delivered to
The Chicago Literary Club
March 5, 2001

In our contemporary fictional literary scene witches and warlocks have been presented in a new and attractive form in the Harry Potter series written by the clever Scottish author J. K. Rowling. Her accounting of the magic powers used by her characters to play special games and work for good against the many evil forces is a very modern interpretation of witch activity. But "working for good" has not been the historical way witches have been regarded.

The definition of a witch has never been clear. Witches have been described throughout recorded history, although in different time periods the definition has changed its emphasis making it very difficult to arrive at a precise list of witch characteristics. It is generally accepted that witches are female and it is very unlikely that witch characteristics would be identified in a young, physically attractive and socially poised person. So the definition focuses on older women who are physically plain and show borderline social acceptance. Adding to these features is the fact that a witch is believed to have special powers which in some minds is gained hereditarily and in other minds achieved by self development, or a combination of both. In primitive cultures and in Classical Greek and Roman times the special powers of witches were used to inflict appropriate punishment on men who performed unacceptable sexual acts, by poisoning them or using magical powers to cause subsequent impotence or infertility. Witches were also said to be master herbalists and able to generate effective love potions. Whether their powers were herbal, medicinal or whether they were able to generate a truly magical power to accomplish these alterations in sexual performance is not clearly stated. Societal outcry was minimal in these early times and witches were only mildly punished.

As monotheism grew the Church Councils debated whether certain aspects of witchcraft overlapped with heresy. Thomas Aquinas strongly maintained that any magical power was heretical because it was obtained by an individual arrangement with the Devil or a primitive god. These activities were taken more seriously in Southern Europe where altering sexual performance was considered to be a more serious offense. Up to 1230 A.D. most people had serious doubts as to whether there was real magical power available to anybody for use in changing sexual performance. In the next 200 years these doubts began to lessen and then vanish. As the power of the Inquisition grew, heresy and witchcraft were thought to be combined and methods of gathering evidence against the heretic were brutal. It was considered perfectly acceptable to torture individuals until they confessed and this was achieved in almost 100% of cases. There were only a few individuals with the inner strength to resist the physically painful torture of thumb screws or bending the body on the rack and not confess. The Inquisition established the belief that there was a great recrudescence of witchcraft across Europe and that witchcraft powers were obtained by individuals making a contract with the Devil. So now the common people believed there were certain women with powers obtained by special pacts with Satan. The Church pointed out that witches had been described in the Old Testament, leading to universal acceptance that the magic of witchcraft was heretical.

Some witches were called striga witches and they were the most malignant ones that could fly like birds of prey and kill children or handsome young men. Most people still felt this kind of witch was pure superstition and thought to be present only in the far eastern parts of Europe. Real witches were thought by people in western Europe to be women with special powers to affect animals or humans, and these individuals were seen to violate the civil rights of the affected surrounding citizens. Trials of witches first occurred in both ecclesiastic and civil tribunals, then later only in civil courts. In 16th century England and later in its colonies the powerful techniques of the Inquisitors were modified by requiring that no torture could be used to obtain confessions of witchcraft Yet many of the methods used to identify witches were modified torture such as taking a needle and pricking the entire nude body surface of the accused looking for the areas of diminished sensitivity which were said to be present on witches, or feeling all over the nude body surface looking for little skin folds identified as witches' tits. The accused were also thrown into prison and fed very poorly as a method of obtaining confessions.

Elizabeth the First's second parliament passed a law which made it a crime for any person to kill or injure by the use of witchcraft. In the law there is no definition of what witchcraft is. According to the church bishops at that time, witchcraft was the use of supernatural powers given to a person by a pact with the Devil. This law was proposed and then passed by the landlords in Parliament who wished to rid their manors of freethinking women who nursed the sick and tended to be the ones most voiciferous in defying local authority trying to make life easier for the tenant farmers. The first person tried with the new law was Elizabeth Lowys of Essex, the wife of a tenant farmer. She was a health giver and herbalist caring for the sick. The head of the local church felt this woman to be a threat to his teachings because of her preChristian healing techniques. She was charged with killing three men by witchcraft and causing spells in a local boy. The boy's parents did not accuse her of witchcraft as she was a positive helpful member of the local community. Nonetheless, this first English "witch" was tried, convicted and hung in March 1565.

