The First Person
Executed in the Colonies
In 1642 witchcraft was punishable
by death in Connecticut. This capital offense was backed by
references to the Bible, i.e., Ex: 22, 18; Lev: 20, 27; Deu:
18, 10, 11. Alse Young (sometimes also referred to as Achsah or
Alice) of Windsor, Connecticut was the first person executed for
witchcraft in America. Alse was hanged at Meeting House Square in
Hartford on what is now the site of the Old State House. A journal
of then Massachusetts Governor John Winthrop states that "One of
Windsor was hanged." The second town clerk of Windsor, Matthew Grant
also confirms the execution with the May 26, 1647 diary entry, "Alse
Young was hanged."
Although Connecticut may not have
experienced the same level of hysteria as Salem Massachusetts, Alse
Young was not the last person hanged
for witchcraft. Mary Johnson of Wethersfield was executed in 1648
after having confessed to entering into a compact with the devil.
Joan and John Carrington also of Wethersfield were executed in 1651.
Rebecca and Nathaniel Greensmith and Mary Barnes were found guilty
of witchcraft and were hanged
in Hartford on January 25, 1663. Ann Cole had accused Rebecca
Greensmith of making her have strange fits. Witchcraft was last
listed as a capital crime in 1715. The crime of witchcraft
disappeared from the list of capital crimes when the laws were next
printed in 1750.
Sources of Information:
George Lincoln Burr, editor,
"Narratives of the Witchcraft Cases
Wilson H. Faude & Joan W. Friedland,
"Connecticut Firsts", (1985)
David D. Hall, editor,
"Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth Century New England"
R.G. Tomlinson, "Witchcraft
Trials Of Connecticut", (1978)
accusations and mentions of witchcraft in the colonial records of
of Connecticut Legal History