By the 1650’s a preoccupation with the supernatural and a hysterical effort to root out those who “covenanted” with the spectral world had swept through Connecticut – home of Thomas Pell. Sadly, it seems that Thomas Pell’s family members were not immune from the hysteria. Thomas Pell's wife, Lucy, and his step-daughters were involved in the witchcraft persecution that led to the execution of Goodwife Knapp not long before Thomas Pell acquired the lands that became Pelham and surrounding areas. For those interesting in learning more about these sad events, see Bell, Blake A., The Involvement of Thomas Pell's Family in the Witchcraft Persecution of Goody Knapp, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 4, Jan. 23, 2004, p. 11, col. 1.
Much has been written of the persecution of Goody Knapp. Chapter X of the book "The Witchcraft Delusion in Colonial Connecticut 1647-1697" by John M. Taylor published by The Grafton Press in 1908 deals with the matter. Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting transcribes the entire Chapter X of that book.
'This case is one of the most painful in the entire Connecticut list, for she impresses one as the best woman; how the just and high minded old lady had excited hate or suspicion, we cannot know.' Connecticut as a Colony (1:212), Morgan.
'Mr. Dauenport gaue in as followeth -- The Mr. Ludlow sitting with him and his wife alone, and discoursing of the passages concerning Knapps wife, the Witch and her execution, said that she came downe from the ladder (as he understood it), and desired to speak with him alone, and told him who was the witch spoken of.' New Haven Colonial Record (2:78).
'Shortly after this, a poor simple minded woman living in Fairfield, by the name of Kanp, was suspected of witchcraft. She was tried, condemned and sentenced to be hanged.' Schenck's History of Fairfield (1:71).
THIS was one of the most notable of the witchcraft cases. It stands among the early instances of the infliction of the death penalty in Connecticut; the victim was presumably a woman of good repute, and not a common scold, an outcast, or a harridan; it is singularly illustrative of witchcraft's activities and their grasp on the lives of the best men and women, of the beliefs that ruled the community, and of the crude and revolting practices resorted to in the punishments of the condemned, and especially since in its later developmen it involved in controversy and litigation two of the great characters in colonial history, Rev. John Davenport, one of the founders [p. 122 / p. 123] of New Haven, and Roger Ludlow, Deputy Governor of Massachusetts and Connecticut.* Goodwife Knapp of Fairfield was "suspicioned ." That was enough to set the villagers agog with talk and gossip and scandal about the unfortunate woman, which poisoned the wells of sober thought and charitable purpose, and swiftly ripened into a formaI accusation and indicment.
Pending her trial the prisoner was committed to the house of correction or common jail for the safe keeping of 'refractory persons' and criminals.
What terrors of mind and spirit must have waited on this 'simple minded' woman, in the cold, gloomy, and comfortless prison, probably built of rough logs, with a single barred window and massive iron studded door, a ghost haunted torture chamber, in charge of some harsh wardsmen.
Knapp was duly and truly, and sentenced to death by hanging, the usual mode of execution. No witch was ever burned in New England.
From the day sentence was pronounced until the hanging took place, out in Try's field beyond the Indian field, in view of the villagers, whose curiosity or thirst for horrors or whose duty led them there, this prisoner of delusion was made the object of rudest treatment, espionage, and of inhuman attempts to wring from her lips a confession of her own guilt or an accusation against some other person as a witch.
[Footnote *:] * Connecticut, through its Commission of Sculpture, in recognition of his services to the Colony, is to erect a memorial statue to Ludlow to occupy the western niche on the northern facade of the Capitol building at Hartford. [p. 123 / p. 124]
The very day of her condemnation, a self-constituted committee of women, with one man on it, -- Mistress Thomas Sherwood, Goodwife Odell, Mistress Pell, and her two daughters, Goody Lockwood, and Goodwife Purdy, -- visited the prison, and pressed her to name any other witch in town, and so receive such consolation from the minister as would be for her soul's welfare.
Mistress Pell seems to have been the chief spokeswoman, and each member of the committee served in some degree as an inquisitor, or exhorter, not to repentance, but to disclosures. Baited and badgered, warned and threatened, the hapless prisoner protested she was innocent, denied the charges made against her, told one of the committee to 'take heed the devile have not you,' and also said, 'I must not render evil for evil. . . . I have sins enough allready, and I will not add this [accusing another] to my condemnation.' And at last in agony of soul she made that pathetic appeal to one of her relentless tormentors, 'neuer, neuer poore creature was tempted as I am tempted, pray, pray for me.'