Fifty five years later in 1620 the Calvinist group called Separatists, or Brownists named after Robert Brown, landed at Plymouth and faced a most precarious existence with wilderness and threatening Indians in all directions. In facing these challenges many Pilgrims realized that the strict Calvinist ways were very restrictive and so they adopted a more free living life style. A decade later the Puritans began to immigrate to New England bringing not only farmers and artisans but also a number of more prosperous and educated Englishmen. These Puritans in contrast to the Separatists insisted that they were still members of the Church of England, but they believed in introducing major reforms in that church, getting back to more restrictive Protestant beliefs. These Puritans were interested in founding a Bible Commonwealth made up of many communities following the principles of this reformed faith. This purified Christian faith could be practiced by communities of "saints" who could expect eternal salvation, and, of course, gives rise to the name by which we know them.

Winthrop, a major Puritan leader in New England, wrote "every man might have need of others, and from hence they might all be knit more nearly together in the bonds of brotherly affection". They were a chosen people who had to work very closely together to survive in this hostile new world. The Colony was set up as a business, The Massachusetts Bay Company. It was made up of many communities whose leaders, their magistrates, gathered in Boston to maintain civil government and social order. Most of the magistrates were the vicars, so the Colony governance and the Colony religious beliefs were very closely intertwined.

One of the early Puritan settlers was Roger Williams, a most formidable figure. He was in a sense more puritanical than the Puritans because he believed the Puritans should separate from the godless and corrupt Church of England, which is what the original Pilgrims had wished. Unhappy in Boston, Williams first went to Plymouth working as a laborer and part time cleric. Then he moved to Salem where he charged the Puritans with having usurped Indian lands for their own gain. These charges were only partly correct and the magistrates reprimanded Williams but Williams continued his contentious pronouncements. The magistrates again called him in and forced him to surrender his pulpit in Salem. Williams said the Massachusetts congregations were "ulcerated and gangrened". He lived the winter of 1635 with the Indians and then moved to Rhode Island. Once there he started his tiny settlement where no one was required to attend church services and each could follow his own conscience in matters of religion. The church and town governance were totally separate. This fortunately became the model for the future United States. It is interesting to speculate that if Williams had been able to hold his pulpit in Salem, his views separating theological activity from governance might have prevented the later witch crisis in Salem village.

Three years later there was a challenge from Anne Hutchinson who accused the magistrates as being more agents of the devil than the true lord. John Winthrop and the magistrates tried her for heresy and banished her south to Newport, Rhode Island. She and her family were later massacred by Indians on Long Island. The Boston Puritans quickly stated that she got what she deserved and it showed that God was definitely on the side of the Puritans.

New England was organized in townships roughly six miles square with a village surrounding the "commons", which was a central community grazing ground, with the church and community meeting house facing the commons. Town meetings elected town officers and the sheriff, and raised taxes and tried to resolve any problems present in the community. Many communities set up different rules than those pronounced by the General Court in Boston. The people of such communities were very dependent upon each other. Individuals interacted by means of the sale of goods or labor or by barter for other goods or labor. One's ability to generate remunerative trades was economically necessary, but generosity was needed as well since all these dealings were seen and known throughout the whole community.

Scattered episodes of witch trials and hangings occurred throughout New England from the middle sixteen hundreds. The only escape for the accused or condemned was to confess and claim to negate the pact with the Devil or to escape south out of New England to New York or Pennsylvania where witchcraft was not punished. Most of the accused were not wealthy enough to escape south fast enough to stay ahead of the sheriff sent to detain them.

