September 3 (August 24, o.s.)

Connecticut: Several people come before the court in Stamford to testify regarding the witchcraft allegations of Katharine Branch. Commissioner Jonathan Bell testifies that Daniel Westcott, Kate’s master, came to his house in May and told him that a strange man had come to her and told her that her brother in St. Kitts in the West Indies was dead. Kate was very saddened and distressed by this and began to cry, and the man told her that she wouldn’t have any more fits for three weeks. Bell’s wife Susannah, who was there, confirms the story, as does Westcott. This story accords with that given by John Pettit on August 4.

Although Bell’s testimony tends to support the authenticity of Kate’s afflictions, other witnesses cast doubt on it. Samuel Blatchly testifies that he heard Daniel Westcott’s wife Abigail talking at the home of Nathaniel and Abigail Cross about what Stamford minister Joseph Bishop had said to a Mr. Burr about her (Abigail Westcott) talking about Mercy Disborough, one of the women accused of bewitching Kate Branch. Blatchly says that at one point Abigail Cross said that she believed Westcott had talked about Disborough to Bishop while Kate was around, to which Westcott replied that she had indeed, but that Kate was in one of her fits at the time (and thus insensible to what was happening around her). Westcott, who is very familiar with Kate’s fits, could tell this by looking at Kate’s eyes, but Bishop could not, and to him she therefore looked like she was totally in her senses. Indeed, Westcott said that she had been in her senses just before, but had fallen into a subtle fit by the time the subject of Disborough came up. This testimony by Blatchly is fairly damaging to the accusations against Disborough, since a key element of Kate’s story is that she was totally unfamiliar with Disborough outside of her fits.

Blatchly’s testimony, while potentially damaging to Kate’s credibility, does still leave open the possibility that the explanation he attributes to Abigail Westcott is correct, which would mean that Kate hadn’t actually heard of Disborough, though she had been discussed in her physical presence. Abigail Westcott’s niece Lydia Penoyer, however, relates stories in her testimony that unambiguously cast doubt on Kate’s reliability. She says that she once heard her aunt say that Kate was such a lying girl that no one could believe her, and that she doubted that any of the women Kate accused were witches any more than she herself was. According to Penoyer, Westcott also said that her husband was totally credulous about Kate’s tales and that he would believe her before he believed Joseph Bishop, Jonathan Bell (the minister and one of the commissioners in Stamford, respectively), or even herself, his own wife. Penoyer also testifies that, at a different time, she was talking to Kate herself and she told her that she had never told Joseph Garnsey and Nathaniel Wyatt, two men who had been by her master’s house while he was gone and had seen her in her fits, that she was possessed by the Devil.

New Mexico: The reconquest expedition led by Governor Vargas departs from its campsite at the abandoned Pueblo of Socorro and continues on its way.  The road continues to be difficult and sandy, and the wagons are again emptied and their cargo put on the pack animals.  The expedition camps at the Pueblo of Alamillo, which, like Socorro, was abandoned and destroyed during the revolt in 1680.

Published in: on September 3, 2008 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on September 3 (August 24, o.s.)  
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