Since my book is based in genealogy, I couldn’t help but tie my English ancestors into the web of insanity and intolerance that occurred during the witch hunts of seventeenth century New England. This is the story of Rebecca Elson-Mudge-Greensmith, my eighth great-grandmother, who was hanged as a witch in 1662 on Gallows Hill in Hartford, Connecticut; and Edward Griswold, my ninth great-grandfather, who was on the jury that convicted and sentenced her to death. What follows are my own personal opinions, a little background information, and the disturbing story of how insanity took over the lives of villagers in one isolated community.
Background Information On My English Roots:
Many people are intrigued and fascinated with the Salem Witch Trials that occurred in America between February 1692 and May 1693 but most are not aware of the Connecticut Witch Trials that resulted in the hangings of ten innocent villagers between the years 1647 and 1663. I had no idea about any of this until I started doing genealogy thirteen years ago on the Griswold and Putman families. Jarvis Mudge Putnam (Putman) and Bessie May Griswold were my grandparents, the parents of my mother. With the family name of “Mudge” as Jarvis’s middle name, I knew that my grandfather was connected to this old English family. I was surprised to learn that the progenitor of my Mudge family in America was actually named Jarvis Mudge.
Jarvis Mudge was my eighth great-grandfather who was born in England about the year 1608. He came to America in 1638, landing in Boston, Massachusetts. Jarvis married Rebecca née Unknown at Wethersfield, Connecticut in 1649 and moved to Pequot (New London), Connecticut. Rebecca was married at least three times that we know of: first to Abraham Elsing (Elson, Elsen); second to Jarvis Mudge; and third to Nathaniel Greensmith. Rebecca was the widow of Abraham Elsing and the mother of his three daughters: Sarah, Hannah, and Mariah. Jarvis and Rebecca had two sons: Micah and Moses. Jarvis died in New London, Connecticut, in March of 1653. Rebecca then married Nathaniel Greensmith around 1654. They had no children together. No one is sure of Rebecca’s maiden name but the surname “Steele” has been floated about. She was born in England but the place and date of her birth is unknown. I have estimated that she was in her mid-fifties when she was executed but I certainly could be wrong, she may have been much older. According to Alfred Mudge in his book Memorials, Being A Genealogical, Biographical and Historical Account of the Name of Mudge in America from 1638 to 1868, Rebecca was the mother of Micah Mudge (3), son of Jarvis (my line).
It appears that women who were loud, outspoken, or strong willed, without prominent connections in the community were target victims. Abraham and Jarvis, by all accounts, appeared to have been good, upstanding men, while Nathaniel’s reputation is called into question. Perhaps he was abusive to Rebecca? Perhaps he drove her to insanity? Rebecca may have been suffering from depression, dementia or a number of illnesses. She had lost one child in infancy, maybe more, and she lived through the deaths of two husbands. For whatever reason, she was unjustly accused without counsel, and hanged for a crime that she did not commit.
My grandmother, Bessie, was a direct descendant of Edward Griswold. Edward, my ninth great-grandfather, was born in England about the year 1607. He came to America landing at Boston, Massachusetts, about the year 1639 and moved, just as Jarvis did, to Connecticut. He was a prominent man in the community.
The interesting irony of the following story, recounted by John Metcalf Taylor in his book: The Witchcraft Delusion in Colonial Connecticut 1647 – 1697, is that 250 years after the death of Rebecca on April 10, 1912, these two families would forever be connected through the marriage of my grandparents, Jarvis and Bessie.
The line for my grandfather Jarvis is: Jarvis Mudge (married Rebecca unknown)> Micah Mudge> Ebenezer Mudge> Jarvis Mudge> Abigail Mudge (married Pieter Van Buren)> Catalina Van Buren (married James Putnam) > Jarvis Mudge Putman> Richard T. Putman> Jarvis Mudge Putman (Putnam).
The line for my grandmother Bessie is: Edward Griswold> Joseph Griswold> Francis Griswold> Francis Griswold> Francis Griswold> Jehiel Griswold> Aaron Griswold> Aaron H. Griswold> Sylvester Thomas Griswold> Bessie May Griswold (married Jarvis Mudge Putman (Putnam). (SOURCE: The Greswold Family 12 Generations in England by Robert L. and Esther G. French, Compiled by Coralee Griswold, 1999)
“NATHANIEL AND REBECCA GREENSMITH
Nathaniel Greensmith lived in Hartford, south of the little river, in 1661-62, on a lot of about twenty acres, with a house and barn. He also had other holdings ‘neer Podunk,’ and ‘on ye highway leading to Farmington.’ He was thrifty by divergent and economical methods, since he is credited in the records of the time with stealing a bushel and a half of wheat, of stealing a hoe, and of lying to the court, and of battery.
In one way or another he accumulated quite a property for those days, since the inventory of it filed in the Hartford Probate Office, January 25, 1662, after his execution, carried an appraisal of L137. 14s. 1d. – including ‘2 bibles, a sword, a resthead, and a drachm cup’ – all indicating that Nathaniel judiciously mingled his theology and patriotism, his recreation and refreshment, with his everyday practical affairs and opportunities.
