Windsor, CT

Alice Young, the first witch, found guilty and hung in Colonial America

Sara B

We have all heard the story of the Salem Witch trials, which has always led us to associate Massachusettes with witches and hangings. However, the first person accused and hanged of witchcraft was not in Mass. It was in Windsor, Connecticut; her name was Alice or Alse Young.

Connecticut was part of the colonial government and devout Puritans. Who took the passages of the bible to the most extreme punishment.

Exodus 22:18, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live"; and Leviticus 20:27, "A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death."

Little is known about Alse as the records were not recorded well of her life, especially one hanged as a witch; they wanted them banished completely, even documents. To be accused of such a crime was a death sentence.

If you look at the Salem witch trials, anyone can accuse someone of being a witch. Maybe you are angry that someone's crop was better than yours, witch. You have three healthy children and your neighbor none, witch. Most of those accused of witchcraft were healers, midwives, and those who used herbs to heal. At one point in history, they were revered with honor; the next, they were called witches, hung, or drowned. What we do know of Alse Young in the case is similar.

Alse was known to come from London, England. It made her stick out. The rest of the town was believed to be from the West of England. Alse would have had different customs and speech. The research states she married John Young, a landowner, and carpenter; he bought 40 acres of land on Backer Row in Windsor, Connecticut, in 1641.

Alse was between 31-32 years of age, and they had a daughter, Alice Young Beamon. In1647, there was deadly influenza that struck her town. There are rumors that the locals blamed the outsider Alse for bringing the disease to their village. It is also rumored that because Alse did not have a son, she would inherit all of her husband's land if he died before her. This could cause jealousy amongst the locals as well.

The records are unclear as to why she was accused of witchcraft. However, she was indicted, tried, and hung. However these are only speculations, and the records are very limited.

Hanged on May 26, 1647, this was 45 years before the Salem witch trials. She was hanged at the Meeting House Square in Hartford, now the Old State House. So who accused her of being a witch and why? It is a question that will remain unanswered, yet all I can surmise is that someone in the neighborhood disliked her and wanted her gone. Also rumored that her daughter Alice Young Beamon was accused of being a witch years later; however, she was not found guilty.

In 2017 the town of Windsor cleared the name of Alse Young and stated she was a witch no more. Not sure this helps as she has been dead for centuries.

References utilized:

https://www.courant.com/opinion/op-ed/hc-op-taking-note-buchanan-windsor-witches-0324-20190324-mw6ygw65bjc23pkg6uyqr3bfbi-story.html

https://www.legendsofamerica.com/alse-young-witch/

https://wednesdayswomen.com/alse-young-colonial-eras-first-woman-executed-as-a-witch/

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I share legends, myths, and bizarre history, sometimes news. Living nomadically since 2018, currently in Colombia.

Pasadena, CA
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