Though the Salem Witch Trials are more famous, many New England colonies had their own shameful witch trials. Connecticut had the first in 1647. In all, Connecticut had 43 witch trials with 16 executions (being killed for committing a crime). Here, we'll focus on those in Wethersfield since this is the setting for the book The Witch of Blackbird Pond.
In the book, the "witch," Hannah, is a Quaker, and while it is true that being a Quaker meant you were often persecuted like Hannah is, by being branded and chased out of town, they usually weren't labeled witches just for being a Quaker.
In the 1600s, it was believed that a witch had made a deal with the devil which gave them supernatural powers like being able to make people sick or bring storms. This was a time when science was lacking. There were no hospitals, no police force, and no army. People didn't know germs existed or how storms developed. What people don't understand, they often fear and there was much to fear in Colonial America. As Chris Pagliuco states in his article Wethersfield's Witch Trials:
They could lose their sheep and other farm animals to wolf and bear attacks. The Connecticut River could flood at any time, wiping out crops. Epidemics visited the region in 1647 and 1648, killing dozens of townspeople in an already small and unstable population. The local Native Americans were equally dangerous. The Pequot War began with a "massacre" in Wethersfield in 1637; nine wethersfield residents were killed, two captured, and the entire population horrified. (Some wethersfield residents got their revenge weeks later with the slaughter of hundreds at the Pequot Massacre in Mystic.)
Two women are mentioned in The Witch of Blackbird Pond who were real people living in Wethersfield during the 1600s. Mary Johnson was a house servant who had been convicted (found guilty) of stealing in Hartford, Connecticut and then again in Wethersfield. People were already suspicious of those who were convicted of a crime, like stealing. People believed the devil walked around among them causing weak people to do bad things. If you stole something, you probably signed a deal with the devil (making you a witch).
Mary Johnson is notable because she is the first person in North America to confess to witchcraft. While she was being whipped for stealing, she not only confessed to witchcraft, but even claimed to have killed. She was never put on trial for murder, however, so it seems the authorities didn't believe that confession. They did believe her confession of witchcraft, however, and she was executed in 1650.
Often, people who were accused of witchcraft were those who were different, or those who challenged the typical way things were done. When she was younger, Katherine Harrison was a servant in Hartford. It was believed that the classes shouldn't mix, so the rich (one "class" of society) should never marry someone from the "lower classes," like servants. But, Harrison married a successful Wethersfield farmer who had lots of land, making her wealthy.
When Harrison's husband died, people began accusing her of witchcraft within months, even though she had never been accused before. People didn't like the idea of her being able to move from the servant "class" to the rich "class," so perhaps witchcraft enabled her to do it. The townspeople looked at anything that went wrong or was suspicious as her fault. Connecticut state historian Walter Woodward explains, "If a child died unexpectedly, if there [was] a drought or if cheese rotted unusually fast, they believed it to be the work of the devil. The real test of being a witch was making a pact with the devil. They all believed in magic of some sort, but to cooperate with the devil was unacceptable. …You were considered extremely dangerous." One neighbor woman even accused Harrison of witchcraft because she spun "so great a quantity of fine linen yarn… [that she]…did never know nor hear of any other woman that could spin so much." Even though this sounds more like jealousy than witchcraft, Harrison was found guilty of witchcraft in 1669.
Reverend Bulkeley had trained in medicine by John Winthrop Jr. and was also skeptical that so much witchcraft was going on in Connecticut towns. He used the questions Winthrop provided for them, which asked about the evidence in the case. Because there were not two witnesses to any one claim about Harrison's witchcraft, her conviction was overturned (she was found to be not guilty). This changed the standard for judging whether someone was a witch and from this time forward no other person was executed for being a witch in Connecticut.
Though Katherine Harrison was found to be not guilty, she couldn't live in peace in Wethersfield any longer and moved to New York.
Why were thanksgiving days celebrated in Puritan America?
