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Before Salem with Richard S. Ross III

Before Salem with Richard S. Ross III Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast

Welcome back friend of the podcast Richard Ross III, author of the Connecticut Witch Trial History book, Before Salem.  Richard discusses witch trial cases from 1647-1663  in the Connecticut River Valley before the Salem Witch Trials and how they were influenced by the English Civil War. You will find out how The Witch Finder General impacted witch finding in the American Colonies.  Richard portrays his love for the history and for speaking locally about it around Connecticut. We also hear from friend of the podcast,  Beth Caruso on why some sites in Connecticut could be the witch hanging locations.LinksBefore Salem: Witch Hunting in the Connecticut River Valley, 1647-1663 by Richard S Ross IIISupport Us! Shop Our Book ShopWrite a Connecticut Legislator Purchase a Witch Trial White Rose Memorial ButtonSupport Us! Sign up as a Super Listener!End Witch Hunts Movement Thou Shalt Not Suffer Podcast Book StoreSupport Us! Buy Witch Trial Merch!Support Us! Buy Podcast Merch!Join us on Discord to share your ideas and feedback.Please sign the petition to exonerate those accused of witchcraft in ConnecticutSocial Media for Dr. Saud Anwar, State SenatorSocial Media for State Representative Jane GaribayFact Sheet for Connecticut Witch Trial HistoryWebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagramPinterestLinkedInYouTubeTikTokDiscordBuzzsproutMailchimpDonateSupport the show

Show Notes

Welcome back friend of the podcast Richard Ross III, author of the Connecticut Witch Trial History book, Before Salem.  Richard discusses witch trial cases from 1647-1663  in the Connecticut River Valley before the Salem Witch Trials and how they were influenced by the English Civil War. You will find out how The Witch Finder General impacted witch finding in the American Colonies.  Richard portrays his love for the history and for speaking locally about it around Connecticut. We also hear from friend of the podcast,  Beth Caruso on why some sites in Connecticut could be the witch hanging locations.


Before Salem: Witch Hunting in the Connecticut River Valley, 1647-1663 by Richard S Ross III

Support Us! Shop Our Book Shop

Write a Connecticut Legislator 

Purchase a Witch Trial White Rose Memorial Button

Support Us! Sign up as a Super Listener!

End Witch Hunts Movement 

Thou Shalt Not Suffer Podcast Book Store

Support Us! Buy Witch Trial Merch!

Support Us! Buy Podcast Merch!

Join us on Discord to share your ideas and feedback.

