Massachusetts Witchcraft Trials 101 Part 1: 1648-1656

Massachusetts Witchcraft Trials 101 Part 1: 1648-1656 Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast

In Part 1 of Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast’s Massachusetts Witchcraft Trials 101 series, we start at the beginning of witch hunt history in Massachusetts Bay Colony, decades before the famous Salem Witch-Hunt. This episode focuses on the stories of those accused of witchcraft who faced trial in Boston, including Margaret Jones, Alice Lake, Elizabeth Kendall, Anne Hibbins, John Bradstreet, Jane Walford, and Eunice Cole. The Massachusetts Witch-Hunt Justice Project is asking for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to proclaim the innocence of its witch trial victims.  The convicted victims talked about in this episode have not been exonerated, and no Massachusetts witchcraft trial victim has received an official apology. Please visit our project website at for more, and please take a moment to sign and share the project petition at to recognize those accused of witchcraft in MassachusettsList of those accused of witchcraft in MassachusettsWitch-Hunting in Seventeenth Century New EnglandThe Devil in the Shape of a WomanEntertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New EnglandEnd Witch HuntsSupport the show

Listen in Your Favorite App

Listen and subscribe wherever you enjoy podcasts:

Show Notes

In Part 1 of Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast’s Massachusetts Witchcraft Trials 101 series, we start at the beginning of witch hunt history in Massachusetts Bay Colony, decades before the famous Salem Witch-Hunt. This episode focuses on the stories of those accused of witchcraft who faced trial in Boston, including Margaret Jones, Alice Lake, Elizabeth Kendall, Anne Hibbins, John Bradstreet, Jane Walford, and Eunice Cole.

The Massachusetts Witch-Hunt Justice Project is asking for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to proclaim the innocence of its witch trial victims.  The convicted victims talked about in this episode have not been exonerated, and no Massachusetts witchcraft trial victim has received an official apology. Please visit our project website at for more, and please take a moment to sign and share the project petition at

Petition to recognize those accused of witchcraft in Massachusetts
List of those accused of witchcraft in Massachusetts
Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth Century New England
The Devil in the Shape of a Woman
Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England
End Witch Hunts


[00:00:10] Josh Hutchinson: Hello, and welcome to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast, the show that asks why we hunt witches and how we can stop hunting witches. I'm Josh Hutchinson.
[00:00:20] Sarah Jack: And I'm Sarah Jack. This episode is the first part of a Massachusetts Witch Trial 101 series.
[00:00:27] Josh Hutchinson: We're so glad to be able to give this part of history the detailed coverage it deserves.
[00:00:33] Sarah Jack: Massachusetts had more witch trials than just Salem.
[00:00:37] Josh Hutchinson: That's right. Before 1692, witchcraft trials were held in Boston.
[00:00:42] Sarah Jack: Let's dive into the details.
[00:00:44] Josh Hutchinson: Though rumors of witchcraft arose soon after settlement of the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies, and were certainly making rounds by 1638, when Governor John Winthrop wrote that Jane Hawkins "grew into suspicion to be a witch", it took many years of suspicions under normal circumstances to trigger formal witchcraft complaints.
[00:01:09] Sarah Jack: Between 1648 and 1693, two hundred and seventeen individuals were formally charged with witchcraft, and several others sued their accusers for slander. For a complete list of victims, visit
[00:01:27] Josh Hutchinson: 156 people are verified to have been formally accused during the Salem Witch Hunt.
[00:01:35] Sarah Jack: And 61 were accused before Salem.
[00:01:38] Josh Hutchinson: A total of 38 were convicted, 30 in Salem and 8 in Boston.
[00:01:44] Sarah Jack: In all 24 were hanged and one was pressed to death in Massachusetts . These 24 hanged included my ancestor, Rebecca nurse,
[00:01:54] Josh Hutchinson: And our mutual ancestor, Mary Esty.
[00:01:58] Sarah Jack: You know the 19 hanged in Salem, and you know Giles Corey's story, but do you know the 5 victims who were hanged in Boston between 1648 and 1688?
[00:02:08] Josh Hutchinson: And over the years, at least six additional people died in jail while awaiting either trial or execution for witchcraft.
[00:02:18] Sarah Jack: In total, 118 people were indicted, including my ancestor, Mary Hale.
[00:02:24] Josh Hutchinson: And my ancestor, Mary Osgood, as well as several of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. 
[00:02:30] Sarah Jack: Another 99 were complained of, arrested, jailed, and/or examined, but their cases did not go to trial.
[00:02:38] Josh Hutchinson: In many of these cases, we simply do not have complete records to know the outcomes.
[00:02:46] Sarah Jack: Contrary to popular belief, confessing to witchcraft did not save your life. Before Salem, several confessors were put to death in both the Massachusetts and Connecticut Colonies.
