Haunt of the day goes to …:drum Roll:…Hampton, New Hampshire The Life and Times of “Goody” Cole
The Life and Times of “Goody” Cole
“Goodwife” Eunice Cole
By Cathy Marshall
A term paper written by a local student in 1975.
Goodwife Eunice Cole and her hard working husband, Goodman William Cole, lived in . “When she was born and where, is not a matter of record. Neither are their recorded facts related to her marriage nor her death.”1 But, what we do know for sure is that both Eunice and William Cole did live in Hampton. Their family stone, the Cole stone, is in the Ring [now called Founders Park], which is the grassland located across from the Tuck Memorial Museum [at 40 Park Avenue]. The Cole family came to Hampton sometime during the year of 1640. This was merely two years after the town of Hampton was settled. A little company, in the year 1638, came up the Hampton River and founded what was then known as Winnacunnet. This town was based on “sturdy virtues and even as with us some disturbing faults.”2 Even though when the Coles arrived, Hampton had already been settled for two years; it was still rather a wilderness. In fact, Winnacunnet, the Indian name for Hampton, means “the beautiful place of pines.”3 Also, the town of Hampton of the present is not the Hampton of the past. “The town of Hampton (Winnacunnet) was originally larger than it is at present and comprised within its boundaries what are now half a dozen prosperous towns.”4 Along with the family stones at the Ring are some of the township stones which have broken away from the rather large Winnacunnet.
Being in the wilderness, the town of Hampton had to struggle against the odds in order to survive. The people of Hampton were more fortunate than many other settlers, because they had products from the sea to help to support the produce they received from the land. The original settlers were mostly farmers. The people were such hard laborers that they took little time to enjoy themselves. They were constantly working outside, and the women didn’t just sit around either. They were very hard workers, also. Taking charge of a household in those days was much harder than it is today. The women had to make their own cloth, butter, bread, and take care of preserving foods to help them get through the winter; nowadays, people can run to the store and buy many of the things that these people had to make for themselves. Working so hard and working outside would have made many of the women age rather quickly. The medical and dental facilities probably left much to be desired.. These things probably added to the accusations that Goodwife Eunice Cole was to face later on in her life.
Goodwife Cole, or ‘Goody’ as she was most commonly known as, was a woman from Hampton, New Hampshire. She was a rather bent old woman who frequently walked with a cane (but, if she actually needed the cane to walk is not known). She was a woman of small frame who possessed sharp blue eyes. “Historically, she seems to have been a rather unpleasant person and this probably preluded her ultimate conviction.”5 Goody was both feared and hated by her neighbors. But, she lacked the character which would have won her the affection of her neighbors, and possibly she could have won their goodwill, if she had tried. She was known to be ill-natured, aggravating, malicious, and even ugly – but, does this constitute her to be a witch? If your answer was no, then I would agree with you. There were to be more things which Goody was to do to lead to her final conviction. But, you must admit Goody did look and act the part of the typical witch.
Before we start to uncover the life and the times of Eunice Cole, alias “The Real New Hampshire Witch”,6 it is important to get some background into this story. It is very important to remember “(that) one did not have to overtly profess a kinship with the powers of darkness to fall under suspicion.. A general irritability of temperament coupled with certain eccentricities would often serve the same purpose, especially if the subject looked the part.”7 Legally defined “a witch is a person who hath conference with the Devil to consult with him or to do some act.”8 A devil was a “little god”.9 But, what was a really remarkable thing was that “many people had fled their other lands in order to find freedom to worship as they choose to. But, the demands they made on other people were even more demanding and strict than those they had fled.”10 While uncover Goody’s life, accusation by accusation we must not condemn the people accusing Goody. We are looking back in time and no matter how hard we try, we cannot duplicate the struggle for survival or the religious frenzy or the superstition of the people of these tines. It is important to remember that we should sympathize with their faults because we will want someone to sympathize with ours. Now, we are ready to start our journey into the past life of Goody Cole – just hop on my broom, and away we will go – Goody here we come!