But he made one adventure that was most unprofitable. In an evil hour he took to wife Rebecca, relict of Abraham Elson, and also relict of Jarvis Mudge, and of whom so good a man as the Rev. John Whiting, minister of the First Church in Hartford – afterward first pastor of the Second Church – said that she was ‘a lewd, ignorant and considerably aged woman.’
This triple combination of personal qualities soon elicited the criticism and animosity of the community, and Nathaniel and Rebecca fell under the most fatal of all suspicions of that day, that of being possessed by the evil one. Gossip and rumor about these unpopular neighbors culminated in a formal complaint, and December 30, 1662, at a court held in Hartford, both the Greensmiths were separately indicted in the same formal charge.
‘Nathaniel Greensmith thou art here indicted by the name of Nathaniel Greensmith for not having the fear of God before thine eyes, thou hast entertained familiarity with Satan, the grand enemy of God and mankind – and by his help hast acted things in a preternatural way beyond human abilities in a natural course for which according to the law of God and the established law of this commonwealth thou deservest to die.’
While Rebecca was in prison under suspicion, she was interviewed by two ministers, Revs. Haynes and Whiting, as to the charges of Ann Cole – a next door neighbor – which were written down by them, all of which, and more, she confessed to be true before the court. (Note. Increase Mather regarded this confession as convictive a proof of real witchcraft as most single cases he had known.)
THE MINISTERS’ ACCOUNT –
She forthwith and freely confessed those things to be true, that she (and other persons named in the discourse) had familiarity with the devil. Being asked whether she had made an express covenant with him, she answered she had not, only as she promised to go with him when he called (which she had accordingly done several times). But that the devil told her that at Christmas they would have a merry meeting, and then the covenant should be drawn and subscribed. Thereupon the fore-mentioned Mr. Stone (being then in court) with much weight and earnestness laid forth the exceeding heinousness and hazard of that dreadful sin; and therewith solemnly took notice (upon the occasion given) of the devil’s loving Christmas.
‘A person at the same time present being desired the next day more particularly to enquire of her about her guilt, it was accordingly done, to whom she acknowledged that though when Mr. Haynes began to read she could have torn him in pieces, and was so much resolved as might be to deny her guilt (as she had done before) yet after he had read awhile, she was as if her flesh had been pulled from her bones, (such was her expression,) and so could not deny any longer. She also declared that the devil first appeared to her in the form of a deer or fawn, skipping about her, wherewith she was not much affrighted but by degrees he contrived talk with her; and that their meetings were frequently at such a place, (near her own house;) that some of the company came in one shape and some in another, and one in particular in the shape of a crow came flying to them. Amongst other things she owned that the devil had frequent use of her body.’
Had Rebecca been content with purging her own conscience, she alone would have met the fate she had invoked, and probably deserved; but out of ‘love to her husband’s soul’ she made an accusation against him, which of itself secured his conviction of the same offense, with the same dire penalty.
THE ACCUSATION –
Rebecca Greensmith testifieth in Court Janry 8. 62.
1. ‘That my husband on Friday night last when I came to prison told me that now thou hast confest against thyself let me alone and say nothing of me and I wil be good unto thy children.
2. I doe now testifie that formerly when my husband hathe told me of his great travaile and labour I wondered as it how he did it this he did before I was married and when I was married I asked him how he did it and he answered me he had help yt I knew not of.
3. About three years agoe as I think it; my husband and I were in ye wood several miles from home and were looking for a sow yt we lost and I saw a creature a red creature following my husband and when I came to him I asked him what it was that was with him and he told me it was a fox.
4. Another time when he and I drove or hogs into ye woods beyond ye pound yt was to keep yong cattle severall miles of I went before ye hogs to call them and looking back I saw two creatures like dogs one a little blacker than ye other, they came after my husband pretty close to him and one did seem to me to touch him I asked him wt they were he told me he thought foxes I was stil afraid when I saw anything because I heard soe much of him before I married him.
5. I have seen logs that my husband hath brought home in his cart that I wondered at it that he could get them into ye cart being a man of little body and weake to my apprhension and ye logs were such that I thought two men such as he could not have done it. I speak all this out of love to my husbands soule and it is much against my will that I am now necessitate to speake agaynst my husband, I desire that ye Lord would open his heart to owne and speak ye trueth.
I also testify that I being in ye wood at a meeting there was with me Goody Seager, Goodwife Sanford and Goodwife Ayres; and at another time there was a meeting under a tree in ye green by or house and there was there James Walkely, Peter Grants wife, Goodwife Aires, and Henry Palmers wife of Wethersfield, and Goody Seager, and there we danced, and had a bottle of sack: it was in ye night and something like a catt cald me out to ye meeting, and I was in Mr. Varlett’s orcherd with Mrs. Judith Varlett and shee tould me that shee was much troubled wth ye Marshall Jonath: Gilbert and cried, and shee sayd if it lay in her power shee would doe him a mischief, or what hurt shee could.’
The Greensmiths were convicted and sentenced to suffer death. In January, 1662, they were hung on ‘Gallows Hill,’ on the bluff a little north of where Trinity College now stands – ‘a logical location’ one most learned in the traditions and history of Hartford calls it – ‘as it afforded an excellent view of the execution to a large crowd on the meadows to the west, a hanging being then a popular spectacle and entertainment.” (8:96-100)
“Connecticut can lose nothing in name or fame or honor, if, more than two centuries after the last witch was executed within her borders, the facts as to her share in the strange superstition be certified from the current records of the events.