[00:02:57] Josh Hutchinson: During Salem, several who had confessed to witchcraft were indeed condemned to die and death warrant was issued and a date set for execution. However, the governor stepped in and metaphorically called the warden at the last minute. Those who had been condemned were reprieved.
[00:03:21] Sarah Jack: I want to hear about the first woman formally charged with witchcraft.
[00:03:25] Josh Hutchinson: The first woman formally charged with witchcraft in Massachusetts was Margaret Jones, who was accused in 1648. We know about her case primarily through the journal of Governor John Winthrop and a book by minister John Hale, which was written a full 49 years after Margaret's trial. 
According to John Hale's recollection, Margaret "was suspected partly because that after some angry words passing between her and her neighbors, some mischief befell such neighbors in their creatures or the like." These neighbors used counter magic to identify the witch who'd bewitched or charmed certain objects, which they burned. Margaret unfortunately came to the house where the objects were burning at the worst possible time and was assumed to be the witch. 
According to Winthrop, Margaret was a healer, but one whose malignant touch could cause deafness, vomiting, and "other violent pains or sickness," and whose medicines also had unspecified "violent effects." But if someone didn't use her medicine, she told them they would never be well, and accordingly, they never got well. Margaret was also supposed to be able to foretell the future, and she knew things that she wasn't privy to from private conversations in private houses. 
During the investigation, Margaret and her husband, Thomas, were both watched. Now watching was an English technique for detecting witches, which was popularized by the self-defined Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins, during his East Anglia witch hunt in the mid 1640s. Watching involved sitting a suspect in a room, keeping them awake hour after hour, and watching to see if an imp or familiar would come in to feed, because witches were said to feed their imps and familiars from teats, which were often hidden in their secret parts. 
Men would take shifts watching, instructed to keep the victim awake no matter what and use any means necessary to wake them up if they did fall asleep, because also once the person was sleep deprived, they were more likely to confess.
[00:06:22] Sarah Jack: Couldn't the watcher become sleep deprived?
[00:06:25] Josh Hutchinson: Yes. And in this case, while Margaret was being watched, one of the watchers saw a small child in her arms who ran away into another room and then vanished when the watcher followed. Perhaps the watcher himself was suffering sleep deprivation, as you said, Sarah. But others also claimed to see this apparent familiar in different locations associated with Margaret at other times.
In addition to being watched, Margaret was examined for witch's teets and was found to have one in her secret parts. They described it as being "as fresh as if it had been newly sucked, and after it had been scanned, upon a forced search, that was withered, and another began on the opposite side."
Alice Stratton attempted to defend Margaret by saying that the teats were just scars from a difficult childbirth, just as Rebecca Nurse argued in Salem 44 years later. Subsequently, Alice Stratton would find herself accused of witchcraft. Ultimately, Margaret was convicted, and she was condemned to die by hanging.
On the day she was to be executed, young John Hale and some neighbors went to the prison and exhorted her to confess and repent. They were not there to save her life. They were there to save her soul. However, she refused to belie herself and maintained her innocence up until her death later that day.
Now, according to John Winthrop, the same day and hour she was executed, there was a very great tempest at Connecticut, which blew down many trees. Then, following Margaret Jones's execution, her husband Thomas tried to board a ship to Barbados but was refused passage due to lack of payment. While anchored at Charlestown, before it could even get underway on the Charles River to Boston Harbor, this ship, carrying a load of 80 horses, began rocking side to side violently, though the weather was calm. And so this continued for 12 hours.
At some point while the ship was struggling, a witness ran to the county court, which was in session, and told the magistrates about the rocking and also told them about how Thomas Jones had been denied passage on that ship and hey, wasn't it weird that the husband of an executed witch would be refused passage and then the ship would have these troubles? The magistrates agreed with that logic. How could you not? So they send an officer over to arrest Thomas. 
Now, according to the account of Winthrop, as the officer was crossing over on the ferry, someone said to him, "you can tame men sometimes, can't you tame this ship?" And the officer answered, "I have that here that it may be will tame her and make her be quiet." As the officer was showing his arrest warrant to this other person, the ship slowly began to stop swaying. The stoppage of the swaying was completed once Thomas was behind bars.
Unfortunately, we don't have good records to show us what became of Thomas after this incident. We don't know how he lived out the rest of his life.
[00:10:36] Sarah Jack: Do we know anything of their children? She had a birthing scar.
[00:10:40] Josh Hutchinson: We don't have anything about their children. We have very scant records of this couple. We basically know about them through the witch trials.
[00:10:51] Sarah Jack: We know that there were accused witches who didn't have a full house of children or they lost their pregnancies or infants.
[00:11:04] Josh Hutchinson: We will talk about that during this episode, because there is a recurring theme of childless women who were perceived by the others to have child envy and want a child for their own by any means necessary, including witchery.
