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General Court Hears Case on Witchcraft (1626)

The following is a transcript of the proceedings of the General Court, meeting in Jamestown on September 11, 1626. The court heard evidence against Joan Wright of Surry County, who was accused by her neighbors of practicing witchcraft. She was acquitted in, perhaps, the earliest allegation of witchcraft on record against an English settler in North America. Some spelling has been modernized and contractions expanded.

Transcription from Original

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A COURTE held the xith of September 1626 beinge

present

Sir George Yardley Knight Governor &c Capt West Doctor Pott

1 Liut. Gieles Allington sworne and examined sayeth, That he harde Sargeant Booth saye that he was croste by a woman and for a twelve months space he havinge very fayre game to shute at, yet he could never kill any thinge but this deponent cannot say that it was good wiefe Wright. Fourther this deponent sayeth, that he had spoken to good wiefe Wrighte for to bringe his wiefe to bed, but the saide goodwief beinge left handed, his wiefe desired him to get Mrs Grave to be her midwiefe, which this deponent did, and sayeth that the next daye after his wiefe was delivered, the saide goodwiefe Wright went awaye from his howse very much discontented, in regarde the other midwiefe had brought his wiefe to bedd, shortlie after this, this deponents wiefes brest grew dangerouslie sore of an Imposture and was a moneth or 5 weeks before she was recovered, Att which tyme This deponent him selfe fell sick and contynued the space of three weeks, And further sayeth that his childe after it was borne fell sick and soe contynued the space of two moneths, and afterwards recovered, And so did Contynue well for the space of a moneth, And afterwards fell into extreeme payne the space of five weeks and so departed.

Rebecka Graye sworne and examined sayeth That good wief Wright did tell her this deponent That by one Token which this deponent had in her forehed she should burye her Husbande, And fourther sayeth that good wiefe Wright did tell this deponent that she told Mr ffellgate he should bury his wiefe (which cam to pass) And further this deponent sayeth that goodwiefe Wright did tell this deponent, That she tolde Thomas Harris he should burie his first wiefe being then bethrothed unto him (which cam so to pass) further this deponent sayeth that goodwiefe Wright did tell her that there was a woman said to her

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(I have a cross man to my husband) To whom good wiefe Wright replide (be content) for thow shalte shortlie burie him (which cam so to pass)

Thomas Jones sworne and examined sayeth, that Sargeant Booth told him that goodwiefe Wright would have had som what of him, which the saide Sargeant Booth either would nott or could nott give her, and as this deponent thinketh it was a peece of fflesh, And after the said Sargeant Booth went foorth with his peece, and cam to good game and very fayre to shoote at, But for a longe tyme after he could never kill any thinge.

Robert Wright sworne and examined sayeth that he hath beene married to his wiefe sixteene yeers, but knoweth nothinge by her touching the Crime she is accused of

Daniell Watkins sworned and examined sayeth that about february last past, this deponent beinge at Mr Perryes Plantatione Ther was Robert Thresher who had a cowple of henns pourposinge to send them over to Elzabeth Arundle And good wiefe Wright beinge there in place, saide to Robert Thresher, why do you keepe these henns heere tyed upp, The maide you meane to send them to will be dead before the henns come to her.

Mrs Isabell Perry sworned and examined sayeth that uppon the losinge of a logg of light wood owt of the fforte, good wiefe Wrighte rayled uppon a girl of good wiefe gates for stealing of the same, wheruppon good wiefe gates Charged the said good wiefe Wright with witchcrafte, And said that she had done many bad things at Kickotan, whereuppon this Examinate Chid the saide Good wiefe Wright, And said unto her, yf thow knowst thyselfe Cleare of what she Charged thee, why dost thow not complaine And cleare thyselfe of the same, To whom good wiefe Wright replied, god forgive them, and so made light of it, And the said good wiefe Wright Threatened good wiefe Gates girle and told her, that yf she did nott bringe the light wood againe she would make her daunce starke naked and the next morninge the lightwood was founde in the forte.

And further sayeth that Dorethie Behethlem asked this Examint why she did suffer good wiefe to be at her howse, saying she was a very bad woman, and was Accompted a witch amoungst all them at Kickotan

And fourther this deponent [sayeth] that good wiefe did tell her that when she lived at hull, beinge one day Chirninge of butter there cam a woman to the howse who was accompted for a witch, whereuppon she by directions from her dame Clapt the Chirne staffe to the bottom of the Chirne and clapt her hands across uppon the top of it by which means the witch was not able to stire owt of the place where she was for the space of six howers after which time good wiefe Wright desired her dame to aske the woman why she did not gett her gone, wheruppon the witche fell downe on her knees and asked forgivenes and saide her hande was in the Chirne, and could not stire before her maide lifted upp the staffe of the Chirne, which the saide good wiefe Wright did, and the witch went awaye, but to her perseverance [perception] the witch had both her handes at libertie, and this good wiefe Wright affirmeth to be trewe. Fourther Mrs Pery sayeth that good wiefe Wright told her, that she was at Hull her dame beinge sick suspected her selfe to be bewiched, and told good wiefe Wright of it, whereuppon by directione from her dame, That at the cominge of a woman, which was suspected, to take a horshwe and flinge it into the oven and when it was red hott, To fflinge it into her dames urine, and so long as the horshwe was hott, the witch was sick at the harte, And when the Irone was colde she was well againe, And this good wiefe Wright affirmeth to be trwe alsoe.

Alice Baylie sworne and examined sayeth that she asked good wief Wright whether her husbande should bury her, or she burye him To whom good wiefe Wright answered, I can tell you yf I would, but I am exclaimde against for such thinges and Ile tell no more

Richard Peerce beinge questioned about a calfe which he kild which did belonge to the stock of Mr Woodall it is ordered that he shall at the next springe at Calvinge tyme deliver another bull calfe weanable in lew of the other.

Yt is ordered that Mr John Upton shall paye Richarde Tree two barells of Corne, and Mr Upton to make his best of the Corne he bought of Richard Tree being now standinge in the grounde