Banished Colonial Heretics, Salem Witches, & The Naked Quaker


Anne Hutchinson

Brothers Thomas and William Wardwell were early followers of the enormously progressive female minister Anne Hutchinson (I am also her direct descendant). They sailed with her from England to the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1634 fleeing religious persecution. By 1637, Puritan ministers in the colony labeled Hutchinson a modern “Jezebel” who was infecting women with perverse and abominable ideas regarding their dignity and rights, her teaching that it was a blessing and not a curse to be a woman being especially heretical. In addition to this, her members decried racial prejudice, including the enslavement of Native Americans by colonists. In March 1638 a religious court found her guilty of blasphemy, excommunicated her from the Puritan Church, and banished her and her followers from the colony.

William Wardwell is my 10th great-grandfather, he co-founded the town of Wells, Maine and owned an inn and a tavern there. He is also the 6th great-grandfather of President William H. Taft.

His brother Thomas Wardwell is my 10th great-uncle, his son Elikaim married Lydia (Bragdon). Lydia Wardwell is the famous “Naked Quaker” who protested Mass. Gov. Endicott’s law which made it illegal for Quakers to meet or teach their beliefs. If they did not attend Puritan church services they would be banished or put on trial with the threat of execution. Forced against her will to attend Puritan services, Lydia expressed her contempt for the law by taking off her clothes during a service one cold spring day in 1663. She was quickly arrested, stripped bare to the waist (how ironic), tied to a post and severely whipped in the town square.

Thomas’ other son Samuel moved to Salem to work as a carpenter and soon married a beautiful 21 yr old widow with a sizable inheritance. From the time he was a young man Samuel often amused neighbors by telling fortunes and interpreting their dreams. He prophesied that one young couple would have five daughters before they had a son. Amazingly, this turned out to be true. Unfortunately for Samuel, the boy was born just a few years before the witch scare engulfed the township.

Salem Witch Trials

On August 15, 1692, at the age of 49, Samuel was arrested and imprisoned in Salem Town. With him, wife Sarah and daughters Sarah and Mercy were also accused of witchcraft. Though Samuel was one of the last in the Salem area to be arrested, it was not surprising that the witchcraft court tracked him down. Not only had Wardwell dabbled in magic, but he had gained sizable wealth for a common citizen – this made him a prime suspect for being in league with the devil.

On September 1st Samuel confessed before magistrate John Higginson, saying that he had indeed dabbled in the supernatural by “telling of fortunes, which sometimes came to pass.” Not only did he confess this indiscretion, he also reported making a pact with the devil. Wardwell confessed that the devil promised to make him “live comfortably and be a sea captain.” In return, Wardwell promised to “honor” him, signing the devil’s “book by making a mark like a square with a black pen.” Samuel Wardwell’s claim seems absurd, yet he was probably trying his best to save his life. He knew that many people learned of his suspicious behavior as a young man, telling fortunes for friends, so like several others who had saved their lives by confessing, he made up a grand tale, which included much more demonic activity than anyone else had attributed to him.

Soon, however, Wardwell’s conscience made him recant his confession. Now, not only was he in a dangerous position pleading innocent before the Court (Giles Corey was pressed to death with giant boulders for standing silent before the court), but there was a written confession, and two complaints against him. One simply stated his use of witchcraft, another mentioned his compact with the devil. There were also seven formal accusations which said that Wardwell afflicted people and other statements which corroborated his use of witchcraft and fortune telling. Not surprisingly, the court found Wardwell guilty on September 17th. He was hanged on September 22, 1692, along with seven women. Months later his wife and daughters were set free from imprisonment.

Wardwell lineage:

1 – William Wardwell married Alice Tyce.

2 – Their son Uzal Wardwell married Mary Kinsman.

3 – Their son Joseph Wardwell married Martha Giddings.

4 – Their son John Wardwell married Phebe Howland (Mayflower descendant).

5 – Their son Col. Samuel Wardwell married Lydia Perkins.

6 – Their son Samuel Wardwell II married Hannah Monroe.

7 – Their daughter Elizabeth Wardwell married Charles J. Kinyon.

8 – Their son Fayette Kinyon married Mary Chapin.

9 – Their son Chapin F. Kinyon married Elizabeth Graves.

10 – Their son was my dad.


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