Were Our Ancestors Witches?
Contrary to popular belief, no witch was ever burned in New England. With the exception of Giles Corey who was "pressed" to death under the weight of wood and stones in Salem in 1692, all swung from the gallows.
Belief in witchcraft was universal in New England and our grandfather John Carrington was one of the few men executed for witchcraft along with his wife Joane. In addition to our ancestor Henry Wolcott, who served in the capacity of a magistrate, three of our grandfathers, William Phelps, Edward Griswold, and Stephen Hart, were among the jury of twelve which convicted the Carrington's and sent them to the gallows.
Our grandfather Samuel Dibble accused his father-in-law, William Graves, of witchcraft in the death of his wife Abigail (Graves) Dibble in 1666/67, shortly after giving birth to their child. Abigail suffered immensely and the court accounts are very graphic. For more on this event, reference an article I wrote and published in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register in July of 2001 entitled "More on the Identity of Abigail (Graves) Dibble, and Her Tragic Death and Suspicions of Witchcraft" (Norbert Bankert).
Our aunt, Mary (Bliss) Parsons was said to possess great beauty and was married to one of the richest men in Massachusetts. It might be that her temperament didn't match her good looks as she spent 20 years defending herself against accusations of witchcraft.
Our grandmother Mary Sherwood, wife of Thomas Sherwood, was involved in the inquisition and execution of Goodwife Knapp in Fairfield in 1653. Not only did she participate in the inquisition, but she also accompanied Goodwife Knapp to the gallows and was then involved in the desecration of the corpse before burial.
In 1651, our grandfather John Drake
served on a jury at a court held in Hartford in December of 1651 concerning the
death of Henry Stiles. Henry died during a militia training exercise in October
of 1651 by the accidental discharge of the gun of Thomas Allyn. Thomas Allyn
confessed and the decision of whether the conviction would "bee man-slaughter,
or Homoside by misadventure" was taken up by the jury. The jury judged it to be
Homicide by misadventure and Thomas Allyn was fined £20 and ordered that he
shall be bound to his good behavior for twelve months and that he could not bear
arms for the same amount of time.
The fact that Henry Stiles had died in an event involving two honorable men begged for an explanation, for there was no apparent reason why the Lord would let such a thing happen. The answer, of course, was witchcraft. Two years later, in 1653, Lydia Gilbert went to the gallows for causing the death of Henry Stiles.
- Joane d. bt Feb 1651 - Mar 1652/53
- Mary b. c 1625, d. 29 Jan 1711/12
Thomas b. c 1590, d. b 14 Feb 1650/51
- John b. s 1642, d. 1690
John b. c 1602, d. bt Feb 1651 - Mar 1652/53
- Samuel b. 19 Feb 1643/44, d. 5 Jun 1709
- John d. 17 Aug 1659
- Alexander d. 4 Sep 1690
- William d. bt 13 Jun 1679 - 20 Jun 1679
- Edward (Mr.) b. 26 Jul 1607, d. 1691
- William (Mr.) b. c 1592, d. 14 Jul 1672
- Thomas b. 1585, d. bt 21 Jul 1655 - Oct 1655