Superstition, like a disease, keeps on growing stronger and spreading once it gets started. Goody first got recognition for her well. This is because “…. the water from Goody Cole’s well no matter how long the journey might be, never grew brackish in the water butt.”11 This well served as a convenient oasis for a number of weary boatmen. You see, Goody Cole lived on Island Path – “after many turns and bends, well toward the point where the road and river meet.”12 This is an extremely good description of Island Path, this I know because I live on Island Path in the summertime. The reason this well could serve as a convenient oasis is because this path goes right down to the point of where the road meets the river. Goody was in a rather isolated spot. But, as I told you before, superstition was to be closely involved with Goody Cole. Even though she lived off from everyone else, the village children still used to peek in her window. I suppose that is typical of children’s curiosity. The village children reported “the Evil One in the shape of a little black dwarf with a red cap on his head sat at her table and that she frequently cuffed his ears to keep him in order.”13 They also told the towns-people that “one of the devils imps …(was) sitting on her shoulder to wisper in her ear.”14 The seed of superstition was now planted, it just had to be cultivated. Soon, Goody’s name was able to “hush crying children into silence, or hurry truant boys to school.”15
With superstition already mounting, Goody was in pretty bad shape, only she seemed to he unaware of this fact. While she was spinning on her porch, overlooking the marsh, a boat came down the Hampton River. There were young people on the boat and to them Goody looked rather funny. They were laughing at the poor old woman. One of the young people yelled out, “Fie on the witch!”16 Goody answered the young person by stating “You are brave today, but I hear the little waves laugh and tell me that the broth that awaits you at home will be very, very cold.”17 The captain told the young people not to bother with the witch because it would not bring them good luck at all. But, the young people kept up their teasing anyways. Then, they were off to Star Island , which is one of the islands of the Isles of Shoals. The boat was approximately nine miles out from the New Hampshire coast line when they heard distant thunder. They tried sailing for the shelter at the Isles of Shoals Harbor. But, it was too late, the storm was much closer than the captain had thought it was. The wind blew at a terrible force for about forty minutes. Then, the sun came out very brightly, again. The people at the harbor on Star Island ran down to the water to see if the boat was all right. The people looked seaward but, the ship was gone – crew and all. There were two women, four men and two children on board the boat when it had disappeared. The people who were lost at sea were; “Robert Reed, Sergt. William Swaine, Emanuel Hilliard, John Philbrick, his wife Ann, and their daughter Sarah, Alice, the wife of Moses Cox, and John Cox their son, and as is supposed, their only child.”18 It was almost as though the ocean had opened up and swallowed the boat up. (none of the crew was ever heard of or seen again, dead or alive.) Goody looked seaward after the storm was over and said, “They are lost, boat and all! The Lord forgive me, for my words about the broth were true. They will never return.19 The people, now, were sure that Goody was a witch and a dangerous one at that.
Unexplained happenings began to be blamed on poor unsuspecting Goody. It seems as though Goody Marston and Goodwife Palmer were talking about Goodwife Marston’s child and Goodwife Cole. It seems as though “thirteen years before, she had known one ‘bewitched as Goodwife Marston’s child was’ and that this person ‘was changed from man to an ape as Goody Marston’s child was’.”20 At a different time, Goodwife Sobriety Moulton and Goodwife Sleeper also thought the subject of Goody Marston’s child and Goody Cole made for good conversation or more specifically gossip. As they were talking about that subject, there came a very loud scraping noise. This noise made the two women stop their gossiping and check to see what was making the noise. But, when they went outside, they were very much surprised for there was nothing there to make the noise. So, the two women returned inside the house and took up where they left off on their gossiping. The scraping noise started, again, just as it had done before. Only this time the noise was louder. It was so bad that the women decided to go outside again and check to see what could be causing this strange noise. But, again to their surprise there was nothing or no one outside to be scraping the house. If a dog or a cat had made the noise, there surely would have been a mark or something on the house, but there was none at all. The women decided that this was a rather strange phenomenon and decided to break up their gab session. But, unfortunately for Goody, this strange happening was not forgotten and would be brought up again.
In the meantime, Goody Cole had moved near the Baptist Church in Hampton. She now lived not too far from where the Tuck Memorial Museum stands today. Thomas Philbrick, also, lived near Goody Cole. Many stories were told about the strange feats performed by Goodwife Eunice Cole. Because of her reputation, she was feared and also hated. She lacked the character to win her the respect and friendship of her neighbors. She may very well have been ugly, ill-natured, and malicious; but, now it was “believed that she was able to render persons deformed, to torture, and even to drown them with ‘an invisible hand’.”21 Possibly if Goody had a different disposition, she may not have been suspected as being a witch, but, of course, that’s merely speculation on my part.