How may this story best be told? Clearly, so far as may be, in the very words of the actors in those tragic scenes, in the words of the minister and magistrate, the justice and the juryman, the accuser and the accused, and the searcher. Into this court of inquiry come all these personalities to witness the sorrowful march of the victims to the scaffold or to exile, or to acquittal and deliverance with the after life of suspicion and social ostracism.
The spectres of terror did not sit alone at the firesides of the poor and lowly: they stalked in high places, and were known of men and women of the first rank in education and the social virtues, and of greatest influence in church and state. Of this fact there is complete demonstration in a glance at the dignitaries who presided at one of the earliest witchcraft trials–men of notable ancestry, of learning, of achievements, leaders in colonial affairs, whose memories are honored to this day.
These were the magistrates at a session entitled ‘A particular courte in Hartford upon the tryall of John Carrington and his wife 20th Feb., 1662.’ (See Rec. P. C., 2:17): Edw. Hopkins Esqr., Gournor John Haynes Esqr. Deputy, Mr. Wells, Mr. Woolcott, Mr. Webster, Mr. Cullick, Mr. Clarke.
This court had jurisdiction over misdemeanors, and was ‘aided by a jury,’ as a close student of colonial history, the late Sherman W. Adams, quaintly says in one of his historical papers. These were the jurymen:
Mr. Phelps John White John More
Mr. Tailecoat Will Leawis Edw. Griswold
Mr. Hollister Sam Smith Steph Harte
Daniel Milton John Pratt Theo Judd
Before this tribunal – representative of the others doing like service later – made up of the foremost citizens, and of men in the ordinary walks of life, endowed with hard common sense and presumably inspired with a spirit of justice and fair play, came John Carrington and his wife Joan of Wethersfield, against whom the jury brought in a verdict of guilty.
It must be clearly borne in mind that all these men, in this as in all the other witchcraft trials in Connecticut, illustrious or commonplace – as are many of their descendants whose names are written on the rolls of the patriotic societies in these days of ancestral discovery and exploitation – were absolute believers in the powers of Satan and his machinations through witchcraft and the evidence then adduced to prove them, and trained to such credulity by their education and experience, by their theological doctrines, and by the law of the land in Old England, but still clothed upon with that righteousness which as it proved in the end made them skeptical as to certain alleged evidences of guilt, and swift to respond to the calls of reason and of mercy when the appeals were made to their calm judgment and second thought as to the sins of their fellow men.
In no way can the truth be so clearly set forth, the real character of the evidence be so justly appreciated upon which the convictions were had, as from the depositions and the oral testimony of the witnesses themselves. They are lasting memorials to the credulity and superstition, and the religious insanity which clouded the senses of the wisest men for a time, and to the malevolence and satanic ingenuity of the people who, possessed of the devil accused their friends and neighbors of a crime punishable by death.” (5:37-39)
“A Record of the Men and Women Who Came Under Suspicion or Accusation of Witchcraft in Connecticut, and What Befell Them.
Herein are written the names of all persons in anywise involved in the witchcraft delusion in Connecticut, with the consequences to them in indictments, trials, convictions, execution, or in banishment, exile, warnings, reprieves, or acquittals, so far as made known in any tradition, document, public or private record, to this time.” (11:143)
“1662-63 was a notable year in the history of witchcraft in Connecticut. It marked the last execution for the crime within the commonwealth and thirty years before the outbreak at Salem.” (11:150)
“ROLL OF NAMES (Names in Bold Print are those who were hanged).
- Alse Young 1647
- Mary Johnson 1648
- John Carrington 1650-51
- Joan Carrington 1650-51
- Goody Bassett 1651
- Goodwife Knapp 1653
- Lydia Gilbert 1654
- Elizabeth Godman 1655
- Nicholas Bayly 1655
- Goodwife Bayly 1655
- Goodwife Bayly 1655
- William Meaker 1657
- Elizabeth Garlick 1658
- Nicholas Jennings 1661
- Margaret Jennings 1661
- Nathaniel Greensmith 1662
- Rebecca Greensmith 1662
- Mary Sanford 1662
- Andrew Sanford 1662
- Goody Ayres 1662
- Katherine Palmer 1662
- Judith Varlett 1662
- James Walkley 1662
- Mary Barnes 1662-63
- Elizabeth Seager 1666
- Katherine Harrison 1669
- Nicholas Disborough 1683
- Mary Staplies 1692
- Mercy Disborough 1692
- Elizabeth Clawson 1692
- Mary Harvey 1692
- Hannah Harvey 1692
- Goody Miller 1692
- Hugh Crotia 1693
- Winifred Benham Senr. 1697
- Winifred Benham Junh. 1697
- Sarah Spencer 1724
- Unknown Norton 1768
What of those men and women to whom justice in their time was meted out, in this age of reason, of religious enlightenment, liberty, and catholicity, when witchcraft has lost its mystery and power, when intelligence reigns, and the Devil works his will in other devious ways and in a more attractive guise?
