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The Accused Witch That Was Never Found Guilty





As you all know I love WWII history, military history and the development in tactics and strategies from castle defenses and siege warfare to modern day. You may not know that I also have a keen interest in historical trials, the legal standards, the trial testimonies and outcomes. Some of the ones that really peak my interest are Lizzie Borden and a few of the New Hampshire women accused of witchcraft and found not guilty namely Goody Cole and Jane Walford. I operate between two eras the legal standards of which have change completely. The history of these trials were conducted and what evidence was and more importantly was not let in has a direct impact on the outcome. Adding to the challenge is that not all the trial transcripts are available or the court proceedings recorded in many historical cases, many were not fully recorded - no court reporters in early New England. This makes researching these cases a fascinating journey through records and especially in the cases of the women named above the social history of the area and the social stratification - in Lizzie Borden's case her society and for Goody and Jane within the Puritan church and their society.

All three women faced the courts, some multiple times. Lizzie was not convicted and lived well but went down in history in a famous chant "Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her mother forty whacks, and when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty one". Goody Cole on the other hand was sentenced to be imprisoned after her first trial and found not guilty in her second. She was imprisoned off and on for years. Sadly for her, and much to the chagrin of the townspeople that repeatedly accused her of witchcraft, they ended up having to support her when she was released. After her death the town was not finished. She was buried in an unmarked grave and supposedly a stake driven through her heart. Jane Walford resided not far from Goody Cole by today's standards. Hers was a completely different outcome. She was accused, tried and ended up suing her accuser for slander and being awarded monetary damages. Three different women, three court cases and three different fates. How much of all this is true and supported by actual evidence? Certainly not 100%, myth, regional tales, erroneous information adopted and spread warps the reality but the real challenge is in putting the cases back together through the social and legal aspects and seeing where it leads.

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