In 1656, Goodwife Eunice Cole was charged with being a witch. Unfortunately Goody didn’t really have many true friends, so she really had no one to help her or to believe that she was innocent. “…. Not all in Hampton were under the witchcraft delusion. But it was almost dangerous to deny it.”22 For this reason anyone who even suspected that she was not guilty was not apt to stand up in court and say so, because there was the possibility that the people would next accuse that person of being a witch. See, it wasn’t just dangerous to the witch, but it was also dangerous not to believe there was such a thing as a witch. Goody was now to stand trial in the Norfolk Court. As I said before, Goody really didn’t have anyone to stand for her, and everyone was afraid for their own life to help her out. I guess all through history it has always been every man for himself, and survival of the fittest.
The trial against Goody proceeded. There were to be many to testify against poor Goody Cole. Goodwife Moulton and Goodwife Sleeper testified that Goody Cole was a witch because when they were talking about her they heard a loud scraping noise, and there was nothing outside the house to have caused the noise. Goodwife Marston and Goodwife Palmer gave their testimony “that Goodwife Cole said that she was sure there was a witche in towne, and she knew where hee dwelt and who they are.”23 Thomas Philbrick came forth with his testimony against Goody. It seems as though Thomas’ calves used to eat the grass from Goody’s property, and Goody threatened that “she wished it might poysen them or choke them.”24 That night one of his two calves returned home, and that calf died within the week. Drake reported that since Goody moved beside him that he lost some of his cows and he blamed that on Goody. Goody also was blamed for some boat mishaps. She was blamed for the boat that was on its way to Star Island when she made her prediction about what was to happen to the boat and it did. This is most famously known as the Wreck of the Rivermouth which is a poem by [John Greenleaf] Whittier. There was another case in which “two young men were drowned in Hampton River and their boat was believed to be overturned through her agency.”25 As you can see, things did not look too good for our poor friend Goody Cole.
The court decision was made, Goody was found guilty of witchcraft. She was now not only suspected of being a witch, but now the people of Hampton felt they had enough evidence to prove that she was definitely proven to be a full fledged witch.! Goody was to be the only woman to be convicted of witchcraft in New Hampshire. As we look back, “The evidence in the case goes to establish the fact that Goody Cole was neither loved nor respected by her neighbors, and that she was not, perhaps entitled to their love nor respect; but on a calm review of the case, it seems difficult to understand how the court or the jury could, from the testimony induced, pronounced her guilty of the crime alleged.”26 Goody received a double punishment for her crime. Goody was to be whipped and imprisoned for life or until the court decided to release her. To us, that seems like a very harsh sentence. But, the people of the time felt that “the court, in a comparatively humane gesture, sentenced her only to be flogged and then imprisoned for life in Boston.”27 Actually, the sentence she received was to appease the parents and relatives of the people who were drowned in the Wreck of the Rivermouth. “Major Waldron, the presiding magistrate, ordered her to be imprisoned, with ‘a lock kept on her leg’ at the pleasure of the court.28 Poor Goody was about to embark on a very sorrowful trip in which she was never to completely recover.
After Goody was in jail for three years, her husband, William Cole, petitioned the court for her release. His petition was on November 3, 1659. He was now in his late eighties. He said that he couldn’t take care of himself and he couldn’t obtain enough to live on. He needed and wanted his wife to come and help him out. He was too old to work his land alone, and he would certainly starve if there was no one to help him get food and take care of him. He said that he was near perishing and couldn’t afford anyone to come and work for him. William, also, wanted his wife out of jail because he had made his will out to her leaving her everything in which he owned. William’s property consisted of ” …. (a) house lot of five acres …. forty acres granted to him in June, 1640, and had one share in the commons in l646.”29 But, the court would not release Goody from jail. The court ordered the town to take over William’s property, for he was bankrupt without his wife, and the town was to assume responsibility for both William and for Goody. This is to be remembered for it will be very important at another time.
In 1662, Goody petitioned the court for her release. She pleaded her release because of her age, weakness and because of the age and condition of her husband. The court ordered her to pay her board money – fee to keep Goody in jail.
