Pennsylvania's Only Witch Trial

The pack contains a short play based on Margaret Mattson's trial for witchcraft in Pennsylvania in 1683. There are Teacher Notes with suggestions on how the play could be used and ideas for following up.
Age Range:
7-11
11-16
Setting:
Secondary
Primary

In July 1683 Margaret Mattson was accused of witchcraft by neighbours in Pennsylvania. She and her husband were immigrants from Sweden living on their very successful plantation. As early immigrants they had their pick of the land and their choice was rich, fertile river land by the Delaware River. It is very possible that jealousy was behind the rumours that were spread following failures or minor disasters with crops or livestock on their English neighbour’s farms – rumours that these were caused by Margaret Mattson’s witchcraft. The rumours lead to her formal indictment and she was brought to trial before a Grand Jury of 21 persons, a Petit Jury of 10 and the founder of Pennsylvania [the Proprietor] William Penn and his Attorney General. Of these 33 persons, one was of Swedish origin. A Swedish councilman was appointed to act as interpreter if needed. It is not clear from evidence whether Margaret Mattson had a good understanding of English or not. Various people gave evidence that suggested she was a witch, including, possibly, her own daughter. However the case was not a long one and the jury quickly returned a sensible verdict that she was “Guilty of having the Common Fame of a Witch, but not Guilty in manner and Forme as Shee stands Endicted.â€

External Websites:

http://www.strecorsoc.org/gummere/ch04.html