But even after death on the scaffold, the witch-hunters of the day did not refrain from their ghoulish work, but desecrated the remains of Goodwife Knapp at the grave side in their search for witch marks.
All the facts during the imprisonment, execution and burial are set forth in some of the testimonies herewith given, in a chapter of related history (the evidence at the trial not being disclosed in any present record), and all of them marked by a total unconsciousness of their sinister and revolting character.
No case in the history of the delusion in New England [p. 124 / p. 125] is more replete in incidents and apt illustrations, due to their fortunate preservation in the records of a lawsuit involving some of the prominent characters in that drama of religious insanity.
At a magistrate's court held at New Haven the 29th of May, 1654.
Theophilus Eaton Esqr, Gouernor.
Mr. Stephen Goodyeare, Dept, Gouernor.
Francis Newman }
Mr. William Fowler } Magistrats
Mr. William Leete }
a suit was heard entitled --
Thomas Staplies of Fairfield, plant'.
Mr. Rogger Ludlow late of Fairfield, defendt.
It was brought by an aggrieved husband to recover damages for defamation of the character of his wife. It centered in one of the dramatic incidents at Knapp's execution. In the last extremity, and in the presence of immediate death, the prisoner came down from the ladder and asking to speak with Ludlow alone, told him that Goodwife Staplies was a witch.
Some time afterward Ludlow, at New Haven, told the Rev. John Davenport and his wife the story, in confidence, and under the promise of secrecy, but it spread abroad with inevitable accretions, and when it reached Fairfield Thomas Staplies went to law, to vindicate his wife's character in pounds, shillings, and pence. These are some of the statements and remarkable testimonies:
Attorney Banke's declaration -- Ensigne Bryan's answer -- Davenport's view of an oath, Hebrews vi, 16 -- His ac- [p. 125 / p. 126] count and conscientious scruples -- Mistress Davenport's forgetfulness -- 'A tract of lying' -- 'Indian gods' -- Luce Pell and Hester Ward's visit to the prison -- The 'search' of Knapp -- 'Witches teates' -- Feminine resemblances -- Matronly opinions -- Post-mortem evidence -- Contradictions -- Knapp's ordeal -- 'Fished wthall in private' -- Her denials -- Talk on the road to the 'gallows'
'John Bankes, atturny for Thomas Staplies, declared that Mr. Ludlow had defamed Thomas Staplies wife, in reporting to Mr. Dauenport and Mris. Dauenport that she had laid herselfe vnder a new suspition of being a witch, that she had caused Knapps wife to be new searched after she was hanged, and when she saw the teates, said if they were the markes of a witch, then she was one, or she had such markes; secondly, Mr. Ludlow said Knapps wife told him that goodwife Staplies was a witch; thirdly, that Mr. Ludlow hath slandered goodwife Staplies in saying that she made a trade of lying, or went on in a tract of lying, &c.
'Ensigne Bryan, atturny for Mr. Ludlow, desired the charge might bee proued, wch accordingly the plant' did, and first an attestation vnder Master Dauenports hand, conteyning the testimony of Master and Mistris Dauenport, was presented and read; but the defendant desired what was testified and accepted for proofe might be vpon oath, vpon wch Mr. Dauenport gaue in as followeth, That he hoped the former attestation hee wrott and sent to the court, being compared with Mr. Ludlowes letter, and Mr. Dauenports answer, would haue satisfyed concerning the truth of the pticulars without his oath, but seeing [p. 126 / p. 127] Mr. Ludlowes atturny will not be so satisfyed, and therefore the court requires his oath, and yt he lookes at an oath, in a case of necessitie, for confirmation of truth, to end strife among men, as an ordinance of God, according to Heb: 6, 16, hee therevpon declares as followeth,
'That Mr. Ludlow, sitting wth him & his wife alone, and discoursing of the passages concerning Knapps wife the witch, and her execution, said that she came downe from the ladder, (as he vnderstood it,) and desired to speake with him alone, and told him who was the witch spoken of; and so farr as he remembers, he or his wife asked him who it was; he said she named goodwife Stapleies; Mr. Dauenport replyed that hee beleeued it was vtterly vntrue and spoken out of malice, or to that purpose; Mr. Ludlow answered that he hoped better of her, but said she was a foolish woman, and then told them a further storey, how she tumbled the corpes of the witch vp & downe after her death, before sundrie women, and spake to this effect, if these be the markes of a witch I am one, or I haue such markes. Mr. Dauenport vtterly disliked the speech, not haueing heard anything from others in that pticular, either for her or against her, and supposing Mr. Ludlow spake it vpon such intelligenc as satisfyed him; and whereas Mr. Ludlow saith he required and they promised secrecy, he doth not remember that either he required or they pmised it, and he doth rather beleeue the contrary, both because he told them that some did ouerheare what the witch said to him, and either had or would spread it abroad, and because he is carefull not to make vnlawfull promises, and when he [p. 127 / p. 128] hath made a lawfull promise he is, through the help of Christ, carefull to keepe it.