The cost to keep Goody in jail was eight pounds a day. There was no way that Goody could pay this high board. Neither Goody nor her husband had any money, so the town of Hampton was ordered by the court to pay this board money from William’s estate. The town began paying the board money, but they very easily forgot about her. William died on “May 36, 1662”30 so there was no one left in the town who really gave Goody a moments thought. The town also just seemed to forget about paying Goody’s board. At least the townspeople forgot about the board until “William Salter, the keeper of the prison at Boston, brought a demand against the town for boarding Eunice Cole at the prison to which she had been sentenced by the court; and, to secure payment of the debt, he arrested Thomas Marston, one of the selectmen, July 14, 1664.31 This helped to remind the people about Goody Cole suffering in jail. They adopted a resolution that the fines from lesser crimes would be used to help keep Goody in jail. The people would probably have done anything to keep Goody in jail.
Nobody actually knows how many petitions were filed for the release of Goody Cole, but there were quite a few. In 1665, Goody again petitioned for her release, only quite different from past petitions, she was to finally get some action. With this petition, the court ordered Goody to pay up all that was owed the Court and within one month to depart from the jurisdiction of the court. There was no way that Goody would be able to comply with these rules. The court warned that if she didn’t “depart within one month after her release, out of this jurisdiction, & not to returne againe on poenalty of hir former sentenc being executed against hir.”32 But, “… someway she was released and returned to Hampton sometime before l67l.”33
Goody was now free at last. She returned to Hampton and lived at the foot of Rand’s Hill. The town provided a small shack-like shelter for Goody to live in. This was built on the Meeting House Green. They also had to provide the food and fuel for Goody. They had to take turns in order of the way they lived. If the portion was less than four shillings, then they should join with the next neighbor who was contribute to Goody. Each family was to provide for Goody one week at a time. It is important to remember that “…no open arms (were) extended to her, rather the clenched fist.”34 The townspeople didn’t go out of their way to do anything extra for Goody, they just did the things that they had to do. “Her own experience had not given her any love of the townspeople and their fears and dread of witchcraft was increasing.”35 As you can see, this was not a very pleasant situation.
Goody along with the townspeople lived in constant fear. You see, Goody was never sure when someone would come up and accuse her, again. There was no way that she would be able to protect herself from being falsely accused. The townspeople feared Goody so that if anything out of the ordinary happened, they were sure to blame it on Goody. They were fearful because they were not friends with Goody and they didn’t know what she would want to do to them. But, now, Goody had to depend on the same people who convicted her to provide her with food, shelter and fuel. She never knew when they would turn against her. Goody knew that she was a burden to them and she probably feared them as much as they feared her. The relationship between the townspeople and Goody was not an ideal one, in fact it would have to go a long way before it was even to be considered a good relationship at all.
The town that Goody returned to was far different from the Hampton in which she left. Her husband, William, had already died which must have been very hard on Goody. There was no one left who truly cared about poor Goody Cole. She was truly alone in the world. Goody no longer had the feeling of ownership. The town provided for her essentials, nothing at all belonged to her. When Goody had left the town, she was suspected of being a witch, only she returned a convicted person. So the town was now sure that Goody was a witch and were going to shun her even more than they had before. They also knew that she had committed all those crimes, and she would have to be ready to accept the guilt in which the people would thrust upon her (even if she didn’t commit those crimes). With her husband dead, her old homestead taken over by the town, her neighbors unfriendly and being a ward of the town; she must have led a rather miserable existence for those years in which she survived.
Goody’s fears and doubts about her neighbors proved to be right. For in October, 1672, Goody was again charged with being a witch. She was taken before the grand jury. She was charged with being seen in many different forms. She was seen as a woman, a dog, a cat, and an eagle. She was also charged with enticing a young innocent girl, Ann Smith, to come to live with her. She was charged with making Ann work for her as her domestic. The grand jury found the bill against Goody Cole and on April, 1673 she was ordered by the Salisbury Court to go once again to Boston. She was to go and await trial again.