Please sign the petition to exonerate those accused of witchcraft in Connecticut

Social Media for Dr. Saud Anwar, State Senator

Social Media for State Representative Jane Garibay

Fact Sheet for Connecticut Witch Trial History














Josh Hutchinson: Welcome to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. I'm Josh Hutchinson.
Sarah Jack: And I'm Sarah Jack.
Josh Hutchinson: In this episode we speak with Richard S. Ross III, historian and author of Before Salem: Witch Hunting in the Connecticut River Valley, 1647 to 1663. And we'll be talking Connecticut Witch Trials throughout this episode. We begin with a discussion of what led to the witch trials in Connecticut.
Sarah Jack: How the events in the colonies and back in England affected witch-hunting in the [00:01:00] colonies.
Josh Hutchinson: Conflict with the Dutch and Native Americans.
Sarah Jack: The influence of the English Civil War.
Josh Hutchinson: The impact of the self-proclaimed Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins.
Sarah Jack: What were his witchfinding techniques, and what were other witchfinding techniques that were used in the colonies?
Josh Hutchinson: We'll discuss the supposed diabolical conspiracy to undo the church.
Sarah Jack: And differences between beliefs of common people and upper classes and clergy.
Josh Hutchinson: Cover all that and more.
 We also have a special treat for you this week. We have author Beth Caruso returning to the show to discuss the possible location of the witch trial hanging site. And a magnificent tree that [00:02:00] unfortunately no longer lives called the Witch Elm.
Sarah Jack: We'll tell you where you can find a photo of it.
Josh Hutchinson: And we'll have linked to that in the show notes.
Sarah Jack: Now here's Richard Ross III.
Richard Ross: Like, I did a talk at uh, Center Church in Hartford, as an example, and when I finished, uh, a lot of the people were actually descendants of the people in Hartford, because this church is right in Hartford. I think it's the second congregational church. and They were just so enthusiastic, because they didn't know this their their family and their ancestors. I, I enjoy doing and and helping people understand their past better as way of saying it.
Josh Hutchinson: Yeah. We really appreciate what you've done for the Connecticut witch trial history. It's so great to get it out in the open, and we encounter quite a number of descendants.
Richard Ross: Oh, I bet. 
Josh Hutchinson: Have a lot working with us on the exoneration project. One of our goals is just to get the education out there, get [00:03:00] the history out there among everybody.
Richard Ross: I'm gonna tell you, I'll tell you something, this is how I got interested in this. I'm not from Connecticut, and so I moved here to take the job at Trinity. And my wife, who has since passed away, unfortunately. But she saw something in the paper, a little article about, Connecticut Witch. It was just a witch's little, and I said, "I never heard of that. What is going on here?" And so then I was able to I was getting ready to teach a course witch trials. I'm put it that way. It wasn't witchcraft, it's about the witches and the trials and what happened. But it was in Salem that I first thought I would talk about with my class.
And it was a seminar, first year seminar for the students. And what happened was, I started off with Salem, because there's plenty of material on Salem, but I started looking into Connecticut, but there wasn't much material in Connecticut. So I started doing research and [00:04:00] started pulling together the material that I could, so that I could give my students, they could do papers on the Connecticut Witch trials, which is what I wanted them to do.
And that's how I got started into all the business of looking at different trials and what happened and trying to do research on the history. And that's how I got started on it.
Josh Hutchinson: We're so glad that you did.
Richard Ross: There's always been this theory, and it may be correct, I don't know, but that the Connecticut fathers, so to speak, didn't really want to talk about it. There wasn't much they could do in Salem, because it was out there. They did something else in the end, they turned around and made a production out of it, so that now Halloween is like the biggest event in Salem, the month of October. But Connecticut's always been pretty quiet about it.
You talk to people in Connecticut, and you talk about witches in Connecticut, and they won't know what you're talking about. They've never heard of it. Recently, of course, we're getting more out there, and the Exoneration Project is helping. The first one, I [00:05:00] guess a few number of years ago, didn't really get out there. There's been a lot more research, let's put it that way, so that people have something to look at and to see what we're talking about. 
But it's always been quiet, and it's only been, I would say, I think it was in 1905, as an example, that Trumbull's daughter published that article in the Hartford Courant and actually named Alice Young or Youngs as the first woman executed in New England for witchcraft. So it hasn't been that long. There were articles in the newspapers in the early 1900s. They had discovered some documents that the Wyllys family had held all those years, and those came out, but they, people were aware of it, but only really the genealogists and historians, and that group of people, that really wasn't out there in the public eye. And it really hasn't been until just recently, I guess best way of saying it. 
Josh Hutchinson: We'd [00:06:00] like to ask you some questions about your book. You begin with an excellent explanation, giving the background of what was going on in England and New England before the Witch trials. Can you tell us how the wilderness of New England challenged the colonists?
Richard Ross: If you think of the wilderness, like when Christ went out into the wilderness and confronted the devil. That was the, that was the image the way they were living it. It was primarily, I think the Native Americans that they confronted. As they were able to settle at least initially New England because so many of the Native Americans had died from epidemic disease. When they moved in and it wasn't necessarily from the colonists themselves. There were people that were here before the colonists, fur trappers, people that came in, and that disease had already been going in waves like smallpox, things like that.
So when they settled, here they are in the wilderness with wild [00:07:00] animals. It was certainly not anything like the way it was back in England. And so they had to learn a whole new way of life and confront themselves. They had to confront themselves what they were and what it was like living out there. The sun goes down at night, it's pitch black. You hear things there. There are stories that you've heard about from back in England about the demons and witches and things like that. Psychologically it was very disturbing to the people. They just we're not used to it.
The Native Americans, they considered these people to be the devil's minions. They felt that when they came here that they were coming to the Devil's Land, his kingdom, and they were invading his kingdom, and they had to fight back, so to speak. That's another thing.
Sarah Jack: And you mentioned that the population had been reduced due to sickness. Is there other reasons that they were able to acquire and settle into the territory that made things [00:08:00] tenuous between the Native Americans and the colonists?
