Synopses & Reviews
In 1682, ten years before the infamous Salem witch trials, the town of Great Island, New Hampshire, was plagued by mysterious events: strange, demonic noises; unexplainable movement of objects; and hundreds of stones that rained upon a local tavern and appeared at random inside its walls. Town residents blamed what they called "Lithobolia" or "the stone-throwing devil." In this lively account, Emerson Baker shows how witchcraft hysteria overtook one town and spawned copycat incidents elsewhere in New England, prefiguring the horrors of Salem. In the process, he illuminates a cross-section of colonial society and overturns many popular assumptions about witchcraft in the seventeenth century.
"'Baker, who teaches history at Salem State College, examines a witchcraft accusation made a decade before the more famous Salem outbreak. In June 1682, someone showered stones at a Great Island, N.H., tavern owned by a Quaker named George Walton. When the stone-throwing continued through the summer, Walton accused his neighbor, widow Hannah Jones, of witchcraft. The neighbor, in turn, charged that Walton was a wizard. Baker helpfully connects the Great Island event to other stone-throwing episodes in early New England, and he uncovers some of the social factors including town politics, a property dispute, and struggles between Walton and his servants that lurked underneath the Great Island drama. His examination of anti-Quaker sentiment is especially nuanced. Baker is widely read in the academic literature on witchcraft; in fact, his analysis is mostly derivative, leaning heavily on works by John Demos, Carol Karlsen, Mary Beth Norton and others. Baker's use of anachronistic analogies like 'the witchcraft accusation... might be seen as the seventeenth-century equivalent of 'playing the race card' ' do more to obscure than illuminate. Still, colonial history buffs will appreciate this account of the strange happenings in Great Island. Maps.' Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Emerson W. Baker teaches history at Salem State College in Salem, Massachusetts. He lives in York, Maine.
Table of Contents
The First Stone Is Cast * Evil Things * The Waltons * The Neighbors from Hell * Fences and Neighbors * Neighbors and Witches * Great Islands Great Matter * The Mason Family Stake their Claim * The Spread of Lithobolia * To Salem * Beyond Salem