'Mris. Dauenport saith, that Mr. Ludlow being at their house, and speakeing aboute the execution of Knapps wife, (he being free in his speech,) was telling seuerall passages of her, and to the best of her remembrance said that Knapps wife came downe from the ladder to speake with him, and told him that goodwife Staplyes was a witch, and that Mr. Daueport replyed something on behalfe of goodwife Staplies, but the words she remembers not; and something Mr. Ludlow spake, as some did or might ouerheare what she said to him, or words to that effect, and that she tumbled the dead body of Knapps wife vp & downe and spake words to this purpose, that if these be the markes of a witch she was one, or had such markes; and concerning any promise of secrecy she remembers not.'
'Mr. Dauenport and Mris. Dauenport affirmed ypon oath, that the testimonies before written, as they properly belong to each, is the truth, according to their best knowledg & memory.
'Mr. Dauenport desired that in takeing his oath to be thus vnderstood, that as he takes his oath to giue satisfaction to the court and Mr. Ludlowes atturny, in the matters attested betwixt M' Ludlow & Thomas Staplies, so he lymits his oath onely to that pt of the attestation and so his oath not required in them.
'To the latter pt of the declaration, the plant' pduced ye proofe following,
'Goodwif Sherwood of Fairfeild affirmeth vpon oath, that vpon some debate betwixt Mr. Ludlow and good- [p. 128 / p. 129] wife Staplies, she heard M' Ludlow charge goodwif Staplies with a tract of lying, and that in discourse she had heard him so charge her seuerall times.
'John Tompson of Fairfeild testifyeth vpon oath, that in discourse he hath heard Mr. Ludlow express himselfe more than once that goodwife Staplies went on in a tract of lying, and when goodwife Staplyes hath desired Mr. Ludlow to convince her of telling one lye, he said she need not say so, for she went on in a tract of lying.
'Goodwife Gould of Fairefeild testifyeth vpon oath, that in a debate in ye church with Mr. Ludlow, goodwife Staplyes desired him to show her wherein she had told one lye, but Mr. Ludlow said she need not mention ptculars, for she had gon on in a tract of lying.
'Ensigne Bryan was told, he sees how the plantife hath proued his charge, to wch he might now answer; wherevpon he presented seuerall testimonies in wrighting vpon oath, taken before Mr. Wells and Mr. Ludlow.
'May the thirteenth, 1654.
'Hester Ward, wife of Andrew Ward, being sworne deposeth, that aboute a day after that goodwife Knapp was condemned for a witch, she goeing to ye prison house where the said Knapp was kept, she, ye said Knapp, voluntarily, without any occasion giuen her, said that goodwife Staplyes told her, the said Knapp, that an Indian brought vnto her, the said Staplyes, two litle things brighter then the light of the day, and told the said goodwife Staplyes they were Indian gods, as the Indian called ym; and the Indian wthall told her, the said Staplyes, if she would keepe them, she would be so big rich, all one god, and that the said Staplyes told the said Knapp, she [p. 129 / p. 130] gaue them again to the said Indian, but she could not tell whether she did so or no.
