Thursday, September 12, 2013

This Trumps The Indian Princess


     I've been poking around the internet since my trip to Sandhill Cemetery, looking for the forebearers of Hattie B. Moore whose tombstone I failed to find at said cemetery.  Her mother, Phoebe Benham, who was the daughter of Jehial and Lydia (Cadwell) Benham was there, but no Hattie.  Her stone is gone forever I'm afraid.  

    I did a google search for Jehial Benham and  got a large number of hits, many listing sources that I'm currently checking out.  I also did a meaning search on the name Jehial, I'd never heard it before.  As it turns out, Jehial is Hebrew for, "God Lives." It's also mentioned in the Old Testament, one of King David's lute players was named Jehial.  Don't you sometimes wish you'd learned all these oddball family names before you had children? 

    Jehial 's parents were Samuel and Phoebe (Andrews) Benham of Connecticut.  That made sense, clearly Hattie's mother Phoebe was named for her grandmother. Samuel was born to James Benham and his wife Esther Preston on November 9, 1711 in Wallingford Connecticut, (I told you those New Englanders kept great records.)  I was in for a surprise when I checked for James' parents however, they were none other than Joseph Benham and his wife Winifred King, aka Winifred the Witch of Wallingford!  I've been searching for a witch in the tree for a long time now.  What a great ice breaker at parties!  

     While Salem gets all the press, Connecticut, where Winifred was accused, was  actually the first to hold a witch trial.  In 1647, forty-five  years before the Salem trials, Alse Young was executed there for consorting with the prince of darkness.  

     Winifred was not only accused, she was accused on three separate occasions. At the court session in July of 1692, her husband Joseph threatened to shoot her first accuser, Goody Parker.  (Back in the day, Goody was a title like Mr. or Mrs.)  From, An Historic Record and Pictoral Description of the Town of Meriden Connecticut: 
      "Goody Parker, the Rev. Mr. Street and his wife and Deacon Hall all, "menconed many pecular things as grounds of suspicion of Witchcraft reflecting upon Goody Winifred Benham."

     Winifred was ordered to appear before the court in November where she was acquitted, but she was arrested a few years later for the same offense. This time too she was released.  But that wasn't good enough for the busy bodies in Wallingford, oh no, she was accused again in 1697 and this time they dragged her poor teenage daughter, Winifred Jr., into it.  Good grief, and I thought my neighbors were a pain!  Charges against Mother and Daughter were again dismissed, only to be revived shortly after.  This was apparently the last straw, they fled to New York where a pack of Puritans weren't running the show.

     But the times they were a changing.  Even the Puritans were slightly aghast at what they had wrought in Salem and the trial of Winifred and her daughter in 1697 was the last witchcraft trial.  It appears Winifred and her daughter settled at Staten Island where an older daughter lived with her family.  Her son James, from whom I descend remained in Wallingford after his mother and sister left.  I think I'd have wanted to leave those people and their accusations far behind if I were him.


  1. Winifred is my umpteenth grandmother....what a crazy time to live! Seth Benham

  2. Crazy indeed! Nice to hear from you cousin!

  3. I just discovered that Winifred was my 6th great grandmother according to Ancestry. I was descended from Sarah..

  4. Interesting, do you know anything more about her? Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Winifred was my 10th great grandmother and I have been called something that rhymed with witch

  6. I'm sure that's not the case Jet

  7. Mary Hale, my 10th Great and Winifred is my 9th Great grandmothers. I myself am very proud to be related, weather they were witches or not, for I am. -Richard Bentley from Indiana - Bentley's Backwoods Bushcraft