[00:11:27] Sarah Jack: Let's talk about Alice Lake from Dorchester. She was a wife of Henry, a mother of four. We don't have a lot of information on Alice Lake, but what we know is sad. We know that later she confessed that she "played the harlot" when she was young and single. During that time, she became pregnant. In trying to hide her shame, she attempted to terminate that pregnancy but failed. Following this event, she considered herself to be a murderer, because she had made the attempt. As shown by the cases we've already covered and many still to come, infanticide and perceived sexual immorality are more reoccurring themes in witch trial accusations.
According to Nathaniel Mather, brother of Increase Mather, when another child died, Alice Lake was visited by the devil in the child's shape. 
The exact timing of Alice's trial is unknown, but she is believed to have been executed in about 1650. As with Margaret Jones, Alice received visitors on the day of her execution, who likewise pleaded with her to confess and repent. They were trying to save her soul. Following her execution, Henry moved to Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Four children remained in Dorchester, where one died. The other three later moved to Rhode Island and then uprooted to Plymouth Colony with their father. 
We have heard from Alice Lake descendants.
[00:13:00] Josh Hutchinson: We have, and we want to hear from more descendants. If you're out there listening to us, please get in touch. The contact information is in the show description.
Another person accused of witchcraft around this same time was Elizabeth Kendall of Cambridge. Again, like Alice Lake, the date of Elizabeth's trial cannot be pinned down but is believed to have been somewhere between 1647 and 1651. The one and only source that we have for her case is John Hale's book, A Modest Enquiry into the Nature of Witchcraft, which wasn't published until 1702, so only very limited information is available about Elizabeth. 
What we know from Hale is that she was accused by a nurse from Watertown, who claimed that Elizabeth had bewitched a child to death. This nurse stated that Elizabeth made much of the child and it was well, but then it changed color and it died a few hours later. On the basis of this witness testimony and other, unspecified evidence, Elizabeth was hanged, despite her own protest of innocence. 
After the hanging, Watertown's deputy to the General Court, Mr. Richard Brown, questioned the parents of the child, the Jenningses. This couple told him they hadn't suspected Elizabeth at all. They'd actually believed the nurse was to blame for the child's death, because she had kept them out in the cold. Later, the nurse was jailed for alleged adultery. While there in the jail, she gave birth to a child born out of wedlock. For this, Mr. Brown visited her and told her off, saying, "it was just with God to leave her to this wickedness, as a punishment for her murdering Goody Kendall by her false witness bearing. The unnamed nurse died in prison, and her false allegation was never investigated any further, and Hale did not note what happened to the child that was born in prison.
[00:15:26] Sarah Jack: Here's a couple that should be familiar to you if you've been reading an important history book this past year. Mary Lewis Parsons and her husband, Hugh, were formally charged with witchcraft in Massachusetts. They were featured in our fifth episode with Malcolm Gaskill on his book, The Ruin of All Witches, and will be featured again in our next Massachusetts 101 episode, along with fellow Springfield residents, the widow Mercy Marshfield, another Mary Parsons, and Alice Young Beamon, daughter of Alice Young of Windsor, as well as a few familiar faces from down the Connecticut River.
[00:16:07] Josh Hutchinson: In 1652, John Bradstreet of Rowley was charged with witchcraft and presented to the Essex County Quarter Court. Allegedly, John had been claiming to perform magic and saying he was hearing mysterious voices. These things led to suspicion that he had familiarity with the devil. According to the complaint against him, he said he read in a book of magic and that he heard a voice asking him what work he had for him. He answered, "go make a bridge of sand over the sea. Go make a ladder of sand up to heaven. And go to God and come down no more." The court, reviewing this evidence, ruled that John had not actually committed witchcraft but had simply lied about it, a decision that they would make in certain cases for a handful of men.
[00:17:06] Sarah Jack: I was just gonna say, "wait a minute."
[00:17:09] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, they never did this for women, but men, they would say, "oh, you can't be a witch, you're just lying about it. So you're on a first name basis with the devil, but you lied about that." Whereas women, they just say, "take a hike." 
So the court ruled that he just lied about it, and he had also been convicted of lying previously in 1650, so this was considered a repeat offense, and so they ordered him to either pay a fine of 20 shillings or submit to a whipping if he couldn't pay.
[00:17:49] Sarah Jack: A ladder of sand, that's interesting.
[00:17:54] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah. This guy was like, "you build me something impossible," and are basically just telling the devil to get lost. And even though he told the devil basically to leave, or whoever the voice was that he was hearing, he told them to leave, but he still got in trouble for talking to them.
[00:18:18] Sarah Jack: Jane Walford of Portsmouth was accused of witchcraft in 1648 and won a defamation suit against her accuser, Elizabeth Rowe, who was ordered to apologize and pay two pounds plus court costs. Eight years later in 1656, Elizabeth Rowe's husband, Nicholas Rowe, and six others brought witchcraft accusations against Jane Walford to the court. This time, magistrates bound her over for 20 pounds as assurance she would attend the next court session. 
