Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hens in his Britches

When researching the testimony used to convict Sarah (Averill) Wildes of witchcraft, I came across this amusing story. The spelling in the original is really awful so here it is in an easier to read format and the original follows it. The testimony was given by John Gould, brother of Mary (Gould) Redington aka Sister Redington or Sister Mary. Jonathan Wildes was the step-son of Sarah (Averill) Wildes. 

"...also Sister Mary told me that when Jonathan Wildes was ill at her house in strange manner so as he could go out the chimney tops into the barn, he'd get her hens and put them in to his britches [pants] and killed them. Sister Mary did ask Goodwife Wildes to take some of the dead hens and let her have some living hens and she did but sister said that they [the living hens] went moping about until they died and so shall I, said Sister Redington. And the last words I heard Sister Redington say was that it was Goodwife Wildes that brought her into that condition she did stand it until her death..." 

Original spelling
"...also sister Mary tould mee that When Johnathan Wilds was ele at her house in astraing maner so as he Could goe out at the Chimey tops into the barne hed git her henes and put them in to his britches and kiled them, sister Mary did aske GoodWife Wilds to take som of the dead henes and Let her have som Liveing henes and she did but sister said they went moping about tell thay died and so shall I said sister Redington and the Last words I herd sister Redington say was that it was GoodWife Wilds that brought her into that Condition she did stand to it tell her death..." 

While the execution of Sarah Wildes and the other convicted witches is not a laughing matter, the ridiculousness of this testimony makes me laugh. It makes me wonder how anyone could take this seriously. I have so many unanswered questions - like how exactly did he kill the hens in his britches? Did he sit on them? Smother them? What exactly does a hen look like when it mopes? What symptoms was Mary Redington experiencing that would cause her to link the death of her hens with her own decline? I think I'm trying to make sense out of nonsense. 

Sarah (Averill) Wildes was hanged on July 19, 1692. She was sixty-five years old. On that day, Elizabeth Howe, Susannah Martin, Sarah Good, and Rebecca Nurse were also hanged. 

John Wildes & Sarah Averill
Ephraim Wildes
Jacob Wildes
Ephraim Wildes
Molly Wildes
Jacob Emmons
Laura E. Emmons
Estes Gilbert Yates
Linona Alice Yates - my maternal grandmother

Frances Gould - sister of Sarah's accuser, Mary (Gould) Reddington

Peter Shumway
Hepsibah Shumway
Sarah Walker
Dr. Timothy Carter
Elias Mellen Carter
Augustus Mellen Carter
Edward Mellen Carter
Thomas Richard Carter - my paternal grandfather

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