The Witch of Hampton, by James W. Tucker
[Or the one accused of having had familiarity with the devil]
By James W. Tucker, 1963
ARTICLE 16: To see if the town will vote to adopt the following resolution; Resolved: That we, the citizens of the Town of Hampton in the town meeting assembled do hereby declare that we believe that Eunice (Goody) Cole was unjustly accused of witchcraft and of familiarity with the Devil in the 17th Century, and we do hereby restore to the said Eunice (Goody) Cole her rightful place as a citizen of the Town of Hampton.
It be further resolved that any such time as the Selectmen shall elect during the Tercentenary of the Town of Hampton, appropriate and fitting ceremonies shall be held to carry out the purpose of this resolution by publicly burning certified copies of all official documents relating to the false accusations against Eunice (Goody) Cole, and that the burned documents together with soil from the reputed last resting place and from the site of the home of Eunice (Goody) Cole be gathered in an urn and reverently placed in the ground at such place in the Town of Hampton as the Selectmen shall designate.
There are two stories about Eunice "Goody" Cole, one of the most picturesque characters of Hampton's early colonial history. The first story is drab and pathetic and has to do with the events of her unhappy life. The second story is bright and colorful and concerns the manner in which the town of Hampton made amends, insofar as it was possible, for the suffering which she endured at the hands of the early settlers. The two stories, while interrelated, should not be interwoven. The first story concerns an epoch in our country's history when the delusion of witchcraft was accepted by most people as fact. The second story indicates that although superstition may still exist, the trend of civilization is definitely away from such savage delusions as gripped the entire world three centuries ago.
Eunice "Goody" Cole 15??-1680
The only woman to be convicted of witchcraft in New Hampshire
The Story of "Goody" Cole
Eunice "Goody" Cole was brought into the County Court of Norfolk by Hampton officials in 1656 and charged with witchcraft. She was found guilty and sentenced to be flogged and then to be imprisoned during the remainder of her natural life, or until released by the court. Three years after her imprisonment, on November 3, 1659, her husband, William Cole, petitioned the General Court for relief, stating that he had made over all of his property to his wife, that he was ill, unable to work and "near perishing." The court thereupon ordered the town to take over the Cole estate and thereafter to be responsible for the care of both members of the family.
In 1662, Eunice Cole asked the court for her release, stating that her husband was 88 years old and needed her care. The court ordered her to pay the amount of her board which was in arrears and depart within a month. She apparently was unable to make the necessary payment so the town of Hampton continued to maintain the unfortunate woman in the Boston jail at a cost of eight pounds a year. This continued for a couple of years when the town became delinquent in the payment of her board bill. Up to Hampton from Boston came "Goody's" jailer, one William Salter, who proceeded to arrest Selectman Marston for the town's indebtness. The town authorities paid the bill, using the residue of the estate of William Cole, who, in the meantime, had died and making up the balance of the amount due out of money which had been derived from fines.
Some time in the latter part of the spring of 1665, "Goody" Cole again petitioned the court for her release and found that she could obtain her liberty only upon the condition that she depart from the jurisdiction of the court. This she could not do as she was too old and feeble. However, some time just previous to 1671, she was released and returned to Hampton. She probably made her home in a small house near the foot of Rand's Hill on the northeasterly side of the road. In 1671, the town ordered that the inhabitants "in the order in which they dwelt" should take turns in supporting "Goody," each a week at a time.
And so the old lady barely existed until October 1671, when she was again arraigned on the old charge of witchcraft. The grand jury found a true bill against her and in April 1673, the Salisbury Court ordered her to Boston to await further trial. After a few months, her case was disposed of, the jury finding that she was not legally guilty according to the indictment, but that there were just grounds for "vehement suspicion of her having had familiarity with the devil." And so, "Goody" Cole, aged, careworn and ill, returned to Hampton to spend the few remaining years of her life, still persecuted, scorned, hated and feared. This much of the story is a matter of record.
Rumor and legend has it that when she died, a revengeful mob carried her body to a shallow trench beside the road and hastily buried it, impaling it with a stake to the top of which had been affixed a horseshoe. Another legend still persists that the body, thus hastily interred, was later secretly removed from its first burial place by a few kindhearted settlers and decently interred in a location which is now part of the Tuck Memorial Green.