They were the victims of delusion, not of dishonor, of a perverted theology fed by moral aberrations, of a fanaticism which never stopped to reason, and halted at no sacrifice to do God’s service; and they were all done to death, or harried into exile, disgrace, or social ostracism, through a mistaken sense of religious duty: but they stand innocent of deep offense and only guilty in the eye of the law written in the Word of God, as interpreted and enforced by the forefathers who wrought their condemnation, and whose religion made witchcraft a heinous sin, and whose law made it a heinous crime.” (2) (11:156-158)
(1) Salem Village Witchcraft Victims’ Memorial At Danvers
(2) Reprinted from The Witchcraft Delusion in Colonial Connecticut 1647 – 1697, John Metcalf Taylor, The Grafton Press Publishers, New York, 1908. (Records Particular Court (2:182); Memorial History Hartford County 1:274); Connecticut Magazine (November 1899, pp. 557-561).
(3) Mudge, Alfred, Memorials: Being A Genealogical, Biographical and Historical Account Of The Name Of MUDGE In America, From 1638 to 1868, Boston, Printed By Alfred Mudge & Son, For The Family, 1868, Pages 27-33.
Connecticut Witch Trials and Posthumous Pardons.
Witches and Witchcraft, The First Person Executed in the Colonies.
On May 9, 1992, the Town of Danvers, Massachusetts, acknowledged and took responsibility for the mistakes of their ancestors by presenting a beautiful granite memorial to the people of the state and the country in honor of the twenty villagers unjustly executed at The Salem Witch Trials which took place between February 1692 and May 1693. “The Memorial serves as a reminder that each generation must confront intolerance and ‘witch hunts’ with integrity, clear vision and courage.” (1) Forty-five years earlier between 1647 and 1663, the settlement at Hartford, Connecticut, also held witch trials that resulted in the hangings of at least ten innocent villagers, one of whom was my eighth great-grandmother, Rebecca Greensmith née Unknown. The Connecticut Witch Trials are dreadful examples of our country’s dark past that shows us how a secluded community made up of a particular group of people, persecuted, labeled, and punished other members of society simply because they didn’t like or understand them. Rev. John Whiting, minister of the First Church in Hartford stated that Rebecca was “a lewd, ignorant and considerably aged woman.” In another place, in another time, would Rebecca, who was unjustly accused without counsel, have been labeled insane? Would she have been a candidate for an insane asylum in 1880 or a nursing home in 2012? Were she and her friends simply dancing and enjoying a bottle of sack? Was it the isolation and strict rules of conformity that drove this community to insanity? I don’t think I would be out of line in suggesting that all the players in this tragic story of indifference were suffering from religious excitement which was listed as a cause of insanity at the Willard State Hospital as late as 1900.
I have read that the state of Connecticut will not grant posthumous pardons or exonerate the people unjustly accused of witchcraft, nor will they officially acknowledge the mistakes of their ancestors. Will New York State lead by example and end the disgrace of anonymous, unmarked graves by releasing the names and burial locations of our ancestors in a unified, digital database available to the public on the internet? Will they allow descendents to obtain the medical records and photographs of their loved one? Will New York remain as blind and indifferent as the state of Connecticut? The Salem and Hartford executions are grim reminders of the fear, ignorance, and intolerance that permeated America’s past, not dissimilar from what happened at long-closed insane asylums. Innocent people were unjustly singled out in shame because they were feared and misunderstood for being different. In both cases, these people were ultimately removed from society and erased from history.
Hi, I found this story about your ancesters very interesting. I am writing a book about the women who helped settle CT. I feel they have never received the credit they deserve for their contributions to the founding of CT. It is a challenge ferretting out their almost nonexistent records. I am focusing on Hartford, Windsor and Wethersfield because they were the first towns. The points you make about mental illnesses are well taken. In the Puritan society, anyone who did not conform was suspect. Women were always under scrutiny because it was thought they were so weak it was easy for the devil to take them over.
Thanks, Alice. I’m looking forward to reading your book. Keep in touch!
Have you ever had a chance to read Female Adventurers: the women who helped colonize Massachusettsand Connecticut?
It is wonderful that all of you have done so much research. I have an Aunt during the trials…Name Elizabeth Seager…her cousin and she were convicted twice but released. Her cousins Uncle was Peter Syvastine (spell) New York then was the Govenor of New Holland which we now know is New York…Have you come across her in your research. This is as far as I have gotten so far. Thanks
Peter Stuyvesant. I believe the woman you are referring to was Judith Varlett. Not positive though. -Lin
I was thrilled to find this information…. and I wish you luck with your project. I am close friends with the people working on the Pardon/ Proclamation… if you are interested I will give you the leaders email address. I have just about finished a book I’ve been working on for 5yrs as I am related to Mary Barnes (executed) and Mary Andrus Barnes the second wife of Thomas…. Out of respect for your work I will not be putting any lengthy genealogy info on Rebecca Greensmith in my work… however I am doing some genealogy tracking in some of the other families….I would love to chat with you.