In Boston in 1688 the middle four children of John Goodwin, a devout Puritan mason, were besieged by "diabolical possession" evidenced by episodes of great pain and body contortions, and barking or purring at each other like cats and dogs. Their minister, Charles Morton, and his friend, the young minister of Boston's second Church Cotton Mather, came to pray with and for the children: Martha, thirteen, John eleven, Mercy seven, and Benjamin five. Cotton Mather described the episodes of "possession" and was with others entirely convinced that the "possession" was an act of witchcraft. In retrospect it does seem odd that the episodes of pain and body distortion only occurred at the Goodwin house and became particularly manifest when the family or outsiders were offering prayers or religious services. They never had spells between dinner and breakfast and the children slept well all night. It is also interesting that if the eldest had abdominal pain, the other three did too, when another developed head pain, so did the others, and so on with similar pains at the same time. To a modern eye it would seem that the children were acting out in rebellion against the strict Puritan religious environment. At the time the elder child began to say her tortures were secondary to the witchcraft of Mary Grover, the mother of the family laundress. She was Irish Catholic and indeed admitted to practicing image magic and on investigation puppets were found in her house. She certainly did not show proper respect for Puritan ideals and answered questions quite abrasively. Doctors were called in to judge whether she was mentally competent. They judged that she was. The Goodwin parents chose the course of prayer and good behavior to fight the devil in their household. This course just made the tortures of the children worse. Eventually Mary Grover was hanged as a witch in November 1688 but not surprisingly the affected children still had their episodes of painful bodily contortions until each was removed from their home to live elsewhere. Eventually all the Goodwin children survived and seemed to outgrow their difficulties.

The Goodwin children's trials and the accusation, conviction, and execution of Mary Grover of course were common knowledge throughout the Puritan colony and in some ways set up the Salem witch trials which occurred four years later.

Now it is time to relate my personal connection to the Salem witch episode with the brief biography of Elizabeth Jackson Howe, my sixth great grandmother. Elizabeth Jackson was born in the hamlet of Hunsley near Rowley in East Yorkshire ten miles west of Hull on the Humber River. Her family were parishioners of the 13th century St Peter's Church in Rowley. Her parents William Jackson and Joan Collin were married in St Peter's Church in May 1636. They were farmers.

Elizabeth was born in May of 1637 and she was christened in St Peter's on May 19th. Ezekiel Rogers was the minister. He had become the Rector of Rowley in 1621 and he was a staunch Puritan, one among those whose beliefs were gaining ground in England because some people thought the Reformation had not gone far enough and the Church of England was too lax. The Puritans were still few and widely scattered but many came to St Peter's and Ezekiel Rogers' parish was quite active and successful.

Rowley was in the archdiocese of York and its Archbishop until 1628 was Tobias Mathew, a man of strong Puritan sympathies. He supported Ezekiel Rogers but his successor was hostile to Puritan beliefs and Rogers' position steadily became more difficult. The breaking point came when Rogers was ordered to read from the pulpit the accursed book of sports which encouraged young people to play games on the Sabbath day which was an anathema to Puritan belief. Ezekiel Rogers began planning his emigration to The Massachusetts Bay Colony with as many of his followers as wished to join him. This happened in the spring of 1638. Elizabeth was one year old and had just become the older sister of recently born John.

The immigrant families met and planned together. They sold their farms and goods, keeping only farm equipment and a few things from their houses. They contributed funds to the general treasury held by their leader, the shrewd and competent Ezekiel Rogers. Their future land grants in Massachusetts would be based on how much they had contributed to the project. The Jacksons were in the group of lesser contributors. Space on the transatlantic ship was very limited so important decisions had to be made concerning what could be taken and what needed to be sold. Most of the families were young with young children.

In June 1638 the group of emigrants packed their carts and proceeded to Hull, the walled city on the Humber River. It is interesting to note that it was when Hull refused to admit Charles the First to their city, four years later, that the English Civil War began. If Rogers had been able to foresee the successful Puritan outcome in the Civil War, he and his followers would not have embarked upon the dangerous long journey they had now started.

The group spent several days by the river in Hull finalizing their readiness to board ship. They then embarked on a chartered merchant ship named "John" of about 200 tons displacement. Besides the Rowley group there was one other Puritan minister, the Reverend Jose Glover, with his household and a printing press destined to be the first brought to the northern colonies. Altogether the John had about one hundred passengers (70 adults and 30 children). Baggage was in the hold and all passengers were in the between-decks space. The dangers of small pox and scurvy were ever present on the journey. The actual time of this passage is not recorded, probably around 8 weeks. Only one death occurred while at sea and it was the Reverend Glover. Personal hygiene must have been a problem and the Jacksons with a one year old and an infant to care for in these crowded conditions must have had real difficulties.

