December 4, 2022


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Memorial to Alse Young and Lydia Gilbert in Windsor, Connecticut

Though the witch trials of Salem, Massachusetts, are the most well-known, the first executions for witchcraft in the American colonies actually occurred 45 years earlier in Connecticut. Their names were largely forgotten for many years, but a librarian uncovered 17th-century church records that brought these stories to light.

Alse Young, sometimes spelled “Alice,” was a resident of Windsor, Connecticut, who had immigrated from England in the 1630s. Records of her life are scarce, and even the reason she was accused of witchcraft isn’t known, though some researchers think she was singled out as the scapegoat for an outbreak of influenza in the area. There are no known records of her trial, but Windsor’s church records note that she was executed by hanging on May 26, 1647. (Her daughter, also named Alice, was accused of witchcraft as an adult, though she never went to trial.)

In 2017, Alice Young was exonerated of the witchcraft accusations at the urging of historian Beth Caruso, who formed the group CT Witch Memorial to try to get a monument for Young along with other Connecticut residents accused of witchcraft. Alice Young is currently memorialized on a brick in a park in Windsor’s downtown area. Nearby is a brick memorializing Lydia Gilbert, another woman from the area executed for witchcraft.

See also  ‘Time Wave’ in Providence, Rhode Island