A Witch in Time

By | May 26, 2012

A strange period of history occurred in New England a hundred years before the American Revolution. During much of the last half of the 17th century many, mostly women, were accused of Witchcraft. While the most famous of these witch trials occurred in Essex, Suffolk, and Middlesex counties of Massachusetts, between February 1692 and May 1693, the first woman executed as a witch happen on May 26, 1647.

Not only did this happen 50 years before the Salem Witch Trials, Alse Young was hanged at the Meeting House Square in Hartford, Connecticut. Little is know of her, other than the report of her hanging by a journal entry by Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor John Winthropt “One… of Windsor arraigned and executed at Hartford for a witch.” and that of town town clerk of Windsor, Matthew Grant May 26, 1647 diary entry, “Alse Young was hanged.”

Five years earlier in 1642 witchcraft became punishable by death in the Connecticut Colony. Reasoning for this came from several references in the Bible. Exodus (22:18) “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” And Leviticus (20:27) “A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood (shall be) upon them.”

Puritan New England had a strong belief that the devil was an earthly being and he was always attacking. This belief lead to act upon the perceived threat in ways that came as a result of fear.

Alice Young Beamon, who was probably Alse Young’s daughter, would be accused of witchcraft in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts in the 1670s. It was common for daughters of accused witched to also be accused. Alice Beamon was spared the fate of her mother.

Alse Young was the first executed for Witchcraft in Connecticut. Between 1647 and 1662 as many as seventeen was tried. Three of these would be executed.


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