'Luce Pell, the wife of Thomas Pell, being sworne deposeth as followeth, that about a day after goodwife Knapp was condemned for a witch, Mris. Jones earnestly intreated her to goe to ye said Knapp, who had sent for her, and then this deponent called the said Hester Ward and they went together; then the said Knapp voluntarily, of her owne accord, spake as the said Hester Ward hath testifyed, word by word; and the said Mris. Pell further saith, that she being one of ye women that was required by the court to search the said Knapp before she was condemned, & then Mris. Jones presed her, the said Knapp, to confess whether there were any other that were witches, because goodwife Basset, when she was condemned, said there was another witch in Fairefeild that held her head full high, and then the said goodwife Knapp stepped a litle aside, and told her, this deponent, goodwife Basset ment not her; she asked her whom she ment, and she named goodwife Staplyes, and then vttered the same speeches as formerly concerning ye Indian gods, and that goodwife Staplyes her sister Martha told the said goodwife Knapp, that her sister Staplyes stood by her, by the fire in their house, and she called to her, sister, sister, and she would not answer, but she, the said Martha, strucke at her and then she went away, and ye next day she asked her sister, and she said she was not there; and Mris. Ward doth also testify wth Mris. Pell, that the said Knapp said the same to her; and the said Mris. Pell saith, that aboute two dayes after the search afforesaid, she went to ye said Knapp in prison house, and the said Knapp [p. 130 / p. 131] said to her, I told you a thing the other day, and goodman Staplies had bine with her and threatened her, that she had told some thing of his wife that would bring his wiues name in question, and this deponent she told no body of it but her husband, & she was much mouved at it.
'Elizabeth Brewster being sworne, deposeth and saith, that after goodwife Knap was executed, as soone as she was cut downe, she, the said Knapp, being caried to the graue side, goodwife Staplyes with some other women went to search the said Knapp, concerning findeing out teats, and goodwife Staplyes handled her verey much, and called to goodwife Lockwood, and said, these were no witches teates, but such as she herselfe had, and other women might haue the same, wringing her hands and takeing ye Lords name in her mouth, and said, will you say these were witches teates, they were not, and called vpon goodwife Lockwood to come & see them; then this deponent desired goodwife Odell to come & see, for she had bine vpon her oath when she found the teates, and she, this depont, desired the said Odill to come and clere it to goodwife Staplies; goodwife Odill would not come; then the said Staplies still called vpon goodwife Lockwood to come, will you say these are witches teates, I, sayes the said Staplies, haue such myselfe, and so haue you if you serach yorselfe; goodwife Lockwood replyed, if I had such, she would be hanged; would you, sayes Staplies, yes, saith Lockwood, and deserve it; and the said Staplies handeled the said teates very much, and pulled them with her fingers, and then goodwife Odill came neere, and she, the said Staplies, still questioning, the said Odill told her no honest woman had such, and then all the women rebuking [p. 131 / p. 132] her and said they were witches teates, and the said Staplies yeilded it.
'Mary Brewster [Historic Pelham Editor's Note: a step-daughter of Thomas Pell] being sworn & deposed, saith as followeth, that she was present after the execution of ye said Knapp, and she being brought to the graue side, she saw goodwife Staplyes pull the teates that were found aboute goodwife Knapp, and was very earnest to know whether those were witches teates wch were found aboute her, the said Knapp, wn the women searched her, and the said Staplyes pulled them as though she would haue pulled them of, and prsently she, ths depont, went away, as hauing no desire to look vpon them.
'Susan Lockwood, wife of Robert Lockwood, being sworne & examined saith as foll, that she was at the execution of goodwife Knapp that was hanged for a witch, and after the said Knapp was cut downe and brought to the graue, goodwife Staplyes, with other women, looked after the teates that the women spake of appointed by the magistrats, and the said goodwife Staplies was handling of her where the teates were, and the said Staplies stood vp and called three or foure times and bid me come looke of them, & asked whether she would say they were teates, and she made this answer, no matter whether there were teates or no, she had teates and confessed she was a witch, that was sufficient; if these be teates, here are no more teates then I myselfe haue, or any other women, or you either if you would search yor body; this depont saith she said, I known not what you haue, but for herselfe, if any finde any such things aboute me, I deserved to be hanged as she was, and yet afterward she, the said Staplyes, stooped downe againe and handled her, [p. 132 / p. 133] ye said Knapp, verey much, about ye place where the teates were, and seuerall of ye women cryed her downe, and said they were teates, and then she, the said Staplyes, yeilded, & said verey like they might be teates.
