Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project is an organization composed of witch trial victim descendants and others who want to see the victims’ cleared of all wrongdoing. We support the resolutions proposed by Rep. Jane Garibay and Sen. Saud Anwar in the Connecticut General Assembly. These are HJ No. 21, “Resolution Recognizing the Unfair Treatment of Individuals Accused of Witchcraft During the Seventeenth Century” and SJ No. 5 “Exonerating the Women and Men Convicted for Witchcraft in Colonial Connecticut”
We want the state to acknowledge the injustice of the witchcraft accusations and trials, recognize the innocence of all who were accused of witchcraft, recognize the suffering of the accused and their families, clear the names of those who were accused, and apologize for all actions by colonial officials against the accused, their families, and their descendants. We can say with complete certainty that none of the accused was guilty of covenanting with the Devil or manipulating supernatural forces to harm others.
Please see below for significant facts about the trials and accusations. This data is the result of years of research and has been compiled from reliable sources, which are noted.
Facts About The Connecticut Witch Trials
The Connecticut witch trials occurred between 1647 and 1697. During this period, 34 individuals were indicted and 11 were executed.
The first execution was in 1647. The last executions were in January of 1663 during the end of the Hartford Witch Panic. Governor John Winthrop Jr. was away from the colonies obtaining the charter for Connecticut Colony during that panic.
Eleven people were convicted and executed. The primary reasons were misogyny and community panic.
Alice ‘Alse’ Young-Windsor-1647, scholars think she was blamed for causing a pandemic in the town of Windsor where many children died.
Mary Johnson1, Wethersfield-1648, specific reason for accusation unknown
Joan Carrington1, Wethersfield, 1651, wife of John, specific reason for accusation unknown
John Carrington1, Wethersfield-1651, husband of Joan, specific reason for accusation unknown
Goodwife Bassett1, Stratford-1651, specific reason for accusation unknown
Goodwife Knapp1, Fairfield-1653, specific reason for accusation unknown
Lydia Gilbert1, Windsor, 1654, blamed for bewitching a gun that killed someone in 1651 even though she was not there.
Mary Sanford1, Hartford 1662-murdered by hanging during the Hartford witch panic when Winthrop Jr. was away and Major John Mason was in charge. Her only crime was being named as attending a Christmas party on the South Green (Puritans did not celebrate Christmas.) It was construed as a coven and meeting with the devil
Nathaniel Greensmith1-1663, Same as above, husband of Rebecca
Rebecca Greensmith1-1663 , Same as above, wife of Nathaniel
Mary Barnes1, Farmington-1663 , specific reason for blame unknown, hanged with the Greensmiths in Hartford
One person was convicted and then reprieved by Governor John Winthrop Jr.
Elizabeth Seager was acquitted twice. In her third trial, she was convicted and reprieved-16652.
The following indicted who were not convicted but still suffered greatly after indictments were:
Goodwife Bailey-16551, Nicholas Bailey-16551, Elizabeth Godman-16551, Elizabeth Garlick-16581, Unknown person in Saybrook-16591, Margaret Jennings-16611, Nicholas Jennings-16611, Judith Varlet-16621, Andrew Sanford-16621, William Ayers-1662, Judith Ayers-16621, James Wakely-16651, Katherine Harrison-1668-691*, William Graves-16671, Elizabeth Clawson-16921, Hugh Crosia 16921, Mercy Disborough-16921*, Mary Harvey-16921, Hannah Harvey-16921, Mary Staples-16921, Winifred Benham-16971 (mother of Winifred Benham, Jr), Winifred Benham Jr.-16971 (daughter of Winifred Benham).
*Convicted. Verdict reversed
Three individuals were complained of, but no indictment followed:
Katherine Palmer-16601, Elizabeth Blackleach-16621, John Blackleach-16621
Three individuals were informally accused, but no formal complaint was filed:
Sarah Dibble-16691, Unknown individual in Hartford-16821, Goodwife Miller-16921
Five individuals were plaintiffs in slander suits, but no formal accusation or complaint was filed:
William Meaker-16571, Hannah Griswold-16671, Goodwife Messenger-16731, Goodwife Burr-16781, Goodwife Bowden-16891
After Governor Winthrop Jr. returned from England, he and colleagues argued that two people should be witnesses to the same act to accuse someone of witchcraft. Convictions stopped or reversed to acquittals after Elizabeth’s Seager’s and hangings ceased although witchcraft accusations were occasionally still made.
What is Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project?
It is a group made up of descendants, advocates, researchers, and others who care about injustice. It consists of people from Connecticut as well as other states. We are fighting for exoneration for all of Connecticut’s witch trial victims.
Why does exoneration matter?
The witch trials in Connecticut were a miscarriage of justice. The individuals accused were universally innocent of the charges of covenanting with Satan and using supernatural forces to harm others. Their descendants and others moved by these stories want to see their names cleared.
Massachusetts has exonerated those convinced during the Salem Witch Trials. Catalonia has pardoned those convicted of witchcraft there. Scotland is working on a pardon of its people who were convicted of witchcraft crimes.
This resolution will be an example to others working to recognize and address the wrongs of the past. Connecticut is taking a stand against injustice and human rights violations. Connecticut is taking a stand against misogyny. Connecticut is also taking a stand against witch-hunting, which will resonate in parts of the world where witchcraft accusations continue to lead to violence today. By acknowledging the mistakes of the past, we educate the public that similar actions are not acceptable today.
- WNPR’s Where We Live, “A push to exonerate victims of Connecticut’s early witch trials”
- Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast, “Descendants of Connecticut Witch Trial Victims”
- Samuel Wyllys Papers
- Matthew Grant Diary
- Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England by John Putnam Demos
- Detestable and Wicked Arts: New England and Witchcraft in the Early Modern Atlantic World by Paul B. Moyer
- Escaping Salem: The Other Witch Hunt of 1692 by Richard Godbeer
- The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England by Carol F. Karlsen
1 Demos, John. Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England (New York, 1982), 402-409
2 Moyer, Paul B. Detestable and Wicked Arts: New England and Witchcraft in the Early Modern Atlantic World (Ithaca, 2020), 151
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