Richard Ross: One of the things is the colonists had weapons like guns, right? Native Americans didn't have guns. And we know that every time somebody got close, if they tried to sell 'em a gun, they could. We think that's what happened to John Carrington. He got in trouble for, they thought he was trying to sell a gun, and that wasn't probably the reason initially. It might have made him, they might have been suspicious of him. And then other things came into play that finally got him convicted of being a witch and his wife too, which I have no idea why his wife was, but obviously he associated with her. So maybe that's what did it.
Josh Hutchinson: And you noted that the colonists experienced trauma from all the conflict. How did that affect their mindset? The conflict with the Native Americans, the warfare.
Richard Ross: It seemed a lot of the people that were accused of being witches were, somehow or other, they tried to [00:09:00] implicate them with getting involved with the Native Americans. Remember, these people believed that they were living in the end times and that the Native Americans were servants of Satan and that Satan was trying to convert as many of even the colonists to turn away from God, so that there would be fewer people that would be saved, so to speak. 
The Native Americans, their religion wasn't Christian. So that they did things that they felt were Deviltry, and even one of the things that comes up sometimes is the idea that, especially with the women, that they were, may have used like Native Americans healing methods, something like that, which I don't believe that these women did, because whatever healing methods they took with them probably came from England, because to get involved with Native Americans healing at all would've been anathema. They really would've been [00:10:00] considered witches because of getting involved in that. I know, for a number of different cases, that there's always somehow a mention of Native Americans. Even the famous case of Elizabeth Seager, the witness claims that she, that she and her friends were dancing around a pot, a kettle, and they could see what they thought were Native Americans involved in it, and there's another case with Mary Staples some kind of like little Native Americans memento of some sort that they, somebody thought they saw her holding. In other words, they tried to connect them with the Native Americans, but they never really convicted the Native Americans of being witches, and they didn't take 'em to court. And the Native Americans were not Christians, they were outside the community, cuz they weren't betraying their belief in God. But the Christians that were in the community, the colonists, if they turned to Satan, they signed a pact with Satan, et cetera. They were turning their back on God and they deserved, they were [00:11:00] witches, because they were, working against God.
Sarah Jack: That's very good distinction. Thank you. Can you explain more about the chiliastic view of the times, what that means?
Richard Ross: You have to remember that in England at the time, I talk about the Civil War in England, about 1642 to about 1649. There was the belief that once they got rid of the king, which they did in 1649, they beheaded him, when Cromwell came to the throne, that he would usher in the end times, the reign of Jesus, and that's what they believed, and they believed it was coming. There was a lot of this belief at that time period, because that's what the puritans believed, that they were getting pretty close to the time when Jesus would reign on this earth. And that's what chiliastic view was.
Josh Hutchinson: And how did that view influence the Witch hunting?
Richard Ross: [00:12:00] If they believed that the end times are coming, as I said before, then they believed that the Devil was trying to turn as many good Christians to his side and away from God as possible. And he was getting really desperate, basically, because the end times are coming. And so he wanted as many souls as he could get. That's pretty crude, but that's probably the way it went. And so this is what they were fighting against, and boy, were they disappointed when Cromwell died and then when Charles II came to the throne, that didn't help either, cuz see, they expected the world to be different, and it wasn't. It went back to the way it had been, but it didn't stop 'em from going after witches. It might have even, it might have even worked the opposite. Let's get rid of these people while we can. 
Sarah Jack: And are there other ways that the English Civil War was opening the door to the witch trials? I know you just said that they were thinking let's get rid of them while we can.
Richard Ross: I'll tell you exactly what happened. During the English Civil War, this is the way I look at it, [00:13:00] there were, immediately whenever there's any kind of conflict like that, and it was a civil war. So those are worse than wars against other people, just like our own civil war, how many, over 600,000 people, American soldiers died in our civil war. And it was pretty brutal war. And that's what the Civil War in England was pretty brutal, too. And plus it was, it, God is on our side type of approach, the chiliastic approach there. Basically what happens is there is no real government during this, during the Civil War, because they're fighting with each other pretty much. So that means that the government, the power centers come down to the towns, the locals, and whoever's in charge. And so what happens is, in this particular case, as I said each side, because it's so brutal, they start calling the other side antichrist. They've got witches. That gets really brutal. 
And so each side is calling each other that in these names and saying that they've got the antichrist and the devil [00:14:00] on their side. And so now we get Matthew Hopkins, the witchfinder general, and Matthew Hopkins is an East Anglia, he and John Stearne, and there's a couple, there's a midwife. They decide they're going to go from village to village and find witches. And he comes up with a scheme to do this. He has these ideas, which I think actually happened before, but anyway, started using them, floating witches, putting witches in the water, right, poking them, looking for the witch's teat, the devil's mark, making them walk, particularly observing them, looking for familiars. And these things begin to percolate in England for a while, until the government starts to clamp down on it about 1647.
But these ideas find their way over to New England. And the other thing you have to know is that, during the time period in the 1630s and 1640s and even a good part of the, most of the 1650s, [00:15:00] there was no authority from England over here in New England. They weren't interested in the New England colonies very much at all. It isn't until the 1660s when Charles II comes back as king, that he starts to say, "wait a minute. I want to do something about these colonies. They should be obeying English law, et cetera, et cetera. We should tax them." That wasn't being done previously, so they were all pretty much on their own. 
