7. Margaret Jones was Hanged for being a Witch in 1648
Witches posed a serious threat to the “holy commonwealth” of Puritan New England. Most people in the 17th century believed in the supernatural. Astrological charts told a farmer when to plant crops or marry off a daughter. Honoring or praying to a Saint could result in good crops, cured illness, or a happy home. As Puritans sought advisement from the supernatural, some inNew England believed that these superstitions were works of Satan. Witches and wizards, they believed, were the eyes and ears of the devil and had to be eliminated from society.
Margaret Jones was a midwife. In addition to assisting women childbirth, Margaret attended to the sick. She used herbal concoctions to alleviate pain or reduce a fever. Often a patient would make a full recovery and Margaret would be viewed as a gracious healer. But, when patients died in childbirth or succumbed to a disease, many of the devout believed that Margaret had purposely let a person die because Satan told her so. According to the historical record, Margaret would inform those at their end of their life or the gravely ill that “they would never be healed.” She would give remedies to the sick that would later be “taken with deafness, or vomiting, or other violent pains.” Because of this, Margaret was accused of witchcraft.
In June 1648, Margaret Jones stood trial for being a witch. Once accused Margaret was considered guilty and there was little that she could do to prove her innocence. Neighbors and friends, in acts of self-preservation, would tell the judge how they saw Margaret feeding one of Satan’s spawns, an imp, from her third teat that presumably all witches had. Or on how Margaret had let a loved-one die or caused them pain while sick or that she was able to foretell things that “came to pass.”
On 15 June 1648 in the small town of Charleston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Margaret Jones was hanged until she died. She was the first to be executed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony for being a witch. Over the next three decades, numerous men and women would be accused of witchcraft in the quest by Puritan magistrates and ministers to ensure purity with the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Ironically, a hurricane, called a tempest in the 17th century, hit in nearby Connecticut that “blue down many trees” short after Margaret hanged.