Accused Witch: Margaret Jones

[Ref: History of Medway, MA]
Jones, Margaret: executed in Charlestown, North America, on 15 June, 1648

[Ref: The Devil in the Shape of a Woman, Karlsen, p. 20]
"Massachusetts Bay executed its first witch in 1648. She was Margaret Jones, and like Jane Hawkins and Anne Hutchinson, she was a midwife and lay healer. Jones was accused of several different practices, only some of which had to do with her profession, but it is impossible to say which activities initiated the accusations against her. Minister John Hale, who witnessed Jones' hanging in Boston when he was a boy, later said that she "was suspected partly because that after some angry words passing between her and her Neighbors, some mischief befell such neighbors in their Creatures, or the like: [and] partly because some things supposed to be bewitched, or have a Charm upon them, being burned, she came to the fire and seemed concerned. John Winthrop included neither of these charges in his list of the evidence presented against Jones, but suggested that the crimes had to do with her medical practice. She was accused of having a "malignant touch," Winthrop noted, and her medicines were said to have "extraordinary violent effects." When people refused to take her medical advice, he added, "their diseases and hurts continued, with relapse against the ordinary course, and beyond the apprehension of all physicians and surgeons." Winthrop also mentioned that Jones was believed to possess psychic powers: "some things which she foretold came to pass accordingly; other things she could tell of she had no ordinary means to come to the knowledge of. John Hale's account brings to the surface some of the community's views of witchcraft. He pointed out that several of Jones' neighbors tried to get her to confess and repent. One of them, he said, "prayed her to consider if God did not bring this punishment upon her for some other crime, and asked, if she had not been guilty of stealing many years ago." Jones admitted the theft, but she refused to accept it as a reason for her conviction as a witch. Hale's writings, on the other hand, showed that stealing, and other crimes such as fornication and infanticide, were regularly associated with witchcraft, by both the clergy and the larger population."

[Ibid, p. 116]
"Sketchy information on the lives of New England's early witches, it appears that Alice Young, Mary Johnson, Margaret Jones, Joan Carrington, and Mary Parsons, all of whom were executed in the late 1640s and early 1650s, were women without sons when the accusations were lodged. Elizabeth Godman, brought into court at least twice on witchcraft charges in the 1650s, had neither brothers nor sons."' Decade by decade, the pattern continued. Only Antinomian and Quaker women, against whom accusations never generated much support, were, as a group, exempt from it."

[Ibid, p. 128]
"Dissatisfaction with one's lot was one of the most pervasive themes of witches' lives. We find that women accused of witchcraft were involved in petitions and court suits involving property, mistreatment, even divorce. A few women, Katherine Harrison and Rachel Clinton being the most obvious examples, repeatedly took their grievances to court for redress — although legal channels seem to have provided little satisfaction. Of course, the witches themselves did not always initiate the official process that expressed their dissatisfaction. Dorcas Hoar and Mary Johnson, to name only two of at least fourteen women, had been charged with stealing prior to being accused of demonic activities." Hoar was later accused of bewitching a child who threatened to reveal the theft, while another witch, Margaret Jones, was asked whether she did not think the witchcraft accusation God's way of punishing her for taking what was not hers." The connections between the two crimes or between the witch's earlier appearance in court and her later identification as a witch-were rarely so clearly drawn."

[Ibid, p. 262]
Margaret Jones: Massachusetts' first witch, executed in Boston in 1648; her husband Thomas was suspected as well, but he was never prosecuted.

[Ref: Governor Winthrop's Journal (1648)]
"At this court one Margaret Jones of Charlestown was indicted and found guilty of witchcraft, and hanged for it. The evidence against her was,1 that she was found to have such a malignant touch, as many persons, (men, women, and children,) whom she stroked or touched with any affection or displeasure, or, etc., were taken with deafness, or vomiting, or other violent pains or sickness,2 she practicing physic, and her medicines being such things as (by her own confession) were harmless, as aniseed, liquors, etc., yet had extraordinary violent effects, 3 she would use to tell such as would not make use of her physic, that they would never be healed, and accordingly their diseases and hurts continued, with relapse against the ordinary course, and beyond the apprehension of all physicians and surgeons,4 some things which she foretold came to pass accordingly; other things she could tell of (as secret speeches, etc.) which she had no ordinary means to come to the knowledge of,5 she had (upon search) an apparent teat in her secret parts as fresh as if it had been newly sucked, and after it had been scanned, upon a forced search, that was withered, and another began on the opposite side,6 in the prison, in the clear daylights there was seen in her arms, she sitting on the floor, and her clothes up, etc., a little child, which ran from her into another room, and the officer following it, it was vanished. The like child was seen in two other places, to which she had relation; and one maid that saw it, fell sick upon it, and was cured by the said Margaret, who used means to be employed to that end. Her behavior at her trial was very intemperate, lying notoriously, and railing upon the jury and witnesses, etc., and in the like distemper she died. The same day and hour she was executed, there was a very great tempest at Connecticut, which blew down many trees, etc."


Hale, John (1636-1700) Modest Enquiry into the Nature of Witchcraft. Boston, 1702.
Massachusetts (Colony). Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, printed by order of the legislature. Winthrop, John (1588-1649).
Winthrop's Journal, History of New England, 1630-1640. New York: C. Scribner's sons, 1908

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