MargaretJones (?–1648) The first witch to be executed in Massachusetts Bay Colony, on June 15, 1648, in Boston. Margaret Jones was a physician who was accused of witchcraft when patients worsened under her care.
Jones and her husband, Thomas, were among the early settlers in Massachusetts Bay Colony, making their home in Charlestown. According to records of her trial, Jones told some of her patients that if they refused to take her medicines, they would never be healed. Her trial records state, “Accordingly, their Diseases and Hurts continued, with relapse against the ordinary Course, and beyond the Apprehension of all Physicians and Surgeons.”
While her medicines were themselves harmless, the doctor was suspected of bewitching her patients into suffering. Once that thought took hold among her neighbors, she “was found to have such a malignant Touch, as many persons were taken with Deafness, or Vomiting, or other violent Pains or Sicknesses.”
Jones was arrested and jailed. A string of witnesses appeared at her trial to testify against her. A jail officer testified that he had seen a little child run from her room, but when he followed it, the child vanished. This was taken as further proof of her being a witch. Jones protested her innocence vigorously and violently, denouncing those who would condemn her, but to no avail. She was sentenced to hang. According to the records,
. . . her Behavior at her Trial was intemperate, lying notoriously, and railing upon the Jury and Witnesses. In like Distemper, she died. . . . The same Day and Hour she was executed, there was a very great Tempest at Connecticut, which blew down many Trees, etc.
A month prior to Jones’ arrest and trial, an order had been passed in Boston requiring that all husbands of accused witches were to be confined to a room and watched for signs of witchcraft themselves. Accordingly, Thomas Jones was accused of being a witch and was jailed. There is no record of his fate.
- Drake, Samuel G. Annals of Witchcraft in New England and Elsewhere in the United States, from their First Settlement. Boston: W. Elliott Woodward, 1869.
- Karlsen, Carol F. The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England. New York: W. W. Norton & Co, 1987.