Alse Young

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Alse Young was hanged at the Meeting House Square in Hartford, Connecticut, on what is now the site of the Old State House (pictured)

Alse Young (ca. 1600 – 26 May 1647) of Windsor, Connecticut — sometimes Achsah Young or Alice Young — was the first recorded instance of execution for witchcraft in the thirteen American colonies.

Background[edit]

Very little is recorded of Alse Young; her existence is only known through her reputation as a witch. She is believed to have been the wife of John Young, who bought a small parcel of land in Windsor in 1641, sold it in 1649, and then disappeared from the town records. She had a daughter, Alice Young Beamon, who would be accused of witchcraft in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts, some 30 years later. Like many similar cases of witchcraft, Alse Young was a woman without a son when the accusation was lodged, which implied that she would be eligible to receive through inheritance her husband's estate.

There is no further record of Young's trial or the specifics of the charge, only that Alse Young was a woman. Early historical records indicate that an influenza epidemic took hold of New England including the town of Windsor, Connecticut Colony in early 1647. The mortality rate that year increased dramatically and included many children. It is possible that she was blamed for these deaths. Alse Young was hanged at the Meeting House Square in Hartford, Connecticut, on what is now the site of the Old State House. A journal of then Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor John Winthrop states that "One... of Windsor arraigned and executed at Hartford for a witch." [1] The second town clerk of Windsor, Matthew Grant also confirms the execution with the May 26, 1647 diary entry, "Alse Young was hanged." However, it was not until December 3, 1904, when Annie Eliot Trumbull, James Hammond Trumbull's daughter, revealed the identity of the first colonial witch hanging victim to the public in an article in the Hartford Courant entitled "One Blank of Windsor".

Efforts to acknowledge Alse Young both artistically and politically have taken place recently. Author Beth M Caruso wrote a novel based on her research regarding the life of Alice 'Alse' Young entitled One of Windsor:The Untold Story of America's First Witch Hanging published by Lady Slipper Press, October 29, 2015. The author's note details some of this research. Jason P. Krug, of the band Grimm Generation, wrote a song entitled "Alse Young" in October of 2011. The town of Windsor, Connecticut passed a resolution clearing the names of its two witch hanging victims, Alse Young and Lydia Gilbert, on February 6, 2017.

In 1642, witchcraft became punishable by death in the Connecticut Colony. This capital offense was backed by references to the King James version of the Bible: Exodus (22:18) says, Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. And Leviticus (20:27) says, A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood (shall be) upon them. In Connecticut, 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 issued in 1750.

Other people executed for witchcraft in New England[edit]

Historian Clarence F. Jewett included a list of other people executed in New England in The Memorial History of Boston: Including Suffolk County, Massachusetts. 1630–1880 (Ticknor and Company, 1881). He wrote,

The following is the list of the twelve persons who were executed for witchcraft in New England before 1692, when twenty other persons were executed at Salem, whose names are well known. It is possible that the list is not complete ; but I have included all of which I have any knowledge, and with such details as to names and dates as could be ascertained : —

1647, — "Woman of Windsor", Connecticut (name unknown) [later identified as Alse Young], at Hartford. 1648, — Margaret Jones, of Charlestown, at Boston. 1648,— Mary Johnson, at Hartford. 1650? — Henry Lake's wife [Alice], of Dorchester. 1650?—Mrs. Kendall, of Cambridge. 1651, — Mary Parsons, of Springfield, at Boston. 1651, — Goodwife Bassett, at Fairfield, Conn. 1653,—Goodwife Knap, at Hartford. 1656, — Ann Hibbins, at Boston. 1662, — Goodman Greensmith, at Hartford. 1662,— Goodwife Greensmith, at Hartford.

1688,— Goody Glover, at Boston." [2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ John Winthrop, Journal: 1630-49, ed. James K. Hosmer (New York, 1908), II, 323.
  2. ^ Clarence F. Jewett, The Memorial History of Boston: Including Suffolk County, Massachusetts. 1630–1880 (Ticknor and Company, 1881) pages 133–137
  • David D. Hall, (editor), Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth Century New England, Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1999, ISBN 1-55553-416-3
  • John Winthrop, Journal: 1630-49, ed. James K. Hosmer (New York, 1908), II, 323.
  • John Demos, Entertaining Satan:witchcraft and the culture of early New England, Oxford University Press, 1982, p346-347.
  • Annie Eliot Trumbull,"One Blank of Windsor" (Courant Literary Section, Dec, 3, 1904).
  • Beth M Caruso, One of Windsor: The Untold Story of America's First Witch Hanging, Hartford:Lady Slipper Press, 2015, ISBN-13: 978-0692567036
  • Harlan Levy, "Windsor 'pardons' women hanged in 1600s", (Journal Inquirer, Feb 14, 2017, p3).

External links[edit]