Elizabeth Howe

Contributed by Cynthia (Frazier) Abbott

Elizabeth Jackson Howe my great(10) grandmother was born about 1635 in England. Her parents were William and Deborah Jackson of Rowley,Mass. She married James Howe April 1658. Their 5th child, Deborah, born 11 May 1685 was my great(9) grandmother who married Issac Howe of Roxbury, Mass. Now, Issac Howe was the son of Abraham Howe and cousin to James Howe. It was confusing sorting out the Howes!

As you read this, put yourself in Elizabeth Howe's shoes and imagine what she felt.

1. Elizabeth Jackson Howe pleaded not guilty to the indictment of Witchcraft, then charged upon her; the court, according to the usual proceedings of the courts in England, in such cases, began hearing the depositions of several afflicted people who were grievously tortured by sensible and evident Witchcrafts and all complained of the prisoner as the cause of their troubles. It was also found that the sufferers were not able to bear her LOOK, as likewise, that in their greatest swoons, they distinguished her TOUCH from other peoples, being thereby raised out of them.

And there is another testimony of people to whom the shape of this HOWE, gave trouble nine or ten years ago.

2. It has been a most usual thing for the bewitched persons at the same time that the SPECTRES presenting the WITCHES, troubled them, to be visited with apparitions of GHOST, pretending to have been MURDERED by the WITCHES then represented. And sometimes the confessions of the witches afterwards acknowledged those very murders,which these apparitions charged upon them; altho' they had never heard what informations had been given by the sufferers. There were such apparitions of ghost testified by some of the present sufferers; and the ghost affirmed, that his HOWE had murdered them; which things were fear'd but not prav'd.

3. This HOWE had made some attempts of joyning to the church at Ipswich, several years ago; but she was denyed an admission into that holy society, partly through a suspicion of witchcraft, then urged against her. And there now came in testimony, of preternatural mischiefs, presently befalling some that had been instrumental to debar her from the communion whereupon she was intruding.

4. There was a paricular deposition of a Joseph Strafford, that his wife had conceived an extream aversion to this HOWE, and on the reports of her witchcrafts; but HOWE one day, taking her by the hand and saying, "I believe you are not ignorant of the great scandal that I lye under, by an evil report raised upon me," she immediately, unreasonably, and unperswadeably, even like one enchanted, began to take this woman's part. HOWE being soon after propounded, as desiring an admission to the table of the Lord, some of the pious brethen wwere unsatisfy'd about her. The elders appointed a meeting to hear matters objected against her; and no arguments in the world could hinder this Goodwife Stafford from going to the lecture. She did indeed promise, with much ado, that she would not go to the church meeting, yet she could not refrain from going thither also.

HOWE'S affairs there was so cancased, that she came off rather guilty than cleared; nevertheless Goodwife Stafford could not forbear taking her by the hand and saying: "Tho you are condemned before men, you are justify'd before God. She was quickly taken in a very strange manner, ranting, raving, raging, and crying out, "Goody Howe must come into the church; she is a precious saint; and tho' she be condemned before men, she is justify'd before God ". So she continued for space of 2-3 hours and fell into a trance but coming out to her self, she cry'd out: Ha ! I was mistaken; and afterwards repeated " Ha ! I was mistaken." Being asked by a stander by; "Wherein:" she reply'd, " I thought Goody Howe had been a precious saint of God but I see she is a witch: she has bewitched me and my child, and we shall never be well, til there be a testimony for her, and that she may be taken into the church". How said afterwards that she was very sorry to see Stafford at the church meeting mentioned. Stafford after this declared herself to be afflicted by the shape of HOWE; and from that shape she endured many miseries.

5. John HOWE, brother to the husband of the prisoner, testified that he refusing to accompany the prisoner into her examination, as was by her desired, immediately some of his cattle were bewitched to death, leaping three to four feet high, turning about, speaking, falling, dying at once; and going off an ear, for an use, that might as well perhaps have been omitted, the hand wherein he held his knife ws taken very numb, and so it remained, and full of pain, for several days, and not being well at this very time. And he suspected the prisoner for the author of it.

6. Nehemiah Abbott testify'd that unusal and mischievous accidents would befal his cattle whenever he had any difference with this prisoner. Once particularly, he wished his Ox choked; and within a little while that ox was choaked with a turnep in his throat. At another time, refusing to lend his horse, at the request of her daughter, the horse was in preternatural manner abused. And several other odd things of that kind were tesified.

7. There came i testimony, that one Good-wife Sherwin, upon some differences with HOWE, was bewitched and that she dyed, charging this HOWE with having a hand in her death. And that other people had thier barrels of drink unaccountably mischieved, spoil'd and spilt, upon their displeasing her.

The thing in themselves were trivial, but there being such a course of them it made them the more considered. Among others, Martha Wood, gave her testimony, that a little after her father had been employed in gathering an account of HOWEs conversation, they once and again lost great quanties of drink out of their vessels, in such a manner, as they could ascribe to nothing but witchcraft. As also, that HOWE giving her some apples, when she had eaten some of them she was taken with very strange kind of amaze, insomuch that she knew not what she said or did.

8. There was likewise a cluster of depositions, that one Issac Cummings refusing to lend hiss mare unto the husband of this HOWE, the mare within a day or two had taken in a strange condition; the beast seem much abused, being bruised as if she had been running over rocks, and marked where the bridle went, as if burnt with a red hot bridle. Moreover, one using a pipe of tobacco for the cure of the beast, a blue flame issued out of her, took hold of her hair, and not only spead and burnt on her but it also flew upwards towards the roof of the barn, and had like to have set the barn on fire; and the mare died very suddenly.

9. Timothy Pearly and his wife, testify'd. Not only accountable mischiefs befel their cattle, upon their having differences with this prisoner; but also that they had a daughter destroyed by witchcrafts; which daughter still charged HOWE as the cause of her affliction. And it was noted, that she would be struck down whenever HOWE were spoken of. She was often endeavoured to be thrown into the fire, and into the water, in her strange fits: tho her father had corrected her for charging HOWE with bewitching her, yet (as was testified by others also) she said, she was sure of it and must dye standing to it. Accordingly she charged HOWE to the very death; and said "Tho' HOWE could afflict and torment her body, yet she could not hurt her soul: and that the truth of this matter would appear, when she would be dead and gone".

10. Francis Lane testified, that being hired by the husband of this HOWE to get him a parcel of post and rails, this Lnae hired John Pearly to assist him. This prisoner then told Lane that she believed the post and rails would not do, because John Pearly helped him: but that if he had got them alone without John Pearly's help, they might have done well enough. When James HOWE came to receive his post and rails of Lane, HOWE taking them up by the ends, they tho' good and sound, yet unaccountably broke off, so that Lane was forced to get thirty or forty more. And this prisoner being informed of it, she said, "she told him so before, because Pearly helped about them."

11. Afterwards there came in the confessions of several other (penitent) witches, which affirmed this HOWE to be one of those, who with them had been baptized by the devil in the river, at Newbury-Falls: before which he made them there kneel down by the brink of the river and worship him.

Elizabeth Howe was hanged July 19, 1692.

Sources (none of the wording or spelling was changed)

  • Cotton Mather on Witchcraft; 1692
  • Witchcraft Archives;1997

If you are an descendant of Elizabeth or any of the other Howes such as James How, Abraham Howe, Naomi Howe (Isaac's daughter who married Joseph Holden), or Deborah Howe - or the Jacksons, William and Deborah, parents of Elizabeth, I would like to hear from you. Please send e-mail to Cyndy Abbott.

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