Who was the first person executed for witchcraft in this country? When and where did it happen?
If you said Bridget Bishop in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, you would be wrong.
Although the Salem witch trials are the most well-known, Alse (Alice) Young was the first person executed for witchcraft in this country in the colony of Connecticut on May 26, 1647, around 45 years before the hysteria in Salem. Like most of those victims, Alse was hanged.
Little is known about her. She lived in Windsor and had a daughter also named Alse who was accused of the same crime about 30 years after her mother’s death but was never indicted. It was common practice at that time to name daughters after their mothers. Sadly, family members of the people arrested were frequently persecuted as well.
Historians believe the senior Alse’s husband was John Young. However, the only substantiation of this was a notation on the back of an alchemical physician’s note stating Young had been married to a woman who was executed for witchcraft in Hartford.
There is no record of why Alse was denounced, or any evidence presented against her. There was an outbreak of influenza at the time and many people died. Alse may have been blamed due to superstition and fear.
The Windsor town council formally exonerated Alse on February 6, 2017. A memorial service for her was held there on May 26, 2017, and a brick engraved with her name is among the memorial bricks beneath the flagpole near town hall.
Here are a couple of references to learn more about Alse.
https://www.jud.ct.gov/lawlib/history/witches.htm (This link has a photo of the memorial brick.)
In my recently released novel, Witch Trial Legacy, Alse appears in spirit form to help the heroine, who is a descendant of hers, break a curse which gives her visions of future tragedies but prevents anyone from believing her when she tries to warn them.
I took some writer’s license with Alse’s story. I made her an attractive, well-to-do widow pursued by a greedy neighbor and changed her daughter’s name to “Truth”. Having mother and daughter characters with the same name could be confusing for readers, and since Puritans often named babies after virtues, I thought “Truth” would be the perfect name for Alse’s daughter. She is the only one who acknowledges the real reasons behind Alse’s execution. She also manipulates the town’s perceptions of reality in order to obtain her revenge.
It’s a shame that Alse and other victims from Connecticut are not better known today. We hear a lot about Salem, but little about other areas. Too many lives were lost due to superstition. I’m hoping to help spread the word so that more people realize the tragic circumstances and commemorate these little known victims.