Monthly Archives: February 2012

WITCHCRAFT

0

Posted on by

WITCHCRAFT

Jewett, Jeremiah Peabody, d. 1870

The first instance of a trial for witchcraft in Massachusetts occurred in 1648, when Margaret Jones, of Charlestown, who being indicted as a witch, was found guilty, and under the laws of England against such supposed crime, was executed. ” She was charged of having such a malignancy that if she laid her hands on man, woman or child in anger, they were seized presently with deafness, vomiting or other sickness, or other violent pains.”

In 1692 a great excitement was again revived on account of its supposed prevalence. It commenced at this time in the town of Danvers, then a part of Salem, about the last of February. Several children at first began to act in a curious, unaccountable manner. Their strange conduct continuing for several days, their friends betook themselves to fasting and prayer. During religious services the children were still, but after the service they would renew their former unaccountable conduct. This was deemed sufficient evidence that they were
moved by an evil hand, and every exhibition of the sort was then regarded as witchcraft. After a while these children began to bring accusations against divers individuals in that vicinity, being severally charged of bewitching them. Unfortunately the children were credited, and the suspected persons were arrested and imprisoned. From that time the contagion spread rapidly over the neighboring towns, and soon appeared in several parts of Essex county as well as cases now and then in Middlesex and Suffolk. Individuals at Andover, Ipswich, Gloucester, Boston and other places, were accused and held for trial.

For some time those who were accused were persons of the lower class. But at length accusations were extended even to persons of high rank and distinction. This delusion had now become fearful. Before the close of September of that year nineteen persons bad been executed for witchcraft. Among the victims was one Giles Gory, who was pressed to death for refusing to put himself on trial before the Jury. Most, if not all of these persons died declaring themselves innocent of the crime laid to their charge. At length the courts began to be convinced that their proceedings had been rash, and their judgments without any just foundation. A special session of the court was then holden on this subject, and fifty persons then being held for trial, were acquitted. Others wrere reprieved by the Governor. These proceedings were followed by a release of all who were then in prison.

It ought to be said, perhaps, that if human testimony, coming from credible witnesses, is to be credited, many things happened at that time inducing a belief in witchcraft, which even to many people of our day have never been satisfactorily explained.

EARLY SETTLERS OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

0

Posted on by

EARLY SETTLERS OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

BY PROF. E. D. SANBORN — 1877

No bells, bonfires nor cannon announced the arrival of the little barque which sailed up the “deep waters” of the Piscataqua in 1623, and landed on Odiorne’s Point, the founders of a new State. Tradition does not repeat nor history record the name of the ship nor of the captain who commanded it. The Mayflower and the men who landed on Plymouth Rock, in 1620, are as famous in history as Jason and his associates, who sought the Golden Fleece, are in ancient mythology. New England men never weary of eulogies of forefathers’ day; and they will, probably, never cease to commemorate the heroism and piety of those forty two god-fearing men, who signed the first written constitution known to human history. Still, the Plymouth Colony,  by itself,  wrought no nobler or better work for mankind than the unnoticed, almost unnamed colonists who founded New Hampshire. Massachusetts Bay settlers, the Puritans, eclipsed the humbler efforts of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. The Pilgrims bore the sufferings of exile, privation and toil ;  but the Puritans at a later date appropriated the fame and the honor which rose from the laws, government and institutions of Massachusetts. Capt. John Mason, the Proprietor of New Hampshire, sent over fifty Englishmen and twenty-two women, besides eight Danes who were employed in sawing lumber and making potash. This number exceeded that of the Mayflower. It is not probable that all these men and women came in the first ship. Many of them arrived several years after the first company of planters occupied Odiorne’s Point. There is no reason to suppose that many women, possibly not one, came in 1623. Some writers suppose that the Hiltons and a few other leading men brought their wives with them. For, ten years after the first settlement, the letters of the proprietor and his agents in Loudon, speak of sending the wives of some, of the colonists or of supporting them, at the company’s expense, at home. The very slow progress of the settlements at Cocheco and Strawberry Bank show that the laborers were few; for only three houses had been built, on the Bank in seven years, and only three in ten years, at the upper plantation. If families were united in these labors, six houses would scarcely suffice for eighty persons. Why were these colonists less renowned than the Pilgrims of Plymouth? The previous history of the Pilgrims, their persecutions at home, and their residence in Holland made them famous. Religion occupied the thoughts of all Englishmen. The Pilgrims were exiles for conscience’ sake; they suffered for the common liberties and rights of the whole people.

