There are a few seventeenth century connections to witchcraft. William Stoughton, Dorchester's preeminent citizen, presided with Judge Sewall at the infamous Salem witch trials in 1692.
Witchcraft was suspected throughout the early years in New England. People were being punished for the crime of witchcraft long before the celebrated trials at Salem. In Dorchester Alice Lake, wife of Henry and resident of Dorchester, Massachusetts, was convicted of witchcraft and executed about 1650. She had four young children.
"Another [Alice Lake] that suffered on that account some time after, was a Dorchester woman. And upon the day of her execution Mr. Thompson minister at Braintree, and J.P. Her former master took pains with her to bring her to repentance. And she utterly denied her guilt of witchcraft; yet justified God for bringing her to that punishment: for she had when a single woman played the harlot, and being with child used means to destroy the fruit of her body to conceal her sin and shame, and although she did not effect it, yet she was a murderer in the sight of God for her endeavors, and showed great penitency for that sin; but owned nothing of the crime laid to her charge." (Hale, Modest Enquiry, p. 17-18.)
Dorchester was represented by John Capen and Jacob Hewins on the jury in the case of Elizabeth Morse, of Newbury. She was pronounced guilty but was later reprieved. (Orcutt, p. 82)
Hale, John. A Modest Enquiry into the Nature of Witchcraft. Boston, 1702. As cited in Hall's Witch-hunting.
Hall, David D. Witch-hunting in Seventeenth-Century New England. A Documentary History, 1638-1692. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1991.
Orcutt, William Dana. Good Old Dorchester. A Narrative History of the Town. 1630-1893. Cambridge, 1893.
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Created: July 27, 2004 Modified: February 19, 2007