Goodwife Knapp

March, 2011 by Ray Bendici
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Goodwife Knapp
Year: 1653
Town: Fairfield
Outcome: Guilty, hanged

Goodwife Knapp's case is the first well-documented in the chronology of Connecticut's witchcraft trials, probably because it was a high-profile case at the time that involved two well-known figures in early state history: Rev. John Davenport, one of the founders of New Haven; and Roger Ludlow, deputy governor of both the Connecticut and Massachusetts Bay colonies. Unlike some of those earlier accused of witchcraft, rather than a poor wretch or lowly outcast, Goodwife Knapp was "a woman of good repute," a "just and high-minded old lady."

During the trial of Goody Bassett, the accused Stratford witch suggested that there was "another witch in Fairfield that held her head full high." Somehow, it was decided that Goody Knapp had been who Goody Bassett was talking about, and she was arrested under that suspicion. From accounts, Goody Knapp was worked over pretty well emotionally and physically abused during her incarceration. When one particularly nasty group probed her, she told them to "take heed the devil have not you." She also allegedly said, "I must not render evil for evil ... I have sins enough already, and I will not add this [naming another witch] to my condemnation." Although tempted to give someone over, she "never, never" would and that they should "pray, pray for me."

She was eventually tried by Ludlow, Davenport and a group of magistrates, found guilty and sentenced to hang. Her execution was carried out in nearby Try's field. After her lifeless body was removed from the noose, it was searched for marks of the devil, but none were find. Her "teats" were also vigorously examined to see if they were those of a witch's, although nothing definitive was determined. The body was then buried.

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For what it's worth, poor old Goody Knapp may have gotten in one parting shot. Despite being continually questioned and tortured by hostile accusers, she maintained her innocence and would not name others who might also be witches—until she was literally on the scaffold. At that point, she asked to speak privately to Roger Ludlow, and after "coming down the ladder," told him that Mary Staples, one of her primary accusers, was a witch.

Goodwife Knapp didn't live to see it, but Mary Staples would later be formally accused of witchcraft.

 

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