'Thomas Sheruington & Christopher Combstocke & goodwife Baldwine were all together at the prison house where goodwife Knapp was, and ye said goodwife Baldwin asked her whether she, the said Knapp, knew of any other, and she said there were some, or one, that had receiued Indian gods that were very bright; the said Baldwin asked her how she could tell, if she were not a witch herselfe, and she said the party told her so, and her husband was witnes to it; and to this they were all sworne & doe depose.
'Rebecka Hull, wife of Cornelius Hull, being sworne & examined, deposeth & saith as followeth, that when goodwife Knapp was goeing to execution, Mr. Ludlow, and her father Mr. Jones, pressing the said Knapp to confess that she was a witch, vpon wch goodwife Staplyes said, why should she, the said Knapp, confess that wch she was not, and after she, the said goodwife Staplyes, had said so, on that stood by, why should she say so, she the said Staplyes replyed, she made no doubt if she the said Knapp were one, she would confess it.
'Deborah Lockwood, of the age of 17 or thereaboute, sworne & examined, saith as followeth, that she being present when goodwife Knapp was goeing to execution betweene Tryes & the mill, she heard goodwife Staplyes say to goodwife Gould, she was pswaded goodwife Knapp was no witch; goodwife Gould said, sister Staplyes, she is a witch, & hath confessed had had familiarity wth the [p. 133 / p. 134] Deuill. Staplies replyed, I was wth her hesterday, or last night, and she said no such thing as she heard.
'April 26th, 1654.
'Bethia Brundish, of the age of sixteene or thereaboutes, maketh oath, as they were goeing to execution of goodwife Knapp, who was condemned for a witch by the court & jury at Fairfeild, there being present herselfe & Deborah Lockwood and Sarah Cable, she heard goodwife Staplyes say, that she thought the said goodwife Knapp was no witch, and goodwife Gould presently reproued her for it.'
'Jurat' die & anno prdicto,
'Coram me, Ro Ludlowe.
'The plant' replyed that he had seuerall other witnesses wch he thought would cleere the matters in question, if the court please to heare them, wch being granted, he first presented a testimony of goodwife Whitlocke of Fairfeild, vpon oath taken before Mr. Fowler at Millford, the 27th of May, 1654, wherein she saith, that concerning goodwife Staplyes speeches at the execution of goodwife Knapp, she being present & next to goody Staplyes when they were goeing to put the dead corpes of goodwife Knapp into the graue, seuerall women were looking for the markets of a witch vpon the dead body, and seuerall of the women said they could find none, & this depont said, nor I; and she heard goodwife Staplyes say, nor I; then came one that had searched the said witch, & shewed them the markes that were vpon her, and said what are these; and then this depont heard goodwife Staplyes sya she never saw such in all her life, and that she was pswaded that no [p. 134 / p. 135] honest woman had such things as those were; and the dead corps being then prsently put into the graue, goodwife Staplyes & myselfe came imediately away together vnto the towne, from the place of execution.
'Goodwife Barlow of Fairfeild before the court did not testify vpon oath, that when Knapps wife was hanged and ready to be buried, she desired to see the markes of a witch and spake to one of her neighbors to goe with her, and they looked but found them not; then goodwife Staplyes came to them, and one or two more, goodwife Staplyes kneeled downe by them, and they all looked but found ym not, & said they saw nothing but what is comon to other women, but after they found them they all wondered, and goodwife Staplyes in pticular, and said they neuer saw such things in their life before, so they went away.
'The wife of John Tompson of Fairefeild testifyeth vpon oath, that goodwife Whitlock, goodwife Staplyes and herselfe, were at the graue and desired to see ye markes of the witch that was hanged, they looked but found them not at first, then the midwife came & shewed them, goodwife Staplyes said she neuer saw such, and she beleeved no honest woman had such.
