New England Witch Trial Lines

Entries: 2708    Updated: Wed Aug 7 10:31:02 2002    Owner: Lisa Beth Darling

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  • ID: I1863
  • Name: Lydia Unknown
  • Sex: F
  • Death: 28 NOV 1654 in Hartford, Connecticut
  • Note:
    Tried and convicted of witchcraft 11/28/1654 in Windsor, Connecticut, sentenced to hang.

    The practice of accusations brought forth, resulting trials and, if convicted, the execution by hanging of people(s) "... giving entertainment to Satan..." was started in 1647 in Connecticut. Lydia Gilbert was one of the unfortunate people so charged. It is believed that she was the 5th victim of this dreadful practice in colonial Connecticut history. The case was a travesty, as we might perceive the proceedings today, and records dramatically demonstrate this. There is no way, however, to compare, or to relate to, the society as it existed then without a thorough study of the psychology and/or sociology of those times.
    In the autumn of 1651, in Windsor, Conn. an unfortunate 'accident' took place during training exercises by a group of local militiamen. One Thomas Allyn of Windsor, was carrying his musket in a cocked position and inadvertantly hit it against a tree causing it to fire. It struck another trainee and mortally wounded him - he being Henry Stiles an older gentleman of about 52 years of age.
    Thomas Allyn was taken before the "particular court" of the colony and indicted for this accident. He confessed and was found guilty of "..homicide by misadventure.." He was ordered to pay a substantial fine and was 'bound to good behavior' for a period of one year plus was not allowed to bear arms for that period. We might think that would mark the end of the story.
    Apparently the topic of the Stiles death continued on however as talk, rumors, assumptions and ultimately accusations persisted. As a consequence, three years after the accident, records of the Particular Court held at Pequott (now New Haven, Conn.) 24 March 1654 show that an attempt was made to fasten the blame for the accident on witchcraft and was followed by the indictment of Lydia Gilbert, of Windsor. She was accused, by her neighbors, of the practice of witchcraft and they put forth their charges that her abilities as such had enabled her to make the musket of Thomas Allyn discharge. A special session of the court was held starting 28 November 1654 to try the case of witchcraft against her. She was charged with '..procuring the death of Henry Stiles..'. One sole panel of jurors was named. They entered the indictment, heard the evidence and brought forth the verdict which reads: "Ye party is found guilty of witchcraft by the jury".
    The indictment reads: "Lydea Gilburt thou art here indited by that name of Lydea Gilburt that not having the feare of God before thy eyes thou hast of late years or still dust give entertainment to Sathan ... and by his help has killed the body of Henry Stiles besides other witchcrafts .... thou deservest to dye".
    Eventho no record of an actual execution has been uncovered it is doubtful that she escaped the gallows. The verdict "Thou deservest to dye.." was an unescapable sentance. It is felt that she may well have gone to her death either in the jailyard in Hartford but more likely on the lot at the corner of Albany Ave. and Vine St. in Hartford where the public gallows is known to have existed.
    Lydia has been, and still today remains, a mystery in the ancestral lines of the early Gilbert's in the colonies. Her place in these lines has been heavily debated by researchers for many years. It has never been proven who, she was actually the wife of - Thomas Gilbert-1 the Father, or his son Thomas-2 - thus the long standing
    mystery !!
    In the writings and records of H. W. Brainard he states that there were four sons of Lydia who became substantial citizens of Wethersfield and Hartford and were frequent office holders. However no records of such people have been traced and 'proven' as connections to Lydia. J. Wingate Thorton's research, ca 1850, states that Jonathan Gilbert (brother of Thomas-2) b 8 June 1617 - Yardley, Worcestershire was Marshall of the Colony at the time of Lydia's trial, and as such was faced with a most difficult task when he was obliged to condemn his 'mother' to die. If this be true it would mean that she was the wife of Thomas-1 but land holdings records show that Thomas-2 bought , and lived on, lands of Francis Stiles, the father of Henry, and that there appeared to be animosity between Henry and Thomas and Lydia Gilbert. Henry had been a boarder in the the Gilbert household.
    Anyone caring to debate, compare records and/or having information regarding this lady's familial background would be encouraged to contact me ( I am a direct descendant of this Gilbert family.

    the following information was provided by

    "The Gilbert Family" by H. W. Brainard, page 343 & 344

    Samuel Richardson and Josiah Ellsworth
    Author: Ruth Ellsworth Richardson
    Call Number: CS71.R52
    This book contains the history and genealogy of the Richardson and Ellsworth families of Massacusetts.
    Bibliographic Information: Richardson, Ruth Ellsworth. Samuel Richardson and Josiah Ellsworth. Privately Published. 1974.

    The surname GILBERT is from the Saxon word geele meaning
    yellow or the German word gisle meaning bright
    COAT-OF-ARMS: Argent, on a chevron sablethree roses of the field
    CREST: A squirrel cracking a nut proper
    MOTTO: Mallen mori Quam mutare
    The first Gilbert came with William the Conqueror
    I. Gilbert of Compton, Manadon Parish in Devonshire, England 1068
    II. Jeffrey Gilbert of Compton m Amy (???)
    III. Thomas Gilbert of Compton m Joan Compton dau of William
    Compton Esquire
    IV. William Gilbert of Compton m Elizabeth Champeron dau & co-heir
    of Oliver Esq. Elizabeth was of Royal descent thru her mother,
    dau of Hugh Vallentort from Cedric the Saxon, Emperor Charlemagne,
    Alfred the Great, Etc.
    V. William Gilbert of Compton m Elizabeth of Mereston
    VI. Ortho Gilbert of Compton, High Sheriff of Devonshire, England
    1475; m Elizabeth Hill dau of Robert Hill of Shelston in
    Medbury, Devon County
    VII. William Gilbert of Bridge Ruh in Cornwall
    VIII. Richard Gilbert of North Potherwain, Devonshire, England;
    d 1548; removed to Norfolk and became Lord of the Manor of
    Wolcott. Married 2nd Elizabeth Newton
    IX. Thomas Gilbert b 1592-1659 England; d 1659 Wethersfield, Conn.;
    m Lydia who was executed as a witch 1655 at Braintree, Mass.
    Thomas moved to Windsor, Conn. and then to Wethersfield.
    Ch: x 1. Jonathon b 1618 England; d December 10, 1682;
    m 1st Mary White who d 1650. She was the dau of
    Elder John White; 2nd Mary Wells dau of Hugh &
    Frances (Belcher) Wells
    x 2. Thomas d June 1662; m June 30, 1655 Catherine
    (Chapin) Bliss widow of Nathaniel Bliss
    x 3. Josiah 1628-1688; m 1st 1650 Elizabeth Belcher dau
    of Gregory & Catherine
    4. Obadiah d 1658; m Elizabeth (Burr) Olmstead wid of
    Nehemiah & dau of John Burr
    Prob others.

    Marriage 1 Thomas Gilbert b: 25 APR 1589 in Yardley, County, Worcestershire, England
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