Dear Carrie, Please add my 8th great-grandmother, Rebecca (Mudge, my line) Greensmith. I mentioned her briefly in the preface of my book, The Inmates Of Willard 1870 to 1900, to make a point and to draw attention to this issue. Please feel free to post any updates! I’m all for it, be my guest! Let me know when your book comes out. Thanks!! Sincerely, Linda Stuhler
I will certainly do so…. it is so sad how so many went to their deaths so misunderstood and so very very obviously being wronged. In the case of Rebecca and Nathaniel though their property was seized and they lost their lives…. the record of the property value was ordered to be tallied but NOT RECORDED… later the young woman accusing Rebecca married the man who bought the Greensmith property… she had known early on that her father coveted Nathaniel’s choice and lush farmland…. the orders to not record were entered by John Cullick and Matthew Allyn (Matthews son Thomas killed by accident Henry Stiles during a trainband exercise and he admitted and was charged in the death… when it was discovered he could not become a freeman or move ahead in the militia… a “story” was concocted about Henry’s housemate Lydia Gilbert (a fore bearer of Noah Webster) and she was hanged for “causing” Stiles death by “witchcraft.” A year after the hanging…. Thomas Allyn was quickly moving up in the militia ranks.
I have made purple and black bows with a silver insignia of the charter oak to bring to mind Rebecca, Nathaniel and the other nine “Murdered” based on the supernatural. In 2003 I was brought before the CT courts and charged with negligent parenting because I could “cast spells” we sued… never got and $$$$ but to date 17 new laws have been passed protecting non main stream religious sects and more so “Wiccans” in raising their families in the earth based culture centuries old…. unfortunately this was the last blow my marriage took as we lost our second child to SIDS… and my own blood relations while “Locked UP” in MH Facilities made the formal complaint that Avonlea was killed by her father…. yes the subject of my next book…
I clicked ‘like’ simply because there is no ‘dislike’ button. What sorrow for all involved. Most of the people did not belong there, and probably many from Germany, Ireland, and other countries were down and out, and may not have been able to function is the free’ country.
You don’t like my blog, insane asylums of the 19th century, or the hanging of “witches” during the 17th century?
I like the site. Not the idea of people being treated like that, insane or not.
Sorry, I worded it wrong.
You HAVE DONE A GREAT SERVICE!
Thanks! I’m glad you like it.
Reblogged this on Ghost Kingdom and commented:
From a particularly well-researched blog comes this fascinating article on how the 17th c. witchcraze struck in Connecticut by a descendant of one of the 10 victims. Time and time again, the accusations were directed at those who threatened the social order. These ‘witches’ tended to be the outspoken, slightly different, maybe more attractive, women in villages everywhere from the New World to the Old World.
I found out that I am also a descendant of Rebecca Greensmith, 8 generations back as well. My grandmothers name was Clara Richards and her descendants were Mudge’s. I will have to compare notes with you. We don’t have anything prior to Rebecca – not sure where she came from.
Her maiden name MAY be Steele. We probably will never know. Thanks, Jim!
Wow. I have been researching my grandfather James Ensign and decided to look into Sarah Elson and found information regarding her mother (Rebecca) being a hanged for witchcraft. Thank you for putting all this information together in a concise way. I was wading through what I could find from Increase Mather’s account and other sources and found your site.
What is somewhat ironic, James Ensign’s father Thomas was a noted puritan reformist and James and Sarah are cited as founding members of Hartford’s Second Church of Christ. When William and Goody Ayres fled in 1662, James took their son on as an apprentice cooper.
Thanks Keith. So the family name went from Elson/Elsen to Ensign?
For Sarah, yes. Sarah Elson was Abraham Elson and Rebecca’s daughter; she married James Ensign. There are records of Sarah being married as Sarah Hills, but I am not sure where this is from. Rebecca’s family is very interesting, her father George was also a founding member of Hartford along with James Ensign. I am so intrigued as to how this is all connected and what really happened.
I got it. Was Rebecca’s maiden name “Steele”?
Here is here profile on ancestry.com
Here is a profile of her that is free
Thanks, Keith. Is this your research?
sorry for the very late reply! yes this is what I was able to dig up.
@Keith @Isstuhler, there were actually 2 Sarah Elsons. One, probably the aunt of the other, was not he daughter of rebecca but about the same age, born in 1611 and married James Ensign who was born in 1607. She died 1676 and he in 1670. they had children from 1630 to 1649. The other who was the daughter of Abraham and Rebecca was born in 1644 and did not marry James Ensign. For details, see a history of James Ensign and Sarah Elson: http://thompsonbrothersgeneology.com/FamilyHistories/EnsignFamily/Ensign-E3325.pdf
Do you have an proof that there are two Sarah Elsons? There are no other ancestors of Sarah’s named Sarah. Please see:
follow the thread from there for more information.
We visited the New London Historical Society in 2009. The librarian said I was the first visitor descended from the “the first white man” buried in New London! I later read that the Mudge homestead was adjacent the this cemetery, The Antientist Cemetary. It later occurred to me that during that era, because there were no public cemeteries, people were buried on their property. So my logic tells me that the New London Antientist Cemetery was actually Jarvis’ and Rebecca’s farm. When she married Nathaniel, and they were later executed, Jarvis Mudge’s farm was lost. To whom I do not know. This leads me to believe that there was definitely an economic basis to some of these witch trials. Do you follow? We are descended from Marvis to Hoskins to Child’s …
Thanks Kris! Very interesting! Yes, after they were hanged, they definitely took their land but I think that they would have taken the Greensmith property, not Jarvis’s. Do you think that they took Jarvis’s land because he had two sons that would have inheireted it when he died. I really don’t know. Please feel free comment! Did you take any photos? I would love to see them! Thanks so much! -Lin
They did not take Jarvis’s land. In my research writing “Female Adventurers: the women who helped colonize Massachusetts and Connecticut” I found where the sons came back later to claim the land.
