Goody Bassett, Accused Witch of Stratford, Connecticut – Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast
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Goody Bassett, Stratford Connecticut’s local accused witch legend is now being acknowledged as her true self and reintroduced to us by the research and presentations of both Stratford Connecticut town historian, and Stratford Historical Society’s Vice President David Wright and author Richard Ross III. The community is hopeful that the Town Council will accept their proposed resolution to clear the good names of accused witches of Stratford: Goody Bassett and Hugh Croscia. Gail Liscio, President of the Stratford Historical Society shares about their upcoming events highlighting local witch trial history.Don’t miss these specially curated educational, memorializing and celebrating events this Spring offered by the Stratford Historical Society: Goody Bassett’s Last Mile History Walk, Connecticut Witch Trial History Presentation at Stratford Town Hall by Richard Ross III, and the Inaugural Goody Bassett Ball Society Fundraiser.
[00:00:00] Josh Hutchinson: Welcome to a bonus episode of Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. I'm Josh Hutchinson. Sarah Jack: And I'm Sarah Jack. Josh Hutchinson: Today we talk with Gail Liscio and David Wright of the Stratford Historical Society, as well as author Richard Ross. We'll be talking about events coming up in remembrance of Goody Bassett, there will be a talk, a walk, and a ball. Sarah Jack: In this [00:01:00] bonus, you get to hear how Goody Bassett, Stratford, Connecticut's local accused Witch, who was legend, is now being acknowledged as her true self and reintroduced to us by the research and presentations of Stratford Connecticut's town historian, David Wright, and author Richard Ross III. Josh Hutchinson: We'll give you all the details about the events, when, where, how. Sarah Jack: You've heard of Windsor clearing the names of Alice Young and Lydia Gilbert. But now the Historical Society in Stratford and the community is asking the Town Council of Stratford to accept their proposed resolution to clear the good names of accused witches, Goody Bassett, and Hugh Crosia. Welcome guests Gail Liscio, David Wright, and Richard Ross III. First we would just like you to go through and introduce yourselves and tell us your connection to the Stratford Historical [00:02:00] Society or community. Gail Liscio: I'll go first. My name is Gail Liscio, and I've been the proud president for the past five years. Stratford is pretty much my hometown, so I'm very proud to have reached this pinnacle in my older years. Yeah, the society is definitely a challenge. We're really very dedicated and very proud to be the forefront of the history of the town of Stratford. As David will tell you, when I turn it over to him, he has been my right hand man. He's also my vice president, and he really brings so much to the society. I could never do anything without him and the other people that we have on the board. We're very blessed to have the board that we have at this time. So that being said, Dave, you wanna add anything. David Wright: Thank you Gail. My name's David Wright. I'm vice president of the Historical Society, and I am the historian for the Town of Stratford. I've been associated with the Historical [00:03:00] Society for about the last 10 years, and I'm also the newsletter editor for the Society. I think it's up to you now, Dick. Richard Ross: My name is Dick Ross. I go under, of course, my, real name, which is Richard S. Ross, and I go under the third because it's somewhat of a common name in it. I noticed when I first put my first book out that it was getting confused with my son and a whole bunch of other people. So that's why I have added the third on there. Just to briefly tell you, I have um, this is my first book. It's called Contagion in Prussia in 1831. And it's a book basically about epidemic disease. And I came out in 2015 and, I'm, it's a very interesting, good book and it's done very well. And my second book is this book called Before Salem: Witch Hunting in the Connecticut River Valley, 1647 to 1663. And, to tell people it's non-fiction, obviously. I'm a historian. I have a PhD and an [00:04:00] MLS. I was the head librarian at Trinity College from about 2000 to 2015, I believe. I never can get my dates straight, but anyway, I do in history though. And I've been obviously I retired and I've been doing some, a lot of, I do a lot of talks and, gotten involved in a couple of historical societies, and every year it seems like people are more interested in the witchcraft business and witch trials, et cetera. So I'm very happy about that, and I like to go out, and I particularly like to go to libraries because I have an MLS I told you. And I like to talk to people there, but I also do historical societies, so that's about what's going on. Josh Hutchinson: Thank you so much. Now we'd like to hear some more about the historical society. What can you tell us about that, Gail? Gail Liscio: 2025 is our a hundred year anniversary. We have a lot of things planned for the celebration right now. We have begun charging [00:05:00] Goody Bassett with our first ever inaugural ball, which we always heard the legends of Goody Bassett and whatnot. They were mostly legends. Now, David has informed us that there's been so much more information that has come to the fore in the past 10 years that makes her more of a reality than a legend. But we're really looking forward to it. It's going to be May 20th. I'm sure you've heard, you know, us mention that we've done very well already with solicitations from town people to sponsor. We're really psyched. That's about the only word I can use. We're really excited about this. We really are optimistic for the coming few years until we get to our hundredth anniversary. Sarah Jack: We're really excited for the resurgence you guys are