Before Salem – First to Die

Most Americans know something about the Salem Witchcraft Trials in 1692, but very few realize that the first major witch scare in colonial New England took place in Hartford, CT 30 years earlier.

Furthermore, the first recorded execution for witchcraft in all of North America also occurred in Connecticut, a full 55 years before Salem. The facts are meager, but enough to piece together a small vignette.

No court records have been discovered, and what little is known comes from two small diary entries. John Winthrop Jr recorded in his journal that “One ———of Windsor arraigned and executed at Hartford for a witch”. For some 200 years, that was all that was known, and no one even knew the identity of the unfortunate victim. Then, almost by chance, a Windsor researcher found a notation inside the cover of the journal of the 17th century town clerk, Matthew Grant: “May 26, 47 Alse Young was hanged.”

Who was Alse (Alice?) Young? Windsor town records reveal little, only that she appears to have been the wife of carpenter John Young, who, not surprisingly, left town after her death. Alse was likely the mother of Alice Young Beamon, who in 1670’s Springfield, Mass., was also suspected of witchcraft, a common fate of the children of accused witches. A son of Alic Beamon sued a man for slander for saying “his mother was a witch and he looked like one.” Alice Beamon escaped her mother’s full fate, however.

On May 26, 2007, a memorial service will be held at 1:00 PM in Hartford at Barnard Park, to commemorate Alse Young and those who were accused and executed as witches after her.

First to confess to charges:


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