There’s one in every family …

31 Oct
My great-great-great grandfather Judge Samuel Sewall.

My great-great-great grandfather Judge Samuel Sewall.

… and our’s has his own Wikipedia page.

Today being Halloween, I thought I’d reintroduce my great-great-great maternal grandfather Judge Samuel Sewall.

What makes G-G-G Grandpa so significant is that he is also known as the “Hanging Judge,” and “the Repenting Judge,” from the 1692 Salem Witch Trials.

I do not often bring it up on first dates, but I am a direct descendent from the very man who sentenced 18 women and one man to death for the crime of witchcraft. The women were hung and the man, Giles Corey, was crushed to death beneath rocks after being convicted on spectral evidence.

G-G-G Grandpa repented later, realizing that one should not sentence another to death simply on hearsay.

But before then, let me tell you, were my sisters and I ever on edge when our parents would say, “Come on girls, we’re off to visit Great-Great-Great Grandpa Sam. Now, remember to be good, because you know how he gets …”

We were always on our best behavior.

G-G-G Grandpa did come around and make good – unfortunately too late for those 19 people and their families. He set aside a day of public fasting and prayer to commemorate those who died at his hands. He also became one of the first abolitionists in the colonies, as well as one of the first feminists, believing women and blacks should have the same rights as white men.

I know those deeds will never undo the damage done, but I give him credit for doing better once he knew better.

We’re off to celebrate Halloween and hope you have a fabulous one, too, xo LMA


7 Responses to “There’s one in every family …”

  1. Carol Jamison October 31, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

    Interesting ancestry, Ms. Alcatt…and once again, I learned something new!

  2. bernecho October 31, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

    We all have one! Happy Hallo Eve

  3. Bruce Thiesen October 31, 2014 at 11:56 pm #

    The early days were full of such stories we don’t always hear about. Brings to mind of course, The Scarlet Letter. Do I remember some talk about affection for NH? Or am I thinking of the wrong guy?

    • Louisa May Alcatt November 4, 2014 at 7:33 am #

      Nat lived next door to us, in fact, he bought one of our old houses. His great-great grandfather was John Hathorne, (the W was added later) who was the only judge of the Salem witch trials who never repented. I liked Nat’s kids, but he was never a favorite of mine, having gone on record with this: “America is now wholly given over to a d[amne]d mob of scribbling women, and I should have no chance of success while the public is occupied with their trash.”

      My heart goes out to Henry, xo LMA

  4. onespoiledcat November 1, 2014 at 5:50 am #

    Interesting……and a perfect tale for Halloween!

    Sammy and Pam

  5. LB November 2, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

    I’m always learning something new when I visit SK!

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