In August 1638 the John landed at Salem where the new arrivals were welcomed. The Jacksons and the rest of the Rowley group went to Boston where they lived with families through the winter of 1638-39 helping with household and farming chores. By spring 1639 the Rowley group gained permission from the General Court of The Massachusetts Bay Colony to establish a "plantation" settlement between Ipswich, founded in 1633, and Newbury, founded in 1635, along the Atlantic coast north of Gloucester, twenty five miles north of Boston.

With this permission the Rowley group turned down invitations from other previously established settlements since they wished to establish their own community. They called it Rowley after Reverend Rogers' original parish in East Yorkshire. House lots and properties were laid out along the town brook giving each family access to fresh water. There were now sixty families, some being additions of people who had already immigrated and were related to those on the John. Those families who made the largest original contributions got four acre lots, those contributing the least got one and one half acre lots. The Jackson's small lot was on both the north and south sides of Bradford Street just where Narrow lane enters it, quite far out on the west side of the new Rowley settlement. It was one and one half acres but by 1652 the Jacksons owned 12 acres in the settlement, mostly by the addition of their share of the common land used for pasture.

Rowley established itself without difficulty as the settlers were hardworking and conscientious people. William Jackson was soon appointed overseer of the common ways which meant he was in charge of all the town's public roads and could call on fellow townspeople to help him build or maintain the roads. He was a farmer and was able to support his family The town soon raised sheep and developed a water power driven mill to weave and finish both woolen and cotton cloth. All the houses contained spinning wheels to generate thread for the mill. The houses were small by our standard with a large single room on the first floor having a large open fireplace for cooking, a spinning wheel, and table for eating. Off this might be a parental bedroom, and children slept in the attic up a ladder from the great room or "hall". Outside were gardens, outhouse, and on the common ground sheep and cattle. Nearby in the woods were Indians, who in 1676 killed the leader of the town militia and several militia members. Also in the woods were deer, bear, fox and wolves.

By 1644 Elizabeth Jackson is described as a "maid" in Ezekiel Rogers' house. It is hard to know what this means, but at age 7 years it is unlikely that she was much of a house servant. She may have been living there learning to be a servant. Another possibility is that since the Jacksons were not strong church attenders (William never became a freeman of the town which was often secondary to church membership) and Elizabeth's younger brother was charged with Sabbath breaking, a serious offense in the Puritan community, perhaps Elizabeth was in the Reverend's house to teach her better ways. A third possibility is that Elizabeth's mother was about to give birth to her fourth child and Reverend Rogers may have taken Elizabeth in temporarily to relieve the household.

We have little knowledge of Elizabeth's education. The Massachusetts Bay Colony started compulsory elementary education in public schools in 1647, so she probably had some formal education. When Elizabeth returned home she certainly helped her mother care for her three younger siblings and helped her father with farming and gardening. The Jacksons were now entitled to 25 acres of town land for cultivation and grazing which was much more than they had had in East Yorkshire.

Life for teenage children was pretty gloomy in the Puritan colonies. Sabbath was strictly regulated with long services and lectures. Town bylaws required the appointment of overseers to inspect each house on the Sabbath to ensure that the Lord's Day was being properly observed. There were compulsory lectures during the week and lots of hard work to accomplish. Life was not easy.

In 1658 when she was twenty one years old Elizabeth was married to James Howe who came from the neighboring town of Ipswich, four miles away to the southeast. There was much social interaction between Rowley and Ipswich, which had been founded only six years before Rowley, although the exact circumstances which brought Elizabeth and James together are not recorded. James was a little older than Elizabeth and totally blind. Elizabeth moved to a section of Ipswich called Topsfield, very close to Salem. Her marriage seems to have been successful. She had five children: Elizabeth 1661, Mary 1664, John (my fifth great grandfather) 1671, Abigail 1673 and Deborah 1685. Her last child was born when she was forty eight. She stayed in close touch with her parents and her father gave his son-in-law a parcel of land he owned in West Rowley. James Howe and the children were devoted to Elizabeth from all accounts. Yet a woman in these early colonial times running a household and carrying out extra duties and activities because her husband was blind might have given the impression of being a busy body, over-extending her activities, and making decisions well beyond the accepted level for a retiring domestic Puritan housewife. Elizabeth apparently was not a submissive female figure. She had to take strong positions to safeguard the interests of her blind husband and the children. She did have the gift of attracting children to herself and is described as always having many more than her own in tow both in her daily activities and in attendance at story telling and other entertainments.

