Milford Author's Book Explores Connecticut Witch Trials

By McLoughlin, Pamela | New Haven Register (New Haven, CT), November 23, 2014 | Go to article overview

Milford Author's Book Explores Connecticut Witch Trials


McLoughlin, Pamela, New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)


MILFORD » If you were an outspoken woman, a widow who inherited a lot of money or a "crotchety" or disliked man or woman in Connecticut between 1647 and 1692, you could have easily been charged for being a witch and hanged, according to Milford resident Cynthia Wolfe Boynton, author of "Connecticut Witch Trials: The First Panic in the New World."

Even giving a dirty look to someone who then went home and found their cow ill could put a person at risk of being accused. In New Haven, William Meeker was accused of cutting off and burning his pig's ears and tail as he cast a bewitching spell -- probably the result of a neighbor quarrel, Boynton said. He was not executed.

Long before the infamous Salem witch trials, Connecticut, for 45 years, had its own witch trials. The first witch in the new world was actually killed in Connecticut, according to Boynton's book. Between 1647 and 1692 in Connecticut, at least 35 were formally charged with witchcraft and 11 were hanged, according to Boynton's book. Many more were suspected, but fled if accused because there was a one in three chance of conviction and hence, death, she said.

Salem's fast and furious witch trials of seven months occurred between February 1692 and May 1693 and by the end, 200 were accused and 18-20 hanged. There was a much greater chance of being hanged in Connecticut if accused of witchcraft. It was in Europe where witches were burned, Boynton said.

Connecticut Colony lawmakers passed a law in the 1600s that any man or woman found to be a witch or associated with witchcraft could be put to death, according to Boynton, who researched the subject for a year by pouring through newspaper clippings, court records, letters, historical society documents, diaries and by interviewing others. The number one capital offense of that day was not believing in God, number two was being a witch. Murder was number four, Boynton said.

"I tried to piece it together as factually as I could," she said. "You didn't have to do much to be arrested for witchcraft."

Boynton said Connecticut in the 1600s was a far different place than today.

She said it was at a time when Native Americans were considered a threat, and people were guided by ministers who wanted the teachings of the Bible followed exactly. …

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