Nicholas Rowe claimed in court that Jane Walford came to him in bed in the evening and put her hand on his breast so that he could not speak, and he was in great pain till the next day. Witness Susannah Trimmings said that on the evening of March 30th, 1656, on her way home, "she heard a rustling in the woods, and presently after, there did appear to her a woman whom she apprehended to be Old Goodwife Walford. She asked me where my consort was. I answered I had none. She said, ' thy consort is at home by this time. Lend me a pound of cotton.' I told her I had but two pounds in the house, and I would not spare any to my mother. She said I had better have done it, that my sorrow was great already, and it should be greater for I was going a great journey, but should never come there. She then left me, and I was struck as with a clap of fire on the back, and she vanished towards the water side, in my apprehension in the shape of a cat."
That night, according to Goodman Trimmings, Susannah was ill, a condition which persisted at least until April 18th, when the Trimmings gave in their testimony. Elisa Barton said she was there while Susannah was sick, and her face was colored and spotted with several colors. Her eyes looked as if they'd been scalded.
An unidentified witness testified in June that he was actually with the Walfords on March 30th, and Jane was at home at least until it was very dark out.
[00:20:25] Josh Hutchinson: He's her alibi.
[00:20:27] Sarah Jack: John Puddington claimed that three years ago, Jane Walford said that her own husband called her an old witch. Agnes Puddington claimed that on April 11th, 1656, Mrs. Evans came over and lay at her house all night. Around sunset, Agnes saw a yellowish cat, and Mrs. Evans was like, "a cat has been following me all around, everywhere I go." John Puddington then tried to shoot a cat in the garden, but it got up on a tree, and the gun wouldn't fire. Following that, Agnes saw three cats but could not tell which way they went as they exited the area. 
Three unnamed witnesses claimed that Elizabeth Rowe said Strawberry Bank had three male witches. They were Thomas Turpin, who had drowned, a second man called Old Ham, and the third was "nameless because he should be blameless."
[00:21:18] Josh Hutchinson: Nameless because he should be blameless. That totally sounds like a Johnny Cochrane court statement. OJ Simpson should be nameless because he should be blameless.
[00:21:33] Sarah Jack: This testimony against Jane Walford did not sway the court. Upon a magisterial review of the evidence, Jane was cleared by proclamation, so her witness was key.
[00:21:45] Josh Hutchinson: Yes, her alibi held up. Susanna Trimmings' statement did not fit, so they did acquit.
[00:21:52] Sarah Jack: In 1659, Jane won a slander case against Robert Couch, a physician who claimed he could prove she was a witch. How was he proving it? This time, she was awarded six pounds.
[00:22:06] Josh Hutchinson: I bet he was going to look at her secret parts.
[00:22:09] Sarah Jack: It's very likely.
The stigma of witchcraft remained with Jane even beyond her death and passed down to her five daughters.
[00:22:18] Josh Hutchinson: Now we're turning our attention to Mrs. Anne Hibbins, who was accused of witchcraft in 1655. Now, Anne had immigrated to Boston with her second husband, William, back in the 1630s, leaving three sons behind in England. After arriving in Massachusetts, William set up a shop as a merchant and also got into politics.
Things were going well for the couple, when a dramatic business error cost William 500 pounds, which was a huge sum of money that people would literally probably have killed for back in that day, because the average person had an estate, probably more in the 100 to 200 pound range. So this is way more than what other people have total.
[00:23:13] Sarah Jack: Unexpected financial devastation.
[00:23:16] Josh Hutchinson: Yes. And what brings tension into a marriage more than an unexpected financial burden? And so this is often cited as occasioning a major personality change in Anne. Thomas Hutchinson later wrote that "losses in the latter part of [William's] life had reduced his estate," and this is Thomas Hutchinson saying this, not Josh Hutchinson, "increased the natural crabbedness of his wife's temper, which made her turbulent and quarrelsome." And there's that word again. We've got another quarrelsome dame, yet another one of those themes that pops up. A woman speaks her mind, so she becomes quarrelsome and therefore suspect, because who but the devil's handmaiden would be so damned quarrelsome.
[00:24:24] Sarah Jack: Exactly.
[00:24:26] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah. So despite the financial setbacks, William continued to be elected to public office.
They had this financial setback, and then in 1640, the family suffered a different kind of setback. This began as a dispute between Anne and some joiners, who were a type of carpenter, that had done some work on the Hibbins house, and this dispute escalated big time owing probably to Anne's assertive, or quarrelsome, nature, depending who you talk to. Anne didn't like the quality of the work. She didn't like the price that she was charged in the end. So she was very agitated, and once she got going on this, she wouldn't let it go. 