experiencing, too. David, it sounds like you brought some of the story to light and the intersection of lore and the history is really interesting and important. How did you gain your understanding of [00:06:00] her? David Wright: Well, Goody Bassett, it's been in our history since the first histories of Stratford were written. And if you go back through time, it's the one consistent story that's told throughout our history, and interestingly enough, the home that really began the society formally, the society was formed to preserve the Captain David Judson house, which is located on Academy Hill Road in Stratford. And interestingly enough that home was more than, well, the home one of the walls of the home was the original home wall of William Judson, who was one of the original settlers of Stratford. And his home, as you look at the map of the original settlement of Stratford, was probably one of the homes Goody Bassett would've passed by as she was on her way to the gallows. So we have a special connection to her, because she's been part of our history for [00:07:00] so long, and we always considered Goody Bassett a foregone fact in town until sometime, it appears in about the 1970s, when she became more of a legend. Now with the work that Mr. Ross has done and Beth Caruso has done, they've connected a lot of the dots for us. So there's a man by the name of Thomas Thornton, who was one of Goody Bassett's neighbors in Windsor. Another one of her neighbors was John Young. And interestingly enough, all three of those people ended up in Stratford. 1650, Goody Bassett and her husband came to town, and 1651, Thomas Thornton and John Young came to town. We always knew that, but we didn't realize the connection. And what Beth Caruso has done in her latest article in the Connecticut History Review is really tie those three individuals together, [00:08:00] and It's an interesting thing, because not only was Thomas Thornton around and more than likely involved in the hanging of Alice Young in Windsor, he suddenly appears, and Goody Bassett was an associate of Alice Young and probably was guilty by a association. He suddenly appears in 1651 in Stratford, and then after Goody is hanged, he suddenly appears in Fairfield in 1653 at the hanging of Goody Knapp. So Beth has done a fabulous job of tying it together. It's not that we didn't know about Goody, it's just that we passed through a period of time where there was so little indicating her actual personage and the reality of Goody Bassett that a lot of the people, I think, in town just assumed that it was one of those fun stories from our history with really no significant foundation to it. So as we've been able to [00:09:00] learn more and as people like Mr. Ross and Beth Caruso have been able to tie things together, it's pretty obvious that we're talking about a very unfortunate woman with a very unfortunate set of associations, one of them being Thomas Thornton, and they all seem to come together for us in 2023, which really made it a watershed opportunity for us to talk a lot about Goody Bassett and to make our attempt in town to exonerate her from the charge of witchcraft in the town. And then hopefully we're able to celebrate that exoneration in May ,which is on roughly the day that Goody Bassett was hanged in 1651. Josh Hutchinson: It's wonderful. We're really happy that you're doing this. It's exciting for us to see others in Connecticut bringing [00:10:00] this history to light and we appreciate that. Is there anything else anyone would like us to know about the life of Goody Bassett? David Wright: Unfortunately, we know precious little about her. We only have some evidence from New Haven and some evidence from Goody Knapp's trial in Fairfield that really add to what we know about Goody Bassett. But of course, formally, all we really have is the passage from from Connecticut history where it says the lieutenant governor and two of his associates went down to hold trial in Stratford. And without the other circumstantial evidence that has been uncovered related to the witch trial in New Haven and the witch trial in Fairfield, it would be very difficult for us to even be able to prove that Goody Bassett had actually been hanged. So it's just [00:11:00] really this year that everything's come together for us. But it doesn't give us a lot of information about who Goody Bassett was or where she came from. We don't find anything in the records of Windsor that talks about her, at least not that I've seen. And we don't have anything in the town of Stratford that really talks about her. So I wish we knew more. I wish more was written. I think Beth Caruso has done a fabulous job of explaining to us why we don't know more, but it's just unfortunate. And so we have to fill in the blanks with other associated pieces of information that we can bring together and put some meaning to her life and how she ended up being accused of witchcraft. I don't know if you'd like to add anything, Dick, to that. You're certainly much more knowledgeable than I on this topic. Richard Ross: Yeah, I haven't seen Beth's article yet, and I'm gonna, I'm gonna try and get hold of it to read it because I like, obviously I need to look at the [00:12:00] sources. And it sounds pretty legitimate from what you're saying. The one thing that I noticed when I was doing my research was that I'm, I believe, and I've seen other reference to it, that she was married to Thomas Bassett and he had come over on the the ship, the Christian, and he was a carpenter. And he's, and I believe he's the one that married the Goody, whatever her first name was, we don't know. Maybe there's more in Beth's article. I haven't, as I said, I haven't seen it, but the thing that's interesting to me was interesting to me was that so Alice is hanged, as we know, Goody gets accused of being a witch through probably association in some way. Lydia Gilbert, who gets hanged in 1654, was also from Windsor, and