I am a direct descendant of Joseph and Winifred Benham of Conn.Winifred and her daughter were accused of being witches.Do you have any information on Winifred? Wow,very interesting but very sad also. Thank you…Seth Benham,Iowa
Seth I am also, please get back in touch with me so we can look at our family lines on ancestry.
Really very interesting! She was my ninth great grandmother through Sarah Elson’s line.
I do think a lot of people forgot about this, since it’s a story I’ve never heard about. Interestingly, I think some of the jurors and other players ended up having descendants that mixed with the accused’s descendants. I’m tracing numerous New England lines and I keep seeing the same names come up again. The world was a really small place for pre-Revolutionary New England.
what’s really cool is we are all related 🙂
My 10th ggrandfather, unfortunately, was a member of jury for the trial of Nathaniel and Rebecca Greensmith and others at that time, John Cowles (Cole) The farmer. Its interesting and sad. He was also the man responsible for taking inventory of their estate… Maybe this is the reason for so much depression and heartache for the Cowles family in general. Maybe we are still paying for those mistakes. I’m sorry we are connected in this way.
Great blog, and fascinating reading. My own genealogy research suggests there might be at least two other connections between the jury and the convicted witches. In my family line it appears that Edward Griswold had daughter Mary who married William Phelps. William married Abigail Mudge daughter of Micah Mudge in 1706. I appear to be descended from both sides of the decision.
Thanks, David! Abigail was the sister of my 6th great-father: Ebenezer Mudge ( wife-Abigail Skinner). How interesting! I never connected those dots!
There have been several William Phelps. Births 1560,1599 (the Dorchester and Windsor co-founder), his son, the next William was born prior to their immigration on the John and Mary in 1630. This William had a brother Nathaniel who also gave birth to a son named William in 1657. It is also possible that William had a son whom he named William. My line is through Nathaniel Phelps which makes me the 12th g granddaughter of the William Phelps who was on the jury of the Greenfield trial. Also the Alys Young trial. He was the foreman of the first grand jury in the colonies, a magistrate and as horrible as we now know this situation to be, these religious/magical beliefs were ingrained in the Puritans. I am not proud of the “Connecticut witchcraft delusion”, but I am very proud of William’s contributions to the founding of this country.
Hello, my name is Patsy J. Douglas, I am related to the Griswold’s and the Mudge’s via my Grandfather side of the family. I have been working on the family tree for a while but all this information is just so interesting to me, thought is was great that my Grandmother’s side of the family was full of historic information but this is even better, I love it all, I’m a very big history buff if any one can give me more information I would greatly appreciate it. Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com or on Facebook Patsy Douglas
What is your grandfather’s name and where is the Griswold/Mudge connection?
Hello. I have come across your site while tracing back my family history. I learned this morning that I am a direct decendent of Rebecca Greensmith. Her daughter, Sarah Elson from her first marriage is my ancestor. What an amazing and tragic story. Thank you for your work in recording this information for those of us seeking to know our history.
Thank You, Shannon! No one ever talks about the Hartford Witch Trials. My line is through Jarvis Mudge. Thanks for writing! -Lin
Hello. Thank you for compiling this fascinating and tragic story.
In researching my own geneiology, I discovered this morning that I am a direct descendent of Rebecca Greensmith. Her daughter Sarah Elson married Ensign, and I am in that line (my maiden name is Ellis).
Hi Shannon, I am direct descendent of James Ensign and Sarah. The whole episode with Rebecca was horrible and the family seemed to try and keep ties to her out of the public record. I have a post on their page that lists quite a bit of history regarding what happened. Hopefully that is of some use to you.
My maiden name is Mudge and I am a direct descendant of Micah Mudge, son of Jarvis Mudge and Rebecca Mudge Greensmith. My son went to the Culinary Institute of America. His best friend was a young man by the name of Webster who is a direct descendant of the “Mr. Webster” who was one of the magistrates at the trial.
Thank you so much for this excellent article about Rebecca, the best I have ever seen. I’ll be sending it to my family.
Thank you, Lonnie! Great story! I am from the same line as you. -Lin
Hello, Katherine Harrison was my 9th ggm. No clue what her maiden name was, she was married to John Harrison – some thought she was the daughter of Lydia Gilbert. Her daughter, Sarah who m. Matthias Harvey was my line.
Rebecca is my 9th great grandmother (Rebecca/Micah Mudge, Ebenezer, Micah, Elijah, Evert/Edward, Stephen, Sarah, Harry, Jack, Mom, me!). Thanks for sharing this.
Hello Cousin(s)! This is wild … I have a Rebecca (7th great-grandmother) / Edward (10th great-grandfather) connection in my line as well but on slightly different offshoots. My lines are:
Rebecca -even though unproven I go with- Steele (married Jarvis Mudge) > Micah Mudge (married Mary Alexander) > Martha Mudge (married Jesse J. Braman) > Jesse D. Braman (married Nancy Ward) > Jonathan W. Braman.
