Accused of witchcraft

During her later years Clinton was poor and completely alienated from the Ipswich community. Her lofty beginnings as a member of one of the area's wealthiest family had long before set the stage for resentment. When she plummeted into poverty and despair her neighbors ignored her sudden needi-ness and neglect at the hands of her husband and family. Viewed as an outcast and a burden, over time Clinton became a perfect target for accusations of witchcraft. Although records do not show the specific events leading up to formal charges, it is clear that her former Ipswich neighbors rallied against her (see Witchcraft 1687: The Deposition of Thomas Knowlton against Rachel Clinton in the Primary Sources section). Claiming she had a long-standing reputation of practicing witchcraft, they described bizarre events that had allegedly occurred as a result of her power. For instance, a woman named Mary Fuller, who had been her next door neighbor, stated that she had had an argument with Clinton and as a result a neighbor girl had died. Though it was later revealed that the girl had merely been sleeping, the community agreed that Clinton was capable of causing this kind of incident. In another instance, according to Entertaining Satan, a local man, Thomas Boreman, said in court that a wealthy woman had accused Clinton of "hunching [people] with her elbows" in church. He also claimed that one night strange animals crossed his path and then vanished into thin air as soon as he thought of Rachel Clinton. Other neighbors testified that on several occasions Clinton had cursed them and invoked the devil's name. They also contended it was common knowledge that she was a witch. Another man, William Baker, testified that ten years before the trial a massive quantity of beer had vanished from a vat without any apparent signs of a leak or theft. That same day he had been in a heated argument with Clinton and was sure she was responsible for the disappearance of the beer. Other witnesses testified against her with similar complaints.

In late 1692 Clinton was arrested as a suspected witch and was held in jail for many months until Massachusetts Governor William Phipps (1651-1695) granted the general reprieve to all prisoners in May1693. She died about two years later with no property, no relationship with her sisters, and no ties to any members of the community. The exact date of Clinton's death remains unclear, but on January 7, 1695, the small hut she lived in on Hog Island off the coast of Ipswich was granted to Ruth White.

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