Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Witch Trot Land

I've run across a pamphlet published in 1937, written by "a couple of witches" — namely, Anne Mountfort and Katherine Marshall. It's called (in full) "Witch Trot Land : Being a bit about the Mother of Maine, York County, or Yorkshire, or New Somersetshire, from which ALL Maine counties came. Of her hopes and dreams and heartbreaks, and of the first incorporated English city in America. . . . . Credit is freely and gratefully given to everything we could lay our hands on — we had to — we weren't here in the 1600's."

The book is partly a conventional history of York County towns, partly an account of local witches and other oddities, like this:
As renowned as Hamelin for its rats is Alfred for its white-footed mice, and orders pour in from far and near. These are the kangaroo or meadow jumping mouse, not a marsupial, with longer hind than fore legs, long-tailed, fawn-colored, black-eyed, small and pretty, with erect ears. One woman will never be the same again for she killed 40-odd in her kitchen before she knew there was a demand for them. [p. 36]
Berwick seems to have been especially afflicted with witches, as poor Mrs. Hurtado could have attested:
Mary Hurtado, Portuguese housewife, near Salmon Falls in 1682, asked what she was doing, seeing no one, didn't reply, and was promptly struck a blow which nearly ruined her eyesight. Then a huge stone rattled along the side of the house but couldn't be found. A frying pan in the chimney rang so loud it could be heard a quarter mile away. Her head was swollen and sore, there were contusions of her breast and arms where unseen missiles had maimed her, and even her husband was not immune for when he was crossing the river he saw a man's head sailing along, the disjointed tail of a cat in hot pursuit, and five or six rods of cornfield fence were overthrown and his crop invaded by neat cattle that did no damage. [p. 39]
A 2003 article in The York Weekly references this work in recounting some York ghost stories.


Michelle said...

Oh goody! I ran across some mentions of locations with the name "Witch Trot" and "Witch Hole" in their titles, and was very intrigued. Delicious. Good article at the York Weekly, too.

Have you heard Dan Blakeslee's song, Witchtrot Road?

Dan is originally from Maine, though now in New Hampshire. He is still very enamoured of Maine and has been known to ask folks to "give Portland a hug for me." *grin*

One of my favorite people.

Chris said...

Sarah Orne Jewett in her essay The Old Town of Berwick explains how Witch Trot Road got its name.

My favorite "Witch Trot" reference has to be this, from a genealogy site: "The Lord family had a homestead in South Berwick, Maine at Mt. Misery on Witch Trot Road near Slut's Corner." Imagine giving those directions to the FedEx guy!