In England, days of thanks were often declared by the church at various times throughout the year as days to fast (not eat), pray, and give thanks. These "thanks giving" days were declared for many reasons including a good harvest or winning a battle. The Pilgrims had endured a brutal year so they held a three day feast. They never called it a "Thanksgiving" and there is no proof that they invited the Wampanoag to attend. Some historians say they just showed up and joined in the festivities. There is very little documentation of the the feast (and many claim this wasn't the first Thanksgiving feast), but one Pilgrim, Edward Winslow, wrote home to England about it:
“And God be praised we had a good increase… Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”
"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" (1914) by Jennie A. Brownscombe. Wikimedia Commons, this work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or fewer. *NOTE: most of the Native People in this painting have feathers in their hair or even full feathered headdresses. The Wampanoag did not wear these. This was common among the Natives in the plains, but not those living along the east coast. Native people have often been lumped into one image by white Americans of modern times, but this is ridiculous. There was once at least 600 different Native Nations in what is now the United States.
The "thanksgiving" that followed
What we don't often hear about, however, is that in 1637, 16 years after the (supposedly) first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims killed 500 Pequot men, women, and children in a bloody and gruesome attack known as the Mystic Massacre. Writing about the slaughter, William Bradford, the governor of Massachusetts, said that "from that day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanks giving for subduing the Pequots" and for "the next 100 years, every Thanksgiving Day ordained by a Governor was in honor of the bloody victory, thanking God that the battle had been won."
This was the first time an official Thanksgiving Day was declared and celebrating it every year was proposed. This is hardly the idea of a peaceful coming together of Native People and Pilgrims that we think about each November when we sit down to eat.
The massacre was the culmination of what was known as the Pequot Wars, though "war" isn't a very appropriate label since the Puritans had guns and the Pequot people did not. There were white people who were killed in the back and forth fighting leading up to the Pequot Wars including six men and three women in Wethersfield, Connecticut in April, 1637, but the Puritans killed and enslaved hundreds by the end of the Pequot Wars (at least 500 were killed in the Mystic Massacre alone).
Why all the fighting?
The Native People were seeing more and more Puritans moving into their lands and much of the disagreement between the Natives and the newcomers was about control of those lands for hunting, trapping, and farming.
There had been fighting back and forth for many years with kidnappings and killings. The English were particularly mindful of the attacks of 1622 when about 350 colonists were killed. This occurred after much trading back and forth between the Native People and the colonists. Instead of the Native People being allowed to decide whether or not they wanted to trade. The colonists began demanding food and when the Native People would not, they burned their fields and sometimes, their villages. The Native population had enough of this and attacked.
Years later, in the case of the Mystic Massacre, one side or the other would suspect a specific group was guilty—the Native People thought the English were guilty when it was the Dutch, or the English would think the Pequots were guilty when it was the Manisses (each a different Native Nation). Each would attack and sometimes kill a person from the wrong group. Sometimes the attacks were on the right group, but this kept happening, back and forth, until a trader named John Oldham was found murdered.
The English felt they could not let the murder go unpunished, though they only assumed it was the Pequots who did it. They attacked various Native Nations including the Pequots, Niantics, and the Narragansetts. The Pequot worked to form alliances with several Native Nations and fought back in raids—the Pequot Raids. They battled the English for 11 months despite having no guns, but they were defeated in the Fairfield Swamp Fight about a month after the Mystic Massacre. Many of the Pequot who survived the "war" were sold off as enslaved people.
Blow, Charles M. “The Horrible History of Thanksgiving.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 27 Nov. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/11/27/opinion/thanksgiving-history.html.
Brownscombe, Jennie A. “The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth.” Wikimedia Commons, 20 June 2009, Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thanksgiving-Brownscombe.jpg.
“The First Thanksgiving.” National Geographic Kids, National Geographic Society, 10 Oct. 2019, kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/history/first-thanksgiving/.
