Sarah Basset

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Sarah Bassett or more commonly Sally Bassett (died 21 June 1730) was a mixed race slave in the British colony Bermuda in the North Atlantic. She was judged guilty of the attempted murder of several persons by poisoning and executed by burning. The trial against her has some times been referred to as a witch trial. She is associated with a local flower, the Bermudiana.


Sarah Bassett was a mulatto and raised many grandchildren. In 1713 she was judged guilty of killing livestock and was whipped through the parish. Prior to 1727 she was owned by blacksmith Francis Dickinson of Pembroke Parish. In 1729, she was valued as useless because of her age.

In 1730, Thomas Foster, his spouse Sarah Foster, and a household slave, Nancey, were taken ill. Nancey subsequently discovered some hidden poison; Bassett's granddaughter Beck, also owned by the Fosters, testified that Sarah had made her give them the poison. Bassett denied the charges but was judged guilty of attempted murder on 17 June 1730 and sentenced to be burned alive.[1] The execution took place at Crow Lane by Hamilton Harbour. On her way there, she was to have said to the crowd: "No use you hurrying, folks, there'll be no fun 'til I get there!"


Legend says that when the remains of the stake was cleared a purple flower (the "Bermudiana", a New World iris of the genus Sisyrinchium) was found in her ashes; before her death Sarah had declared that there would be a sign that she was guiltless and today the flower blooms across Bermuda. The day of the execution was very hot, and since then, hot days are sometimes referred to in Bermuda as a "real Sally Bassett day".[2] A historian at the University of the West Indies has suggested that news of the poisoning inspired slave rebellions throughout the West Indies.[3]

See also[edit]


  • Jarvis, M. 1999. Seafaring Slaves & Maritime Culture in Bermuda, 1680-1783. University of VA/Omohundro Institute.

External links[edit]