There was a remarkable decision made in favor of Goody Cole. The Court’s decision was “In ye case of Unis Cole now prisoner att ye Bar not Legally guilty according to Inditement butt just ground of vehement suspissyon of her haveing had famillyarryty with the devill – Jonas Clarke in the name of the rest.”36 This court decision was of monumental importance (especially to Goody). This was to be the beginning of the decline in witchcraft. New, Goody was free. She was actually found not guilty. But, now will the people be more willing to help her out? The answer was no. Many of the townspeople went to their deaths still believing that Goody was actually guilty of being a witch!
There was again a cry of witchcraft. This time Goody Fuller named Goody Cole as a witch. There were eight women who were also named as witches and there were two men who were unnamed as wizards. But, “they were too influential to be openly charged with witchcraft. These men eased some of the hardships of Goody Cole’s last days but for many reasons it was aadvisablenot to do so openly.”37 It was still hard for the people to help Goody out too much (for those who wished to help her, that is). Because no one could help her very much, she spent much of “her last few days in a solitude nearly as profound as that which she’d suffered behind bars.”38
Goody was getting old and worn out. Because of her age and the condition in which she was living, her constitution began to break down. Throughout the witch trials and being in jail, all Goody had was her firm constitution and now she was robbed of that. It must have been almost unbearable for the old woman who was too ill to live the rest of her life relatively alone, being persecuted, hated and scorned. Even though she was very old, Goody was still very much feared.
Goody lived out her last few days without a friend to comfort her. No one even knew if Goody was alive or even dead. The reason the day that Goody died is not a matter of record is because no one was there so no one really knows. Some people were walking by her house and noticed there was no smoke coming from her chimney. “Such was the fear of her supposed powers had inspired, that it required a great deal of courage on the part of the inhabitants to force an entrance into her cabin, where she lay dead.”39 Word passed quickly that Goody Cole was dead because of the immense fear of her supposed powers.
Even in death, Goody was not to be free of the people’s fears. Goody was hurriedly “buried in a grave by a ditch as too unclean for consecrated ground.”40 She was buried in a deep hole – 5′ deep x 6′ square – outside her little shack. Being very comfortable with the superstition of the time, the people fashioned a long stake which was suppose to “… exorcise the baleful influence she was suppose to have41 possessed.” A horseshoe was nailed to the end of the stake in order to cheat the devil out of his prey. No sign was to be left of Goody’s grave in order to discourage future witches. But, “that night the two who were suspected as wizards, with their sons… went to the shallow grave, removed the stake and tenderly lifting the body and bore it quietly away, first replacing the earth and stake so as not to show any mark of disturbance, and in a pleasant and grassy corner of the land of one, Goody Cole was quietly and decently given a fair resting place.”42
Even though Goody has been dead for a very long time, it is very interesting to know that people still think that she can cause trouble. In fact, it was two and one quarter centuries after she was dead when the trouble first started. The Frank Fogg family said that there were very weird things happening to their pigs and their cows. They also said that since they moved into this house that they have had no luck at all. “(The) Haunted house (is) built on site of the hut occupied by Goody Cole.”43 Supposedly, this house is haunted because Goody is buried there, and she can still pull tricks from her grave. “It is said that the body of the witch is buried between the two large trees in front of the house and some declare if one walks over the grave it will bring him good luck. But, it makes us nervous to think of the body of a witch is on the place.”44 The Fogg family used to live on the land which is now occupied by the Tuck Memorial Museum.
In the summer of 1936, Goody was to begin to become famous. That’s quite ironic, during her life she was feared, hated and persecuted; but, now, she was to start on the road to being famous. In 1936, a ‘society’ was formed. Miss Phyllis Tucker was the secretary and William Cram was the president of ‘The Society in Hampton for the Apprehension of those Falsely Accusing Eunice Goody Cole of Having had Familiarity With the Devil!’ It is believed that the idea for this society came up when Mr. William Cram was talking about “the Society in Dedham (Mass.) for the Apprehension of Horse Thieves”46. Someone supposedly mentioned that looking for horse thieves in these times was like hunting for witches. Thus, the idea was put in his head. The society was without a charter or by laws, and the society grew so that the objective of the society became the objective of the community. There were some important people who were members. Frances Parnell Murphy, the Governor of New Hampshire, Fred Everett, the Highway Commissioner, and Mrs. Harry Houdini were members. What was most impressing was that most of the community wanted to be involved in this society and wanted to be members. Goody was to be respected, if only she was alive to see this.
