June 6 (May 27, o.s.)

Connecticut: Sergeant Daniel Westcott of Stamford appears before the local court of commissioners to testify that his seventeen-year-old servant, Katharine Branch, has been afflicted by witchcraft “upwards of five weeks.” Sergeant Westcott filed charges on April 25 against two women, Elizabeth Clawson of Stamford and Mercy Disborough of Fairfield, for bewitching Kate.

He says that Kate’s troubles started with a “pinching and pricking of her breast” while she was gathering herbs in a field. When she returned home she collapsed into tears and remained in that state for most of the following two days, after which she saw a cat that promised her “fine things” if she would go with her (the cat) to “where there were fine folks.” She was then tormented with fits. Over the course of the next several days she saw more cats, which threatened to kill her and frightened her in other ways. During one of her periods of lucidity Sergeant Westcott asked her what the matter was and she told him about the cats.

After about thirteen days of this, she began to have fits during the night and see strange women, whom she would describe to her master. One of them she named as “Goody Clawson,” whom she described as sitting on a rail and on the pommel of a chair, which Katharine considered clear evidence that she was a witch because an ordinary person couldn’t sit like that. She saw Goody Clawson in various contexts for a week and continued having fits.

When Sergeant Westcott was in Hartford as a deputy to the Court of Election, Katharine saw another woman, who gave her name as “first Mercy Woodbridge, and then Mercy Holbridge” when Katherine asked, and said she lived at Compo, an area of the nearby town of Fairfield. When her master returned she described the woman to him and said she had said she was afflicting Katharine because he had given evidence against her.

Another time, Sergeant Westcott was sitting near Katharine, who was lying on a bed, when she mysteriously floated up to the rafters and down again twice. The first time he wasn’t looking when she went up and only saw her come down, but the second time he saw her go both up and down. He also recently saw her move along the floor on her back without moving her arms or legs.

Once Sergeant Westcott is finished telling the story, the commissioners begin to question Katharine. They ask her if she knew who was responsible for her afflictions and without hesitation she names Elizabeth Clawson and another woman whose name she doesn’t know whom she calls “Goody Hipshod.” The commissioners ask if she saw anyone else and she immediately names Mercy Disborough, formerly Mercy Holbridge. When the commissioners ask how she knows Mercy’s name she says Mercy told her, and that she also told her that she lives at Compo in Fairfield. Upon further questioning she says that Mercy had even brought her to Compo “on foot by day.” While answering these questions she is completely lucid and coherent, but once she is done answering she immediately lapses back into her fits.

Massachusetts: The newly appointed governor, Sir William Phips, orders the convening of a special Court of Oyer and Terminer to conduct trials of the large and rapidly increasing number of people being accused of witchcraft. The jails in both Salem and Boston are becoming overcrowded, and as the weather gets warmer conditions in the rather unsanitary facilities are likely to degenerate even further. Lieutenant Governor William Stoughton is appointed as the chief judge, with eight other judges to form the Court: John Hathorne, Jonathan Corwin, Samuel Sewall, Bartholomew Gedney, John Richards, Nathaniel Saltonstall, Waitstill Winthrop, and Peter Sergeant. All of these men are also members of the colony’s council, and Hathorne and Corwin are also the magistrates of Salem who have been conducting examinations of accused witches throughout the spring. The first session of the Court is scheduled for June 2.

Mexico: The grain shortage reaches a new level of urgency as supplies arriving in Mexico City from the provinces fall shorter than ever before and in the afternoon the grain exchange closes early, leading to much discontent among the urban population, which by now contains a large number of people from surrounding rural areas who have recently moved to the city because grain prices there have been lower than in their villages on account of the government’s policy of requisitioning grain from agricultural areas to supply the city.

As part of that policy, the mayor of the city, Pedro de la Bástida, goes to the nearby agricultural region of Chalco to investigate rumors that the owners of the haciendas there have been selling their grain to other markets rather than sending it all to the city. He searches every hacienda in Chalco and discovers enough surplus grain that he decides the rumors are true and requisitions two-thirds of the total amount of maize he finds to be shipped to the city.

New Mexico: Agustín de Colina, the apostolic notary at El Paso, finally tracks down the last of the four witnesses to Governor Vargas’s refusal to let him present Father Hinojosa’s response to the governor’s rejection of his petition on June 2, Francisco de Anaya Almazán.  Almazán states that Colina’s account of the encounter is accurate, but he refuses to sign it, explaining that he cannot serve as a witness for either Vargas or Hinojosa in their dispute.  Having completed his task, Colina sends his statement and the statements of the witnesses with a letter of transmittal to Hinojosa.

Published in: on June 6, 2008 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on June 6 (May 27, o.s.)  
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