'Goodwife Sherwood of Fairefeild testifyeth vpon oath, that that day Knapps wife was condemned for a witch, she was there to see her, all being gone forth but goodwife Odill and her selfe, then their came in Mris. Pell and her two daughters, Elizabeth & Mary, goody Lockwood and goodwife Purdy; Mris. Pell told Knapps wife she was sent to speake to her, to haue her confess that for wch she was condemned, and if she knew any other to be a witch [p. 135 / p. 136] to discover them, and told her, before she was condemned she might thinke it would be a meanes to take away her life, but now she must dye, and therefore she should discouer all, for though she and her family by the providence of God had brought in nothing against her, and she was cast by the jury & godly magistrats hauing found her guilty, and that the last evidence cast the cause. So the next day she went in againe to see the witch with other neighbours, there was Mr. Jones, Mris. Pell & her two daughters, Mris. Ward and goodwife Lockwood, where she heard Mris Pell desire Knapps wife to lay open herselfe, and make way for the minister to doe her good; her daughter Elizabeth bid her doe as the witch at the other towne did, that is, discouer all she knew to be witches. Goodwife Knapp said she must not say anything wch is not true, she must not wrong any body, and what had bine said to her in private, before she went out of the world, when she was vpon the ladder, she would reveale to Mr. Ludlow or ye minister. Elizabeth Bruster said, if you keepe it a litle longer till you come to the ladder, the duill will haue you quick, if you reveale it not till then. Good: Knapp replyed, take heed the devile haue not you, for she could not tell how soone she might be her companyon, and added, the truth is you would haue me say that goodwife Staplyes is a witch, but I haue sinns enough to answer for allready, and I hope I shall not add to my condemnation; I know nothing by goodwife Staplyes, and I hope she is an honest woman. Then goodwife Lockwood said, goodwife Knapp what ayle you; goodman Lyon, I pray speake, did you heare vs name goodwif Staplyes name since we came here; [p. 136 / p. 137] Lyon wished her to haue a care what she said and not breed difference betwixt neighbours after she was gone; Knapp replyed, goodman Lyon hold yor tongue, you know not what I know, I haue ground for what I say, I haue bine fished wthall in private more then you are aware of; I apprehend goodwife Staples hath done me some wrong in her testimony, but I must not render euill for euill. Then this depont spake to goody Knapp, wishing her to speake with the jury, for she apprehended goodwife Staplyes witnessed nothing contrary to other witnesses, and she supposed they would informe her that the last evidence did not cast ye cause; she replyed that she had bine told wo within this halfe houre, & desired Mr. Jones and herselfe to stay and the rest to depart, that she might speake wth vs in private, and desired me to declare to Mr. Jones what they said against goodwife Staplyes the day before, but she told her she heard not goodwife Staplyes named, but she knew nothing of that nature; she desired her to declare her minde fully to M'Jones, so she went away.
'Further this depont saith, that comeing into the house where the witch was kept, she found onely the wardsman and goodwife Baldwine, there goodwife Baldwin whispered her in the eare and said to her that goodwife Knapp told her that a woman in ye towne was a witch and would be hanged within a twelue moneth, and would confess herself a witch and cleere her that she was none, and that she asked her how she knew she was a witch, and she told her she had received Indian gods of an Indian, wch are shining things, wch shine lighter then the day. Then this depont asked goodwife Knapp if she had said so, and [p. 137 / p. 138] she denyed it; goodwife Baldwin affirmed she did, but Knapps wife againe denyed it and said she knowes no woman in the towne that is a witch, nor any woman that hath received Indian gods, but she said there was an Indian at a womans house and offerred her a coople of shining things, but she woman neuer told her she tooke them, but was afraide and ran away, and she knowes not that the woman euer tooke them. Goodwife desired this depont to goe out and speake wth the wardsmen; Thomas Shervington, who was one of them, said hee remembered not that Knapps wife said a woman in the towne was a witch and would be hanged, but spake something of shining things, but Kester, Mr. Pells man, being by said, but I remember; and as they were goeing to the graue, goodwife Staplyes said it was long before she could beleeve this poore woman was a witch, or that their were any witches, till the word of God convinced her, wch saith, thou shalt not suffer a witch to liue.
'Thomas Lyon of Fairfeild testifyeth vpon oath, taken before Mr. Fowler, the 27th May, 1654, that he being set by authority to watch wth Knapps wife, there came in Mris. Pell, Mrs. Ward, goodwife Lockwood, and Mris. Pells two daughters; the fell into some discourse, that goodwife Knapp should say to them in private wch goodwife Knapp would not owne, but did seeme to be much troubled at them and said, the truth is you would haue me to say that goodwife Staplyes is a witch; I haue sinnes enough allready, I will not add this to my condemnation, I know no such thing by her, I hope she is an honest woman; then goodwife Lockwood caled to mee and asked whether they had named goodwife Staplyes, so I spake to goodwife [p. 138 / p. 139] Knapp to haue a care what she said, that she did not make differrence amongst her neighbours when she was gon, and I told her that I hoped they were her frends and desired her soules good, and not to accuse any out of envy, or to that effect; Knapps wife said, goodman Lyon hold yor tongue, you know not so much as I doe, you know not what hath bine said to me in private; and after they was gon, of her owne accord, betweene she & I, goody Knapp said she knew nothing against goodwife Staplyes of being a witch.
