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Resolution seeks to exonerate 17th century witches

Senate proposal would apologize for Connecticut's colonial past.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Before the witch trials of Salem, Massachusetts, women and men were accused, tried, and hanged for witchcraft throughout colonial Connecticut. That was some nine generations ago. Lawmakers said descendants still call Connecticut home and carry some of that pain. A resolution in the senate now seeks to heal a dark moment in the past.

The Code of 1650 was law in the Connecticut colony and under it, 15 people were accused, convicted, and hanged for witchcraft. More than 350 years later, the State of Connecticut looking to make amends.

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Copies of seventeenth-century incitements on display at the Wethersfield Historical Society detail the reasons Connecticut courts tried 34 people for witchcraft between 1647 and 1663. 15 people—mostly women and several married couples—were convicted and hanged. The first was in Windsor.

“When her husband died, he left an estate of around a thousand pounds, which was a lot of money. And right away trouble started,” said Martha Smart a librarian at Wethersfield Historical Society.

Smart doesn’t get paid to raddle off facts about Katherine Harrison, who was the last person charged with witchcraft in Wethersfield. She’s a volunteer fascinated with the weight of the law and its impact on generations.

“In 1677, Alse Young was executed,” she said.

Before the Salem witch trials, the diary of the Windsor Town Clerk Matthew Grant details the first execution in the New England colonies. Now, descendants that still live in Windsor and in towns across Connecticut feel it’s time to apologize.

“There’s a generational guilt associated with it and there’s a generational pain for the others and this is an opportunity for us to help heal that pain,” said Sen. Saud Anwar of South Windsor.

Proposed Senate Joint Resolution No. 5 would exonerate the women and men convicted of witchcraft and recognize them as having been falsely accused in the seventeenth century.

“This was about women that said the wrong thing, didn’t dress the way that other women dressed, inherited their husband’s property and they would be accused of witchcraft, and it was a way of eliminating them,” said co-sponsor Windsor Rep. Jane Garibay, who is co-sponsor.

Smart says the trials ended abruptly after former Governor John Winthrop joined forces with ministers and the law was modified to require two witnesses to be convicted of witchcraft, instead of just one. Smart’s pleased there are efforts underway in Connecticut to heal its dark colonial past.

“Try to see that it doesn’t happen again and if you think Witcraft is dead, you haven’t looked at the internet lately,” she said.

Scotland recently exonerated more than two thousand accused witches. Last year, Massachusetts exonerated the last person condemned for witchcraft in the Bay State.

Samaia Hernandez is a reporter for FOX61 News. She can be reached at shernandez@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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