He said. She said. An x-rated story from 1693.

A sensational case came before Chester County Court in 4th month 1693. Philip Yarnell sued Moses Musgrave for spreading a scandalous story about him. Musgrave brought witnesses to show that the story was true. Elizabeth Woodyard testified that Philip Yarnell came to her father’s house and asked whether she was a woman. She answered that she was all on as other women, she thought. He said that he would feel and she said that he should not, and he said, “How should he know whether she was all on as other women if he did not feel, since she was to be his wife.” And then he took her hand, being stronger than she, and put into his codpiece and would have her to feel his members how they went limber or stiffer.

Another night he came to her father’s house and asked her sister Mary to keep her up, and Mary said that she would do what she could. When Elizabeth saw him come in, she ran out into another room and caught hold of the bed post. He followed her and caught hold of her and lifted her on the bed and they lay down on the bed. She being awake three nights before was very sleepy, and she fell asleep and thought she might sleep near an hour or thereabouts. As she was sleeping she thought she felt her clothes to go up and her feet to move, and she awakening asked him how he could be so wicked and come from such a good meeting. And then she cried bitterly and at last he wept and asked her for forgiveness, and she said she did not desire any such thing and would never have anything to do with him any more. Further when she did awake she did happen with her arm to strike him and with her hand unawares she felt his members, which did afright her very much. 1

John Jones said that when he was at Yarnell’s house, Yarnell asked what people George Woodyard and his wife was, and Jones said they were civil people for ought he knew. Yarnell said he would go try his daughter Elizabeth, and see what he could do with her, and that if he could not prevail with her he would serve such a trick that she was never served in her life before.

Mary Woodyard said that the plaintiff did force her sister upon the bed. She went away because she thought that he was an honest man. Sarah Smedley said that she heard Yarnell confess that he had been foolish, insomuch as something scattered from him which was his seed.

Finally it was Yarnell’s turn to call witnesses. John Worrolow said that he and Yarnell came to George Woodyard’s house together, and saw the two girls. They asked Elizabeth whether Yarnell had forced her or not,  and she replied that it was odds between a man’s breaking a house and attempting to do it. (Was she implying that he had not succeeded in actually raping her?)

Francis Yarnell said he went along with his brother Philip to George Woodyard’s house, and he asked Woodyard to let them come face to face. But the old woman (George’s wife?) said Elizabeth should not talk to them unless an officer came, because he came to ensnare them. But they did come out of the house and George Woodyard said he wished his daughter had not made words about it. (Did he think her story was false?)

The jury must have believed that Elizabeth’s story was untrue, since they found for Yarnell. Moses Musgrove, thinking himself aggrieved, asked for an appeal. At the same court Yarnell sued Elizabeth and Mary Woodyard for scandal and defamation, but he withdrew the case. The following year Elizabeth married John Turner under the auspices of Chester Meeting, but she died a year later.  Philip Yarnell married Dorothy Baker, also at Chester Meeting.

  1. An Elizabeth Woodyard was found guilty of fornication with Thomas Eaveson in June 1688, and forced to marry him. This Elizabeth was still alive and married to Eaveson in 1693. She may have been a cousin of the Elizabeth in the Yarnell story.


Margaret Mattson was hauled before the Provincial Council in 12th mo 1683, accused of being a witch. 1 Penn presided over the case and a grand jury was called. They found enough evidence to bring her to trial and a parade of witnesses came forward. Margaret did not speak English and Lasse Cock was called to interpret. Henry Drystreet testified that he was told 20 years before that she could bewitch cows. James Sanderland’s mother said that her cow was bewitched, but later said that it was someone else’s cow that would die. Charles Ashcom testified that Mattson’s daughter sent for him one night because she saw an old woman with a knife in her hand standing at the foot of the bed.

Annakey Vanculin and his husband John believed that their cattle were bewitched, and in order to prove it took a heart of a dead calf, and boiled it. (There was a superstition that this made the witch feel the burning pain, and that she would have to come to them to break the spell.) In fact Mattson did come in and asked them what they were doing. When they told her, she said “they had better they had boiled the bones,”  which was considered “unseemly”. Mattson in her defense denied going into their house, said she was never out of her canoe. She also pointed out that the other evidence against her was hearsay, saying, “Where is my daughter? Let her come and say so.”

The jury went forth and on their return brought in a verdict that she was guilty of having the fame of a witch but not of witchcraft. Her husband posted bond for her good behavior for six months, and that was the end of it.

  1. This was the only trial for witchcraft in Pennsylvania. But in Bucks County Court in 1690 Thomas King was tried for defaming Joan Searle. King had spread a report that there was a witch nearby. Being asked who it was, he said he suspected Francis Searl’s wife for she was an ugly ill favored woman. The jury found King guilty of defaming her.