The church steps in and tries to mediate, because the joiner that she's arguing with is also a member of the church that she's a member of, which is at the time in 1640, the one, just called the Boston Church. So the church elders, the minister, people are getting involved in this, and ultimately decide that Anne is raising a fuss about nothing, and the men are right, and she should mind her place in society, and shut her mouth. And so they tried to make peace, but she wouldn't accept it. And because she wouldn't accept what the church had offered to mediate, and because she was usurping her husband's authority as the head of the household, she was excommunicated in 1641, even though her husband was this prominent figure being elected to offices. They still kicked her out, said, "you're not welcome in church anymore," and they literally told her, "you can go to hell now." But whatever ill will Bostonians harbored toward Anne, they didn't seem to hold it against William, who was elected an Assistant. This is the upper house of the Massachusetts legislature at the time, the General Court, the House of Assistants, and he's elected to that in 1643 and reelected every year until his death in 1654. 
But once William was out of the picture, it didn't take long for the neighbors to come for Anne. The year after he passed, Anne was tried for witchcraft by the Court of Assistants, the very institution to which her husband had belonged for nearly a dozen years.
And here's another theme that we see recurring, widows with money appear to have been more vulnerable to witchcraft prosecution. We see the same thing happen in Connecticut with Katherine Harrison. When John Harrison dies, the neighbors really turn on Katherine, and she ends up being charged with witchcraft, just like Anne here.
She's vulnerable. There's no husband. She doesn't have any male relatives in the colony. Her sons are back in England, remember? So they're not going to be any help. And basically there's no men around who the other men would actually listen to. So the men are just saying, "oh, that, that woman over there, she's been in trouble for years and years. She must be a witch."
And Anne was convicted by the jury. The magistrates actually refused to accept the verdict and instead referred the case to the full General Court, which would include Assistants and the Deputies, and they held a retrial on May 14th, 1656. So this is about a year after her arrest, and she's convicted again. So this time, everybody just consents to the decision of the General Court, and she's hanged June 19th, 1656.
 So the decision to hang Mrs. Anne Hibbins was not popular with everybody. There was an element out there talking against this. Bravely, minister John Horton is said to have said, "Mistress Hibbins was hanged for a witch only for having more wit than her neighbors."
[00:29:40] Sarah Jack: You think about these women who were retried. It could have gone either way. 
[00:29:47] Josh Hutchinson: The story of Eunice Cole begins in England and ends in New Hampshire, but is mainly a Massachusetts tale. 
Okay, so here we've got a prototypical witch. This is your ordinary suspect kind of figure. Eunice Cole has a reputation also for being a quarrelsome dame, she has a checkered past with several arrests for different things, she's older, by the standards of the day, and impoverished. So here's basically this old, grumpy lady, but basically she's past her childbearing years, and she's got no money. She's very vulnerable, a person on the fringe of society.
Rewinding back a while, it's 1637, and William Cole is in the employ of a merchant in London, England. But William, he longs to go to New England, so he makes a deal with his boss, and his boss says, "okay, I'll let you off the hook for future service, and I'll pay for your passage across the Atlantic and your wife's passage, if you agree to send me 10 pounds once you get over there." So they make this deal, they travel over.
 In November, 1637, a bill is sent to them, and this still exists today, somehow, remarkably, and states the nature of this agreement. So that's how we have all this information. Another bill, actually a claim filed in court against William Cole 20 years later for the same debt, also exists. William couldn't come up with 10 pounds in 20 years. He couldn't save half a pound a year. That's just either shows you their financial situation, the dire straits that they're in most of that time, or maybe he just wasn't very happy with his old employer, and he didn't want to send him the money. He was like, "hey, I could use this 10 pounds. I got stuff to do."
[00:32:34] Sarah Jack: He probably thought it was going to fall off the credit report after seven years.
[00:32:38] Josh Hutchinson: Yes, exactly. But they're still after him after 20 years, they hire an agent in Massachusetts to pursue this for them. So they're really determined to get their 10 pounds. 
Now once they were in New England, the Coles first settled south of Boston in a settlement called Mount Wollaston, which is now Braintree. In Mount Wollaston, William received what historian John Demos describes as a small land grant. Now this town was also the starting point in Massachusetts for the unorthodox minister John Wheelwright, who the Puritans deemed to be an antinomian. Wheelwright uprooted and, along with a lot of his flock, moved to Exeter, in what is today New Hampshire, at the time of the move, was outside of Massachusetts control.
Now the joke's on them, because they get up there, and in 1643, Massachusetts says, "hey, we're making another county," the original Norfolk County. And this consists of basically anything between the Merrimack and Piscataqua and about a dozen miles inland from the ocean. So you've got the towns of Exeter, Hampton, Portsmouth, they're part of this new county along with Salisbury and Haverhill in what is still today Massachusetts.