I believe was also had some kind of connection with Young and I don't think Bassett, but she might have. Cuz I think Bassett left in 1640, 1641. But Lydia was in jail in 1642 with the guy that she [00:13:00] eventually married. And then Mrs. Marshfield or Goodwoman Marshfield who left and went up to Springfield and was accused of being a witch, too, up there. She never got hanged or anything like that, but she was accused by another woman who ended up actually being tried for being a witch. So anyway, but to me it's, there's some kind of they, all of 'em probably represented, just to say this, and I could be wrong, but I, they seemed to have represented, for example, Mrs. Marshfield husband was really, he lost a lot of money. He caused a lot of problem, economic problems in the town of Windsor and deserted his family. And obviously she had gone down in status, cuz she had, must have had pretty good status when she first came over from from England in the west country. So I think all four women had some sort of lower status in the community than the other people, many of the other people that lived in the town of Windsor, because a lot of the other people in the town of Windsor were, from what I could tell, [00:14:00] pretty well off when they came over, and they knew each other. They were like yeoman class, et cetera, et cetera. If you lost status at that time, it meant that you obviously didn't have the favorability of God, let's put it that way. Sarah Jack: And then are you also acknowledging Hugh Crosia? David Wright: How we found that was I think there's a book called Connecticut Witch Trials that, that appeared in the book was written, I'd have to check in the thirties, but Hugh is Stratford's other Witch. He was actually accused in what is today's Bridgeport, but he was tried and found essentially innocent by ignoramus, or they returned to a verdict of ignoramus, which meant that they didn't have enough evidence to convict him. He was never hanged. He, I'm sure, had to leave the community or experienced a lot of distress continuing to live in the area. But we also had the benefit of it being 1692. [00:15:00] And because Governor Winthrop had largely put an end to witch hanging when he returned from England in 1663, Hugh, while accused, the charges were dropped against him. We're including him in at least the resolution that we're presenting to the town council. Since we're talking about Goody Bassett, it seems good to just remove the curse of witchcraft everywhere that we know that it existed in the town. And Hugh just happens to be one of the unfortunate people that got swept into that. We know a little more about Hugh than we do Goody Bassett, not a lot about his life, but there is significantly more written about him in the trial, and so we can substantiate his charge of witchcraft and a little bit about the court proceedings a whole lot better than we can with Goody Bassett. Josh Hutchinson: Great. What can you tell us about the events that you have planned? David Wright: [00:16:00] We have the honor and privilege of having Dick Ross come to town on the 27th of April, he's going to do a presentation that I'm not sure what Dick's calling, but for marketing purposes, we're calling it Before Salem, a little bit of a takeoff on his book. I had the privilege of being able to hear Mr. Ross in Naugatuck back in 2019, and since everything else was coming together for this year, I thought it'd be really nice to have an expert come to town and talk about the Connecticut witch trials in general. It seemed to make more sense to have all of the witch trials brought together for people to think about why we got there, how we got there. And I think it puts a little more meaning to what we're talking about as it relates to Goody Bassett since we don't have a whole heck of a lot of information about her. We're. In the process of creating a resolution that we want to [00:17:00] present to the Stratford Town Council. I don't know what the council's reception is going to be. I'm hoping that with the activity in the state legislature and what the Connecticut Witch Exoneration Project is attempting, that maybe that will motivate them a little more. We're going to, of course, let them know that Windsor has already done this. We've patterned our resolution after Windsor's and we'll be submitting it to them in the month of March, just as soon as we can finish crafting it. And then in May and early May, the 3rd and the 10th, we're going to do a couple of walks attempting we, we can't do it with anything but speculation, and some of the streets don't even exist in exactly the same places as they did in 1651. We have a really good map of the settlement of Stratford that was done in about 1660.[00:18:00] And so we're going to try and use that to retrace the likely path that she would take. And what I've done is looked at the shortest path from what would've been the original congregational church at that time to Gallows Brook, and I think taking her there, they probably would've chosen the shortest path possible to get there. So I'm, of course, taking a great deal of liberty at trying to retrace that path based on the fact, particularly, that some of the streets aren't even on that original map that we'll probably be walking on. But I'm gonna attempt to come as close as I possibly can. And we know who lived in all of those homes and some of the people who would've been living in those homes would've been the original founders, and they would've been very powerful men in town. And I think what I want to do as part of the walk is talk about who those people were, because Goody wouldn't have found her way [00:19:00] to the gallows without the complicity of a number of the more powerful men in town. And so I think it will be helpful to talk about some of those people that were living in town and describe when they came to town and where their homes were. And we're gonna talk a lot about Adam