The problem began in 1682 with neighbors in Topsfield, the Perleys. Sam Perley from Ipswich had married Ruth Trumble from Rowley six years after the Howes' marriage. Ruth Trumble was related by marriage to Elizabeth as Elizabeth's youngest sister Deborah had married John Trumble in Rowley. So Elizabeth and Mrs. Trumble were sisters-in-law. Apparently the trouble began when the Perleys 10 year old daughter, Hannah, who had previously been part of Elizabeth's childrens group in the Howe household, became ill. She was subject to periodic fits and while in the fit would sometimes accuse Elizabeth for causing her illness through witchcraft. Hannah's parents certainly picked up or generated this message as did her siblings when the accusation against Elizabeth was made in 1682. The Puritan minister, the Reverend Samuel Phillips, and his assistant the Reverend Edward Payson in Rowley were skeptics of the witchcraft craze which had come over from Puritan England. They contrived to bring Elizabeth to Hannah's house just as she was recovering from one of her fits. The Reverends asked Hannah if Elizabeth was responsible for her affliction and Hannah denied that Elizabeth Howe had any guilt for her fits and added that if during her fits she had accused Elizabeth of witchcraft she was unaware of it. Then one of her brothers who was standing nearby urged Hannah to name Elizabeth as a witch but she would not do so.

The accusation was made in 1682 but for the next ten years there was no action resulting from it. Elizabeth did continue to try to be admitted into the Ipswich church but was unsuccessful. Her relation to the community was damaged and her activities became more limited to family. Hannah, the Perley daughter, went on to die several years after the original accusation was made.

Toward the end of that ten years in nearby Salem village a number of unnatural or unexplained events had taken place and members of the town were severely frightened about their future survival. This kind of uncertainty and personal fright occurs especially when a rather tightly interdependent village group suddenly evolves to a point where individuals have more personal freedom to follow their own course and not spend their full efforts in fitting into the community as they had done before. This plus the simple fact that there was a group of prepubertal girls who had listened to a Barbados slave, Tituba, working in the minister's house who ranted about black magic and satanism. The girls learned that by having screaming spasms and accusing women of witchcraft, all the adults started paying attention to them. As their importance grew so did the number of their accusations. The evidence they stated was always "spectral" saying that they had seen ghosts looking like this or that witch. Then, when the accused was brought into their presence, the girls' fits stopped when they were touched by the accused. This showed that the accused had witch-like power to stop their suffering. These same girls from Salem village were invited to several nearby towns to identify witches in those towns, which they happily did. Almost all of the accused were middle-aged women who probably were a little more independent and intelligent than the average Puritan housewife of the time.

Sir William Phipps, the newly arrived Governor, found The Massachusetts Bay Colony in a turmoil with many accused witches but no trials had taken place. Under Common Law the accused had to be tried in civil court and on conviction the punishment was death. The Governor immediately appointed a special court "ayer et terminer" in March 1692 which was to move to different towns in the Colony and set up preliminary hearings and then conduct trials to deal with the broadly felt threat presented by the widespread evil magical powers of witchcraft.

Another powerful influence at this time was Cotton Mather, the young Puritan theologian in Boston. Unfortunately for the Colony his more sensible father, Increase Mather, had temporarily gone back to England. Cotton Mather, a well read theologian, held the Puritan idea that the hand of God could be found in all things and this was accompanied by the vivid awareness that the evils of Satan and his minions were not far behind. So Cotton Mather preached that firm control of witchcraft was necessary for the survival of the Colony and he endorsed the hearings and trials, advised the judges and gave eulogies after the hangings. Eventually Increase Mather came back and helped to stem the witchcraft frenzy, in the fall of 1692. But in the spring and summer of 1692 the views of Cotton Mather were dominant.