So anyway, the trials that they had were local, and as I've said before, one of the problems with Connecticut was that Connecticut was not settled as an appropriate colony. It didn't really get the permission to be a colony until John Winthrop Jr. actually goes over in 1660 to get the charter. And that causes problems, too, when he goes over there. But anyway, my point is that it was pretty neglected area for almost 30 years, as far as England was [00:16:00] concerned.
And so that you had these courts, for example, like the particular court that was set up in Connecticut. And they were using English law. They were trying to use English law, but it wasn't like they were appointed by somebody from England, let's put it that way. They said they established their own courts and that happened, too, in Massachusetts, were a little different. Although during the Salem Witch Trials, the Court of Oyer and Terminer really wasn't a legitimate court. It wasn't until December of 1692 that they actually get a legitimate court. And when they get the legitimate court in 1692, all of a sudden they decide that this hasn't really gone well then. And people that were actually admitted to being witches were actually let go. And the people prior to that, the people that had said they weren't witches were the ones that were hanged.
Sarah Jack: And so you state, and we know that, to this community, witches did exist and they felt that there was biblical [00:17:00] authority and their basic laws were confirming that. Is there anything you can tell us about that to understand their mentality on that?
Richard Ross: Well, they live in a different world than we do. So I try to make that point. We live in a more analytical world, where we can look at things and determine what's real and what isn't. And those days, they just didn't have that ability. It just didn't exist. You don't get that really started until about the time of the, the enlightenment, and plus it was very, it was totally religious. And the religious authorities, if you look at the laws, if you look at the church, even the Westminster Assembly, they admit that there were witches and that there's always been witches, right? We've always heard of witches. 
The problem is, and I go into this when I give my talks, is that there's a difference between what people believed, that the lower classes, so to speak, believed about what witches, who the witches were and what [00:18:00] they did. And basically those people believed the witches just did harm, just harm, and so you would pick out one or two, and you would say, "the, this person did this," and if they could figure out a way to prove it, or they would use crowd, go after them and hang them or do whatever they did. That was one thing. 
But what we're talking about here is what we call diabolical witchcraft or satanism. Now, this comes about in around the middle of the 15th century, because the church, the Catholic church on the continent, and I'll do this real quick, determines that, the theologians determine that the church is in a lot of trouble in this time period. And so they decide, it can't be us. It's gotta be, it's gotta be Satan. It's gotta be somebody on the outside. It's gotta be the devil. It's causing all the problems that we have, between the Black Death and just all kinds of issues that I go into. 
So [00:19:00] what they say is, "okay. So we're talking about a conspiracy now. We're not talking about an individual witch that lives down the end of the town, who sits, is by herself and reads fortunes. We're talking about somebody who's actually signed a compact with the Devil, and there's a conspiracy to undo the church and undo all of God's work." And that's the difference between the what we're talking about here.
And that's why you get a difference, even in New England and England, between what the regular person thought about who a witch was and what the clergy thought a witch was. They thought diabolical witchcraft. The average person thought, "oh, they've harmed me." That's it. They don't get into the devil business as much. It comes later, though. Obviously, it comes down, it spreads, from the upper classes down to the peasants and stuff like that. 
So what happens, though, the best part of this is, okay, so on the continent things happen like people are burned as witches, right? [00:20:00] And we know that. But you notice that they don't burn them in England. They hang them. And the reason for this is because on the continent, witchcraft is a heresy. In England it's a felony. In England, you get a trial by jury, and you know you gotta defend yourself, but at least, and you don't get tortured. On the continent, you get tortured. And you have, the trial is a kind of a Roman Inquisitionarial trial where there's three judges, and one of the judges is supposed to help you. And you're probably considered guilty. You have to prove that you're innocent. Whereas in an English court, of course, you were innocent until proven guilty.
So this comes about because of Henry VIII, which is really interesting, cuz people give him such a bad rap. But he probably saved a lot of people from being killed as witches. And basically what he did was parliament, I guess, passed the law that said witchcraft was a felony. Once it became a felony, it meant that, you obviously [00:21:00] got a court trial, and you got the ability to defend yourself and you couldn't be tortured, can't be tortured for a felony.
So these are the kinds of laws that get, then the laws get passed later with Elizabeth and then James I of England. So there are witchcraft laws passed, but at least there is a little bit of defense. There's an ability to limit the number of people they're going to be accused of being witches.
One of the ways they do that is because they don't allow torture. Whereas on the continent, people were naming names constantly, and that's why you had thousands of people supposedly or a whole village wiped out. Whereas in England, the maximum was probably like under Matthew Hopkins, probably maybe a hundred to 200. That's all. And even in New England, even though it's a terrible thing that happened, was still limited to the number of people that were actually tried and convicted of being witches.
Josh Hutchinson: And [00:22:00] in the book you also talk about the ministers in Windsor delivering some sermons where they spoke about the devil and the witches. How did that influence the people's belief in that community in witchcraft?
Richard Ross: They started around, I think 1639, 1640, talking about this, and this is about the time that Alice and her husband John moved and her daughter moved to Windsor. At least that's my approach. Other people have different approaches, but that's the way I look at it. 
I talk about something called cunning men and cunning women and cunning men are, it just means they know that they're like white witches. They basically, and I talk about, I go back to England, so I go back and forth because it's important to understand where these people were coming from. So just to say this quickly, in England it was considered quite normal. If you say you lost an object, you might go to your local cunning person [00:23:00] in the village or whatever in community and ask if they knew anything about it. And these people tended to know a lot of things, because a lot of people came to them, and they would do charms and things like that. And one of the things that they did, which was very important, was they would unwitch people. So if somebody felt that they had been cursed and I have evidence of some of this even in New England of unwitching, how people tried to unwitch themselves.
