Thursday, February 19, 2009

"Witch! Goodwife Webster is a Witch!"

We are Related to William Webster husband of Mary Reeve
through both Martin Luther ENSIGN's father and mother

[9th and 10th Great-Grand Aunt]

In the winter of 1684 the colonial town of Hadley Connecticut was stunned by the death of Phillip Smith [10 Great-Grand Uncle], one of their most prominent and upstanding citizens. He was "killed by an hideous witchcraft!"

The "Witch" was Mary Webster, Wife of William Webster who lived near Hadley. Her maiden name was Reeve. She and William were married in 1670. William was 53, she is believed to have been somewhat younger. They were poor but when by members of the local church came to help them, Mary ordered them to leave. The church people believed that Mary's unacceptable behavior caused by the devil, who was at work bringing evil into their community. They began to look for other signs that she was a witch and had "entered into a covenant with the devil."

News of strange incidents begin to circulate through the small community. Once a team of horses stopped outside Mary Webster's home and refused to go any further. The driver threatened Mary with his whip and then the horses continued on their way. Another story tells of a wagon over-turning nearby. The driver went to punish her for the deed and returned to find his wagon turned upright again.

Mary was visiting a neighbor when a chicken fell down the chimney and was scalded in a pot of water over the fire. The neighbor noticed that Mary had also been scalded. These stories were told as evidence when she was sent to Boston on May 22, 1683 for a hearing. The charges brought against her was as follows:
...that she, not having the fear of God before her eyes, and being instigated by the devil, hath entered into covenant and had familiarity with him in the shape of a warraneage, (fisher or wild black cat of the woods) and had his imps sucking her, and teats or marks found on her, as in and by several testimonies may appear, contrary to the peace of our sovereign lord, the king, his crown and dignity, the laws of God and of this jurisdiction
She was imprisoned and held over for trial. On Sept 4, 1683, a jury found her- Not Guilty.

This did not put matters to rest. Phillip Smith continued to have problems with the woman, and blamed her for his declining health. He saw visions of Mary Webster at this bedside. His friends went and "disturbed" Mary, and while they were with her, Phillip was reportedly able to rest at ease, but when they returned to him, his case continued to worsen. They heard noises, and felt the bed shake, and sensed a presents in the room. Finally they pronounced him dead.
Mr. Smith dies: The Jury that view's his Corpse, found a Swelling on one Breast, his Privities wounded or Burn'd, his Back full of Bruises, and several Holes that seemed made with Awls. After the Opinion of all had pronounced him dead, his Countenance continued as Lively as if he had been Alive; his Eyes closed as in a Slumber, and his Nether Jaw not falling down. Thus he remained from Saturday Morning about Sunrise, till Sabbath-day in the Afternoon; when those who took him out of the Bed, found him still warm, though' the Season was as cold as had almost been known in any Age: And a New England Winter does not want for Cold.

On the Night following his Countenance was yet fresh as before; but on Monday morning, they found the Face extremely tumify'd and discoulour'd. It was black and blue, and fresh Blood seem'd running down his Cheek upon the Hairs. Divers Noises were also heard in the Room where the corpse lay, as the Clattering of Chairs and Stools, whereof no account could be given. This was the End of so good a Man.

[see: The Magnalia Christi Americana, by Cotton Mather - 1702.]
This time the people of Hadley took the law into their own hands. As Smith lay dying they took Mary Webster out and hung her. When morning came she was still alive, so they took her down, rolled her in the snow. They buried her in the snow and left her. She survived the ordeal, and lived another eleven years during which time the famous Salem Witch trials took place. History calls her "Half Hanged Mary".

Philip SMITH is the son in-law of Nathaniel FOOTE

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