Margaret Matson

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Margaret Matson was one of two women tried in Philadelphia for witchcraft in 1683.[1]


Margaret Matson and her husband Neals Matson lived on a farm near Ridley Creek in present-day Eddystone, Pennsylvania. Part of Eddystone township at the mouth of Ridley Creek, had been taken up by Olof Persson Stille, one of the early settlers of the Swedish colony of New Sweden who had arrived during 1641. One hundred acres of the Stille land was patented to Neals Matson on June 13, 1670.[2]

Of Swedish-Finnish descent, Neals and Margaret Matson were also likely members of the former New Sweden colony which occupied much of the lower Delaware River Valley from 1638 to 1655. Matson was a reputed healer working from Finnish tradition. After New Sweden was taken over by the British, some of her neighbors claimed that she had bewitched cattle.[3]

Accused by several neighbors, as well as her own daughter, Matson's alleged crimes included making threats against neighbors, bewitching and killing livestock and appearing to witnesses in spectral form. On February 27, 1684, Matson and a neighbor Gertro (a.k.a. Yeshro) Hendrickson were brought before a grand jury overseen by the colony's proprietor, William Penn. According to the minutes of the Provincial Council, dated February 27, 1684 the jury returned with a verdict of guilty for "having the common fame of a witch, but not guilty in manner and forme as shee stands indicted."[4]

Thus Matson was found guilty of having the reputation of a witch, but not guilty of bewitching animals. Neither woman was convicted of witchcraft. The prisoners were released on signing a bond and promising six months' good behavior.[5]

Like other British colonies, Pennsylvania was subject to the James I 1604 statute against witchcraft, however Matson's and Hendrickson's is the only such trial recorded from the colony.[6]

A popular legend tells of Penn dismissing the charges against Matson by affirming her legal right to fly on a broomstick. The record fails to show any such commentary but the story probably reflects popular views of Penn's socially progressive Quaker values.[7]


  1. ^ Witchcraft and Quakerism:A Study in Social History (by Amelia Mott Gummere. Street Corner Society) [1]
  2. ^ History of Ridley Township, Pa. (from: A History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. John W. Jordan, Published By Lewis Historical Publishing Company, New York 1914) [2]
  3. ^ Some of The Famous Witch Trials In Pennsylvania ( The Realness of Witchcraft In America. Northvegr Foundation) [3]
  4. ^ Minutes of the Provincial Council of Pennsylvania..., vol. 1, J. Severns, Philadelphia: PA Provincial Council, 1852, pp. 95-96.
  5. ^ The Century Magazine, (by J. M. Buckley. December 1891 Vol. XLIII, No. 2) [4]
  6. ^ Statutes of the Realm (London 1817; repr. The Statutes, 3rd ed., London, 1950) [5]
  7. ^ Weird Pennsylvania. (by Matt Lake. New York: Sterling Publishers. 2005)

Other sources[edit]

  • Jordan, John W. A History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. (Lewis Historical Publishing Company, New York. 1914)
  • Benson, Adolph B. and Naboth Hedin, eds. Swedes in America, 1638-1938 (The Swedish American Tercentenary Association. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 1938) ISBN 978-0-8383-0326-9

External links[edit]