The evidence presented at the time of accusation, preliminary hearing or trial was always "spectral" evidence. The damaged person or persons said they had seen the image of the accused in a dream, or heard the accused make a remark which later indicated that the accused had initiated damage toward a neighbor or a neighbor's animals, or the accused stopped the fits of girls which indicated that the witch had magical powers. None of this was real provable factual information. Statements such as this would be quickly dismissed from a hearing or trial in modern times. Yet in those times of changing societal relationships and with the Puritan fear of evil, such evidence was accepted.

So now the ten year old accusation of witchcraft was revived and Elizabeth was called for a hearing and put in prison for trial. Despite the malignancy of the period Elizabeth did have friends and family who tried to support and defend her. Never did her blind husband or her children change their loving feelings towards her. They walked miles twice a week to visit her in prison, bringing her things to eat and objects to provide her comfort. Generally the imprisoned accused witches were very harshly treated, starved and repeatedly examined for insensitive skin areas or roughly palpated looking for "witches nipples". One of the purposes of this mistreatment was to get a confession of guilt from the accused. If such could be obtained then all the spectral evidence could be overlooked and punishment or self-avowed denial of further use of witchcraft could be achieved. Elizabeth never confessed and always proclaimed she was innocent of any witch behavior. Many of the accused did confess and so survived by promising to give up witchcraft. Charles Upham, a witch historian, concluded that "the bearing of Elizabeth Howe under accusations so cruelly and shamefully fabricated and circulated against her, exhibits one of the most beautiful pictures of a truly forgiving spirit and of Christlike love anywhere to be found".

At Elizabeth's trial on June 30th, 1692, James Howe, her father-in-law who was then ninety four years old, presented a letter to the court commending Elizabeth as a careful, loving, obedient and especially kind person who looked after his blind son and their children.

The minister and his assistant from Rowley described their bringing Elizabeth to the Purley house and not getting anything but denial of Elizabeth's involvement in Hannah's spells or fits. Many of Elizabeth's neighbors who had known her for more than twenty years came forward to testify that "her words and actions were always such as well became a good Christian". Two couples, the Chapmans and Knowltons, said they had never heard her speak against those who were accusing her and had heard her say "indeed I pray that God would forgive them for they harm themselves more than me".

The minister and his assistant from Rowley described their bringing Elizabeth to the Purley house and not getting anything but denial of Elizabeth's involvement in Hannah's spells or fits. Many of Elizabeth's neighbors who had known her for more than twenty years came forward to testify that "her words and actions were always such as well became a good Christian". Two couples, the Chapmans and Knowltons, said they had never heard her speak against those who were accusing her and had heard her say "indeed I pray that God would forgive them for they harm themselves more than me".

At her trial Elizabeth Howe was one of five women in the first Salem witch trial. This took place in Salem village now renamed Danvers, Massachusetts. First there were the usual swooning girls who revived miraculously when Elizabeth touched them. Then there was an accounting by so-called damaged individuals who said they had been visited in their dreams by ghosts who claimed they had been killed by Elizabeth. These statements were recounted in Cotton Mather's report of the trial. Also in the trial it was noted that Elizabeth had not been admitted to the Ipswich church despite several applications and that "mischiefs" had fallen upon some of those opposed to her applications. It was also claimed that she had bewitched Joseph Safford's wife into actively supporting her, but when later Mrs. Safford was visited by shapes in Elizabeth's image she retracted her support.

Next John Howe, Elizabeth's brother-in-law, came forward saying Elizabeth had asked him to accompany her to a pretrial hearing. He refused and alleged that immediately thereafter some of his cattle leaped three to four feet in the air and fell bewitched to their death. Later authors point out that Elizabeth's husband's property might be inherited by Elizabeth. If Elizabeth were put out of the way John Howe might inherit her land. It is appropriate to ask: Did John covet James Howe's property? Nehemiah Abbott, husband of Mary Howe, Elizabeth's sister-in-law, also charged that Elizabeth bewitched cattle. A possible motivation for this accusation is less clear.

