June 16 (June 6, o.s.)

Connecticut: The special court convened in Fairfield to investigate Katharine Branch’s accusations of witchcraft against Mercy Disborough takes the testimony of several neighbors of Mercy and Thomas Disborough about previous incidents of conflict that suggest that Mercy Disborough might be a witch.

Thomas Bennett testifies that two or three years ago Mercy Disborough told him that she would “make him as bare as a bird’s tail,” and that soon afterward he lost two calves when they wandered away from the other calves into a creek, then less than two weeks after that thirty of his lambs suddenly died without seeming at all sick beforehand, and a while after that another two calves of his died suddenly and unexpectedly.

Thomas Bennett’s daughter Elizabeth Bennett testifies that she spoke to Mercy Disborough sometime during the past winter after a dispute over a sow belonging to Benjamin Rumsey, and that Disborough said to her that “it should be pressed, heaped and running over to her.” Upon being asked by the court if she said this, Disborough admits that she did, but says that she was just referring to a biblical verse, Luke 6:38, and that she had told Bennett that the next day.

Henry Grey testifies that he has heard from some of his neighbors that Mercy Disborough had said to Elizabeth Bennett and her mother that she couldn’t stand him ever since he had bought a parcel of apples from her mother 18 years before and complained that it was lighter than it should have been. He also testifies that about a year ago one of his calves began acting very strangely and roared in a strange way for six or seven hours, and that one of his lambs died suddenly and when it was skinned there were marks on the shoulders that looked like bruises from pinching. He also says that two or three months ago he bought a calf from the Disboroughs but, while it looked fine when he agreed to take it, when he brought it home it suddenly changed to look old and worn out, so he decided he didn’t want it, and when he returned it to the Disboroughs Mercy Disborough was very angry and they argued vehemently. About two months later he lost a cow when it got stuck in a swamp and one of his heifers became strangely ill and lay down, seeming almost dead. Suspecting that witchcraft might be the cause, he cut the heifer’s ear, a method of finding who had witched an animal that would make the witch suffer pain at the same time as the animal. He then got a whip and when he whipped the heifer she immediately got up and ran away from him. He went after her, whipping as he ran, and within an hour she was back to normal. Later that day he was at his brother Jacob Grey’s house and Mercy Disborough was there, and she said that she had told him when he returned the calf that it would cost him two cows. When he got home he heard Thomas Bennett say that he had also had a cow acting strangely that day, but that he had whipped it and it was fine.

Ann Godfrey testifies that the day after Henry Grey’s problem with the heifer she went to Mercy Disborough’s house and saw Disborough lying on the bed with her arm stretched out. When Disborough saw Godfrey she said “Oh Ann, I am almost killed.” The fact that she was in pain soon after Henry Grey had cut his cow’s ear implies that she had bewitched it. Godfrey also says that about two years ago she went to Mercy Disborough’s house with the wife of Thomas Bennett Jr. and told Disborough that Henry Grey’s wife had accused her of bewitching her husband’s oxen, making them jump over the fence, and making the Greys’ beer jump out of the barrel. Disborough answered that a woman had come to her angrily and asked her what she was doing, and when she said she was praying to her god the woman asked who her god was and said it was the devil, at which point Disborough told her to go home and pray to her god and she went home. Disborough said she didn’t know if the woman had prayed or not, but she had died a “hard death” later, which Disborough claimed was God’s punishment to her for being so unpleasant. Godfrey says that after she and Bennett heard Disborough say this and left her house, Bennett told her that the woman Disborough was talking about was her sister and that she had heard the conversation between the two that Disborough had related. Upon hearing that Godfrey wanted to go back and talk to Disborough more, but Thomas Bennett Sr. told her that would be a bad idea. That night Godfrey couldn’t sleep and heard strange noises, and in the morning one of her heifers was dead. She also testifies that the past summer one of her sows was very sick and when she saw Disborough passing by she asked her to “unbewitch” the sow, and said that people had been talking about ducking her to see if she was a witch, but that if she didn’t unbewitch the sow there would be no need for ducking because it would be clear that she was. The sow recovered soon after.

John Grumman, a relative of the Bennetts, testifies that about five years ago his child was suddenly taken very ill, and Thomas Bennett Jr. went over to Mercy Disborough’s house and threatened her, and convinced her to come over and unbewitch the child, which she did by stroking it and saying that God forbade that she should hurt it, after which the child recovered.

Thomas Bennett Jr. testifies that Grumman’s story is accurate, and specifies that he threatened Disborough that he would “tear her heart out” if she didn’t heal the child.

Joseph Stirg testifies that he had been with Benjamin Dunning at the jail when Disborough said that if she were hanged, she would not be hanged alone, and says he told her that she “owned herself a witch” by saying that.

The jailer, Thomas Halliberch, testifies that Samuel Smith Sr. had come by in the morning and said something to Halliberch’s wife about Disborough, to which she replied “Ah, poor creature.” Hearing that, Disborough said “Poor creature, indeed” and said that she had been “tormented all night.” Halliberch said that it was the devil who had tormented her, and she agreed and said it had told her that “her soul was damned for yesterday’s work.” Samuel Smith Sr. corroborates this account, as does Joseph Bulkley, who was also there. When the court asks Disborough if she had said what Halliberch reports, she says that she did, and that she believes that divination is involved in her troubles. Joseph Wakeman testifies that he was at the jail and heard Disborough say that “she trusted in the Lord Jesus and if he deceive her she would not have others to trust in him.”

Meanwhile, in Stamford, two of Elizabeth Clawson’s neighbors, Eleazer Slawson and Clement Buxton, sign a statement in front of commissioner Jonathan Bell saying that Clawson has always been a very peaceful neighbor, not given to causing trouble or contributing to conflict. Also, Daniel Westcott goes to Elizabeth Clawson’s house and talks to her about his servant’s accusations against her.

New Mexico: Juan Páez Hurtado, the secretary of government and war, has copies made of all the proceedings in the jurisdictional dispute between Governor Vargas and Father Hinojosa over the lands of the Indians in the pueblos of the El Paso district to send to the viceroy in accordance with the agreement between Vargas and the apostolic notary Agustín de Colina on June 2.  The four officials who served as witnesses both to that meeting and to Páez’s notification of Hinojosa of Vargas’s decision earlier that day sign Páez’s statement affirming the accuracy of the copies.

Published in: on June 16, 2008 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on June 16 (June 6, o.s.)  
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