The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
Lawmakers consider exonerating people convicted of witchcraft in 1600s
HARTFORD — Although they were murdered by superstitious European settlers hundreds of years ago, a resolution to exonerate Connecticut witches won massive support on Wednesday during a public hearing before the legislative Judiciary Committee.
The resolution would be a historical footnote to the murders of women such as Goody Knapp of Fairfield, who was hanged in 1653 in what is now the Black Rock section of Fairfield after a trial presided over by Roger Ludlowe, whose name lives on in a local high school.
Beverly Kahn, a former 12th-generation Fairfield resident, said her family contributed to the town over the centuries, fighting in the Revolutionary War and leading the Greenfield Hill Congregational Church, while also serving as town officials and educators. “My kids graduated from Fairfield High that sits on what was Knapp land,” she said.
“And yet that while my ancestor was unjustly executed, Fairfield continues to celebrate Roger Ludlowe, her accuser and murderer,” Kahn said. “Fairfield even named the new high school after him. It’s shameful and reminiscent of southern towns that named their school after Confederate generals. Please do the right thing. Send a message to the citizens of Connecticut today that accusations, hatred and killing are wrong.”
The effort to exonerate the witches was questioned by state Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin.
“Mr. Ludlowe is not on trial here, is he?” Dubitsky asked. “Typically when somebody wants to have a convict exonerated, whether while they’re alive or after they are dead, they produce evidence that they were innocent. Do you have any evidence that this person was innocent?”
Kahn responded that there are details of the witch trials in histories of the campaigns and atrocities. “It wasn’t only this witch, it was killing of thousands of Pequot indians,” she said. “This isn’t like fabricated.”
“Well, Mr. Ludlowe isn’t on trial here,” Dubitsky said.
State Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, cochairman of the law-writing committee, noted that Knapp’s hanging is said to have occurred on the site of the community center in Black Rock, which was once part of Fairfield.
“I appreciate your testimony on behalf of Goody Knapp,” said Stafstrom, whose district includes Black Rock.