1660 - Bef 1700 (40 years)
|2. ||Stephen CLASON was born Abt 1630; died Mar 1698/9, Stamford, Fairfield Co., Connecticut. |
Stephen married Elizabeth PEREMENT 11 Jan 1654/5, Stamford, Fairfield Co., Connecticut. Elizabeth was born Abt 1631; died 10 May 1714, Stamford, Fairfield Co., Connecticut. [Group Sheet]
|3. ||Elizabeth PEREMENT was born Abt 1631; died 10 May 1714, Stamford, Fairfield Co., Connecticut. |
Elizabeth (Perement) Clason of Stamford, Connecticut, Who Was Tried for Witchcraft, and her Clason Descendants
Harlan R. Jessup
In 1692, at the same time as the witchcraft hysteria in Salem, Massachusetts, Elizabeth Clason and Mercy Disborough were tried as witches at the county seat in Fairfield, Connecticut. The case against Elizabeth has been well documented and is briefly summarized in this article. In a booklet dated 1959, which does not mention the case, Robert W. Carder1 summarized the Clason descendants of Elizabeth and her husband Stephen Clason of Stamford. That family summary, somewhat amended, follows the trial summary.
The Witchcraft Trial of Elizabeth Clason
Katherine Branch, a seventeen-year-old servant of the Clasons?s neighbors Daniel and Abigail Wescot, was subject to convulsive and paralytic seizures, and in the aftermath of several of these she accused Elizabeth, along with Mercy Disborough and several others, of bewitching her. Elizabeth vigorously denied the accusation but acknowledged there had been an ongoing tension between her and Katherine?s mistress, arising from a dispute over the weight of a quantity of spun flax. On another earlier occasion Elizabeth had chastised Mary Newman whose children had stolen some fruit from the Clason orchard. That evening three of the Newman?s sheep had died, and, finding no other cause, some believed them to have been bewitched. In May of 1692 a Court of Inquiry began hearings in Stamford
"Upon ye Information & sorrofull complainte of Serjeant Daniel Wescot in Regard of his maide Servant Katherine Branch whom he suspects to be afflicted pr witchcraft."
While hearings continued, Elizabeth Clason and Mercy Disborough were held in the county jail at Fairfield until the October conclusion of the trial. In June both Elizabeth and Mercy were put to the water test, being bound hand and foot and pushed into a deep pond or millrace where the guilty were expected to float because of the devil?s aversion to water. This test was already being discredited by New England cleric Increase Mather and by others. Elizabeth being
"bownd head & foote & put into the water she swam like a corck & one laboured to pry her into the water & she boyed up like a corck..."
On 4 Jun 1692, in Elizabeth?s defense, some seventy-six of her neighbors and friends signed a petition assuring the court that
"...we have not known her to be of a contentious frame nor giuen to use threatening words or to act maliciously towards her neighbors but hath bene siuil and orderly...and not to be a busybody..."
The special court, headed by Governor Robert Treat, was convened in Fairfield on 14 Sep 1692, and their formal indictment reads in part:
"Elizabeth Clawson is complayned of & accused as Guilty of witchcraft...for that on the 25th of Aprill ...& at sundry other times she hath by the Instigation & help of the divell...afflicted & don harme to the bodye & estates of sundry of [their Majesties?] subjects..."
The court heard evidence for several days, but after long deliberation the jury was unable to reach a conclusion in either case. The court reconvened on 28 October and, after additional testimony and further examination for ?witchmarks,? the jury found Elizabeth not guilty and she was freed, returning to her family in Stamford where she lived another 22 years to age 83. The jury found Mercy Disborough guilty and maintained this conclusion even after reconsideration. Apparently alarmed by the possibility of an execution, Governor Treat appointed a special committee, which reported in May 1693 that they had reprieved Mercy Disborough. Their report admonished against further such trials stating that
"...the miserable toyl they are in in the Bay [Massachusetts] for Adhereing to those last mentioned Litigious things is warning enof, those that wil make witchcraft of such things wil make hanging work apace...."
- Jonathan CLASON was born 11 Feb 1655/6, Stamford, Fairfield Co., Connecticut; died 10 Apr 1685, Stamford, Fairfield Co., Connecticut.
- Stephen CLASON was born 17 Feb 1657/8, Stamford, Fairfield Co., Connecticut.
- 1. Rebecca CLASON was born 01 Mar 1659/60, Stamford, Fairfield Co., Connecticut; died Bef 15 Mar 1700.
- David CLASON was born 18 May 1662, Stamford, Fairfield Co., Connecticut; died 29 Mar 1721, Stamford, Fairfield Co., Connecticut.
- Elizabeth CLASON was born Abt 1665; died Aft 1728.
- Samuel CLAWSON was born Abt 1670, Stamford, Fairfield Co., Connecticut; died 06 May 1723, Stamford, Fairfield Co., Connecticut.