So that's what this person would do. I don't know the that Alice was doing unwitching, but maybe she was a healer. That's the way I look at it. She probably had for some, I don't know where she got it from. I personally think she may, as I said, I'm the one who thinks she came from London, those others don't agree with me. But I, I think that she may have gotten a skillset somewhere, and when she came there, she would help them out, because one of the things they did was they raised cattle. That was the big thing from the people from the the that part of of England.[00:24:00]  
Plus I found this out, her husband, this is really weird. Her husband had some kind of like a tuberculosis of the skin and he constantly lost his skin. And, when I saw that, I said, "oh, she's gotta be doing something to help him out." Anyway, so she may have had a skillset that was working fine.
And then when people started dying, obviously sometimes people turn on those kinds of people and go, " wait a, now people are dying. She must be, as I say this a fellow that had a wife and he was in Newbury, I think in Newbury, Massachusetts. And he said, sometimes people questioned about whether my wife was a good witch or a bad witch, and I got it as a quote.
So it's possible that when people started dying, people started looking at it with a jaundice eye and said, and then of course there were issues going on in the church too. That's the other thing. There were a lot of issues that that were causing problems in the church. We don't know exactly what they were, but we know that people were complaining about something. That, that's the kind of thing that [00:25:00] once it gets started, it's hard to it's hard to stop. People just gossip, and it just gets, the ball starts rolling.
 There are no records of the trials themselves, that all we have is like depositions and things like that, just like in Salem. She's got that issue with trying to find the witches marks. Or the witches teats as they call 'em. And if they can discover that, and this is what they believe. The demonologists believe that if you can discover that on the person, then you know that a compact was made with the devil and that they are feeding familiars. The witches teat was to feed familiars, and so if you could, and that's what they were looking for.
And we know that they were looking for that in Goody Knapp. Because what happens with Goody Knapp is Goody Knapp gets hanged, right? And her body is thrown in a ditch, is what they did with witches, right? When she was hanged, and her body's thrown in a ditch, Mary Staples gets involved and gets accused of being a witch, [00:26:00] but she goes over there and starts looking for the witch's teats. So we know that must have been an important part of the trial. And one of the other ladies says, "wait a minute. Be careful there. Don't you know or they'll think you're a witch, too, if you say that these," cuz she was going, " there's nothing on her that's any worse than anyone, than me." and that's when the other lady says, "wait a minute, you're gonna get in trouble for this." And so we know that was very important. We don't hear about it that much, but obviously it was important because that Mary was looking for it to say if that was the proof.
 And then I guess a woman named O'Dell, she was a midwife. Now the midwifes are different. Midwives actually were very respected. She comes up to her and says, comes up to Mary Staples and said, "she's got 'em, she's got 'em. And just shut up, basically, oh, you're gonna get you something to a lot of trouble." So anyway, that's what happened.
Sarah Jack: Wow, that's a great story. Historical story. 
Richard Ross: Lot of interesting things going on, gotta [00:27:00] read these cases as much as really close, some of them, and this is just some of 'em. I try to look at the cases, all the cases, as many cases as I could. These are all cases, many of 'em related to people that actually executed. But I also got involved in a few cases where people weren't necessarily executed, but they were freed, so to speak. 
I think you hear about John Winthrop and how he was like an alchemist. And how he helped to get some of these witchcraft cases where it looked like they were gonna be convicted. He got them off, but as long as they behaved themselves. This is a case she didn't hang, she was from New York. And the town, the area she was from wanted to be connected with Connecticut. So cuz they wanted to get a real trial, and they brought her up there, and she was tried and it looked pretty bad for her, and then John Winthrop, Jr. was able to say, " let's let her go and she behaves that'll be fine. If she doesn't behave, we'll bring her back, and then we'll convict her." And you know that, what's interesting about that is this case of [00:28:00] guilty and not guilty, whereas he was looking for a middle way, because she wasn't not guilty, but she wasn't guilty, either, as far as he was concerned.
 I'm writing a book on body snatching. And the reason I bring it up is because there's, the Scots, legally they actually have a middle ground where you're not actually guilty and you're not not guilty, but you're in the middle, basically.
And I think that's where he might have got it from, so anyway, but he did that in a number of cases. I think one of the problems he had was he did that in that case I was just telling you about. And I think the people in Hartford during their time period when they had the Hartford Witch Hunt, got really upset that this woman didn't get executed. And so that when he left, that was now their opportunity to go after the real witches that they wanted to get.
Sarah Jack: That's really good information. 
Richard Ross: They, they were bitter, bitter. And the other thing I just wanna tell [00:29:00] you quickly about, which I even talked about, but with the Hartford case there was an awful lot of contention and wrangling over the church in Hartford, and that also didn't help, either, with the witch panic.
Josh Hutchinson: Can you tell us a little more about that?
Richard Ross: Basically, when Hooker died, they brought in a couple of ministers that they tried them out. They didn't like 'em. Stone didn't like them at all, particularly the first one. And he wanted to be the chief minister, basically, best I can tell. And then he started to act a what we would call a Presbyterian where you're in charge of the church, whereas Congregationalists didn't believe in that. They believed that the elders were in charge of the church and that the minister was supposed to do their bidding pretty much.
And so there was great conflict between the two of them over almost a ten year period. It was unbelievable. People talked about it all over New England, and actually Wethersfield had its problems, too, [00:30:00] but in 1659, the elders were finally able to withdraw and go up to Hadley, Massachusetts. And they set up their own church up there. But what happened was, of course, it left, all the quality people, if you will, left town and caused all kinds of problems land disputes, and cetera, et cetera, in Hartford itself. Hartford was also suffering all kinds of weather problems, flooding.
And then our friend John Winthrop, Jr. decides he's gonna leave and go over and get a charter, which freaked people out. And then when Charles II came to the throne, that freaked people out. And finally, the Congregationalists felt they were losing out to Presbyterians and Charles was getting ready to allow Catholics, for God's sake, to come into New England.