Edward Griswold (married Margaret Diamond) > Deborah Griswold (married Samuel Buell) > John Buell (married Mary Loomis) > Lois Buell (married Supply Strong) > Rachel Strong (married Samuel Beach) > Nancy Beach (married Jonathan Ward) > Nancy Ward (married Jesse D. Braman) > Jonathan W. Braman.
Nancy Ward & Reverend Jesse David Braman married 1802 in Coeymans, New York, 139 years after Rebecca’s execution.
Hi! I ran across you post while doing research on my family history. Rebecca Greensmith is my 11th great aunt, and her maiden name is Steele. Her brother, John Steele, is my 10th great-grandpa. Awesome research!
Thanks, Danielle! I always thought it was Steele just never had positive proof. Thanks so much!! -Lin
Wow, that’s awesome! Do you happen to know who their parents were?
This is all so fascinating! I am a descendant of Rebecca as well. Rebecca, Micah, Ebenezer, Joseph, Aaron, Sarah “Sallie”, CHauncy Akin, Carlton Akin, William Akin, Ina Akin Christy, Albert Christy and me. I have just been dabbbling in genealogy and found your article. Thanks!
Mary barnes who I believe was in trial the same time as the greensmith is my 10th grandmother. Just now starting to research. Enjoyed your writing
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Rebecca Steele was my 13th great grandmother. Was so surprised to find she was hung as a witch
John and Joan Carrington are my 10x great grandparents. Of the research I have done nothing lists the reasons for trial or conviction, yet they were hanged. I was wondering if you had any further information in that regard.
Hi Renee – my dad was doing research and John Carrington is my 11x great grandparent with his first wife. I’ve just started reading up on them. Interesting to see you here.
Abigail Mudge, the daughter of Micah and granddaughter of Rebecca, married William Phelps on 7 December 1699. William was the son of Timothy Phelps and Mary Griswold. Timothy was the son William Phelps who is always referred to as “Mr Phelps” in the records. Mary Griswold was the daughter Edward Griswold. Thus, only 32 years after the hanging, there was a connection to both Edward Griswold and Mr. Phelps. Abigail Mudge died in 1705 just a few days after the birth of her son Ebenezer. William married Ruth Barber one year later. She was a descendant of Deacon John More, another juryman.
I am descended from Timothy Phelps’ second wife, Ruth Barber. Thus, I am a direct descendant of three of the Jurymen named in the article, but not a descendant of Rebecca. She is the paternal grandmother of the wife of my 6th great-grandfather.
Hi Cousin! In my records, Timothy was the brother of my direct forebear, Nathaniel. One of these days, I will have this all sorted. Somewhere, the Griswolds married in. “Mr.” was not used commonly. It was used in conjunction with the surname when addressing gentry or prosperous middle-class persons. Please excuse my mistake earlier when I wrote of Rebecca as “Greenfield” and not Greensmith.
Edward Griswold was a G G/F of mine in the 1600’s. Edward’s daughter was Mary Griswold (1644-1715) who married my Paternal G G/F Timothy Phelps (1639-1719). Timothy’s Father was William Phelps (1593-1672) who was a Magistrate for the General Courts. Having just uncovered Connecticuts involvement in the Witch Trails, I wonder if William played any part. As mentioned above Mathew Grant was on one of the trails. I believe Ulysses S. Grant to be a descendent of this same Mathew Grant. I know that William Phelps & Mathew Grant arrived in America together in May of 1630 on the Ship Mary & John, (meaning the odds are, William & Mathew must have known each other given there were only 144 on board the ship) I’d be very interested in learning more about and trails and the Courts connection. I wonder if William sentenced people to death for witchcraft or if he had anything to do with the making of Laws concerning witchcraft.
Dan Phelps Madrp88@aol.com
I just found that Katherine Palmer was my 9th great grandmother on my grandfathers side Bernice Jones through the DeWolf and the Huntley’s, Gulledge family line. It added to our family stories that I found during my searches.
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It’s been a few years since I became aware of the terrible story of Rebecca Greensmith, and I came across it because of her connection with Jarvis Mudge, who appears to be an ancestor of mine. I call Rebecca a step-ancestor, because I believe the materials I reviewed at the time I worked on my Mudge ancestry suggested our Mudge line came from an earlier marriage of Jarvis Mudge, before Rebecca. I would like to revisit some day. Still, Jarvis, as I remember, was executed along with Rebecca. Their sons, I believe, went to live with a Mudge aunt and uncle. … Dave K
Being a descendant of John and Joan Carrington (my 8th great grandparents) it makes my heart sing that there are others out there that want to understand what happened & share what they find out. Eternally grateful to you for bringing this information to light.
Hi I might be related to you , Rebecca was my 11th times great grandmother. I am also related to the mudges as well
My great great grandmother is Abigail Mudge and when I traced her back on Ancestry.com, I had found out I too am related to Rebecca.
I just finished research and found out I’m related to Mary Barnes the last witch hung in Connecticut
I am descended from Andrew and Mary Sanford (9x gr-grandparents). They were both tried for witchcraft but only Mary was convicted and presumably hung. There are conflicting stories about her execution though. Some say she disappeared and was never found again. Speculation was that when Andrew relocated to Milford, he reunited with Mary (the unknown 2nd wife) and they resumed their marriage. Others confirm the hanging in 1662. I’d love to learn what really happened. There is no record of Mary’s maiden name either.