Cotton Mather describes other "trivial" evidence involving choked and lamed cattle, and altered barrels of drink allegedly spoiled by Elizabeth. Finally the Perleys, Hannah's family, who had been the main agents responsible for the original accusation ten years before, came forward. Now Mr. Perley described helping a transporter bring a load of posts and rails to James Howe but because he, Mr. Perley, was not in Elizabeth's favor all the received posts and rails disintegrated when used. Why the court thought Elizabeth would damage posts and rails brought to her husband I do not know. Then several confessed penitent witches affirmed that Elizabeth Howe had been one of them baptized by the Devil in the river at Newbury Falls.

This was the trial and Elizabeth was convicted of being a witch and sentenced to death by hanging which was carried out three weeks later on July 19, 1692, along with the four other accused witches. The court had convicted all who were brought before it without exception. One accused, Rebecca Nurse, was found not guilty at first, but the immediate popular outcry from the afflicted quickly caused the judge to charge the jury to reconsider and they then changed the verdict to guilty.

After the conviction one of Elizabeth's daughters went to Boston to seek executive clemency but this was refused.

On July 12th William Stoughton signed the death warrants for Sarah Good, Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Sarah Wildes and Elizabeth Howe. Two were 70 and 71 years old, two in their fifties and one in her late thirties. Good, Martin, and Howe had been accused of being witches some years previously and Susanna Martin, a widow, had rather enjoyed the notoriety of being considered a witch. All the others besides Sarah Good were intelligent, pious, devout, Puritan women. Sarah Good was shrewish, idle, and slovenly, was said to spread small pox, beg and damage property by setting fire to hay with her pipe. Another interesting common theme not often brought up is the fact that Nurse, Wildes and Howe were publicly on the anti-Salem village side of a civil dispute where both Salem village and Topsfield-Ipswich claimed property lying between the two townships. A court had made the mistake of, at different times, assigning the disputed property to each township and during the witch craze, power was with the Salem village group with the great help of their vicar Reverend Perry. It is not beyond possibility that these three women were charged and hung in Salem village's effort to express its power and gain this disputed property for itself.

The Salem witch trials took place in Salem Village, and the carrying out of the punishment, hanging, took place in Salem, by the ocean, purportedly on "Gallows Hill" in west Salem. This limestone ridge still carries the name "Gallows Hill". Most of the contemporary accounts of the hangings describe the site as high up in open air taking place there because the Devil was supposed to control the air and so hanging the witches in the Devil's air was an affront to the Devil's power.

In the early 1920's a man by the name of Sidney Perley wrote an eighteen page account of where the Salem witches were really hanged. The author's name is spelled exactly as is the name of the Perley family in Ipswich who accused Elizabeth Howe in 1682, but I have no evidence of whether this author was related to the earlier Perley family. In any case, the author points out that "Gallows Hill" is dense limestone rock without trees or ability to dig foundations for gallows. Review by that author of town records establishes that no expenditure for lumber was made by Salem in June or July 1692. So it is presumed that the hangings were from trees, not gallows. Contemporary accounts also describe that the bodies of the witches were shallowly buried in a crevice near where they were hung. There is no such crevice on the top of "Gallows Hill". Lastly it is known that the families of some of the executed witches came in the night immediately after the hangings and recovered some of the bodies, taking them off by water to family burial sites. This was totally against the religious beliefs of the time so it had to be done surreptitiously. But there is no water immediately adjacent to "Gallows Hill".

Using all this evidence and several contemporary statements of persons who said they could see the hanging site from their homes in Salem, the actual site of the hangings in Perley's opinion was down the bluff from Gallows Hill on a smaller rise next to an outpouching of the North River. This lesser hill had trees on it for the hangings, and a small crevice which could have been used for the burials and it was on the shore of the river. It would have been visible from the houses whose occupants said they could see the carts carrying the convicted witches and the place where the hangings took place. After the hangings locust trees were planted in memory of what had happened there. These locust trees remained on this lower ridge until fire in 1914 destroyed them. The site is presently part of Salem, with streets and houses and is several hundred yards west of the old Salem court and meeting house.