So William Cole goes up along with Wheelwright and becomes a founding member of this town. They signed a covenant agreeing to abide by godly laws that would be enacted by the town of Exeter, and William signed with his mark. The Coles lived in Exeter for five years, and in 1643, William was elected to serve the community as fenceviewer, which was actually an important job. It sounds odd today to say, "oh, we're hiring you to go around viewing fences." But at the time it was critical in keeping harmony between neighbors to make sure there weren't gaps in fences or loose parts that animals could get through and ravage a neighbor's yard, which going back again to Sarah's grandmother, Rebecca Nurse, pigs got into her garden and she got angry about that, and it's like the one recorded instance out of all the testimony against her where she showed anger, because pigs were eating her garden, and that's her vegetables and herbs and everything that she needs for cooking. Fence viewing was serious business.
For unknown reasons, in 1644, the Coles uprooted once again and moved over to the coast to Hampton.
[00:36:06] Sarah Jack: I really wish I knew why, because this is where things start to get really juicy.
[00:36:11] Josh Hutchinson: Yes, once they get to Hampton, it gets real. Eunice starts getting arrested left and right. Their financial situation really just nosedives. It wasn't very good where they were, but it just bottoms out in Hampton. So in 1645, Eunice was charged with making "slanderous speeches" against some women.
And in 1647, Eunice and William were charged for withholding pigs that were owed to the plaintiff in this case. Apparently they had made some arrangement where they were going to sell or give to this person pigs and they really, this person really wanted their pigs. So the court did rule in favor of the plaintiff and said, "Coles, you've got to hand over these swine."
But the Coles, they decided to fight back and literally. The constable comes over to take the animals. The Coles start screaming their heads off. Eunice is reported to literally just be shouting, "murder, murder," and William is going, "there's thieves in this town. All these thieves in this town." And they're just shouting this. The constable grabs a pig or two, so the Coles, what do they do? They bite his hands. What else would you do? He takes your pigs, you bite his hands. He didn't drop the pigs, so they pushed him to the ground, and then they pulled the pigs from his arms. And after this, they faced more charges, but unfortunately, no record exists today of the outcome of these added charges. 
That same year, William is rated on the Hampton tax list, he's in 51st place, income-wise, out of 60 people. By 1653, he is 72nd of 72, dead last in the financial hierarchy of Hampton. He is literally the poorest man in town. 
Eunice, again, she went to court in 1651 and 1654 for similar things about mouthing off. And historian John Demos in his work, Entertaining Satan, Demos states that Eunice was involved in even more trials. We don't have records of those to know what they were all about.
So now we get to the year 1656. Hampton has about 350 people. More than three out of five residents are under the age of 20. So they're all kids and teenagers, 62 percent of the population is under 20. So that leaves around 130 adults that are 20 or older. And among these adults and possibly even among the younger people,
[00:39:48] Sarah Jack: Yeah, that just made me think about the influence of children on these witch trials sometimes.
[00:39:52] Josh Hutchinson: We get to some good ones coming up.
So suspicion is building about Eunice, the words getting around, the children have probably heard the gossip, maybe their parents have even told them some things about it, or they've asked, because you hear that Goody So-and-so's a witch, you go running to your parents like, "is she really a witch? Do I have to be afraid of her?" I would have so many questions and concerns as a child. 
So this gossip is spreading. For one thing, it's because Eunice is an outspoken woman. Another count against her, she's got no children, so she's the antithesis of the godly housewife and mother that the Puritans expect women to be, and she would have felt that pressure. Even today, women report feeling intense pressure to get married, to have children, to be mothers. But back then, imagine just how intense that pressure would be on her. Everybody would be saying, "Eunice, you gotta have kids. You gotta have kids." And then by 1656, she's too old to have kids. So what does she do? According to neighbors, she was very interested in their children. And we'll talk about that in just a moment.
Eunice often made snappy remarks when confronted, and one time she was bold enough to just barge into a meeting of the Hampton selectmen and demand that they give her aid, because they were giving aid to another couple that was somewhat better off, and yet the town's trying to say, "you've got resources, you have an estate, use that to pay your bills," and she just wasn't having it. So she just went in and told them what the deal was. 
Now, a few days later, the man who was receiving the aid lost some livestock. So this follows the same worn, old pattern we see again and again. There's a difference of opinion, an exchange of words, and soon there's an injury or damage to something or someone valued by the person who's the target of the witch's malice.
Now, as a child-free woman, as we've said, Eunice was immediately sus. But when she hung out at the bed of a neighbor's child who later died, many were convinced she had killed the child out of envy. And this child envy theme would feature heavily in her multiple arrests for witchcraft.
But it wasn't only children that Eunice envied. Apparently livestock were also vulnerable to her jealous gaze. A witness testified that they had caught her eyeing their sheep and asked, "what on Earth are you staring at?" And Eunice supposedly said, "what is it to you, sawsbox?" 
