Hug Parsons h (mid-17th century) One of the few trials in the early American colonies of a man accused of witchcraft was that of Hugh Parsons, which took place in 1651 in Springfield, Connecticut. A successful sawyer and bricklayer, Parsons enjoyed a reputation as an “honest, sensible laboring” man, according to the records of his trial. He was one of the first settlers in the Springfield area.
Parsons married a young woman, Mary Lewis, on October 27, 1645. Mary had a sharp tongue and did not get along with some of her neighbors. Furthermore, she had swings in mood and temper. At some point in the marriage, Mary accused Goodwife Marshfield of bewitching the children of mr. Moxon, the settlement’s minister. Goody Marshfield sued for libel and won. Parsons made no secret of his opinion that the verdict was due to false testimony, but he paid the fine of 24 bushels of corn plus 20 shillings.
Sometime later, Parsons had another run-in involving Moxon. The dispute concerned an alleged agreement to replace the bricks in Moxon’s chimney. Parsons conceded to Moxon’s terms and did the job, muttering that now Parsons “would be even with” Moxon, and “this will be the end of it.”
Such incidents stirred up resentment against Parsons and his wife among the townspeople. Furthermore, the area had been plagued since 1641 by bad fortune and mischief attributed to witches. Evidently, the townspeople finally decided to put a stop to their troubles by prosecuting a witch, and Parsons provided them with the ideal victim.
On October 4, 1649, the Parsonses had their first child, Samuel, who died a year later. On October 26, 1650, a second son, Joshua, was born. Shortly after the baby’s birth, Mary’s mental and physical health began to deteriorate. She neglected her baby, which languished and died on march 11, 1651. Mary was declared permanently insane, having been rendered so by witchcraft. Her condition and the deaths of her two infants were taken as legal evidence that both she and Parsons were witches. The records state, “the clamor against the Father increased and he was denounced as a Witch on all Sides.”
Parsons was brought to trial in Springfield first. There was no shortage of “evidence” against him, including the testimony of the vengeful Moxon and Goody Marshfield. A jury convicted him of bewitching his second child to death.
Mary was sent to jail in Boston on may 1. She went to trial on may 7 facing two charges: having familiarity with the Devil as a witch, and “willfully and most wickedly murdering her owne Child.” She was found not guilty on the first charge, due to insufficient evidence. She confessed she was guilty of the second charge and was condemned to death.
On May 27 Mary confessed that she was a witch. The Springfield court reluctantly reversed the verdict against Parsons. He was not, however, a free man. more charges were brought against him of having familiarity with the Devil to hurt “diverse Persons.” The jury was convinced that even though Parsons did not bewitch his second child to death, he did practice witchcraft on his neighbors. The incriminating “evidence” was little more than his habits of cutting boiled puddings longitudinally, filing his saws at night and other “amusements.” After a long and tedious trial in Springfield, Parsons was sent to jail in Boston. There is no record of his final fate, but he never returned to Springfield.