Witchcraft in Connecticut

May it please yr Honble Court, we the Grand inquest now setting for the County of Fairefeild, being made sensable, not only by common fame (but by testamonies duly billed to us) that the widow Mary Staple, Mary Harvey ye wife of Josiah Harvey & Hannah Harvey the daughter of the saide Josiah, all of Fairefeild, remain under the susspition of useing witchecraft, which is abomanable both in ye sight of God & man and ought to be witnessed against. we doe therefore (in complyance to our duty, the Court of Assistants now setting in Fairefeild, that they may be taken in to Custody & proceeded against according to their demerits.Fairefeild 15, Fby, 1692                 
in behalfe of the Grnd Jury, JOSEPH BASTARD, foreman

This reproduction of a grand jury presentment for witchcraft is in The Witchcraft Delusion in Colonial Connecticut, by John M. Taylor, published in 1908.


Old New Haven

The Institute Library has many out-of-print books on the history of New Haven and other Connecticut towns, as well as the new books that I featured in Monday’s post. One of these books is especially important, not only to New Haven, but to everywhere that has local history and folklore. The man in the print about the fireplace at the Institute Library is John W. Barber – who is credited as the first person to collect, record, and publish local histories. He learned the craft of print making and opened a store in New Haven in 1823, and traveled around Connecticut, making etches and engravings of the sites and collecting stories from the people. He published History and Antiquities of New Haven, Conn., in 1856

This isn’t the only out of print New Haven book either – we have an entire alcove of local history books! The back wall is mostly Connecticut towns, with a few books on Massachusetts. The outer walls of the alcove have books on other states and some books on the Central & North American countries. 

(From right to left) History of the Colony of New Haven, published 1881, Hartford Conn., published 1889, Catalogue of the Trustees, Rectors, Instructors and Alumni of the Hopkins Grammar School of New Haven, Connecticut: 1660 – 1902, published 1902, The English Memorial: New Haven Colony Historical Society, published 1893, History of Wallingford, Meriden, and Cheshire, published in 1870, North Haven Annuals, published 1892, History of the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut, published 1887, and An Old New England Town, published 1895.

The covers of a lot of these older books are cloth – without much on the cover. I photographed a few of the title pages:

There are many, MANY more books on New Haven and other Connecticut towns — please visit and learn some New Haven secrets.

Happy Birthday, Institute Library!!

On this day, August 1st, in 1826, the Apprentices’ Literary Association – which eventually became the Institute Library – held its very first meeting at the home of Albert Wilcox.

Today we applaud the Institute Library’s 186 years of collaboration, book circulation, and the mutual assistance in the attainment of useful knowledge.

Local Histories

I moved to Connecticut from the Midwest about five years ago.  One of the first things that struck me as odd was that the town line signs here say the year the town was settled.  In the Midwest, the town line signs give the population.  For example, when driving into Milford, the green sign says, “Milford Settled in 1639” whereas the sign to my hometown says, “Byron Population 3,850

I feel like there is a much stronger dedication of the local history in New England, which I love, but perhaps this perceived dedication is due to simply being much older.  My home state, Illinois, hadn’t even been an official state for 10 years when the Young Men’s Institute Library was founded in 1826!  Not only are the towns of New England much older than where I grew up, I think the history is much richer.  I thank Connecticut born John W. Barber known as the first person to start collecting and recording these interesting local histories.

John Warner Barber, 1798 – 1885, is considered the first person to record local history.  In the 1820s Barber began traveling Connecticut to collect local histories and create ink sketches of town greens, hotels, schools, churches, and harbors, which he later turned into engravings.

This etching, which sits above the library’s fireplace, depicts Barber sketching the Connecticut countryside.  His book, Connecticut Historical Collections, published in 1856, sold over 7,000 copies within a year.

The library has this book – it sits on the table next to the card catalog.  The engravings are breathtakingly beautiful – my camera does not do them justice.

This engraving by John W. Barber is framed on the wall next to my desk at the library.  It is of the New Haven Post Office 1825 – 1835.

Barber holds more significance to the Institute Library besides being a great local historian.  He was head librarian of the library from 1864 – 1869.  This treasure’s report is from Barber’s second year as head librarian at the Institute Library.  His salary of $400 is equivalent of about $10,000 with inflation in 2010 – this does not count cost of living.