That was another thing, Quakers. So there was all kinds of problems going on in in Hartford, and in some sense, New England at that time. But Hartford was the place where we had the the actual witch trials themselves that came about as a result of all [00:31:00] these issues. So there's a lot of detail on that, too, that I go into. And there was conflict in the church, too. 
The other thing that happened was the thing that most people don't talk about, which I like to talk about, is the fact that one of the young women, Ann Cole, was possessed. She started naming witches and things like that, but she was also supposedly possessed by a demon.
And the ministers of course got together, the four ministers from the different towns Wethersfield, Farmington, and then I think two from Hartford, including Stone. And they decided they were going to interview her, and they weren't casting demons out, but they were certainly looking for information from her, and she gave out the information they wanted. And one of the other things that had to do with this is not everybody left, not everybody could afford to leave to go up to Hadley. And so there was a small group in the church that were working against Stone. And it just so happened that Anne Cole [00:32:00] was the daughter of one of the members of this group.
Josh Hutchinson: You've answered many of our questions. Towards the end of the book, you talk about the case of Katherine Harrison and what was the significance of the final decision in that case?
Richard Ross: Katherine is the one where he goes to the ministers. Basically that's important, because finally they decide that you can't have a an accusation that you saw some kind of devilish activity, unless you have actually two witnesses. And if you can get two witnesses that saw the same exact act, then you'd have a case, at least you could bring it to court. Aside from that, no. They couldn't get a conviction. From that period on, you don't have, the magistrates really don't wanna bring too many witchcraft cases until we finally get up to 1692. And we do get the witchcraft cases, but thankfully, no executions.
Sarah Jack: [00:33:00] Where do you suggest your community, people who are coming to look for history, where can they experience it or learn about it?
Richard Ross: So basically once a year we, I do a a tour called the Connecticut Colony 17th Century Witch Panic. And I put together this pamphlet for them, Ancient Burying Ground. And we usually do that in October. So that's one where I talk about a lot of what happened during the witch panic at that time period. But what we also do is we identify the graves of people who were connected to the witch panic. And of course, no witches are buried there, as I have to tell people all the time, because they didn't do that.
But we do have Hooker and Stone, and some of the more famous names are there. And so I talk about each of the individuals and how they're connected. There's another organization at the Stanley-Whitman House, which is in Farmington, and it's called the Mary Barnes Society.[00:34:00] Their organization is interested in Mary Barnes, who was also hanged with the Greensmiths in 1663, and I guess they have a collection there. I've been there, but I haven't been involved with them. But I do know about them, and I've done talks for them.
And of course there are talks, available people that are doing talks like myself. And there's other, Beth does talks. And recently I went to, although there wasn't really a witch thing, but have you ever heard of The Witch of Blackbird Pond in the book?
Josh Hutchinson: Yes.
Richard Ross: Okay. So they did a ball there for Halloween. It was quite good. And so there's ways to get into it and then of course, to read about it, to get books that, if you're interested in it, get some of these books and read about the work that's been done and find out if there's something that you feel that you can, you see something that maybe you'd like to explore further and maybe do some research on your own. That's always good.
So there are ways of connecting with people and then you [00:35:00] connect with other people and then Beth's got that Connecticut Witchcraft, it's a Facebook and you can, see what's going on and that it's a way of it's a way of connecting with other people that might, that have the same interests as you.
 I will say that when I talk to people, so many people just tell me that they're so thankful that somebody actually is, I think I said this earlier, is interested in like their family or it's nice to know that they're related in some way to somebody else that's related to so heck, a lot of people that seem to be related to these witches, accused witches. I'm shocked at how many people, but it's good.
 My book is available primarily through like Amazon and Barnes & Noble and stuff like that. And I didn't set the price, unfortunately. But it's got a lot of material in it, and it's I think people live, if they're interested in basically how it's connected with what was going on in England and then basically took off on its own. [00:36:00] You can learn a lot from what I've written, I hope. Anyway, that's what I did it for. I wanted to give people context. One of the things I noticed about a lot of books on witchcraft, on witches and witch trials is they deal with that specifically, whereas what I wanted to do is to look at it and put it into a totality, a context, and then people can understand some of these trials better, I think is what was going on in the world at that time. The real purpose for the book really is to put 'em all into a larger context, and particularly the, obviously the Connecticut Witch Trials.
Josh Hutchinson: Thank you.
Richard Ross: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.
Josh Hutchinson: And now we go to author Beth Caruso, who has an update on a possible location of the Connecticut witch trials hangings in Hartford.
Beth Caruso: Dr. Love was a historian, and he was a reverend as well. So in 1914, [00:37:00] Dr. William DeLoss Love published a history called The Colonial History of Hartford, which focused on how the City of Hartford developed. And on page 2 86 of this book, he talked about a possible witch hanging site. Now Dr. Katherine Hermes, our historian friend, she has said how impressed she was with Dr. Love's references. He literally went to Colonial Land records, and he followed them through time. In one Colonial land record, it said that it was near the hanging site, or it was the property of what the old hanging site was, or gallows.
And [00:38:00] keep in mind, those gallows were used not just for witch trial victims, but the other first hanging victims were mostly Native Americans, they hanged for murder. And also gay people, and they are on the record as being hanged for sodomy. So this is a site that does pertain to which trial victims, but there are also others who were targeted for their skin color, their culture, their sexual preference, as well. So we do need to keep that in mind when we talk about these gallows. 