Fixico, Donald L. “When Native Americans Were Slaughtered in the Name of 'Civilization'.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2 Mar. 2018, www.history.com/news/native-americans-genocide-united-states.
The German Kali Works. “How Well The Corn Prospered. Squanto or Tisquantum Demonstrating Corn He Had Fertilized by Planting with Fish.” Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia Foundation, 13 May 2019, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Squantohowwellthecornprospered.png.
Koyfman, Steph. “What Was, And What Is: Native American Languages In The US.” Babbel Magazine, Lesson Nine GmbH, 4 Oct. 2017, www.babbel.com/en/magazine/native-american-languages-in-the-us.
McBride, Kevin. “Pequot War.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 9 Apr. 2019, www.britannica.com/topic/Pequot-War.
Menjivar, Jackie. “Truthsgiving: The True History of Thanksgiving.” DoSomething.org, www.dosomething.org/us/articles/truthsgiving-the-true-history-of-thanksgiving?utm_source=email_wyd&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=wyd_2019_11_26.
“Plimoth Plantation.” Thanksgiving History | Plimoth Plantation, www.plimoth.org/learn/just-kids/homework-help/thanksgiving/thanksgiving-history.
Schilling, Vincent. “6 Thanksgiving Myths and the Wampanoag Side of the Story.” IndianCountryToday.com, Indian Country Today, 14 Nov. 2017, indiancountrytoday.com/archive/6-thanksgiving-myths-and-the-wampanoag-side-of-the-story-roJhk2s_AkW9pkyjONXr-w.
Stensrud, Rockwell. “What's the Difference between a Pilgrim and a Puritan?” Newsweek, 26 Nov. 2015, www.newsweek.com/whats-difference-between-pilgrim-and-puritan-397974.
by Jake Davis
In 1987 Congress approved the Civil Rights Restoration Act. It was vetoed by then President Ronald Reagan, but Congress voted to override his veto and it became law in 1988.
The New Law
The new law said that organizations that receive federal funds (money from the government) must obey civil rights laws in all areas of their organization, not just the department, program, or activity that received the funding. This made sure that no federal money goes to organizations that discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, age, disability, or nationality.
“When the government hands out checks, it has a right to attach conditions, and one condition is that you can’t discriminate if you take public money,” said Rep. James M. Jeffords (R-Vt.).
Debate About the Law
Others, like Reverend Jerry Falwell, said the law would require churches and other private organizations to promote ideas they did not believe in. Falwell said it would require churches to hire “homosexual drug addicts with AIDS as youth pastors,” but supporters of the law said this was exaggeration and a warped version of the truth.
Rep. W.G. Hefner (D-NC.) described these statements as “reprehensible.”
“No job is important enough for me to lie to the American people,” Hefner said on the House floor. “If I have to cave in to false information--no job is worth it.”
Supporters of the law include civil rights groups and major religious organizations that said the legislation was important to making sure that federal funds are not used to pay for discrimination.
What is a Veto?
Any bill passed by Congress must be signed by the president in order for it to become a law. If the president does not sign the bill it is called a veto. Congress can override a president's veto with a ⅔ majority vote in both the House of Representatives (representatives) and the Senate (senators).
President Reagan's veto of the Civil Rights Restoration Act was the first time in over a century that a sitting president tried to block a major civil rights law (Eaton, 1988). It was the ninth time during the Reagan presidency that Congress overrode his veto.
What the Law Covers
The law applies to a number of federal anti-discrimination laws, including Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
Title IX states that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” This means women cannot be discriminated against or left out from participating in organizations or groups because of their gender. It also means that women must receive equal opportunity in academics and athletics.
The 1973 Rehabilitation Act prevents discrimination against people with disabilities and gives civil rights protections to them. They cannot be turned down for jobs, benefits, or other opportunities because they have a disability.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that businesses, organizations or programs receiving federal funds must not discriminate based on a person's race, color, or national origin (the country in which they are born).
