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.
- 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. ↩