I'm gonna read you the specific site that he is talking about, but before I do that, I do wanna tell you that, we don't absolutely know for certain where the hanging site was a, [00:39:00] and I've heard so much hearsay, but I, there is no direct evidence. One spot that has come up as hearsay is near the Old State House. Apparently at some point in time when they were doing construction in the area, they did find some human remains in the ground near the Old State House. Does that mean that people were hanged there at some point? It's really hard to know. And again, I can't find direct references to that, so I don't even know if that's hearsay or if that's real. I would need to do more research on that. 
Another possible hanging site was down by the meadows near the Connecticut River. And I think where that might come from [00:40:00] is there's an old map from the 1630s, and after the Pequot war, near that site, they would this sounds terrible, but they would cut off the heads of the natives that they were conquering and put them on pikes, and they would put those on this land next to the river as a warning. And this was not anything new for the English. At that time in London, near the old London Bridge. Criminals after they were killed, they'd be decapitated and their heads would be on pikes right near the London Bridge as well. So this was part of a criminal thing that they did as a warning to who they considered to be other criminals. So that might be where talk of, a possible other [00:41:00] hanging site comes from because of that. 
Another place, at Trinity College, there's a hill and up on that hill, there were gallows there at one point in time, but every historian I have talked to has said that those were gallows from the time of the Revolutionary War, and they did not believe that witch trials were there. I would say the absolute most solid and strongest evidence of where the hanging site was or where the gallows were, would have been a mile from downtown Hartford at the time, Main Street, about a mile out up Albany Avenue, which at that point was a road that went out to cow pasture, and there was supposedly a hill there. And if we know from Salem, it was from the downtown [00:42:00] proper, and it was on a hill where they had a gallows. So going by those things, it seems like it would fit a little better. 
But then we have this reference by Dr. Love, who is very specific. And so I'm gonna read you what he wrote, and this all comes from land records. This is page 286 of the Colonial History of Hartford. And he starts out at the beginning of the page talking about Elizabeth Seager and Mary Barnes being indicted. But then he goes down and he says, " it seems probable that the witches were executed outside of the town plot on the road from the cow pasture into the country.[00:43:00] There the gallows of early times were located on March 10th, 1711 to 12, John Read sold to John Olcott, attractive about seven acres bounded south on the highway leading out of Hartford town towards Simsbury, now Albany Avenue. It is described in the deed as near the house lately, built by Joseph Butler near where the gallows used to stand. The place is near enough identified as on the north side of the avenue on the east end of the present Goodwin lot there. A large elm tree on a rise of ground might well memorialize the place where this tragedy of Hartford's early history was [00:44:00] enacted." 
Then he goes on to say the usual place of punishment for minor offenses was in the meeting house yard near the church where the stocks, the Hillary and the whipping post. So anyway, this is fairly concrete, I think, because he is looking at very old deeds from the early 1700s. The last of these hangings would've taken place in 1663 for the witch trial victims. But again, keep in mind there were other others who hang there as well. So he wrote this in 1914.
I've known about this a long time. Other people have known about it a long time. And people who know a bit about how Hartford has changed and where this might have been, have [00:45:00] pointed to Albany Avenue about a mile from the old meeting house. But I don't think anybody knew specifically where this was.
And it never dawned on me that this is 1914. There was photography back then. I don't know, I hadn't thought about it. Other people I've talked to hadn't thought about it, until last week when Jen Schloat, your other guest, pointed out to me. We were talking about old articles and perceptions of how the witch had changed to be the old hag to this young, powerful women, coinciding with women gaining independence and freedom during that time.
And so we were going back and forth, and she found this article from 1930, I believe it was May 11th, [00:46:00] 1930, that talked about this old elm tree and the possible sight of the gallows. And in that article was this picture of this huge and beautiful old elm tree, and it was up upon a hill, and I thought, oh my gosh, where is this? Where is this? We should be able to identify this. There was one building in that photograph that looked like it was older than the other buildings there, and it was On Irving and Albany Avenue, and with some research I figured out that was the old Goodwin lot or the old Goodwin Tavern, an inn that this guy, Dr. [00:47:00] Love, or Reverend Love was referring to, it was his lot. Apparently his lot went all the way from a church at Vine Street all the way down to Albany and Garden Streets. So Garden, between Garden and Irving would be the most eastward part of that lot that he talks about and the side of the street is the north side of the street.
And indeed that's where it was. Just having that information that indeed was the Goodwin mansion that was referred to the Goodwin lot or the Goodwin Inn and Tavern, then it was possible to locate other pictures. And in locating other pictures, there were some buildings right behind the tree that were built [00:48:00] in 1927, and a couple of the buildings in those pictures still stand there today.
So because of that, it was possible to identify the specific place where that big old elm tree would've been. And it was so amazing to me to finally figure this out and have it be so specific, because people were talking about this all the time in the 1930s, and why did it just disappear? Why did people not know this anymore?
If you go through, there are several articles about the Goodwin Inn, there's more than one article about this gargantuan elm tree. They decided to take it down in the [00:49:00] 1930s. I thought maybe it was because of Dutch Elm disease, but that's not why they took it down. They took it down because they said the roots, were spreading toward Albany Avenue. There wasn't enough ground for them. And the owners, they wanted to chop it down for "progress," quote, unquote, and then they wanted to grade the lot, which they did to make it level with everything else around it.
So I think part of why people just forgot or stopped talking about this was because the main landmark, what was called the witch elm, was gone. And the other sad part about this, if you look at the original photos, this area was just absolutely beautiful. But of course, that elm was taken down. The other elms nearby probably died from the Dutch Elm Disease, which hit [00:50:00] right around that time.
And then the historic Goodwin Inn. I don't know why anyone would do this. It was such a incredibly beautiful Greek revival building with such history for Hartford. They tore it down in 1956 to make room for a parking lot. How could you do that in the name of progress? It makes no sense to me. But that's what they did. And today it's still a parking lot. So when you go to that area on Albany Avenue today, you're not gonna see these gargantuan trees. You are not going to see this incredibly old, historic building. It's all gone, but we know precisely where that spot is now that Dr. Love referred to now.