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act is a law passed in 1967 that stops companies from discriminating against employees 40 years of age or older. The law prevents companies from participating in “ageism” or discrimination against people because of their advanced age.
The Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 makes sure that none of these forms of discrimination are allowed for organizations that receive federal funding. In doing so, the government makes sure that federal money does sponsor discrimination in any form.
Eaton, William J. “Congress Rejects Rights Bill Veto : President Suffers Major Defeat as Republicans Help Enact New Law.” Los Angeles Times, 23 Mar. 198AD, articles.latimes.com/1988-03-23/news/mn-1859_1_civil-rights-bill.
By Cookie Davis
Water is present as a liquid and as a gas in the atmosphere. When water is a gas, it is called water vapor. You can’t see water vapor in the air, because water molecules are very small. When water is a liquid, you can see it in the form of clouds. It can also fall from the sky as precipitation.
Dew forms best when the atmosphere is clean, the air is calm, and there is not much wind. It is not just at night and outdoors, when it forms though. When eyeglasses get steamy in warm, wet rooms, dew can form, though people use the word condensation more often than dew.
Darius, Anton. “Portrait of Adolescence.” Wikimedia Commons, Unsplash, 31 Oct. 2016, commons.wikimedia.org/wik/File:Portrait_of_Adolescence_(Unsplash).jpg.
“Dew Facts for Kids.” Kiddle, Kiddle Encyclopedia, 18 Apr. 2020, kids.kiddle.co/Dew.
“Moisture in the Air – Humidity.” Tree House Weather Kids, University of Illinois Extension, web.extension.illinois.edu/treehouse/clouds.cfm?Slide=1.
“Why Is the Grass Wet In the Morning?” Wonderopolis, National Center for Families Learning, www.wonderopolis.org/wonder/why-is-the-grass-wet-in-the-morning.
This article, which is no longer published, originally appeared on the site michiganrailroads.com. Some vocabulary has been simplified for young readers and images have been added to increase visual appeal.
Saginaw was founded in 1816 as a trading post on the Saginaw River. The original town was planned in 1823 on the west side of the river. East Saginaw was founded in 1850, incorporated as a village in 1855 and a city in 1857. The entire Saginaw area was well known as the logging capital of east Michigan in the second half of the 1800s. East Saginaw was combined with South Saginaw in 1873 and with Saginaw City on the west side of river in 1889. The view above was from 1885.
The Pere Marquette line west towards Alma was built in 1872, and a connection was built from the Detroit and Bay City Railroad from Denmark Jct. about 1873. Narrow gauge lines to Vassar and Reese were built in 1874 and 1882 respectively and converted to standard gauge later. In 1890, the predecessor to the Grand Trunk Western arrived from Durand and was built through east and west Saginaw to Bay City.
Berry, Dale. “Station: Saginaw Michigan.” Michiganrailroad.com, www.michiganrailroads.com/RRHX/Stations/CountyStations/SaginawStations/SaginawArea/SaginawMI.htm.
“Cities of East Saginaw and Saginaw, Michigan, 1885.” Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 July 2008, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cities_of_East_Saginaw_and_Saginaw,_Michigan,_1885_(2675801518).jpg.
G.W. & C. Colton & Co. “Map Showing the Jackson, Lansing & Saginaw Railroad and Its Connections.” Wikimedia Commons, Library of Congress, 30 May 2018, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map_showing_the_Jackson,_Lansing_%26_Saginaw_Railroad_and_its_connections._LOC_98688688.tif.
This is an excerpt from an article originally appeared on the website easyrivernyc.org that is no longer published. Images have been added to increase visual appeal.
More Americans died in British prison ships in New York Harbor than in all the battles of the Revolutionary War. There were at least 16 of these floating prisons anchored in Wallabout Bay on the East River for most of the war, and they were sinkholes of filth, vermin, infectious disease and despair. The ships were uniformly wretched, but the most notorious was the Jersey.