Another person who testified, Thomas Philbrick said he lost two calves and reported that cole had told him that if his calves "ate any of her grass, she wished it might poison them or choke them," and then they died. So of course it's gotta be her. It can't be a coincidence.
[00:43:32] Sarah Jack: Didn't in America Bewitched, doesn't Owen Davies talk about the cattle getting ill? In the fur balls inside from the grass.
[00:43:44] Josh Hutchinson: oh yeah. Yeah. The hairballs.
So in 1656, Eunice was tried in Boston for witchcraft. A number of witnesses came out against her, representing the full spectrum of the income ranks of Hampton. There were upper class, middle class, lower class people engaged in testifying against Eunice. So in a lot of cases, it's middle class against middle class or maybe lower class against lower class, because it's generally who you're associated with most closely are the people that are actually going to accuse you. Who are you interacting with every day? And generally you don't see someone like a Eunice Cole interacting with the upper crust, and yet upper class residents are coming out to say that she has harmed them with her witchcraft.
[00:44:52] Sarah Jack: It's a really good point.
[00:44:54] Josh Hutchinson: Unfortunately, half of the depositions against her have been lost over the 300 some years since the trial.
Now, Eunice, another thing that she's associated with is animal familiars. We talked about the watching and how they, the animals, imps or familiars would suckle on a witch's teat to get their nourishment. This is just watching her during Sunday meeting. Apparently minister's up there giving the sermon, and a woman named Mary Perkins sees a mouse just pop out of Eunice's cleavage and scurry away. At another service, a witness heard a sound like the whine of hungry puppies coming from under Eunice, very suspicious, of course. 
 Another charge leveled at this time was that Eunice bewitched the oven of the constable who brought her aid when aid was rendered to the Coles. This person who brought her the food and fuel, apparently he had more bread at home than he was bringing to her, so that's unfair. And apparently she was vindictive because he had more than she had, and she cursed the stove so that the owners couldn't make their own bread at home.
In a loss that has frustrated historians to no end, there's no record of the verdict in Eunice's 1656 trial. So historians debate whether she was convicted or not. Now, she wasn't executed, so John Demos contends that she was likely not convicted, because witchcraft's a capital crime, and you're basically automatically executed if you're convicted. But there's a record that Eunice was whipped and that she was imprisoned indefinitely, so historians, including Carol F. Karlsen, argue that Eunice was most likely convicted but spared death for unknown reasons, because if she wasn't convicted, why was she whipped and committed to jail for life or the pleasure of the court? 
[00:47:38] Sarah Jack: But there are no other known accused witches from the mid 1650s that were convicted and jailed.
[00:47:47] Josh Hutchinson: Right. The others all leading up to this that were convicted, we've covered Margaret Jones, Alice Lake, Elizabeth Kendall, Ann Hibbins. They're all executed after convicted. One we'll cover in the next episode, Hugh Parsons, gets convicted, but then he gets acquitted in a new trial, and then he has to leave for Rhode Island.
Whatever the case with Eunice, the 1656 trial was far from the last time that she was persecuted as a witch. Indeed, she would reside in the Boston jail off and on for the next dozen years and would face more courts on witchcraft charges over a span of about 25 years. Now, the man who whipped her was Salisbury Constable Richard Ormsby, and he claimed that when he stripped her shirt off to whip her, he saw under one of her breasts "a blue thing like unto a teat hanging downward about three quarters of an inch long, some blood with other moistness." So here's another document stating that she was whipped, she had been charged with witchcraft, and then she was whipped. 
So while she's in jail, maybe in the first year that she's in there, she petitioned for early release on the basis of her age, and especially the age of her husband, William, who was about 88 years old and needed her help. She also bemoaned the plight of her estate, and she promised good behavior if released, but the court's response has not survived, and she apparently remained in jail for a little while, but Eunice may have been back in Hampton in 1658. John Demos points out a 1659 town record that includes a notation of a payment of five shillings to constable Richard Ormsby for expense about G. Cole, presumably Goodwife Eunice Cole. And this entry's marked 58, so presumably it's about 1658. 
So now in 1659, the even more aged William Cole petitioned for relief. He couldn't farm anymore, had no children, and he couldn't afford to hire a farm worker. He had received some aid previously from the town in 1658, but one of the problems that he had was that he'd signed over the property to his wife in 1656, and she keeps being in and outta jail, so it's hard to manage her property. She's not there. He's considerably aged and can't really take care of himself the way that he used to. So the general court gets this and they invalidate the transfer of the deed to Eunice Cole. And then they ordered the town of Hampton to take possession of the estate and use the proceeds from it to support the Coles. 