Blakeman, who really led the first 47 settlers to the town of Stratford in 1639. Then as part of our gala on May 20th, we're hopeful that Mayor Hoydick is going to read a proclamation, which will essentially proclaim Goody Bassett Day and explain that the town of Stratford, as she currently governs it, is doing what they can to absolve Goody from the charge of witchcraft that was brought against her. So we've got a pretty full next couple of months. We're looking forward to it. I'm really [00:20:00] hoping that we'll have a really good turnout at Mr. Ross's presentation. We're hoping that you can help us with that. The walks, certainly anybody is going to be welcome to attend. So we'll certainly let everyone know if the demand continues and people want to have additional walks, I'll be happy to figure out what we're gonna do with those. But I wanted to have them before the gala and when things wrap up for us. So that's why they're planned when they're planned, and we'll see what happens. Gail Liscio: We're really looking forward to any help we can as far as, you know, promoting the ticket sales for the actual ball. It is a fundraiser, emphasis on fund F U N D, and we just need as much participation. I love the idea of exoneration, but we just need live bodies there at the bash as well to just celebrate and bring us back into the forefront of the town of Stratford. David, it's been [00:21:00] great with the walks. People love them. He's a great orator, but as far as anything else goes, whatever help we can glean from anyone, more than grateful. So I thank you very much. Josh Hutchinson: You're welcome. And how can people purchase tickets to the events? Gail Liscio: They will be on sale starting March 15th. They will be on Facebook, and what we can do is we can send you the link, whatever you need, and quite frankly, word of mouth helps. Anybody who wants to purchase a ticket can also call the society and leave a message. We will be glad to call each and every person back. We're just really pushing this to be a real knockdown, drag out event for the town. It's gonna be a lot of fun. We've gone to great lengths to promote it. We've gone to great lengths to have a fabulous menu, great entertainment. So I hope to see you all there. That's about all I can say. It's gonna be really wonderful and I thank everyone for helping. Sarah Jack: It's very exciting. [00:22:00] Is the gala located at your facility? Gail Liscio: What it is it's located at Vazzano's Four Seasons. That's one of the biggest facilities we have in Stratford. In fact, at one time, it was an old, small grand union supermarket, but it's since been converted over the years to a beautiful venue for weddings, bridal showers, anything of that nature. I really think that the town uses them quite frequently, because it holds up to 400 people, which is a real great event site. Other than that, we're just counting down the days until we get everything rocking and rolling, and we'll take it from there. I can't wait to meet Mr. Ross though, that I really wanna grill him on a few things. Josh Hutchinson: David, you also spoke or wrote to us about a marker, historic marker for Goody Bassett. What would that look like? David Wright: We're working on that with Mayor Hoydick. I'm not sure how that will come together exactly, and the reason is because the marker that we're looking at will be [00:23:00] something modeled after the marker that was put in place in Bridgeport at the Burroughs Community Center for Goody Knapp a few years ago. And we'd like to do a similar thing, but we have a large forest in the north end of town that has some very large rocks. And it was originally a quarry actually. And one of the markers at the place we'll be beginning the Goody Bassett Last Mile walks was actually brought from Roosevelt Forest. It's called the Mac's Harbor Marker. And we'd like to do something like that. We like to place it in the center of West Broad Street. It will probably be very near where I 95 crosses West Broad, which won't be far enough north by probably a hundred yards to where Gallows Brook would've run. But we have to work with the property that we have at this time, and if we were to put [00:24:00] the the marker where we think the gallows were, that goody was hanged from, it would be right in the middle of Metro North Railroad tracks. And we were thinking they probably wouldn't approve of that. We're moving it a little further south, on West Broad, there's a strip of land that the town owns. The mayor has certainly been supportive of that, but now we're going to have to find a stone of the right dimensions and get it transported down to that location. So I just don't know that we can do all of that before May 20th, but that doesn't mean we're not going to try. The mayor's time is not open to us whenever we need her, so we kinda have to work around her schedule and the scheduling that she can give to us. So she's supportive. I've had the conversation with her already. And so just as soon as we can put that marker in place, it will be placed. But that may take a while. I probably started talking to the mayor about this four or [00:25:00] five years ago, but it just, time passes much too quickly in some cases. Sarah Jack: And thank you both for all the information. I'm really excited for your community. They're very fortunate to have you guys working on this project, and I think it's gonna be fruitful and wonderful. Josh Hutchinson: This has been Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. You'll find dates and links to all the events in the show description. Sarah Jack: Join us again Thursday. Josh Hutchinson: Subscribe wherever you get podcasts. Sarah Jack: Visit thoushaltnotsuffer.com. Josh Hutchinson: Remember to tell your friends and family and anyone else who may be interested. Sarah Jack: You can support our efforts at endwitchhunts.org. Josh Hutchinson: Have a great today and a beautiful tomorrow. [00:26:00]