The Town of Hampton decided to take official action. There was a town meeting on March 8, 1938 to help clear the name of Goodwife Eunice Cole. Article 16 of the Warrant wanted to see if the town will adopt this resolution, “Resolved that we the citizens of the Town of Hampton in town meeting assembled do hereby declare that we believe that Eunice (Goody) Cole was unjustly accused of witchcraft and of familliarity with the devil in the seventeenth century, and we do hereby restore to the said Eunice (Goody) Cole to her rightful place as a citizen of the town of Hampton…The selectmen shall elect during the Tercentenary…appropriate and fitting ceremonies…publicly burned certified documents of all the official documents relating to the false accusations against Eunice (Goody) Cole, and that the ashes …soil from the reputed last resting place and from the site of the home of Eunice (Goody) Cole be gathered in an urn and reverently placed in the ground at such place in the Town of Hampton as the Selectmen shall designate.”47 This was a very historic thing, because “this constitutes the first attempt on the part of a New England community to make amends to one of it’s early citizens who had been persecuted for witchcraft.”48 But, it must always be remembered that “it was not a publicity stunt. It was a ringing declaration that our town was free forever from superstition based on ignorance and fear.”49 Along with restoring her citizenship and proclaiming that they had been wrong about Goody Cole, they memorialized her with a plain inexpensive stone. This is on the Village [Meeting House] Green, the closest place to where she was first accused of witchcraft. “There should be no better monument to the progress which our town has made in three centuries of its existence.”50 It is important to remember they tried to say they were sorry to Goody Cole, but they were 300 years too late.
The memory of Goody Cole was not to be easily forgotten. A Goody Cole Doll was constructed in the honor and memory of Goody Cole. This doll was designed by Ruth (Moir) Pratt. The doll was dressed in the clothes of the times in which she had lived. A woman in those days was not allowed to expose any part of her body. So, therefore, she had sleeves down to her wrist and her clothes were closed at the neck.
In the years between 1939 and 1963, there was a stranger about the town of Hampton. It was believed by some to be the ghost of Goody Cole. This woman possessed sharp blue eyes which is just like Goody Cole. Her hair was grey and unkept. Her clothes were somber, and she had rather worn out shoes which are believed to have buckles on them. She was seen frequently wandering around the ‘Ring’. This is where the first settlers lived. Goody, or rather the ghost of Goody Cole, was always asking where the monument or the Goody Cole Memorial was. Then she found out that there was no monument, she got quite upset.
A policeman stopped his car to warn an aged woman to use greater care while walking. She replied that she had walked these roads for hundreds of years. She then thanked the policeman for stopping and went about her way. The policeman thought nothing about this incident at first. But, then, he looked for the rather aged old woman and she was no where in sight. Strange things were beginning to happen all over town. When one woman told the ghost of Goody Cole that they hadn’t gotten around to memorializing Goody Cole, the ghost supposedly walked right through a closed door.
Jack Hayden says that he doesn’t believe in ghosts, but he remembers a grey haired woman flitting from stone to stone in the Memorial Green. She was looking at the inscriptions. But, what struck Jack Hayden quite strangely was that when he took off his glasses to clean them; and when he looked up, Goody’s ghost was 250 feet away. You must admit, that is quite strange.
Who could this woman be who frequents what is known as the ‘Ring’? Why does she want to know about the inhabitants who accused Goody Cole? Who is this woman who says she has walked the streets of Hampton for hundreds of years. “Is the lady a human being interested in the early history of our town, or does the ghost of Goody Cole walk through Hampton’s historic acres.”51 That question is not for me to answer or for anyone else to answer for you. You have to decide what you believe for yourself!
Goody may have been long dead, but for some unknown reason Goody’s name still seems to pop up. Right now, in Hampton, there is a dispute over whether or not to allow a class called “Mystery and the Supernatural”. In one of the articles written on the way in which the dispute is going also decided to bring Goody into his case. He states “Poor old Goodie Cole, Hampton’s only authentic witch, must be laughing herself silly in that unmarked grave where she was interred with a stake through her heart to hold her down.”52 Maybe Goody Cole is dead, but the fear within all people of something which they can’t understand or are afraid of still remains. Maybe the time will come when we will all be able to respect each others own opinion and not try to influence others by our personal opinion. When that day comes, the world will be a much better place and there will never be another Goody Cole!