Within a year of the 1659 petition, Eunice was back in Hampton, again getting in trouble for unseemly speeches. In 1660, she's charged for this, because she allegedly asked a girl named Huldah Hussey, "where's your mother, Mingay, that whore? She's abed with your father, that whoremaster." And this gets her in big trouble. This is something you don't just go and say to a girl back then. 
By 1662, Eunice was back in the Boston prison, and she again petitioned for her release. That same year, William Cole died, May 26th, 1662. And after his death, Eunice was totally destitute. He was already the poorest man in town, and his income gets taken away. Now there's a complicated situation with his will. He, for some reason, maybe because Eunice was in jail, I don't know, he decides that he's going to bequeath his property to another man and so the town of Hampton, which is supposed to control the Coles' property, doesn't like this, so Hampton petitioned the General Court regarding William's will and also the possible return of Eunice Cole that they were worried about that year.
On October 8th, 1662, the General Court met and declared, "that the said Eunice Cole pay what is due on arrears to the keeper and be released the prison on condition that she depart within one month after her release out of this jurisdiction and not to return again on penalty of her former sentence being executed against her." So she's more or less released on parole, and she doesn't stay out of jail very long before she's back in trouble. 
By October 1663, the county court had split William Cole's estate between Thomas Webster and Eunice Cole, who received a grand total of eight pounds to take care of her for the rest of her life. And this eight pounds doesn't even go to her, because it's ordered to go straight to the Hampton selectmen so they can provide for her upkeep. 
And then, once more, in 1665, Eunice submitted a petition to the general court to be released from imprisonment. So at some point she was put back in the jail. The court this time agrees to release her only if she gave security and left the colony forever. She couldn't pay. She had to remain in jail. 
But sometime between 1668 and 1671, Eunice was released, because by 1671, she was back in Hampton, totally broke. Now the town built a home for her. By tradition, it's a small hut. Anyways, they give her the shelter, and they ordered that each family in town would take turns providing food and fuel a week at a time.
In 1673, she was charged again with witchcraft and in court in Boston. This time she's accused of shape-shifting into human and animal forms to convince a girl, Ann Smith, to live with her. Again, this is the child envy thing coming up. She's supposed to be basically a child snatcher. And she desperately wants one of her own and will use her witchcraft to attain what she desires, according to the townsfolk.
She's accused of many other things, acquitted on all charges. However, the court specified that though she was not legally guilty of witchcraft, the court vehemently suspected she had familiarity with the devil.
In 1680, New Hampshire was granted its own status, independent of Massachusetts. That very year, once New Hampshire becomes its own thing, Hampton residents take Eunice back to court, complaining against her once more for witchcraft. And we'll have even more on this 1680 episode, because more people were involved in this than just Eunice. This was a miniature witch panic.
In 1680, the court didn't find enough evidence to bring her to trial. The Hampton Court, like the Massachusetts General Court before it, "vehemently suspects her so to be a witch."
Now, fast forward to 1938. Hampton celebrated its 300th birthday, and one of the things that they did was actually recognize Eunice Cole. At a town meeting, the citizens of Hampton unanimously passed a resolution to clear her name. The resolution stated, "we believe that Eunice (Goody) Cole was unjustly accused of witchcraft and familiarity with the devil in the 17th century, and we do hereby restore to the said Eunice (Goody) Cole a rightful place as a citizen of the town of Hampton." and today, a stone memorial to Eunice stands on the town green, and the town hall houses an urn which is said to contain Eunice's remains. 
Earlier this year, a bill to exonerate Eunice at a state level was voted down by the New Hampshire Senate after having passed the House. So now the Massachusetts Witch-Hunt Justice Project seeks to have her good name restored by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Eunice Cole deserves to be exonerated and to receive an apology.
[00:58:05] Sarah Jack: The witch hunt victims we have discussed today need your voice. The four innocent people we covered who were convicted and executed in Boston have not been exonerated, and they are not alone. Others were convicted in Boston in the years before the Salem Witch Hunt. In addition, none of the alleged witches of Massachusetts have ever received an apology. Thou Shalt Not Suffer would like to see exoneration for those convicted and an apology for all accused, whether the case was handled out of Boston, Salem, or anywhere else in Massachusetts. Our petition is available at Sign and share today. 
[00:58:49] Josh Hutchinson: We hope you've enjoyed this first episode of our Massachusetts Witch Trials 101 series. And thank you for listening to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast.
[00:59:01] Sarah Jack: Join us again next week and stay tuned for another Massachusetts 101 next month.
[00:59:06] Josh Hutchinson: Please rate and review the show wherever you're listening.
[00:59:10] Sarah Jack: And don't forget to hit that subscribe button.
[00:59:12] Josh Hutchinson: Visit us at
[00:59:16] Sarah Jack: And check out Goodbye. 
[00:59:21] Josh Hutchinson: Have a great today and a beautiful tomorrow.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: