Massachusetts Witch Trials 101 Part 2 – Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast
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Welcome to the second installment of Thou Shalt Not Suffer’s 101 series exploring the Massachusetts Witchcraft Trials. In Part 2, we delve into the intricate narratives of Hugh Parsons and Mary Lewis Parsons, whose witch trials unfolded in Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony, years before the infamous Salem Witch-Hunt took place. This Springfield, MA duo found themselves entangled in what historian Malcolm Gaskill has identified as America’s first witch panic.
The Massachusetts Witch-Hunt Justice Project urges the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to acknowledge the innocence of its witch trial victims with an apology. The accused witches spotlighted in this episode have not received an official apology. Explore further details on our project website: massachusettswitchtrials.org. Take a moment to support our cause by signing and sharing the project petition at change.org/witchtrials
Purchase The Ruin of All Witches: Life and Death in the New World, By Malcolm Gaskill
Petition to recognize those accused of witchcraft in Massachusetts
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List of those accused of witchcraft in Massachusetts
[00:00:10] Josh Hutchinson:
[00:00:10] Josh Hutchinson: Hi, and welcome to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. I'm Josh Hutchinson.
[00:00:16] Sarah Jack: I'm Sarah Jack. In this episode, Massachusetts Witch Trials 101 Part Two, we will delve into the social intricacies of a New England colony building hopeful futures from backbreaking labor and long dreamt dreams in Springfield, a burgeoning company town shaped by William Pynchon's dream in the midst of Old England's conflict.
[00:00:36] Josh Hutchinson: Established as Agawam in 1635 and later renamed Springfield, this is where the lives of Mary Lewis and Hugh Parsons unfolded, intertwined moment by moment with those of their neighbors in this strategically planned community. Immersed in the pervasive fear of witchcraft and inherent distrust of others, this compelling narrative unfolds [00:01:00] profound historical repercussions and enduring aftermaths.
[00:01:04] Sarah Jack: It's the fascinating case of Mary and Hugh Parsons of Springfield, Massachusetts.
[00:01:10] Josh Hutchinson: The pair were engulfed in what historian Malcolm Gaskill has called America's first witch panic. Malcolm expertly unveils the interplaying dimensions of this history in his creative nonfiction work The Ruin of All Witches. Explore more depths of this captivating narrative by reading the book and listening to our delightful interview with him in the episode titled 'Malcolm Gaskill on the Ruin of All Witches.' If you haven't acquired a copy yet, consider supporting our podcast by purchasing it from our bookshop at bookshop.org/shop/endwitchhunts.
[00:01:46] Sarah Jack: In the Parsons saga, fingers began pointing in more than one direction. How did this lead Springfield to the threshold of a witch panic?
[00:01:55] Josh Hutchinson: It culminated from several pressures: economic disparity, [00:02:00] social power concentrated in a few people, and polarized beliefs. Everything was either good or evil, though Satan was not God's equal adversary.
[00:02:10] Sarah Jack: Springfield was an especially competitive atmosphere. In the seventeenth century, twenty five thousand people from Great Britain Migrated to New England. Pynchon selected his Springfield founding settlers to fill community functions, and so they came together from different regions and backgrounds. This is very unlike many of the other regions. Because when you're looking at those people histories, you're often able to trace them all from one ship back to one village.
[00:02:42] Josh Hutchinson: A lot of times the entire congregations moved over from Great Britain to America.
[00:02:49] Sarah Jack: So these folks were brought together and had to forge friendships.
[00:02:55] Josh Hutchinson: When they probably could hardly understand each other. Even though [00:03:00] they're both speaking English, they were speaking very different forms of it.
[00:03:04] Josh Hutchinson: And the people of Springfield were experiencing conflict in all areas of life, including Politics, government, military, religious, economic, cultural, societal, social, interpersonal and intrapersonal conflict.
[00:03:22] Sarah Jack: All of these aspects of life are in turmoil throughout the western world, and this true story highlights an extreme and tragic outcome of this for one early American colonial household. As pressure builds, a release is needed, or the whole system goes boom.
[00:03:38] Josh Hutchinson: With the tumultuous backdrop of the mid seventeenth century Western world, the Parsons' American tragedy unfolds with multiple people accused and most of the town's households involved. Learn the far reaching impacts of the witch hunting resonating through conflicts in Old England, New England, the bustling town of Springfield, and within the [00:04:00] intimate confines of the Parsons home.
[00:04:03] Josh Hutchinson: The 1630s and 1640s were a time of great conflict in both old England and new. In the old, rapid population growth triggered scarcity of resources, and political conflict escalated into civil war fueled by religious strife. In many areas, external pressures combined with local animosities and personal feuds to generate witch hunts. Across the sea, the Winthrop fleet settled the Massachusetts Bay Colony as a new Israel with life centered around congregational worship.
[00:04:35] Sarah Jack: By settling inhabited territory, the colonists invited armed conflict. Even in their meeting houses, these wide eyed optimists were hit by the harsh reality of disagreement resulting in the expulsion of many who did not tow the official line religiously. As there was conflict within the Bay Colony, so there was conflict between Massachusetts and the other colonial interests, including conflict with [00:05:00] England's French and Dutch rivals and with other English settlers.
[00:05:04] Josh Hutchinson: Amidst all this chaos, a town was planted at the northernmost navigable point of the Connecticut River. This town, initially called Agawam, was established by William Pynchon as a hub for his fur trading and was originally affiliated with the communities to the south on the river in Connecticut.
[00:05:23] Sarah Jack: The settlement, soon renamed Springfield, was located just twenty miles upriver from Windsor, Connecticut and separated from Boston by a difficult overland route of one hundred miles.
[00:05:35] Josh Hutchinson: Springfield was founded as a company town, and all business went through Pynchon. If you wanted permission to settle in town, you saw Pynchon, who limited the number of families. If you wanted to buy goods, you went to Pynchon's store. If you needed to borrow, you went to Pynchon. And he made sure everyone in his town needed to borrow and therefore, everyone in his town was in his employ [00:06:00] and in his debt.
[00:06:02] Sarah Jack: Springfield residents had a besieged and a beleaguered feeling in part based on tensions with the Dutch and with towns down the Connecticut River, in part based on fear of Native Americans.
[00:06:15] Josh Hutchinson: As elsewhere, settlers also feared fire, disease, and famine. As we mentioned earlier, some small New England communities were transplanted essentially altogether from Old England, as entire church congregations followed their minister to the new world, while Springfield, on the other hand, was somewhat more cosmopolitan in that residence came from many different regions of Britain. Customs and dialects clashed like everything else.
[00:06:46] Sarah Jack: Malcolm Gaskill wrote in his book, The Ruin of All Witches, "fear incubated guilt, which was projected and returned his anger. But mainly, the mood that made witchcraft plausible settled in New England because by [00:07:00] the mid sixteen forties, its economic and social woes had reached old world levels."
[00:07:06] Josh Hutchinson: Springfield was planned for profit. Here, intense competition for limited resources, coupled with a dramatic economic disparity and feeling of servitude toward Pynchon, allowed envy and hostility to creep into the community,
[00:07:21] Sarah Jack: Hostility and fear combined poorly.
[00:07:25] Josh Hutchinson: Creating a combustible mixture.
[00:07:29] Sarah Jack: Among those who landed in Springfield was a woman named Mary Lewis, who was invited to work for Pynchon's daughter Anne Smith and her husband Henry. Mary was born about 1610 in the Welsh Marches, and her maiden name may have been Reese. In about 1627, she married a man in Monmouth. His name is unknown, but it may have been a David Lewis. They did not have any children. In the late sixteen thirties, this man abandoned her. Later, Mary would describe him as a [00:08:00] secret Catholic who threatened that he'd do her in if she didn't convert. Mary used means to try to find him, probably employing a cunning person.
[00:08:10] Josh Hutchinson: After her husband left, Mary became a member of William Wroth's church in Llanvaches. Wroth was considered by some to be the Apostle of Wales. Then in summer 1640, Mary went to America. She stayed in Dorchester in the Massachusetts Bay Colony for a few months working for Pynchon before being sent to Springfield to work for his daughter and son-in-law. She arrived in Springfield in spring or early summer 1641.
[00:08:42] Sarah Jack: Pynchon hired Hugh Parsons, whose origins are shrouded in mystery, to be the town's sole brickmaker. Hugh Parsons was a man of few words, but his legacy story is woven with the weight of those carefully chosen words. He's also remembered for wearing a red [00:09:00] waistcoat and smoking a clay pipe.
[00:09:03] Josh Hutchinson: Mary Lewis and Hugh Parsons each arrived in Springfield with hopes and aspirations, fully embracing the rare opportunity to start a fresh and promising new chapter in life. Their presence in Springfield marks the actualization of their opportunity, and both labored with the intent of turning their ambitions into reality. Now recognizing the possibilities harnessed from a marital union, They envision joining forces to construct a shared future and family.
[00:09:31] Josh Hutchinson: On June 2 1645, Pynchon wrote to John Winthrop Senior, governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony in Boston, about Mary Lewis's marriage and abandonment. The letter asked Winthrop to decide whether it was right or not for Mary to get married again. And Mary was sent to deliver the letter in person, possibly in company with John Winthrop, Jr., who had been visiting Springfield.
[00:09:59] Sarah Jack: I imagine she [00:10:00] was still traveling with excitement.
[00:10:01] Josh Hutchinson: I imagine that too.
[00:10:04] Sarah Jack: When Mary delivered the letter to Winthrop senior, he read it immediately, but did not reply. Instead, he said he would refer the matter to the House of Deputies.
[00:10:14] Josh Hutchinson: In mid September, Pynchon wrote Winthrop again to remind him. This time, a reply was received in early October announcing that Mary was officially a single person and therefore free to marry again.
[00:10:29] Sarah Jack: The future was bright for the Parsons family. On Monday, October 27, 1645, Hugh and Mary exchanged vows in a civil ceremony officiated by minister George Moxon, adhering to the customary practice in Massachusetts during that period. It's worth noting that in line with Puritan beliefs, Marriage was not considered a sacrament.
[00:10:50] Josh Hutchinson: The joy in the Parsons household was soon accompanied by the revelation of a pregnancy, a fact which was learned in November, just a month after the [00:11:00] nuptials.
[00:11:01] Sarah Jack: The first fruits of their union arrived on August 7, 1646 with the birth of her daughter, Hannah Parsons.
[00:11:09] Josh Hutchinson: By the 1647 tax assessment, Hugh Parsons owned thirty seven and a half acres of land. This land was testament to his growing stake in the community. Not only a landowner, he also took on the responsibility of Springfield's fence inspector, enriching his active role in civic duties and immersing himself directly in the high stakes realm of his neighbor's boundary, it matters.
[00:11:33] Sarah Jack: Cracks were already showing in the marriage.
[00:11:36] Josh Hutchinson: The recently laid foundation of their future was curing with visible fissures.
[00:11:41] Sarah Jack: And they considered marital strife an indicator of possible witchcraft.
[00:11:46] Josh Hutchinson: As Springfield grappled with the onslaught of smallpox and influenza epidemics in 1647, unrest and frustration descended upon the marriage of Hugh and Mary. Mary's hold on reality seemed to [00:12:00] falter, echoing the fatigue enveloping her spiritually, physically, and mentally. This wariness was exemplified by the relentless toil and anxieties embedded in the unyielding, laborious routine of colonial life, a ceaseless grind that rolled seamlessly from one sunrise to the next, offering little respite or appreciation. The spiritual toil of a Puritan woman would have equally drained her, necessitating unwavering self examination and judgment. In this instance, as in many others, these demands morphed into a disorienting self loathing for Mary. This tripartite downward spiral elicited resentment from her husband, Hugh.
[00:12:42] Sarah Jack: On May 26, 1647, just twenty miles down the river from Springfield, Alice Young of Windsor was convicted as a witch and hanged in Hartford. One night, Mary Lewis witnessed an enigmatic light. with these events, Mary Lewis experienced a profound shift in her demeanor, [00:13:00] succumbing to feelings of depression, sadness, listlessness, and a pervasive sense of being mopish.
[00:13:09] Josh Hutchinson: Night after night, yearning for a haven of solace, Hugh found himself greeted by a home wearied not from the day's toils, but saturated with the pervasive misery that Mary had imbued into its very atmosphere.
[00:13:23] Sarah Jack: By 1647, a marital bitterness encroached like ivy. It entwined itself around the fledgling Parsons partnership, steadily increasing its hold and stifling any harmony that could have fostered a healthy and strong alliance. The escalating scope of their discord transformed into an ominous darkness casting an oppressive gloom over their union, its effects seeping beyond the confines of their home into the public eye.
[00:13:51] Josh Hutchinson: In 1648, a tableau of pressures, disappointments and concerns continue to unfold.
[00:13:58] Josh Hutchinson: In April, when Hugh [00:14:00] attempted to secure a plowing job for Mary's former employer, Henry Smith, his efforts were met with rejection.
[00:14:07] Sarah Jack: That summer, England grappled with the second civil war, a royalist uprising in Kent, and the persecution of alleged witches by angry mobs.
[00:14:16] Josh Hutchinson: The arrival of a second Parsons child, Samuel, on June 8, 1648 held the potential to infuse new life or hope into their struggling marriage.
[00:14:27] Sarah Jack: Hugh continued to seek solutions that could help his household and future get back on course. He took on boarders, Sarah and Anthony Dorchester and their three children, but Sarah was dying from consumption.
[00:14:39] Josh Hutchinson: The same year, a new Massachusetts legal code was enacted. In the section referring to witchcraft, they cited Leviticus 20:27, Deuteronomy 18:11 and Exodus 22:18, 'thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.'
[00:14:57] Sarah Jack: In the midst of this, the woman governor [00:15:00] Winthrop referred to as a healer, Margaret Jones, was hanged for witchcraft in Boston on June 14, 1648. Thomas Jones, her husband, was also accused in jail. William Pynchon was a magistrate on her trial.
[00:15:14] Josh Hutchinson: The same month, two infant daughters of Anne and Henry Smith, Margaret and Sarah, fell sick. Margaret died on June 24, and her sister Sarah passed a few days later.
[00:15:28] Sarah Jack: As ministers increasingly delved into warnings about the devil and heresy, Mary found herself increasingly preoccupied with the topics of the devil and witches, and her discourse on these matters became her obsession. She talked about them more and more. Her suspicions turned toward the widow Mercy Marshfield, whom she believed to be a witch. While Mercy now resided in Springfield, she had previously faced suspicion twenty miles away in Windsor, a town where ministers had stoked fear by emphasizing the closeness [00:16:00] of Satan and witchcraft. Notably, Alice Young, who had been hanged just the year before, had also lived in Windsor.
[00:16:08] Josh Hutchinson: The year sixteen forty eight concluded with yet another nearby witch execution. In December of that year, Mary Johnson of Weathersfield in the Connecticut Colony was found guilty of witchcraft and subsequently met the fate called for in the law.
[00:16:24] Sarah Jack: On February 6, 1649, Hugh had a disagreement with Goodwife Blanche Bedortha. He swore the following oath to her in front of her husband. 'Gammer, you needed not have said anything. I spake not to you, but I shall remember you when you little think on it.'
[00:16:45] Josh Hutchinson: Blanche awaited the fulfillment of the oath. One night, she noticed an unusual light on her waistcoat after hanging it up for the night. Then in early March, as her confinement period began in preparation for giving birth, Blanche experienced pain [00:17:00] emanating from her chest, extending to her shoulder and neck. During this challenging time, Mercy Marshfield remained by her side for three days.
[00:17:09] Sarah Jack: This trajectory of hardship and frustrations continued into 1649, paralleled by Mary's intense preoccupation of Satan and witches tormenting Springfield. Another Springfield neighbor, Griffith Jones, found himself in need of a knife, but none were in sight. After completing his task, he discovered three good knives exactly where he had previously searched. At that moment, Hugh Parsons was conveniently present. The two shared a smoke before heading off to then the two shared a smoke before heading off to the church meeting together.
[00:17:44] Sarah Jack: New New Year's ushers in great change. King Charles the first is beheaded on January first sixteen forty nine.
[00:17:56] Josh Hutchinson: Following the beheading of the king, governor John Winthrop senior [00:18:00] died just a few months later in March. In April, Mary Lewis Parsons began telling people she suspected Mercy Marshfield of being a witch. Mary told John Matthews she believed his daughter and heifer were bewitched to death by Mercy. She reminded him that it was known in Windsor that Marshfield was a witch, and she didn't doubt that Satan had followed her to Springfield.
[00:18:22] Josh Hutchinson: During that spring, William Branch had a peculiar encounter. One night, he witnessed the spectral boy with a face as red as fire. While it's possible that William was projecting his own anger stemming from Hugh's curse on his wife, that wasn't the interpretation he attributed to the strange sighting.
[00:18:41] Sarah Jack: In May of 1649, John and Pentecost Matthews informed Mercy Marshfield that Mary Lewis Parsons had said she bewitched their infant and heifer. Marshfield complained to William Pynchon who set a slander trial for the end of that month.
[00:18:58] Josh Hutchinson: Hugh began sleeping [00:19:00] in the long meadow at night.
[00:19:02] Sarah Jack: Resources were limited and debts were plenty. One morning, probably leaving the Longmeadow, Hugh went to Alexander Edwards' house and asked Sarah Edwards for milk to settle a debt she owed. When she refused, he left irate. The next time she milked the cow, it gave a third the usual amount, and this time it was the yellow of saffron and tinged with blood. Future efforts yielded milk of other unusual colors. Alexander Edwards informed Pynchon they believed Hugh had bewitched the cow. Pynchon thought it might be a natural illness.
[00:19:38] Sarah Jack: Now Mary Lewis Parson tells John Matthews that her husband, Hugh, is a witch.
[00:19:43] Josh Hutchinson: On May 29, 1649, Mary was tried for slandering Mercy Marshfield and was found guilty. The sentence was her choice, either pay a three pound fine to Marshfield or else be whipped twenty times. Mary chose to pay the fine.[00:20:00]
[00:20:00] Sarah Jack: Hugh expressed dissatisfaction regarding the fine.
[00:20:04] Josh Hutchinson: In late summer of 1649, William Branch was afflicted as he passed the Parsons House, taken with a strange stiffness, 'as if two stakes had been bound to my thighs, this feeling continued for two days along with the burning in the souls of his feet.' In September, there was a smallpox epidemic in New England.
[00:20:24] Sarah Jack: Mary persisted in her vigilant watch for signs of the devil. On a particular day, her attention was captured by a mysterious dog, a creature she suspected Hugh might have sent. Given his previous claim to understanding her private conversations, Mary speculated that he could be supernaturally spying on her. Furthermore, she noted that now whenever Hugh returned home late, a loud rumbling preceded his arrival. Mary discerned the preternatural nature of this occurrence.
[00:20:56] Josh Hutchinson: Baby Samuel Parsons fell ill, and his secret [00:21:00] parts appeared to shrivel, an observation made by George Colton, a condition that's explainable.
[00:21:06] Sarah Jack: Samuel had trouble breathing one night. Hugh, in tears, ran out and got help from Sarah Cooley and Blanche Bedortha. They saw the diseased secret parts of Samuel and recognized it as an area witches would attack because they hated fertility.
[00:21:23] Josh Hutchinson: The Parsons household was fraught with tension. The Dorchester family with several young children boarded there, and the wife was ailing. Amidst this, Mary accused the head of the household of witchcraft, adding to the already charged atmosphere, especially considering her own young children and the ailing baby Samuel Parsons. The climax occurred on the last Sunday in September, when Anthony Dorchester experienced an unsettling incident, his prized root of a cow's tongue vanished from a boiling pot without a trace. Anthony squarely placed the blame on [00:22:00] Hugh's alleged witchcraft as he insisted Hugh was not witnessed near the pot during the disappearance, but certainly was the culprit, cementing all suspicion.
[00:22:11] Sarah Jack: There just didn't really seem to be other culprits to pin some of this stuff on, so it must be the troublemaker.
[00:22:19] Josh Hutchinson: Blame Hugh.
[00:22:19] Josh Hutchinson: you.
[00:22:20] Sarah Jack: Blame Hugh. That night, Hugh didn't come home. Samuel died.
[00:22:26] Sarah Jack: Jonathan Burt found Hugh in the Longmeadow in the morning and told him. Hugh did not respond. He just stomped off to George and Deborah Colton's house where he said to them, 'I hear my child is dead, but I will cut a pipe of tobacco first before I go home.' They had not invited him over. Hugh went home, saw Mary with Blanche Bedortha, Anthony Dorchester, and Samuel's body. Hugh said nothing and soon returned to work in his fields. Samuel was buried later that day after Hugh had invited the neighbors to the simple funeral.
[00:22:59] Josh Hutchinson: [00:23:00] More deaths. On Thursday, October fourth, Sarah Stebbins died. Then on November eighth, sir Dorchester passed away.
[00:23:08] Sarah Jack: In the winter of 1649 to 1650, Hugh threatened Mercy Marshfield with an oath, not unlike the one he had for Goodwife Bedortha. When he went to pay part of the debt for his wife, Mary's witchcraft accusation slander conviction against Mercy. He asked Mercy to relieve a third of his burden. She refused. He said, 'it shall be, but as wildfire in your house and as a moth in your clothes.'
[00:23:35] Josh Hutchinson: Residents of Springfield became increasingly reluctant to engage with Hugh Parsons, leading to tangible consequences. John Matthews promptly canceled a contract with Hugh for chimneys. As the community perceived Hughes threats as more than mere words, his sense of being slighted by them deepened.
[00:23:54] Sarah Jack: In spring of 1650, Sarah Miller, the pregnant seventeen year old daughter of Mercy Marshfield, [00:24:00] began suffering fits. She blamed Hugh Parsons for rewitching her.
[00:24:05] Josh Hutchinson: Simon Beamon refused to help Hugh Parsons carry flour home from the gristmill. Beamon then fell off his horse, and his own sack of flour fell upon him. He rode again, and again he fell. Then he tried a third time, falling again. Hugh was definitely bewitching him.
[00:24:25] Sarah Jack: John Lombard borrowed a trowel from Hugh Parsons to replace one he'd mislaid and thought had been stolen by Native Americans who'd visited on business the previous day. When Lombard spotted the men again, he called for them, but they seemed not to hear. Hugh asked Lombard, why did he call for them? They've stole my trowel, Lombard said. Hugh replied, here it is, and pointed to a trowel on the sill where Lombard had thought he'd laid the one the day before. Hugh returned his bewitching pattern of hiding and appearing tools. Previously, it was knives, And now he had done it with a trowel.[00:25:00]
[00:25:01] Josh Hutchinson: A third baby was born to Mary and Hugh Parsons October 26, 1650, when Joshua entered the world.
[00:25:09] Sarah Jack: Later that winter, Hugh allegedly kidnapped and assaulted Samuel Terry, whom he believed had assaulted his calf.
[00:25:19] Josh Hutchinson: In winter sixteen fifty to sixteen fifty one, more alleged witchcraft attacks occurred in the colonies, and more witchcraft trials brought execution.
[00:25:30] Sarah Jack: Jane James of Marblehead was slandered for witchcraft a second time.
[00:25:36] Josh Hutchinson: Alice Lake of Dorchester was executed for witchcraft.
[00:25:41] Sarah Jack: Tragically, three year old Sarah Matthews, the daughter of John and Pentecost, passed away. Mary Lewis Parsons had conveyed to them a few years ago that she believed Mercy Marshfield had bewitched their infant to death. Now the heart wrenching reality repeats itself as another young child is taken by death.
[00:25:59] Josh Hutchinson: Baby [00:26:00] Joshua Parsons was now sick at three months of age.
[00:26:03] Sarah Jack: In February of 1651, Hugh Parsons went shopping. Simon Beamon claimed to be too busy to help. Hugh said Simon would have been better off to have helped him. At home, Hugh encountered Jonathan Taylor. Hugh told him and Mary what had happened and said, He shall get nothing by it. I will be even with him. I'll remember him. Later that day, Simon was hauling timber when his horses bolted, and he was thrown from the cart.
[00:26:32] Josh Hutchinson: In early sixteen fifty one, news reached the colonies that Bermuda had a witch hunt.
[00:26:37] Sarah Jack: In early sixteen fifty one, Joan and John Carrington of Wethersfield, Connecticut faced execution for witchcraft. It's possible that Hugh Parsons knew John Carrington. When Mary mentioned to Hugh, 'I hope that God will find out all Such wicked persons and purge New England of all witches ere it be long,' Hugh responded with [00:27:00] a scornful gaze. In a fit of anger, he grabbed a block of wood, momentarily raising it as if to throw it at Mary before relenting and dropping it into the fire.
[00:27:09] Josh Hutchinson: Hugh, besieged by mounting frustrations, began issuing threats with each new challenge.
[00:27:15] Josh Hutchinson: This situation worsened when he failed to produce bricks in time to fulfill a deal with minister George Moxon, adding another layer to his already troubled circumstances. He said, 'if Mr. Moxon do force need to make bricks according to the bargain, I will be even with him. If he do, I will be even with him.' Within a few days, Moxon's daughters, Martha and Rebecca, became ill. Moxon believed they were bewitched, while some neighbors thought them possessed. The girls recovered from their afflictions.
[00:27:48] Sarah Jack: Sunday, February 16, 1651, Mary Parsons was at the Ashley Alehouse between sermons when she started spouting off, blaming Hugh for deaths of the Smiths girls.
[00:27:59] Sarah Jack: [00:28:00] She told Frances Pepper that Hugh had bewitched his cow. She claimed Hugh had also bewitched her and announced that 'he cannot abide that anything should be spoken against witches'. Mary then slipped into some sort of trance. She believed during this trance that she agreed to serve Satan and was magically carried off to a witch meeting at John Stemmons' home lot. It was the dark of night, But fires allowed her to see Hugh Parsons, Sarah Merrick, and Beth Sewell.
[00:28:29] Sarah Jack: Mary came to when the meeting house bell tolled. At the second meeting of the day, while minister Moxon held service, other women, including Mary Bliss Parsons, not to be confused with Mary Lewis Parsons, convulsed on the floor in affliction.
[00:28:45] Josh Hutchinson: Two days later, Mary Lewis Parsons was at home when she heard a loud rumble as if forty horses had been there and he walked in, that night, he dreamed about fighting Satan. On Wednesday, February nineteenth, [00:29:00] Hugh asked George Langton to sell him some hay. Langton declined.
[00:29:04] Sarah Jack: On Friday, February twenty first sixteen fifty one, Hannah Langton made a bag pudding, which came out split from one end to the other as if cut by a knife. This was the second time in ten days this had happened. John Lombard and the Langtons decided to conduct an experiment and threw the pudding into the fire. Shortly thereafter, Bess Sewell arrived, though not the expected visitor. The group dismissed her visit and redirected their suspicions towards Hugh Parsons when he arrived an hour later.
[00:29:36] Josh Hutchinson: On Saturday, February twenty second, the Langtons complained about Hugh's witchcraft to William Pynchon. Mercy Marshfield also complained about Hugh that day, as he had allegedly interfered with Blanche Bedortha during childbirth.
[00:29:50] Sarah Jack: Sunday, February 23, the Langtons tried a third pudding, this one dividing into three even slices. They complained again to Pynchon.[00:30:00]
[00:30:00] Josh Hutchinson: Tuesday, February twenty fifth, Thomas Miller was cut by an enchanted saw blade. That same day, Anthony Dorchester complained to Pynchon about Hugh magically stealing his cow tongue root, and Griffith Jones complained about Hugh making knives disappear and reappear.
[00:30:17] Sarah Jack: On Wednesday, February 26, 1651, Mary Lewis Parsons was arrested and detained on charges of witchcraft. Benjamin Cooley and Anthony Dorchester were assigned to watch Mary that night. Mary spoke to her watchers about Hugh's witchcraft. The pretrial examination was the next day, February twenty seventh. Pynchon took statements from neighbors, including John Matthews, Mary Ashley, Sarah Edwards, George Colton, Benjamin Cooley, and Anthony Dorchester. He was arrested later on the twenty seventh.
[00:30:49] Josh Hutchinson: He Hugh was led up the street. As he passed the Stebbins house, Anne Stebbins cried out,' ah, witch, ah, witch!' and collapsed. She had [00:31:00] seizures after. The same day, two year old Joseph Bedortha screamed and cried about a dog only he could see.
[00:31:07] Sarah Jack: Then on Saturday, March first, Hugh was examined by Pynchon. Many accusers testified of their bewitchment at Hugh's hand, and he was asked about afflicting the minister's children. It was noted that his sleeping in the Longmeadow instead of at home was sinister. Lastly, testimony to the indifference Hugh showed upon the death of his son Samuel was most compelling.
[00:31:32] Josh Hutchinson: On Sunday night, March second, Hugh suffered from an internal buildup of pressure, but didn't need to relieve himself when offered. How magical.
[00:31:43] Sarah Jack: March third, Pynchon ordered Hugh to be searched for witch marks.
[00:31:47] Josh Hutchinson: March fourth, baby Joshua Parsons died suddenly. Henry Smith noted in the town register that Joshua was killed by his mother, Mary Lewis Parsons.
[00:31:58] Sarah Jack: Starting March twelfth, hearings [00:32:00] resumed with more accuser testimony, and this continued over several days.
[00:32:05] Josh Hutchinson: Mary Lewis Parsons told Thomas Cooper about her party with the devil's own, Hugh Parsons, Sarah Merrick, and Bess Sewell that happened when she passed out at the ale house in her trance with the devil.
[00:32:18] Josh Hutchinson: Monday, March seventeenth sixteen fifty one, John Lombard testified before Pynchon.
[00:32:25] Sarah Jack: And Sarah Miller had fits a few doors down.
[00:32:28] Josh Hutchinson: Tuesday, March eighteenth, Hugh was examined a second time. This time, Mary was present. In all, thirty five people testified at the two hearings.
[00:32:38] Sarah Jack: Including the minister Moxon.
[00:32:40] Josh Hutchinson: Pynchon asked Mary to sum up her evidence against Hugh. She said that, first of all, Hugh always knew what she'd been talking about. Secondly, strange noises preceded Hugh's returns homes. Third, she'd seen a strange dog in the marsh. Fourth, the misfortunes of his [00:33:00] enemies
[00:33:00] Sarah Jack: On Saturday, March 22, 1651, Jonathan Taylor, Mercy Marshfield, John Lombard, and Thomas Merrick went to see Pynchon and informed him that Hugh had said he had often been afraid that his wife was a witch all the way back on February twenty sixth when Mary was arrested.
[00:33:18] Josh Hutchinson: Monday, March twenty fourth, Hugh and Mary began the journey to Boston for trial.
[00:33:25] Sarah Jack: Mary Bliss Parsons, not to be confused with Mary Lewis Parsons, was called a distracted woman by her husband, who would lock her up in the cellar at night, though she complained it was full of spirits. She also saw spirits while she was washing laundry in the brook.
[00:33:41] Josh Hutchinson: On March twenty seventh, Sarah Miller saw a spectral man. Jonathan Taylor testified April seventh to Pynchon. April twentieth, the Taylor child, Anna, died.
[00:33:54] Sarah Jack: Jonathan Taylor, Mercy Marshfield, Samuel Marshfield, Hannah Langton, and [00:34:00] Simon Beamon traveled to Boston to bear witness at the end of April.
[00:34:04] Josh Hutchinson: Mary was to be tried May eighth by the general court, but she was too sick that day and the next, so her trial was postponed until May thirteenth. That day, though she was still sick, she was tried. She was indicted for witchcraft and for the murder of her son, Joshua Parsons.
[00:34:24] Sarah Jack: The testimonies of thirty people were heard in court, but most were only read. Seven of the thirty witnesses managed to appear in court and swear under oath.
[00:34:34] Josh Hutchinson: Mary was acquitted of bewitching Rebecca and Martha Moxon. However, she plead guilty to the murder charge and was condemned to die. But governor John Endicott granted Mary a reprieve until May 29. Unfortunately, she passed away in prison between the thirteenth and twenty ninth of May.
[00:34:58] Josh Hutchinson: George Colton, [00:35:00] Jonathan Taylor, and Simon Beamon traveled to Boston for Hugh's trial in mid 1651.
[00:35:04] Josh Hutchinson: one.
[00:35:06] Sarah Jack: On June seventeenth sixteen fifty one, Hugh pled not guilty to witchcraft. At the June seventeenth session, Hugh was neither acquitted nor convicted, and the case was referred to the court of assistance. On May twelfth sixteen fifty two, Hugh faced trial by the court of assistance. Although no proof was presented of the charge that a witch was someone who hath or consulted with a familiar spirit, he was convicted. However, the general court overturned Hughes' conviction around May twenty sixth, and he was subsequently released from jail on June first sixteen fifty two.
[00:35:43] Josh Hutchinson: After he was released from jail, Hugh stayed in Boston a while with his daughter, Hannah. Sometime shortly after the trial, other accused witches, Sarah Merrick and Mercy Marshfield, passed away. At nearly the same time, Beth [00:36:00] Sewell and her family relocated to Wickford, Rhode Island.
[00:36:04] Josh Hutchinson: In sixteen fifty four, Simon Beamon married Alice Young junior, daughter of Alice Young, who had been the colonies' first victim of the witch trials.
[00:36:17] Sarah Jack: Hugh and his daughter, Hannah, moved to Rhode Island, probably to Portsmouth, in sixteen fifty eight. He married the widow of John Wood, a sea captain who worked for John Winthrop. Hannah married Henry Matteson and had seven children.
[00:36:32] Sarah Jack: Hugh died June eighteenth sixteen eighty five.
[00:36:36] Sarah Jack: Now for a minute with Mary.
[00:36:39] Mary-Louise Bingham: Sarah, Josh, and I had the pleasure of meeting with advocate Ikponwosa Ero on August thirtieth. I.K., who was born in Nigeria, is a lawyer by trade and spent six years as the first United Nations independent expert on the enjoyment of human rights of persons living with albinism. Her advocacy [00:37:00] focused on leaving no one behind, serving the most vulnerable first. Through her online presentations, I learned that people with albinism living south of the Sahara in Africa are often attacked. Their assailants will smuggle the body parts of the person living with albinism due to the belief that the body parts could be used for witchcraft rituals.
[00:37:23] Mary-Louise Bingham: When asked how she would advise her predecessor at the UN, IK said, "remember who you are working for." Then she concluded, "you are also working for those who have already died untimely deaths due to attack or discrimination whose memory you now honor by protecting others." Thank you, Ikponwosa Ero.
[00:37:43] Sarah Jack: Thank you, Mary.
[00:37:47] Josh Hutchinson: Here's Sarah with End Witch Hunts news.
[00:37:49] Sarah Jack: End Witch Hunt urges collective action to end witch hunting practices worldwide. At End Witch Hunts, our unwavering commitment drives us to actively educate and advocate for the [00:38:00] eradication of witchcraft accusation violence. We firmly believe in the power of collective action to bring about positive change. In alignment with our mission, we proudly support The International Network Against Accusations of Witchcraft and Associated Harmful Practices, TINAAWAHP for short. Discover their impactful global advocacy work and their affiliated organizations at theinternationalnetwork.org. Subscribe at the bottom of their home page for the latest updates contributing to a deeper understanding of ongoing initiatives worldwide.
[00:38:32] Sarah Jack: Watch IK Ero's recent keynote on global advocacy for victims of witchcraft accusations and ritual attacks. You can find the link in our show notes. As the first UN independent expert on human rights for persons with albinism, she provides valuable insights and steps for future advocacy in a video titled Keynote for Expert Workshop, TINAAWAHP, November 2023. Gain perspective and consider how you can contribute to the fight for the rights and safety of victims [00:39:00] counting on us all.
[00:39:01] Sarah Jack: Join us for justice for the witch trial victims of Massachusetts by signing and sharing the exoneration petition for the Massachusetts Witch Hunt Justice Project at change.org/witchtrials. Massachusetts residents, engage your representatives, and if you're a voting member of the Massachusetts general court, lead or collaborate on the amendment effort to secure formal apologies.
[00:39:25] Sarah Jack: Thank you for supporting our podcast. Consider a financial contribution to empower our education and advocacy efforts. During this holiday season, think of End Witch Hunts for your charitable gifts. Visit endwitchhunts.org to contribute and help bring an end to the dark history of witch hunting practices.
[00:39:42] Josh Hutchinson: Thank you, Sarah.
[00:39:45] Sarah Jack: You're welcome.
[00:39:47] Josh Hutchinson: Thank you for listening to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast.
[00:39:52] Sarah Jack: Join us again next week.
[00:39:54] Josh Hutchinson: Subscribe wherever you get podcasts.
[00:39:57] Sarah Jack: Visit thoushaltnotsuffer.com
[00:39:59] Sarah Jack: [00:40:00] com.
[00:40:00] Josh Hutchinson: We're excited about our podcast changing from Thou Shalt Not Suffer, The Witch Trial Podcast, to Witch Hunt in January twenty twenty four. Stay tuned for more great episodes of thou shalt not suffer through December, and look for Witch Hunt, January first.
[00:40:17] Sarah Jack: Thou Shall Not Suffer in Witch Hunt are presented by end witch hunts. Visit endwitchhunts.org to learn more.
[00:40:24] Josh Hutchinson: Have a great today and a beautiful tomorrow