Following the Battle of Long Island in August, 1776, and the fall of New York City soon after, the British found thousands of prisoners on their hands, and the available prisons in New York filled up quickly. Then, as the British began seizing hundreds of seamen off privateers, they turned a series of aging vessels into maritime prison ships.
There were more than a thousand men at a time packed onto the Jersey. They died with such regularity that when their British jailers opened the hatches in the morning, their first greeting to the men below was: "Rebels, turn out your dead!"
There were 4,435 battle deaths during the Revolutionary War, according to the Department of Defense. One historian estimated that there were between 7,000 and 8,000 prison ship deaths, but other sources claim even more. A letter-writer from Fishkill in 1783 claimed that on the Jersey alone, 11,644 died. Although that figure is unlikely for the one ship, it is reasonable for all the prison ships together, and is cited regularly.
Built in 1735 as a 64-gun ship, the Jersey was was converted to a prison ship in the winter of 1779-1780. Virtually stripped except for a flagstaff and a derrick for taking in supplies, the Jersey was floated, rudderless, in Wallabout Bay, about 100 yards offshore of what is now the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Its portholes were closed and supplanted by a series of small holes, 20 inches square, crossed by two bars of iron.
There were various ways to get off the prison ships. The British had a standing offer that any prisoner could be released immediately if he joined the British forces, and an unidentified number did so. Prisoners who carried money with them could buy their way off the ship. Others managed to escape. Also, prisoner exchanges were quite common, with officers exchanged for officers, seamen for seamen, soldiers for soldiers. But for vast numbers of prisoners, there were only two possibilities: death or the end of the war, whichever came first.
At war's end, survivors were released, and the prison ships abandoned. In later years, bleached bones of the dead were constantly exposed to the tides and weather along the Long Island shore. And well into the next century, low tide regularly exposed the rotting timbers of the Jersey, the ship they called Hell.
Bookhout, Edward. “Interior HMS Jersey.” Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Nov. 2012, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki
Daugherty, Greg. “The Appalling Way the British Tried to Recruit Americans Away from Revolt.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 31 Jan. 2020,
History.com Editors. “The HMS Jersey.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 19 Mar. 2010, www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/the-hms-jersey.
“History: Tragedy: Prison Ships & General Slocum.” East River NYC, 2008, www.eastrivernyc.org/content/history/tragedy/index.html.
“Prison Ship Jersey.” Wikimedia Commons, New York Public Library, 13 May 2016, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki
Light travels at different speeds through different materials, such as air, water, and glass. It travels more slowly through water and glass than it does through air. When light slows down or speeds up, it bends in a new direction. This bending of light is called refraction.
Try these experiments
The Battle of Long Island, also called the Battle of Brooklyn, was an important battle for America's independence. The largest and deadliest battle of the Revolutionary War was fought in the New York City borough of Brooklyn.
A large British fighting force, commanded by brothers General Howe and Admiral Howe gathered together in Brooklyn to meet George Washington and the Continental Army in the first major battle of organized forces in the Revolutionary War on August 27th, 1776.
Both armies recognized the strategic importance of Manhattan Island (New York City) and the control of the Hudson River. Though young American army was driven to retreat and gave up Brooklyn and later Manhattan, the fact that they faced such a large and well-trained enemy, and survived only losing a fraction of their force was a victory in itself.
Despite their battle win, the British held back and this allowed Washington to take advantage of a rain-filled night to cover the sounds of moving almost his entire army across the river to safety. When the morning sun began to rise and some of the American troops were still on the island, luck was on their side as a dense fog moved in hiding their movement and enabling all of Washington's army to escape. The British plan of crushing the rebellion and quickly ending an "expensive war" was lost. It would be a harder fight than they realized.
The Americans lost over 1,000 soldiers in the battle and were badly discouraged by the loss. However, they stood together as an army defending the nation, gained valuable experience, and eventually won the war.