Again, I'm gonna quote him there. "A large elm [00:51:00] tree on a rise of ground might well memorialize the place where this tragedy of Hartford's early history was enacted." We don't know for absolute sure that old elm tree was indeed a hanging tree for the gallows, but we do know it was that area. And I looked up other old elm trees to see the size of the trunk. Elm trees, even very old ones, the girth was not huge like a old chestnut tree. The girth was with the oldest trees, maybe six to ten feet. And if you look at that old tree in the photograph, that does match that. It's possible that it was the tree, because everything else was pretty much chopped down. I did find a picture of the Goodwin Inn in 1925, and this is [00:52:00] before the neighborhood behind it was built up. It just looks like fields, and it's pretty much farm fields everywhere with a few of these elm trees. 
But the giant elm was one of three trees that was talked about in a special tree book. It's was called Trees of Note in Connecticut by Catherine Matthews. It was published in 1934. There were only three trees that she listed in Hartford that were well known. One, of course, was the Charter Oak. By then, the Charter Oak was gone, but they very carefully saved some saplings from the Charter Oak and strategically planted them in different places, which are still alive today. There was a third one but the second one was this witch [00:53:00] elm. And in the photograph for that book, the elm is, it's, it just looks monstrous. You can also go to and see yet another picture of that massive elm tree. And it's facing north, but it's also facing more towards Garden Street, so you can get another perspective.
But in any case, I think this is really important to know. It's not the ideal place for a memorial right now. Right now it's the property of a liquor store in the north end of Hartford, basically. The neighborhood over time has gotten very run down. I know there are projects there to bring the neighborhood up again, but what you see now [00:54:00] is completely different than what in those photographs.
And again, with these landmarks, the Goodwin Inn and the huge elm tree, I think this is why this came out of people's memory, and why they just didn't talk about it for a long time. So thank goodness for
Sarah Jack: Thank you, Beth.
Josh Hutchinson: Thank you, Beth. And we'll have a link to a photograph of the witch Elm in the show description.
Sarah Jack: And now for a Minute with Mary featuring Mary Bingham.
Mary Bingham: Mary Barnes
I have an update on the condition of Mary Barnes, for which she was treated between 1657 and 1659. I first spoke of this in the episode titled "Andy Verzosa on Museums, Mary Barnes and Farmington, Connecticut." John [00:55:00] Winthrop Jr. As an Alchemist who studied Paracelsus, believed that medicines created conditions. For which the body to heal itself. After looking at this journal entry more carefully, I discovered that Mary was treated with at least three medicines, salt, Peter sage, and most likely sugar today.
Salt Peter is known as potassium nitrate and can be used to destroy, preserve and heal. John Winter Jr. Knew that it was a fertilizer food preservative. And an ingredient used to make gun powder. On the other hand, John Winthrop Jr. Could have used Salt Peter to create the condition for the body to heal skin lesions, itchiness, and inflammation.
I don't know why John Winthrop Jr. Would have used Sage as of yet today. However, SAGE is used for headaches, sore throat, and inflammation. [00:56:00] Sugar would have been prescribed to create the condition. For the body to heal wounds. My transcription of this journal entry is far from complete. However, this small bit of knowledge brings us a little closer to knowing more about Mary Barnes.
Mary seemed to have responded favorably to this treatment before having a relapse. Winthrop Jr. Was able to help her both times to heal from a possible uncomfortable skin condition. Stay tuned. I will keep the audience updated as my findings are clarified. Thank you.
Josh Hutchinson: Thank you, Mary.
Sarah Jack: Thank you, Mary.
Josh Hutchinson: And now time for End Witch Hunts News featuring Sarah Jack.
Sarah Jack: On Monday, we visited the Salem Witch Museum and the Salem Witch Trials Memorial with Dr. Leo Igwe, director of Advocacy for Alleged Witches. He communicated with us the striking parallels between the historic accused witches and the alleged witches being [00:57:00] attacked around the globe today. Parallels such as targeting vulnerable members of society with blame and punishment for natural misfortunes that the accused could not possibly have caused. Lives forever altered, alleged witches maimed for life, having to flee their homes, to find safety from the trauma. 
Words of innocence quoted from the 17th century witch trial records are chiseled in stone at the Salem witch Memorial, pleas of innocence quoted directly from the Salem Witch Trial victims you may be familiar with. The parallel is that modern day alleged witches are the exact counterpart. They're pleading and holding out their own arm, asking for their innocence to be recognized, pleading, pleading, pleading until they are dead. Tuesday, Mary Bingham, End Witch Hunts board member, took us to Proctor's Ledge. At the Proctor's Ledge Memorial, Dr. Igwe commented on how the sufferings of the 1692 victims ring a bell in his heart, because people today are suffering under very similar conditions. We also visited the locations where sisters [00:58:00] Mary Towne Esty and Rebecca Towne Nurse were arrested and the place where they were executed. These experiences were deeply moving, as we felt like we were touching tragic history. But this tragedy is not gathering dust in books. No, this tragedy has its counterpart across the globe, where men, women, and children are taken from their home and accused of causing harm with witchcraft. In Connecticut, we are waiting for the Senate to vote on the resolution to absolve those accused of witchcraft in the 17th century. 
The United States is looked to for models of justice and dignity. Taking action here to absolve witch trial victims resonates in countries with people affected by witch hunts today and among immigrant communities in the United States and other Western nations. People in every continent are likely to be affected by modern witch hunts, because it's a smaller and smaller world due to instant connectivity and various cultures converging. Immigration is bringing beliefs from one part of the world to the rest of the world, therefore the whole world needs leadership standing up for all vulnerable people targeted as witches. [00:59:00] Communities everywhere can be effected by the dangerous and violent scapegoating of misfortune. And so communities everywhere need to take a stand.
Get involved. Visit To support us, purchase books from our bookshop, merch from our Zazzle shop, or make a financial contribution to our organization. Our links are in the show description. 
Josh Hutchinson: Thank you, Sarah.
Sarah Jack: You're welcome.
Josh Hutchinson: Thank you for listening to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast.
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Josh Hutchinson: Have a great today and a beautiful tomorrow.
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