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From: Sandi Gorin <>
Subject: [KENTUCKY-LEGENDS] A DECEMBER 1813 WITCHCRAFT TRIAL IN NOW HART COKY.
Date: Tue, 31 May 2011 07:00:16 -0500


When we think of witchcraft trials, we think of
Salem of course. But Kentucky also had a few early trials!

A December 1813 WITCHCRAFT TRIAL IN NOW HART COUNTY, KY.

This account comes from the writings of Cyrus
Edwards in the book published by his daughter,
Frances Gardiner, after his death. In chapter 10,
the following appears - this book is now
published by the south Central KY Historical &
Genealogical Society and is not copyrighted. At
this time, this was in Barren County. The story was written in 1920.

On August 6, 1803, a Baptist church was organized
at Amos' Ferry (now Woodsonville) in Barren
County, by Elder Jacob LOCKE assisted by Elders
Alexander DAVIDSON, Thomas WHITMAN and John
MURPHY, and on April 15, 1804, Mary REYNOLDS was
received as a member of said church upon the credit of a letter.

In January, 1813, Mrs. REYNOLDS appeared before
the church and complained that three members of
the church had accused her publicly of being a
witch and using witchcraft. The accusers were
summoned to appear and in February [note -
remember church was held once a month] one of
them appeared and reiterated the charge; she
refused to give her reasons therefore or to
retract the charges, and was at her own request excluded from the church.

One of the accusers, Thomas LOGSDON, being a man
of moral courage and strong convictions, manfully
maintained the charges and gave his reasons at
length. A great disturbance arose and many
accusations were made by the partisans of both
sides, and at a later meeting the most prominent
of the accusers made further charges which he
could not make good to the satisfaction of the
church and he was excluded. Mrs. REYNOLDS was
charged with criminal and contradictory
statements and at a subsequent meeting was acquitted of this charge.

It was now believed that the matter was ended,
but it proved to be only the beginning.
Excitement ran high in the church and extended to
the general public for miles around. It was now
charged that LOGSDON, a man of character and
standing, and of great power for good in the
church by reason of his Godly walk and his
devotion to his own interests - being a poor man
- had been railroaded out of the church in
disgrace, while the witch had, by the corrupt
influence of a few aristocrats, been acquitted;
that the so-called trial of each was only for
disorderly and intemperate speech in meeting, and
that the real charge of witchcraft had not been
investigated. Through the summer and fall the
battle raged with ever-increasing severity. The
opponents of the witchcraft charge had in their
camp the bulk of learning and intelligence of the
church, and the sympathy of the same elements in
other churches, and of the general public, but it
was soon found out that the other side had a
considerable majority of the voter in that
church. By good parliamentary management the
opposition compelled the first fight to be made
on the question of jurisdiction, and the
Moderator ruled that the Articles of Faith
included no power for a trial on the witch
charge. The other party then demanded that the
church should take a definite position, and the
question was propounded as an Article of Faith
and a demand made, by a large majority vote, that
it should be settled at the next meeting.

The following was to be voted on: "Is it
consistent with Divinity for the followers of
Jesus Christ to believe there is such a thing as
supernatural witchcraft, or to encourage the same
belief? Rev. Jacob LOCKE stated that if the vote
was in the affirmative, Mrs. REYNOLDS was to be
tried as a witch. The lines of battle were now
plainly laid out and a fight to the finish could
not be avoided. There was intense interest
manifested in the outcome, not only in the
Baptist churches, but by most of the people of
Barren and surrounding counties, and many sermons
were preached on the question. It was later
agreed that the matter should be decided at the
regular meeting on the fourth Saturday in
December, 1813, and both parties prepared for the battle.
Rev. Jacob LOCKE, who had organized the church
and been its pastor from the beginning, had
cautiously refrained from actual participation in
the fight up to this time. He had acted as
Moderator and had ruled fairly, and had retained
the respect and affection of all. It was known
that he was opposed to the witch theory in toto,
but he felt that, if the disturbance could be
quieted down for awhile, the then rapid
advancement of education and intelligence would
solve the problem. He felt and said that a
continued public discussion of the question in
the church would disgrace the whole Green and
Barren river country, and particularly the
Baptist church, and for these reasons held to his
course of avoiding extremes of temper and speech,
and relying on prayer and Christian persuasion
and influence. But now the battle was on and the
position of the church must be made in public to
the world. The forces of witchcraft had no
recognized head, but up to this time had managed
to maintain and even to increase their
considerable majority, and were confident of
success. The leaders of the opposing forces were
Peter ROWLETT, Thomas WOODSON, an Richard J
MUNFORD three as capable men as could have been
found in the state - and it was left to them to
muster the hosts and to have them on hand at the
time set for the voting. The Pastor now came to
the front and announced for himself a spiritual
campaign, and that on the day (Friday) before the
vote was to be taken he would preach at the
church and give his views from a scriptural
standpoint on the question at issue. This
appointment was widely advertised, and in case it
should be a good day a great crowd was expected,
and the managers took care to have abundance of
lumber on hand for outside seats if needed.
Before the time appointed the Pastor visited all
the members of the church at their home; had
prayer with them and insisted, with both sides
alike, that every man and woman should attend his
appointment on the day before the December meeting, and listen to his view
of the controversy from a Christian point of
view, and then to vote, as directed by prayer and
a good conscience, for the good of their own
souls and for the freedom and welfare if the
issue was forced to vote there was no way to win
except by a masterly appeal to the mind and
conscience of each individual man and woman, and
had, unknown to others at the time made a vow to
all of the ability and power as he possessed
should at the crucial moment be thrown as a mass
into the scale, and for several months he had
been preparing for the great effort, and now from
every point, Scriptural, Moral, Historical,
Scientific and Social, he was prepared to
overwhelm the advocates of the satanic doctrine.

The day came, fair and warm for the season, with
an Indian Summer calm and haze, and with it came
possibly the greatest crowd ever assembled in the
county to hear a single sermon. Many came from
Glasgow, the Knob Lick country, Lafayette, and
the Silent Grove and Nolin neighborhoods, and an
unusual percentage of preachers - Baptist,
Methodist and Presbyterian – was in the crowd.

Seats were arranged over quite a space upon the
ground. The preacher stood in the double doors
facing outward, and owing to the power and
clearness of his voice, nearly all of the vast
crowd could hear distinctly. He was in the middle
of his long ministerial career, and probably at
the period of his greatest powers; was a finished
orator; an able logician; well versed in history
and the Bible; was dreadfully in earnest, and
believed that the welfare of the church and
society depended upon his efforts there and then.

He preached for about three hours and when he had
finished it was apparent to all that the belief
in witchcraft was doomed in that church. The next
day when the vote was quietly taken the advocates
of a belief in witchcraft were beaten by a large
majority. A few who had been overly busy in the
controversy withdrew from the church; the hand of
fellowship was extended to those who remained,
and the question was raised no more publicly in
the church, but the individual belief in the
delusion, and sometimes in the case of whole
families, died very slowly, and it is even held
secretly by a few to this day.

© Copyright 31 May 2011, Sandra K. Gorin


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