"Goody" Cole's Rehabilitation
The second story having to do with Eunice "Goody" Cole had its beginning sometime during the summer of 1937 when a few persons met informally and instituted the organization known as "The Society in Hampton for the Apprehension of Those Falsely Accusing Eunice "Goody" Cole of Having Had Familiarity With the Devil." The long name was to attract attention. The object of the society was to investigate methods of making amends, after nearly three centuries, for the obvious wrong which was done to Eunice Cole and to clear the stain from the memory of the only woman who was ever convicted of witchcraft in the confines of what is now New Hampshire.
On February 17, 1938, the "Goody" Cole Society wrote to Judge John W. Perkins of Hampton, chairman of the general committee of Hampton Tercentenary, suggesting that, for the purpose of carrying out the objects of the society, a resolution be adopted at the regular Town Meeting to be held the following March. Judge Perkins was sympathetic and so was practically every other person who was approached in the matter.
On March 8, 1938 at the 300th Annual Town Meeting, the citizens adopted unanimously a resolution restoring Eunice "Goody" Cole to her rightful place as a citizen of Hampton and providing for fitting ceremonies at which time certified copies of all official documents relating to the "Goody" Cole case will be burned in public and the ashes of the burned documents, together with the soil from the reputed last resting places of "Goody" Cole and from the site of her last home will be gathered in an urn and reverently placed in the ground at some spot to be selected by Hampton officials.
The adoption of this resolution and the story behind it was told in practically every newspaper in this country and in England. Radio news commentators featured it and the story was dramatized by the National Broadcasting Company for the entertainment of many millions of listeners from coast to coast. Editorials were written commending the action of Hampton citizens. Sermons, based on the subject, were preached from hundreds of pulpits. Eunice "Goody" Cole became famous overnight, although her tortured life was lived nearly three centuries ago. But her rehabilitation was not complete.
At Hampton Beach on the afternoon of Thursday, August 25, Eunice "Goody" Cole was memorialized at exercises which was part of the official celebration of Hampton's Tercentenary. Men and women of national reputation participated in this memorial service which may be broadcast over national hook-ups. The town officials of Hampton had a prominent part in the program, which was a fitting indication that the present generation of Hampton citizens sincerly regrets the misguided action of former residents in persecuting for witchcraft, Eunice "Goody" Cole, who will never again be known as "The Witch of Hampton."
Stranger in Our Town
Could Be Gost of Goody Cole
There's nothing very unusual about her appearance. She is a little old lady who might be visiting in any Hampton neighborhood; small, with aquiline features and sharp blue eyes peering out from under a craggy brow furrowed with wrinkles. Her hair is a bit unkempt and gray; her voice, soft but guerulous. Her clothes are somber and would attract little attention, although one person who saw her was certain that her bedraggled shoes had buckles. Everyone speaks of her shawl, sometimes worn over her head but mostly resting on her thin and curiously bent shoulders. Of late she has frequented the south end of our village. And strange stories are told of her and her wanderings.
Frequents "The Ring"
She has been seen here and there at odd intervals of the early evening in the neighborhood of "The Ring." This is the section of our town where the first settlers lived; where they established the village green and built their first church, stockade and school. It is the area of Hampton enclosed by Winnacunnet Road, Park Avenue and Lafayette Highway. But no one knows her name and no one knows where the frail old lady lives, even though several kindly folks have invited her in to share the coolness of their homes and to partake of refreshments most welcome in the hot and humid weather of the past two weeks.
Interested in Founders
One hostess of the little gray lady says she thought her unusual guest must be an antiquarian because of her great interest in many of the characters who peopled Hampton's picturesque historical background. Did the Marstons, the Palmers, the Philbricks, the Moultons still live in town? And did her hostess ever hear of the Drakes and the Sleepers? Had all of these families prospered or had they, perchance, met with adversities? And as the queer guest glided out of the door into the steaming humidity of the July afternoon, she lifted the shawl onto her gray hair and by way of appreciation, said that such generous hospitality on the part of Hampton folks was most unusual in her experience.