The first settlers at Portsmouth and Dover were adventurers, bold, hardy, and resolute, like all pioneers who go into the wilderness to better their condition. Such is generally the character of emigrants who found new states. Philosophers tell us that from the race, the epoch and the surroundings of a people, their future history may be accurately predicted. Here then is a problem for the prophet’s solution. The race is Saxon; the epoch is one of progress, enterprise, discovery and controversy, both with the pen and the sword. The surroundings are the wilderness before them and the ocean behind them. The soil is rugged; the climate is severe. Tell me, then, thou boasting seer, what will be the fate of this handful of men, as destitute and helpless as though they had dropped upon the earth from some distant planet. Will they die of starvation, be devoured by wild beasts or be massacred by savages? By occupation, they were fishmongers, farmers and mechanics. “Their several businesses” assigned by their employers, were to fell the trees, till the soil, fish, hunt and mine. Incessant labor in these occupations failed to support them; and the proprietors were obliged to sink their fortunes in the abyss of debt which these plantations opened. John Mason, who was a man of mark, and would have been distinguished in any age, was financially ruined; but like Phaeton, guiding the chariot of the sun, he fell from great undertakings. Instead of securing coronets and mitres for his posterity he died the victim of disappointed hopes:  “No son of his succeeding.”  The men he hired to plant his colony had not sufficient education, religion nor integrity to make them true to their trust. That they were illiterate,  appears from the fact that many of them could not write their names. So little is said of their religion that, it may be presumed they had none to speak of. They did not attempt to gather a church, at Dover, till 1638. Then, they were broken up by quarrels, and some of their early clergymen were fitter for the penitentiary than the pulpit. At Portsmouth, no provision was made for preaching till 1640, when a Glebe of fifty acres was granted for the support of an Episcopal chapel;  and Richard Gibson was the first incumbent. The first Congregational church was formed much later. The founders of Exeter and Hampton were led by clergymen, and churches sprang up with the towns themselves. That the servants of Mr. Mason were dishonest appears from the fact that, after his death, they plundered his estate, drove away his cattle that he had imported at great expense, and sold them in Boston for twenty-five pounds sterling a head, and appropriated his goods. There was no local government sufficiently powerful to punish great crimes; while the proprietor ruled through agents, factors and superintendents, there was little restraint over servants but the personal influence of the so called governors. The laborers were the “hired men” of the proprietor who lived three thousand miles away. They were neither masters of their time, their labor, nor of its rewards. If the value of plantations and mills was enhanced, the profit was not for them. They neither owned the premises where they worked, nor shared the gains nor losses that resulted from their labors. When they became free-holders, and made compacts or “combinations” for the better government of the plantations, and the more certain punishment of crimes, the stimulus of property, liberty and suffrage elevated the laborers, and fitted them to do, dare and suffer more than any other New England Colony. The people of Portsmouth formed a political compact as early as 1633, but it gained from the crown no authority to make laws or punish offenders. Dr. Belknap says, that, till 1640, the people of Dover and Portsmouth had no power of government delegated from the King. At that time, they formed themselves into a body politic as the people of Exeter had done the year before. The next year, 1641, all the four plantations formed a union with Massachusetts, and voluntarily submitted to her jurisdiction. They were allowed peculiar privileges, for in 1642, the following decree was passed by the General Court of Massachusetts: “It is ordered that all the present inhabitants of Piscataquack, who formerly were free there, shall have liberty of freemen in their several towns to manage all their town affairs, and each town [shall] send a deputy to the General Court, though they be not church members.  From this date the laws, usages and customs of the larger colony became the inheritance of the smaller; and the union which continued for thirty-nine years, was ” a consummation devoutly to be wished,” by both the high contracting parties.