Sunday, March 23, 2008

Absolution for Connecticut Witches

"After more than 300 years, the Connecticut residents accused of witchcraft finally might be vindicated thanks to what began as a school project." - The Hartford Courant

"State legislators took up the issue Thursday of Connecticut's witch trials, the result of efforts by 14-year-old Addie Avery and her mother, Debra Avery, descendants of a Hartford woman accused of witchcraft and probably hanged. The judiciary committee discussed a resolution that would absolve the approximately 40 residents accused of practicing witchcraft in the mid- to late-17th century.

The Averys have since heard regularly from people around the country who believe they're descendants of the accused, and their home has increasingly filled with copies of old court records and books about the witch trials.

Also testifying before the committee was Laura Barber Cayer of Mansfield, a descendant of Lydia Gilbert, who was accused of causing a man's gun to accidentally shoot her neighbor during military training exercises.

Outcomes of many of the state's witch trials are unclear, since records were either lost or purged, but historians believe Gilbert probably was executed.

State historians say at least eight of the accused definitely were executed, and another three probably were put to death.

In 1647, Alice Young of Windsor was the first to be hanged for witchcraft — more than four decades before the Salem witch trials began. Of those who weren't put to death, some were acquitted of the charges, and others fled.

Because all but two of those executed were women, the Averys and Cayer also see the resolution as a women's rights issue.

Often, women were accused simply for being outspoken or eccentric."


Connie Jagodzinski said...

My ancestress, Mary Andrus (Andrews) Barnes b.1643 was also hanged as a witch in Farmington. I'm looking for information on her trial and how it all came about. Do you have anything?

thank you.
Connie Jagodzinski

Anonymous said...

Connie, I am Mary's 11th great-grand-grandaughter. I have some hard-copy files, a book, and some snippets of info. Send me an email at liadano +at+ and I will share what I have.

sherrie said...

Lydia Gilbert was also my ancestress! I am happy to learn today of the work Addie Avery and Laura Cayer have done to try to exonerate Lydia and the other women caught up in that witch hysteria. I would like to learn more detail of Lydia's trial and if she was actually hung or released, since there seems to be some disagreement on that issue.
Thank you

Lisa said...

Hi connie and Anonymous I just learned today that Mary is my 8thGgrandmother.I'm trying to figure out if she was accused or what because of didn't information out there.

Virginia Wolf said...

I've recently written and am performing a one woman show on the Connecticut witchcraft panics...I bring to life Mary Staples, Lydia Gilbert, Judith Varlet, Mary Barnes, and Mercy Disborough. Check out I did tons of research, and any literary license is in keeping with the possible/probable scenarios. Fascinating subject!