Hunting for Memorial
At another home, where a kindly housewife invited the little gray lady in for a glass of lemonade, the stranger asked about the town's memorial to Hampton's famous witch, Goody Cole. She was told that in 1938, the community had endeavored to make official amends to Goody Cole for its persecutions of 1656, which included accusations of witchcraft, imprisonment and other indignities, by restoring the good woman, poshumously, to full citizenship. "I know all about that which happened seventeen years ago," the little woman said, "but at that time it was agreed that eventually a fitting memorial would be erected somewhere on the old village green to perpetuate the action taken by the town in clearing the name of Goodwife Cole. I've hunted and hunted but I can't find it! Is there such a memorial?"
Through a Closed Door
And when the hostess, who happened to be a descendent of one of the original settlers, told her strange guest that Hampton had not gotten around as yet to the memorializing of Goody Cole in granite or bronze, the quaint old woman got up without even a word of thanks and, settling her shawl firmly on her shoulders, walked right through the screened door without even bothering to open it and out into the sweltering dusk of early evening. "I was so astounded," reported the housewife, "that I'm still wondering whether or not she really walked through that door or if I only imagined the whole business."
At least one policeman stopped the car he was driving and warned the aged stranger to use great car in walking along such heavily traveled roads as Park Avenue where there are no sidewalks. For his pains, he was thanked courteously and told, "I guess I'll get along all right. I've been walking along these roads for hundreds of years." The polite policeman, who has been looking unsuccessfully since the incident of the beshawled lady, says he's certain she told him "hundreds of years," but at the time, he didn't fully appreciate the significance of her strange remark.
Creighton Sees a Stranger
John Creighton says that an elderly lady stopped him late one afternoon a week or so ago and asked directions concerning how to reach the Goody Cole Memorial. John, who sat for a long period in the Town Hall almost beside a bronze urn which contains the purpoted ashes of Goodwife Cole, directed the inquirer to the nearby office of selectmen where she could obtain complete information from either Helen Hayden, the town clerk, or John True, the town manager. Neither of these officials remember a visit from a person of this description coming on such an errand.
Flitting About Green
Jack Hayden has seen a stooped gray-clad, wraith-like figure, flitting from stone to stone in the triangular Memorial Green during early evenings of late. He reports that the figure is apparently that of an aged woman who peers intently at the inscriptions on the bronze plates which are set into the granite boulders which line the perimeter of the pretty little common.
Hayden and Ghosts
"You know darn well I don't believe in ghosts ," reports Jack, "but there's certainly something strange and uncanny about the rapidity with which that woman moves about. I see her at one end of the Green examining memorial stones and take off my glasses and polish them quickly to get a better look at her. When I put the specs on again, presto, she's 250 feet away at the other end, still examining inscriptions. You're right! Flitting is the proper word."
A Woman of Mystery
Who is this little gray lady with buckles on her shoes and a shawl over her shoulders who frequents "The Ring?" Why does she specifically want to know about the descendents of the people who, three centuries ago, accused Goody Cole of being a witch? Why her interest in the promised Cole Memorial which has not yet materialized? For what reason would the stranger tell a thoughtful policeman that she had walked Hampton roads "for hundreds of years?" Can Hampton citizens be right in assuming that she walks through screen doors that are tightly closed and flits eerily about Memorial Green? Frankly, we are sorely perplexed about the whole business. Is the lady a human being, interested in the early history of our town, or does the ghost of Goody Cole walk through Hampton's historic acres?
Eunice "Goody" Cole Monument to be Dedicated
A final chapter to the story of Eunice "Goody" Cole may be written at 2:30 p.m. on the 17th of August 1963 at the "Meeting House" Green Memorial Park when the citizens of Hampton will dedicate a stone memorial to "Goody" Cole.
It is fitting that this monument is erected on the "Green" as this is on or near the location of the Town Meeting House where, in 1656, the good people of Hampton petitioned the County Court of Norfolk to try her for the crime of witchcraft.
Eunice "Goody" Cole -- may your spirit and soul rest in peace.