Fourteen more witches and warlocks were hung or pressed to death in Salem in August and September 1692. By November the prisons were full of accused suspects and the Colony suddenly realized they had let the church, the children, and the people with personal animosities or greed force the Colony to overreact. Now the persecutors were suspect. Charges of witchcraft ceased, the trials stopped and the accused were freed. In fact Elizabeth's brother and nephew had been accused and imprisoned, but were later released. The finish to the trials was ordered by the same Governor Phipps who had initiated the trials in the spring; this time he forbade further trials and declared spectral evidence inadmissible in court. The prepubertal Salem village children who now were losing their importance then proclaimed the Governor's wife, Lady Phipps, a leader of the witches. This convinced the authorities that these children were dangerous and now they were silenced when no one paid attention to them anymore. Ann Puttman, one of these girls, much later admitted that she had had delusions and had accused innocent people. By spring of 1693 all prisoners had been freed.

Long after The Massachusetts Bay Colony's reversion to more proper behavior, legal proceedings were instituted to show Elizabeth had been innocent of the conviction against her. These proceedings were overseen by a capable Boston lawyer named Saltonstall who succeeded in reversing the conviction, in September 1710, well after the fact. Allowance to the family was granted for the loss of her life amounting to four pounds fourteen shillings. I wish current malpractice lawyers thought life was of such minimal value. Actually four of the first five women had their convictions revoked with compensation for their lost lives. Rebecca Nurse's family received 25 pounds, Sarah Wildes' family 14 pounds, Sarah Good's 30 pounds, and Elizabeth Howe's family was said to have gotten 12 pounds but family records indicate the smaller amount. Susannah Martin got no reversal or compensation.

Knowing the dangers and worries of pioneer life in New England, the changing in societal relationships with resultant insecurity, and the Puritan belief that both God and evil are everywhere, it is not hard to see the features which led to the Salem Witch Frenzy of 1692. The sad thing is that the scapegoats chosen were probably the more intelligent and independent free-thinking persons of their time. Many would be the feminists of today. They were the more interesting involved people. By thinking and doing they made some enemies who used the witch craze to get back at them in a most vindictive way.

Now you have absorbed the background and heard the facts of the case for and against Elizabeth Howe as a witch in 1692. Where do you stand, guilty or not guilty of having generated a pact with the Devil and used her thus gained magical powers to inflict damage on her neighbors and their animals? I expect all of us in this modern age require true factual evidence, not hearsay evidence, dreams, lies, or acting out as evidence to judge a person guilty. You all feel as I do that the so-called witches of New England were in fact victims of a temporarily confused society. A number of factors led to this confusion. First and most important as a cause was the basic Puritan belief that God was everywhere and so was the Devil causing all these unexplained phenomena. We should remember that community members were forced to work hard for survival and had no recreational time because the Church required all their non-working time to be occupied by services, prayers, and sermons . Then the members of this all powerful religious system that controlled the government as well as all the important aspects of social interaction came out strongly for the identification, trial and execution of witches. This is shown by the actions and writings of Cotton Mather and the vicar Perry in Salem village. So the worst and most significant cause of the witch crisis in New England was the Puritan church's pushing for stricter Calvinist ideologies without any provision for recreational time.

The next most grievous factor was the lying and acting out of the Goodwin children in Boston and later the prepubertal girls in Salem Village. The misbehavior of these children most likely stemmed from the restrictive nature of the Puritan beliefs and represented a clear attempt to shake up the system and get more freedom. They were not clever enough to foresee that lives would be lost because of their actions.

Finally there is the sad fact that personal greed and community greed also entered into the generation of verbal evidence given at hearings and trials. Some negative evidence came from individuals so frightened of unexplained occurrences that they sided with the Church against the unknown.

The end results were disastrous for the fifty executed witches who maintained their innocence up until their executions. These of course were the most intelligent free-thinking individuals of their time not accepting the strict rules of the all encompassing religious society around them. Not only were they not witches but they were the mental leaders of their time, unfortunately too far ahead of their time so they suffered for it.

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