'Goodwife Gould of Fairfeild testifyeth vpon oath, that goodwife Sherwood & herselfe came in to see the witch, there was one before had bine speaking aboute some suspicious words of one in the towne, this depont wished her if she knew anything vpon good ground she would declare it, if not, that she would take heede that the deuill pswaded her not to sow malicious seed to doe hurt when she was dead, yet wished her to speake the truth if she knew anything by any pson; she said she knew nothing but vpon suspicion by the rumours she heares; this depont told her she was now to dye, and therefore she should deale truly; she burst forth ito weeping and desired me to pray for her, and said I knew not how she was tempted; neuer, neuer poore creature was tempted as I am tempted, pray, pray for me. Further this depont saith, as they were goeing to ye graue, Mr. Buckly, goodwife Sherwood, goodwife Staplye and myselfe, goodwife Staplyes was next me, she said it was a good while before she could beleeue this woman was a witch, and that she could not beleue a good while that there were any witches, till she went to ye word of God, and then she was convinced, and as she remembers, goodwife Stapleyes went along wth her all the way [p. 139 / p. 140] till they came at ye gallowes. Further this deponent saith, that Mr. Jones some time since that Knapps wife was condemned, did tell her, and that wth a very cherefull countenance & blessing God for it, that Knapps wife had cleered one in ye towne, & said you know who I meane sister Staplyes, blessed be God for it.'
Staplies wife was a character. She was 'a light woman' from the night of her memorable ride with Tom Tash, to Jemeaco, Long Island, to the suspicion of herself as a witch, and the 'repairing' of her name by Thomas' lawsuit, and her own indictment for familiarity with Satan some years later. That she had many of the traditional witch qualities, and was something of a gymnast and hypnotist, is written in the vivid recollections of Tash's experience with her. This was his account of it on oath thirty years after:
'John Tash aged about sixty four or thereabouts saith he being at Master Laueridges at Newtown on Long Island aboutt thirty year since Goodman Owne and Goody Owin desired me to goe with Thomas Stapels wiffe of Fairfield to Jemeaco on Long Island to the hous of George Woolsy and as we war going along we cam to a durty slow and thar the hors blundred in the slow and I mistrusted that she the said Goody Stapels was off the hors and I was troubiled in my mind very much soe as I cam back I thought I would tak better noatis how it was and when I cam to the slow abovesaid I put on the hors prity sharp and then I put my hand behind me and felt for her and she was not upon the hors and as soon as we war out of the slow she was on the hors behind me boath going and coming and when I cam home I told thes words to Master [p. 140 / p. 141] Leveredg that she was a light woman as I judged and I am redy to give oath to this when leagaly caled tharunto as witnes my hand.
his 'JOHN + TASH mark
'Grenwich July 12, 1692.
'John Tash hath given oath to his testimony abovesaid
'Before me JOHN RENELS Comessener.'
And Mistress Staplies had other qualities, always potent in small communities to invite criticism and dislike. She was a shrewd and shrewish woman, impatient of some of the Puritan social standards and of the laws of everyday life. She openly condemned certain common moralities, was reckless in criticism of her neighbors, and quarreled with Ludlow about some church matters.
It is evident from the testimonies that Staplies was on both sides as to the guilt of goodwife Knapp, and when rumor and suspicion began to point to herself as a mischief-maker and busybody in witchcraft matters, to divert attention from his wife and set a backfire to the sweep of public opinion, Thomas sued Ludlow, and despite his strong and clear defense as shown on the record evidence, the court in his absence awarded damages against him for defamation and for charging Staplies' wife with going on 'in a tract of lying,' 'in reparation of his wife's name' as the judgment reads. Mistress Staplies did not grow in grace, or in the graces of her neighbors, since some years later she was indicted for witchcraft, tried, and acquitted with others, at Fairfield, in 1692.*
*See Historical Note, p. 161."
Source: Chapter X of the book Taylor, John M., The Witchcraft Delusion in Colonial Connecticut 1647-1697, Ch. X, pp. 122-41 (The Grafton Press 1908).
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