Thursday, 6 March 2014

Alse Young: America’s First Executed Witch

Little is known about the life and family of Alse Young, but she has a spot in history as the first person to be executed for the crime of witchcraft in America. Records from her trial are no longer in existence, though two short journal entries mention the event: The journal of John Winthrop, Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, reads for “late May of 1647”, “One [blank] of Windsor arraigned and executed at Hartford for a witch." Matthew Grant, Town Clerk of Windsor, writes “May 26. 47 Alse Young was hanged.” Alse’s execution occurred almost 45 years before the start of the infamous Salem, Massachusetts witch hysteria. While the Salem witch hysteria has become the most well known of Americas early witch hysterias, by its beginning in 1692, it was certainly nothing new in colonial New England.

Salem Witch Trials


The first known witch hysteria to occur in America began in 1647, possibly with the accusation of our Alse Young. Before this first wave of witch hysteria ended in 1663, at least 79 people were accused of witchcraft, about 33 were tried, and 15 were convicted and hanged. While accusations of witchery appeared in other New England states, Connecticut help the most convictions and executions.

Historians believe that Alse was born in England around 1600, and her maiden name was possibly Stokes. While it is not known when she came to America, her marriage record to John Young puts her in Windsor, Connecticut during the 1630s. John and Alse had a daughter, Alice Young Beamon, who was accused, but never executed, of witchcraft in Springfield, Massachusetts about 30 year after her mother’s execution.

Alse Young was hung in Hartford, Connecticut on 26 May 1647. There are two highly possibly locations of her execution: the first was at Gallows Hill, as it was formerly called, and is today where Trinity College now stands. The other location was at Meeting House Square where the Old State House now stands.

Throughout the rest of the seventeenth century, dozens more men and women (mostly women) were executed on convictions of witchcraft. Most executions occurred during the witch hysterias of Hartford Connecticut and later Salem, Massachusetts.

Are you a descendant of an accused/convicted witch?

6 comments:

  1. I love reading about the Salem Witch Trials and all that! Thanks for posting! :)

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  2. Thanks for the post Jacky...one of your fellow bloggers (Kate) also has an interest in witches and trials etc. It is quite scary how easily they blamed a woman for almost anything. Interestingly there's been a rise in accusations of witchcraft, and killing them, in Papua New Guinea in recent years.

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  3. Fascinating! Last year I spent some time in Lancashire near Pendle which also has an interesting history relating to the execution of witches!

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  4. I don't think that I have a descendant that was accused and executed for witchcraft. However, I do know of two ancestors that were mediums and fortune tellers, and probably would have been accused had they lived during the 1600's as they were both from New England. This was a great share...Thank you!

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  5. I enjoyed reading your post and visited Salem when on a visit to Boston. Here in the Scottish Borders cases against witches feature in 17th century kirk session records, and I used to live in Lancashire near Pendle Hill which Diane refers too, with witches executed at Lancaster Castle.

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  6. Like ScotSue I enjoyed visiting Salem when I lived in the Boston area eons ago and really enjoyed learning about the witch trials. Your post put a very human face on the hysteria.

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World Wide Genealogy Team