By the numbers, this battle was supposed to be a decisive British victory. Instead, the Battle of Long Island was the first major blow of a war that would drag on for seven more years and end in a recognized American democracy.
“The Battle for New York: the City at the Heart of the American Revolution.” The Battle for New York: the City at the Heart of the American Revolution, by
Barnet Schecter, Jonathan Cape, 2003, p. 3.
“The Battle of Brooklyn 1776.” The Battle of Brooklyn 1776, by John J. Gallagher, Heritage Books, 2004, pp. xv-50.
“Battle of Long Island.” Essential New York City Guide, www.essential-new-york-city-guide.com/battle-of-long-island.html.
This article was published in the August 11th, 1938 edition of Ken magazine. It was, until recently, available online. Efforts to find the copyright holder were unsuccessful and it is, therefore, considered an abandoned work.
It is copied here because it provides insight into the limited and unfair job prospects African Americans faced in the earliest part of the twentieth century as students read the book Bud, Not Buddy.
After the release of the Disney movie Pocahontas, many felt the true story was ignored.
The following was written by Chief Roy Crazy Horse and appeared on the www.powhatan.org website that is no longer published. It has been shortened for ease of readability by students, some vocabulary has been simplified, grammar and spelling errors have been fixed, and images added for visual appeal.
"Pocahontas" was a nickname, meaning "the naughty one" or "spoiled child." Her real name was Matoaka. The legend is that she saved a heroic John Smith from being clubbed to death by her father in 1607—she would have been about 10 or 11 at the time. The truth is that Smith's fellow colonists described him as an abrasive, ambitious, self-promoting mercenary soldier.
Of all of Powhatan's children, only "Pocahontas" is known, mostly because she became the hero of Euro-Americans as the "good Indian," one who saved the life of a white man. Not only is the "good Indian/bad Indian theme" given new life by Disney, but the history, as recorded by the English themselves, is false, written more in the name of "entertainment" than truth.
The first time John Smith told the story about this rescue was 17 years after it happened, and it was but one of three reported by Smith [who was known to brag] claiming he was saved from death by a famous woman.
Yet in an account Smith wrote after his winter stay with Powhatan's people, he never mentioned such an incident. In fact, the starving adventurer reported he had been kept comfortable and treated in a friendly fashion as an honored guest of Powhatan and Powhatan's brothers. Most scholars think the "Pocahontas incident" would have been highly unlikely, especially since it was part of a longer account used as reason to wage war on Powhatan's Nation.
Euro-Americans must ask themselves why it has been so important to raise Smith's fibbing to status as a national myth worthy of being recycled again by Disney. Disney even improves upon it by changing Pocahontas from a little girl into a young woman.
Two years later on the spring of 1616, Rolfe took her to England where the Virginia Company of London used her in their propaganda campaign to support the colony. She was wined and dined and taken to theaters. It was recorded that on one occasion when she encountered John Smith (who was also in London at the time), she was so furious with him that she turned her back to him, hid her face, and went off by herself for several hours. Later, in a second encounter, she called him a liar and showed him the door.
Rolfe, his young wife, and their son set off for Virginia in March of 1617, but "Rebecca" had to be taken off the ship at Gravesend. She died there on March 21, 1617 at the age of 21. She was buried at Gravesend, but the grave was destroyed in a reconstruction of the church. It was only after her death and her fame in London society that Smith found it convenient to invent the tall tale that she had rescued him.
History tells the rest. Chief Powhatan died the following spring of 1618. The people of Smith and Rolfe turned upon the people who had shared their resources with them and had shown them friendship. During Pocahontas' generation, Powhatan's people were killed by warfare and disease and those left were forced to leave their lands. A clear pattern had been set which would soon spread across the American continent.
Chief Roy Crazy Horse
I often struggle to find websites with quick, simple lessons to help kids understand some basic concepts, so I decided to create some of my own for those I can't find elsewhere!