended this memorandum: ‘John Gibson junr. acknowledged in court that, whereas he is legally convicted of a slanderous speech concerning Mary Holman, he is heartily sorry for his evil thereby committed against God, and wrong done to the said Mary Holman and her friends, and doth crave forgiveness of the said Mary Holman of this trespass.’

    It does not appear that either of these persons was ever afterwards disturbed on suspicion of practising the diabolical arts of witchcraft. Mrs. Holman died Oct. 16, 1671, aged 74; her daughter Mary died, unmarried, in 1673, aged 43.

    1 Mather's Magnalia, Book III., ch. v., § 12.

    2 Mass. Col. Rec., i. 211, 212.

    3 Magnalia, ut sup.

    4 Mr. Bowers married, Dec. 9, 1653, Elizabeth Dunster, whom the President, in his will, styles ‘my cousin Bowers.’

    5 Up to this time Mr. Bowers had reresided in Cambridge, near the junction of North Avenue and Milk Street. Soon afterwards he received from his father a deed of twenty acres in Charlestown, now Somerville, adjoining ‘Cambridge line,’ on which lot he probably resided during the remainder of his life; yet in almost all respects his relations continued to be more intimate with Cambridge than with Charlestown.

    6 Hutchinson's Hist. Mass., i. 203, 204.

    7 New England judged, etc., p. 376.

    8 Ibid., p. 377.

    9 Ibid., p. 383.

    10 Ibid., p. 414.

    11 Ibid., p. 415.

    12 New England judged, etc., p. 418.

    13 Ibid., p. 467.

    14 The date 1662 is affixed to Elizabeth Hooton's first visit and imprisonment, by Sewell, in his History of the Quakers, p. 327.

    15 Sufferings of the Quakers, by Joseph Besse, pp. 260-264.

    16 He was also fined, in 1666, for entering the meeting-house with his hat on his head; in 1670, for saying ‘I dare as well come to an Image among the heathen as to your worship;’ in 1673 for slandering and reviling the Court, and for servile labor on the Lord's Day; and in 1676, for ‘profane and wicked cursing.’— County Court Records and Files.

    17 County Court Files, 1677.

    18 County Court Files, 1677.

    19 Mass. Col. Rec., v. 153.

    20 County Court Records.

    21 Mass. Col. Rec., v. 168.

    22 As these documents are autographs, the orthography is preserved.

    23 Fifteen more lines were written; but they are so mutilated as to be illegible.

    24 The paper was rent asunder, and was reunited by being pasted upon another sheet of the same size. In their efforts to consume the paste, the worms have not spared the paper.

    25 The initials of Edward Rawson, Secretary.

    26 John Danforth, H. C. 1677, son of Rev. Samuel Danforth of Roxbury, was afterwards pastor of the church in Dorchester.

    27 The Court Records indicate that as late as June, 1682, he was fined for nonattendance on public worship, and that in April, 1681, both he and his son George were fined for the same offence. His wife seems to have been tolerated in her heresy during her old age, for her testimony was received in Court, Dec. 26, 1693, notwithstanding ‘she being a Quaker took no oath.’

    28 ‘The mischief began at Salem in February; but it soon extended into various parts of the Colony. The conatgion, however, was principally the County of Essex. Before the close of September, nineteen persons were executed and one pressed to death, all of whom asserted their innocence.’— Holmes' Amer. Annals, i. 438.

    29 Thomas Andrew, the father of Mrs. within Jacobs, died about 1647, and his widow married Nicholas Wyeth; he died July 19, 1680, and she married Thomas Fox, Dec. 16, 1685; she died in 1698.

    30 Mass. Arch., CXXXV. 76.

    31 Hist. Mass., II. 60. Hutchinson adds: ‘At the Court in January, the grand jury found bills against about fifty for witchcraft, one or two men, the rest women; but upon trial they were all acquitted, except three of the worst characters, and those the governor reprieved for the king's mercy. All that were not brought upon trial he ordered to be discharged. Such a goal delivery was made this court as has never been known at any other time in New England.’

    32 I cannot certainly identify this person. The only known early inhabitant of Cambridge bearing this name was John Kendall, who resided on the south side of the river, and married Elizabeth, widow of Samuel Holley, before Sept. 8, 1646, when the estate was sold to Edward Jackson; but whether this were the woman mentioned by Hale is problematical

    33 The reference is probably to Robert Jennison, who died July 4, 1690, or to his son Samuel Jennison, who died Oct. 15, 1701.

    34 A Modest Enquiry, etc., pp. 18, 19.

    35 It is not known to what case of supposed witchcraft Mr. Hale here refers. Mrs. Holman was accused at about the date indicated, but the circumstances of the two cases were different

    36 A Modest Enquiry, etc., pp. 64, 65.

    37 Copied from the original in the files of the County Court, 1659.

    38 Court Files, 1660.

    39 The orthography of this testimony is corrected, except that proper names are left unchanged. Mrs. Stearns was daughter of John Gibson, Sen., subject to fits, and partially demented.

    40 John Bridge and Gregory Stone.

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