My 10th great-grandmother was Katherine Harrison.
I just found out that I am a descendant of Rebecca Greensmith through her son Micah. This is so interesting and sad. I live in western New York and am so amazed with all of the research that has been made in my family’s history. Things I never knew before.
My family research has led me to Rebecca Greensmith but I am confused by conflicting genealogical data on the internet. I see birth, marriage and death dates that make no sense. For instance, claimed birth years for Rebecca include 1590, 1610, 1623, and 1629. The last is for Rebecca Steele. One reason some doubt Rebecca Greensmith was born Rebecca Steel is Rebecca Steele would only be 33 when executed, but, at the time of her trial, Rebecca was described as “a considerably aged woman.” Another example: Anderson’s Great Migration Begins (arguably the finest genealogical research on the planet) says Rebecca’s daughter Sarah married about 1631. Assuming she married at age 20, Sarah would be 51 when her mother was executed, but Hoadley’s “A Case of Witchcraft in Hartford” says Sarah was 17 and her sister Hannah 15 which is supported by Nathaniel’s inventory which does not refer to these two by their married names suggesting they were young. I am frustrated by undocumented claims cut and pasted from undocumented sources. Have you found primary records (baptisms, marriages) like Nathaniel’s inventory that reconcile these discrepancies?
Dear Peter, I am also confused by the dates. It doesn’t seem like Rebecca was “a considerably aged woman” to me. Maybe she just looked bad, who knows? The only thing I have found is in her father’s will where he gives money to her sons inferring that he was Rebecca’s father and the grandfather of the boys.
In “The American Genealogist”, Vol. 81: 18-30, Gale Ion Harris demonstrates that the first wife of Jarvis Mudge was a daughter of George Steele, and that she was the mother of all his children. Thus, Mudge descendants are not descendants of Rebecca Elsen-Mudge-Greensmith. Of Steele’s four daughters, only Margery (bp. 1612) or Mary (bp. 1620) could have been Jarvis’ first wife. However, chronology and the presence of the name Mary, but not Margery, among his presently known children combine to suggest that Jarvis had married Mary Steele. Mary would have been about 22 at the time of Jarvis’ marriage, whereas Margery would have been about 28.
In “The American Genealogist”, Vol. 81:18-30, Gale Ion Harris demonstrates that the first wife of Jarvis Mudge was a daughter of George Steele, and that she was the mother of all his children. Of Steele’s four daughters, only Margery (bp.1612) and Mary (bp. 1620) could have been Jarvis’ wife. Chronology and the presence of the name Mary, but not Margery, among his presently know children combine to suggest that Jarvis had married the daughter Mary Steele. Mary would have been about 20 at the time of Jarvis’ first marriage; Margery would have been about 28.
Your Grandmother tried to take my 11th Grandmother Katherine Harrison down with her. https://www.monash.edu/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/1668440/lconnell1.pdf
Was wondering how the mudge family are releted to the wellnitz of janesville wisconsin and are the family of president john q Adams relatives of the more or mudge families or thomas mudge of Massachusetts bay company…..
I am also a descendant of this story, discovered the connection this past year after an ancestry dna test. It’s an interesting and sad story to be connected to. Thank you for the article.
If you are a descendant of Moses or Micah Mudge, you are not a descendant of Rebecca Elsen Mudge Greensmith. See The American Genealogist, Volume 81, pp 1-30 for proof.
Jarvis Mudge was my 8x Great Great Grandfather as well. My Grandmother on my father’s side was Naomi Cora Mudge. Her father was Asel B Mudge, his father was Asa B Mudge and so forth! There is a little fuzziness about the connection of Micah, my ancestor, and Rebecca Steele, Elsen, Mudge, Greensmith. However it is known she did marry Jarvis and he died in 1658 or so and she remarried Nathaniel Greensmith. The fuzziness is about whether or not the two (Jarvis and Rebecca) had Moses and Micah Mudge as their children. Rebecca’s sister is involved here somehow as well. I am also related to 8x Great Grandmother Martha Carrier from Andover Ma., hanged in Salem Ma for witchcraft on 19 Aug 1692 through Asa Mudge’s wife Sephronia Peck.
Two reliable sources provide very strong evidence that Jarvis’ children were by his first wife, Mary Steele. Through numerous documents described in the references, the genealogists have concluded that Jarvis married Mary Steele the daughter of George Steele and that their children (Martha Harrison, Moses Mudge and Micha Mudge) are George’s grandchildren named in his will. Furthermore, it is documented that Moses was born about 1640, well before Jarvis’s marriage to Rebecca.
Here is a brief timeline of some basic facts facts based on their conclusions.
Jarvis Mudge married about 1640 Mary Steele daughter of George Steele (on birth of first child).
Jarvis married Rebecca ( ) Elsen by December 1649 widow of Abraham Elsen who died before 8 May 1648.
George Steele’s will dated 24 May 1663 mentions his granddaughter Hartha Harrison and Moses and Micah Mudge. (grandchildren born of Mary Steele)
On 7 Feb 1670 Moses “41 yeres or there about” (born about 1640).
 American Genealogist Vol 81 (2006), pg 19. Online database American Ancestors.org.
 The Great Migration Begins, Vol I-III, p. 1755. Online database American Ancestors.org